Personal


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.

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.

 

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

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.

I’m learning so much about me. You know how people say you go off to college to really, finally, learn who you are? Well, I feel I’ve been doing the same for the past several years. I mean, I dropped out of college after the first semester so it makes sense that (as with Life®) I chose the Family path first so now I’m catching up on that college experience. With all of the examining and shaping and pruning and watering and fertilizing and long bouts of exposure to the sun. It’s a tough thing to become a botanist of the soul without any training and with a black thumb…

After 20 years of singing, I finally found visible proof that it’s all been done incorrectly. Without ever having lessons, this day was sure to come. A doctor schooled me about my “pre-nodule edemas with incomplete hour-glass glottic closure” and had me running to a vocal therapist. So, here I am, putting my life-long love of singing on hold for a couple of months while treatment is sought and rendered. All while examining why I place so much value on whether or not I sing and why I feel there’s so much value found in me when I sing and why I feel so much closer to God when I sing and whether or not I could quit for good and be ok. Before I quit, I’m learning how to work hard for something I want so badly. Hopefully it won’t go as poorly as so many other challenges I’ve faced…

I think I may have unofficially attained the World Record for Slowest Reader. I’ve been reading a book for three years. Yes, you read that right. As in, I’ve had the book for three years and every month I read a little. I read a chapter or two or just several pages and then I’ll put it down for a while. When I’m not reading it, I’m mulling it over. It’s like I’m learning how to inject a book into my veins so that it sticks. I’m ingesting this thing like nothing before. Sadly, no, not even the bible. This book is not only the toughest thing I’ve ever read, it’s also the most explicit in describing my life and struggles. I began reading The Wounded Heart after a woman mentioned it to me at a conference for married couples. She had been a speaker and mentioned having been sexually abused. This meant more to me than even I knew, especially because she intermingled this revelation with how it affected / affects her marriage and how she’s getting through it. I had to find out if she had any feedback on books so when I asked her, she told me about The Wounded Heart and I’ve been studying it, while studying me, ever since. I bring all of this up because there is a conference this weekend. A conference based on this book and given by this author. And I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited and scared shitless at the same time. A conference that’s talking about God and sexual abuse. I’ve wrestled with that being an oxymoron for so long. Most recently, last week. Screaming, angrily, at God for allowing this shit to crush me as a child and consistently steamroll me without warning. Demanding answers from God, wondering where He was through it all and questioning if He’s even helping. Even now, as an adult, married to an amazing man for 13 years… But I also know that this is a conference where I’m not the only person dealing with, speaking about, healing from sexual abuse. Sexual abuse… this taboo, life-sucking disease I’ve had since I was 8 years old and subjected to again and again and again… For the first time in my life, I’ll be in a room with a group of people like me. A group that maybe fully comprehends innocence lost or hope being shattered or trust violently getting ripped out and pain left as a thank you note. This is something that I’ll be immersed in for 3 days and I’m scared to death. But I can’t help but hope.

In all things, I can’t help but plead for healing and restoration and peace. I can’t help but cry out for redemption, for endurance, for strength. If not, I’ve got one choice: give up and die. I know there’s more to all of this than that. I’ve seen the beauty. I’ve witnessed God’s provision. I’m a fucking walking miracle and I know that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Writing this, I recall a favorite singer and song, Natalie MerchantMy Skin. Seemingly dark, this song brings so much comfort.

Take a look at my body
Look at my hands
There’s so much here
That I don’t understand

Your face-saving promises
Whispered like prayers
I don’t need them

I’ve been treated so wrong
I’ve been treated so long
As if I’m becoming untouchable

Well contempt loves the silence
It thrives in the dark
With fine-winding tendrils
That strangle the heart

They say that promises
Sweeten the blow
But I don’t need them
No, I don’t need them

I’ve been treated so wrong
I’ve been treated so long
As if I’m becoming untouchable

I’m a slow dying flower
I’m a frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour
And untouchable

Oh, I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this

I need
A lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel sweet
Love of my life
Oh, I need this

I’m a slow dying flower
Frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour
And untouchable

Do you remember the way
That you touched me before
All the trembling sweetness
I loved and adored

Your face-saving promises
Whispered like prayers
I don’t need them
No, I don’t need them

I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this

I need
A lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel sweet
Love of my life
Oh, I need this

Well, is it dark enough
Can you see me
Do you want me
Can you reach me
Oh, I’m leaving

You better shut your mouth
And hold your breath
You kiss me now
You catch your death
Oh, I mean this
Oh, I mean this

My prayer is that this will help at least one person and that person may not be you… so look away, hide me, delete me, or ignore me if this makes you feel uncomfortable.

