Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wasting Time

My brother-in-law is special needs, around the developmental age of an eight-year old.  My son, who is five, is playing Operation Toy Story 3 with his uncle.  I was listening to their conversation, which is always amusing.  My son told his uncle, "you just got to practice".  Yes, that is right, he is listening to me!  I mentally pat myself on the back for that one.  Later, he remarks, "you are wasting time, just get it!".  Yes, that is right, he is listening to me again.  I have to claim that one too, but no mental pat on the back this time.  How often do I say that?

I've always been driven, making the most of my time.  I'm an expert on time management, even creating my own system.  I'm proud of it.  It is my baby.  What is time for if you aren't making the most of it? 

Maybe what we should do is focus on making the most of our time.  With our children.  With our spouses. Taking care of ourselves.  Time for down-time, where nothing productive happens and the world doesn't end. 

I would take more time for this post, but we have to get ready to go to lunch.  I challenge the readers and myself to make more of our time.  Time for the important things in life. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Choosing the Relative

They say you can't choose your relatives.  My mother-in-law gives me "that look".  You know, the one that silently says, "I think you've lost your mind."   Yes, I'm afraid I get that quite a bit.  Words left unspoken to the woman that lost her mind.  I've come to believe that it is all relative.  Crazy is relative, so is normal, sanity, bravery, perfection, good enough, success.  What is normal, really?  What is sanity?  I believe we all describe it differently.  I'm taken a Sociology class. Heck, I've taught one.  There are things called norms and mores.  Those fundamental things that we ought to do and ought not to do.  We should say "please" and "thank you".  A norm would be to go to the grocery store, walk in, grab a cart, pick each item you needed and placed it in your cart, got in line, waited nicely, got checked out, paid for your items and went home.  
If you instead, bypassed the carts, then just tried to carry everything in your arms, decided to cut in line, then argued with the cashier over the price of your groceries, you would be going against the norm.  

So, what is normal?  The expected overall behavior of a person, more of being in line with the average person.  People don't like it when you don't behave in expected ways.  You tend to get odd looks, like the one from my mother-in-law.  People don't like to stand out, bring attention to themselves or otherwise be noticed for being different from others.

I've tended to live a life against the grain, marching to the beat of a different drummer.  My husband did this literally.  In marching band, he couldn't keep his steps timed to the other kids, while at the same time blowing on a trumpet.  He caused much frustration for his fellow band members and most of all his band leader, who often stood, scratching his head.  How can you teach someone how to step in place and play an instrument when they just don't get it?  Somehow, my husband finally figured it out.

A person who doesn't fit into the norm must also be prepared for "the look".  We, as people, well, maybe the readers of these words tend to expect certain types of behavior.  Ways we are "supposed to behave."  I believe how we behave or are "supposed to" behave is really all relative.

When I decided to go to graduate school, circumstances required me to keep my full-time job. (Really, the circumstance was a demand of my ex-husband).  I signed up for a full-time load of 12 graduate hours  at a college another city which was a six-hour drive from where I lived.  I took a plane trip each week.  I was so determined, to get my masters degree in Social Work.  There was no program in the city in which I lived.  That left me no choice, or at least that is what I told myself.  No, there wasn't an online program, which makes for a much more convenient college experience.  I've also discovered that there is a fine line between determination and insanity.  I'm not sure what side of that line I was on during this time period of my life.

I'm currently working full-time, leading a Bible study, reading 3 books, making a video every two weeks for continuing education for a medical hospital, supervising someone for their clinical license, a teacher for World Bible School, teaching an online class (Fall), writing for various blogs, on the Board of Directors for NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) Lubbock and I'm in therapy.  I have a four-year old and I'm trying to plan his 5th birthday.  I make my own cleaning products and skin care products, plus various homemade mixes in the kitchen.  I'm providing test anxiety workshops to a major university each semester.  I'm a member of the South Plains Suicide Prevention Coalition.  I give suicide prevention speeches.

In August, I'll finish my EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) training. Oh yes, and I'm meeting with someone once a month for mentoring to become a coach.  I plan on starting some classes online next year.  I will write that book one day, probably an e-book.  I've really slowed down in my life, believe it or not.  I'm on medication for depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, but I'm doing so much better.

