I didn’t plan on writing today, but then I read this powerful article. Here is an excerpt:

Evil seeks to use men’s addictions to power and shame to continue to exploit women’s bodies and silence their voices. Evil loves to use harm only to perpetuate more harm. And I think that our greatest weapon against such evil is to help men tell their stories with courage and boldness, with grace and truth, but mostly with strength and tenderness.

We must bless what has been cursed. A story well told is always a story that honors the desire to be seen, known, and loved.

How can I stay silent after reading something that resonates so deeply within me?? I’ve witnessed that evil on arrogant display within nearly every single man I love and cherish. I am desperate to help all people share their stories. It’s only in the Light that the ominous shadows are shown in their powerless state.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

– John 1:5

For weeks, months, years, I’ve been captivated by this verse:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I am doubly struck. On one hand, I am personally empowered to reach out to others and share the comfort I have received from Christ and others. On the other hand, I am reminded that comfort cannot be obtained or shared, without first experiencing the healing power of comfort, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

The article above is a gateway into experiencing that healing power. The first step is to name the problem, name the source. Call it out for what it is, and then share it as a light for those wandering aimlessly through the dark. Bless the curse.

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

Transformation demands acceptance.

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

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.

**Letter I wrote after an ultimatum of *start getting help or the kids and I have to physically and permanently separate from you.*

My Dearest Jase,

I love you but I can not help you right now. I’m sorry for the silence and the distance, but our lives have brought us to a point (with kids and work and ministry and schedules) where I can no longer carry you on my back. For years, I’ve gone through the constant ups and downs of your conditional emotional state and have tried to help you through your periods (years) of mediocrity and loneliness and lack of fulfillment and lack of passion / joy, by carrying you on my back. This life journey is a freaking mountain, Jase, and I can no longer carry you and our three children and try and work myself up the mountain side as well. By trying to do so, I’m less of a wife and less of a mom and less of a human being because that load is much too massive of a burden for anyone to carry.

It’s taken 15 years, but I think I’ve finally come to understand that you suffer from some serious form of co-dependency and depression. When your job, your wife, your children, your friends and your family lack the sufficient (in your eyes) responses to make you feel loved and valuable and create self-worth and a worthy self-image, your entire being cracks. You no longer have hope or passion or joy. Look back over the 15 years we’ve been together. Think about family vacations, birthdays, dates between us, activities with the kids, contacting your family and your friends… I can only count a handful of times that you planned to date me, only a couple of times that you took charge of two of our kids’ birthdays. Just in the last year alone: our family photoshoot, the video montage you made for the kids before you left to Afghanistan, our several campings trips… even the camping trip you went on with Malakai and the photo album you made… all my idea. I know you were planning that river trip with my dad but that was already planned out by my dad and when that crumbled, you resigned to just wanting to stay in our backyard…

You said it yourself – on Friday night – you are on the verge of cracking and you will feel joy and you’ll feel as if the crack-healing will begin, once you get star29 up and running. You mentioned nothing of God. Nothing of passion and joy and love. You stated you still believe in God but that you’re not at a place where you’re seeking him right now. For the last two days (when I’ve been home) you are completely checked out and laying on the couch. For the last hour, you’ve been in our backyard, just sitting on a chair… hopefully finding hope and drive and ambition again… through God. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see you in this position and want to have such hope for you and to cheer you on but I’ve seen this from you, nearly every year and I’m emotionally spent on this roller-coaster.

With Youth Specialties and Star29 and WAY-Fm and 5Q Communications and Wall Street on Demand and now with Survey Gizmo, you’ve gone through this “robot” phase where life seems bleak and black and white and I’m struggling to get you on my back and ride my wave with me just so that I can possibly force you to have joy. And it may seem like you have joy but it’s temporal and wears off as soon as the activities and my efforts stop. When I pull back, our relationship is NOTHING. There is no pursuit, no perceived effort of any care or concern. Currently, we’ve barely said anything to each other since Friday night (it’s Monday night). The most tragic part is I feel I’m married to Jesus but the truth is, you consistently blame-shift, flee when faced with wrongs you have committed and sink further into your hole. That’s not even mentioning the times you’ve thrown me under the bus while venting to your friends about how you hate being under my microscope or that I’m digging into your phone or that I’ve got issues… is that why you’ve never opened up to me? I’ve poured out my heart to you with the things that I’ve struggled with and how I desperately need accountability, how I need to know you care enough about me to ask me about these struggles. And I get nothing. Absolutely nothing. As if you don’t give a shit. Is it because, like you’ve told me, you feel it’s more loving and trusting to keep distance instead of holding each other accountable? Is it because if you question my actions, then I actually have a right to question things you’ve struggled with and then the Jesus-facade you’ve created in this marriage will crumble? Oh, to know and love the man behind the curtain…

Like I said on Friday night, if you can’t trust me with your deepest and darkest parts of your life then how in the world can I trust you with mine? Also, how in the world can I fully love a person that I don’t fully know? Your reply is that you don’t even know who you are and that’s a scary kind of person to have as a husband! Your reply to our 9 year old daughter’s excited hello (as she welcomed you home from work tonight) and eagerness in asking “How was work?” should never have been “same ole crap.” Your response to our 12 year old son’s excitement over helping with the Sister Carmen food drive over the weekend should have never been constant nagging about what he shouldn’t be doing or frustration (as you kept grumbling about it to me) over the numerous cookies he had been eating. Your response to my pulling back and putting up a barrier lately should not be further silence and distance from you. But, at least with that one, I’m hoping it means you’re turning to God and seeking help and direction…

So, now my protective barrier is up. Not only for me, but for our children as well because this sort of thing (your distance, silence and robot-zone) happens yearly. Only this time, I can’t glue any of this back together. I’ve now realized that I’ve been hurting you to carry you on my back. Despite your desire not to, you’ve placed way too many things in place of God as Ruler, Authority, Passion-Giver and Love of your life. Your jobs, your co-workers, your bosses, your children, me…

I said it Friday night and I’ll say it again: when I had my lowest-life-moment back in 2009, I knew I wasn’t what I needed to be as wife and mom. I sought help and started seeing a counselor. There’s nothing you could have ever done to have helped me through that phase in my life, just as I’m unable to help you through this low-dry period now. If you love your wife and children, you’d actually do something to get help and get better – rather than constantly complain that you don’t know how to act or that you’re ready to crack and then be forever short-tempered when dealing with all of us. I know you saw a counselor before but a counselor that gives advice on how to deal with a wife and children, when he hasn’t even taken the time to get to know his patient – through and through – is working from a fictional foundation. You’ve spent many years writing off some of your serious issues as being my fault or your son’s fault or the fault of your upbringing. It’s time to grow up and start owning up to responsibility.

If you’d rather not get help, then that’s your choice because I can’t force you to get it. But please know that I will do everything in my power to protect these kids from a man saying he’s about to crack, saying he doesn’t know who he is and from a man that seems like he’s got such a short fuse. Unpredictability is a scary thing in fragile and sinful human beings that have no hope, no joy, no passion and no gripping strength in our God. I don’t know what that means, other than continuing to live together as if we’re separated. I’ll be cordial but I won’t be at rest around you as long as you are unstable (saying you don’t know who you are and saying you’re about to crack). I refuse to let your depression suck the hope, joy and passion out of me and our children. I love you but I can’t help you. I hope and pray that you find the strength, endurance, faith, joy and passion that you are seeking.

Love,
jen

Next Page »