I was raised in San Diego. My family (immediate and generational) had some very strong convictions with the Baptist and Evangelical demonations denominations. I am a christian and this is a story about how I’m trying to live my life the exact opposite of my christian upbringing.

As a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend that follows Jesus, I have committed my life to these promises. I will share words like sex and drugs to my children and I will teach them to love Rock and Roll. I refuse to brush problems under the rug and I refuse to let time run its course over heart-wrenching trauma; making the wounds deeper and bandaid-covered gashes infected and seemingly irreparable. I won’t allow secrets to fester in the darkness. I will demand honesty and not be hypocritical with honoring that honesty. I will encourage myself and my children to dance, especially when the beat makes people think we’re going to hell. I will foster, and deeply grow, relationships with people. Not because of what I will gain or “what heaven will gain” but because I love all people as they were made in the image of Christ. I will show love and grace just as I’ve been shown grace and love. I will allow people to choose whatever path they desire and not write them off as a lost cause for choosing the “incorrect” path. I will NEVER shoot the wounded or maim the broken, nor will I spread their stories in the sharing of “prayer requests.” I will forever help people out of their shitty pits of manure, whether they placed themselves there or not. I will never give up in trying to find ways in helping the broken and the needy, even when I’m not enough to fix it all, because *fixing it all* is not my job anyway. I will give people grace, no matter how many chances I’ve given them in the past. I refuse to place myself on any higher ground or pedestal in my living and thinking, especially when it comes to my thoughts on God, Jesus and my relationship in and through that. I will never condemn or chastise. I will never hold a picket sign in condemnation of another soul or against a person’s actions. Unless it’s found in the bible, I will never claim I know how or what God is feeling or deciding. In everything and in all of who I am, I will mirror the Jesus I admire and follow. I will graciously love and help, heal and fight for, walk and share meals with the lost, the broken, the needy, widows and orphans, the abused, the down-trodden, people on the fringe, outcasts and the “losers.” Because when it comes down to it, we’re all in the same boat anyway. And if I can forgive a molesting uncle and rapists because of the forgiveness given to me, then there HAS to be hope for me and everyone else…

Published on: Sep 2, 2011

I’ve been on a blog-surfing kick lately. Partly to do with researching all I can on the clinical side about Asperger’s Syndrome as well as reading stuff from parents of children with Asperger’s. But I’ve also been popping around on sites of Mommy + Motivational-Speaker sites. I need as much encouragement in my life and these sites are chock-full of inspiration and courage and encouragement. Reading the stories these women share make it really easy for me to kick my life into high gear and start making a better difference in my life and the life of my family and friends.

There’s a flip-side to that though… the more surfing around I’ve done, the more I’ve realized that all of these women (as in, ALL) have a core group of women friends. A core group of women that hang out together, cry together, laugh together, dream together, dread together, fear together and create together. They relate in good times and bad and spur each other on to greater things. These women also have AT LEAST one woman in their life, or an inspiration from afar, that spark them on to go for their dreams and goals and seek out courage.

It kind of hit me again this week… I have no friends or mentors like this. I never have and it makes me wonder if that’s a major part of the reason why I feel in such a rut so often. I’ve got some horrible shit from my past, combined with the fact that I really have no support. No one to really look up to and no one around to really help me back up to my feet. For my whole life, I’ve watched friendships bloom and grow around me and pass me by. I’ve got friends now that I feel are great and I feel like we’re all on the edge of taking these friendships to the place of *3o years down the road*. But there always seems to be something in the way. Everyone has always already had a super close friend or two and I’m always the third wheel or these friends of mine are so popular that they barely have time to share any substantial amount together.

I’ve always longed for the type of friends where we can go away on vacation together or if I had an emergency at 2am, they’d be the first I’d call.

Looking at my life and comparing it to those friendships I’ve been reading about online, makes me wonder… is it merely the fact that they’ve got a mentor or someone to look up to and friends to help prop them up that makes them successful and happy and courageous and positive and prosperous?

I know I’ve got God… but sometimes consistency in tangible smiles and tears “helps the medicine go down.”

Next Page »