I do the whole "coupon thing", which takes time, but I save a ton.  I've figured out how to buy things for next to nothing.  For example, I once bought 30 3Muskateer bars for $1.50.  My husband looked in the bag and asked, "why?".  Why?!! Because they were $1.50, need I say more?

I love the Goodwill Clearance Center.  Clothes are $.85 per POUND.  Everything else?  $.60 per pound.  I have to go in the middle of the week because I was told by the cashier to not bother showing up on a Saturday.  I believe her and no, I'm not a total glutton for punishment.

I've had to slow down a bit.  I haven't rooted through the newspaper recycle bin in weeks, but I've thought about it.   So, if you drive past the recycling bins and I'm digging through it, you might give me "that look", but I probably will be too busy to notice.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thank God for 2 Cookies

My son and I were at our local WalMart about a year ago.  They were in the habit of giving cookies away to small children.  Once my son discovered this habit of cookie-gifting, he couldn't wait to get into the store and get his cookie.  If no one was at the bakery counter, I'd get my shopping done first, then swing by the counter once more on the way out.  This particular day, they gave him two cookies.  Not the tiny, sprinkled sugar cookies, but two, full-sized chocolate chip cookies.  I thought, "Oh, great, just what he needed."  As we walked to the car, he took about one bite of one and dropped it on the ground.  He still held in his hand the remaining cookie.  I quickly said, "Thank God for two cookies."  He looked at me, smiled and repeated back to me: "Thank God for two cookies."

I had something to do after work one day and was going to get home late.  My in-laws dropped my son off at home with my husband and we met at the mall later than evening.  As we were walking into Barnes and Noble, my son found a dime on the ground.  He was really happy to have that dime.  You know, he's 4, so he still doesn't know that it isn't all that much.  Well, we were walking back to my husband's truck to get the booster, to move it into my car and he dropped it, right as I was taking a step.  The dime fell on my foot and where it went from there we had no idea.  I told my son, it is ok, I'm sure we have a dime at home we can give you.  He was very disappointed.  We got the booster, then made our way two aisles over to my car, and sitting next to my car was another dime.  Not the same dime, mind you.  I didn't punt the other one!

I said, "Look here, another dime!".  My son was thrilled, he had another shiny dime to hold in his hand on the way home from the mall.  I told him, "Thank God for two dimes!".   I reminded him about the cookies and he laughed, "saying things like, thank God for two TREES or, thank God for two MAMAS.  He was on a roll, making himself laugh.  God knew what was important for my little boy and took great care in making sure he had what he needed at the moment.

God takes care of the little things for my son.  He also takes care of the "little" things for us.  Often our problems don't seem little to us.  My son's problems seem pretty small to me, but very big to him.  A cookie?  A dime?  Try suffering through child abuse, going through a divorce, a miscarriage, a panic attack.  But, the big things for us are small things for God.  It doesn't mean he doesn't see your problems or is minimizing your problems, but God is BIGGER than your problems.  He sees them, He knows what you need.  He has plans to prosper you, not harm you.  Recently, I wrote on a sticky, "God is bigger than my problems" and placed it where I could see it every day.  I challenge you to do the same.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

God is Good

     Sometimes I have to pinch myself because my life is so blessed.  I think, "why is my life so blessed right now when there are so many people out there hurting?"  "What did I do to deserve the life I have?"    I have to actually remind myself of my first 30 years of life.   They were very difficult, full of abuse, heartache, loneliness and hurt.    At about the age of 30, my ex-husband moved out.  He had found someone else and all he knew was that he was happy.  Well, I wasn't happy.  No fair!!!  How could I feel good about his happiness, when his happiness meant I was heartbroken? 

     The age of 30 was a turning point for me.  I knew I had two paths to choose from:  follow Jesus or not.  I realized it would be really easy to find someone else, move some guy into my house to help with expenses and sleep with him.  Too easy.  Then I'd have someone I decided I didn't like and would have to get rid of him.  Find another guy.  Would this one work out?  What do we mean when we say, maybe it will work out?  We fall into sinful relationships, all the while hoping that something really good will come out of them:  marriage, kids and stability.  Will God really bless this type of relationship?  I believe He won't until they realize their sin, repent and turn to Him.  People set themselves up for more failure and heartache, all the while hoping their next decisions lead them into something good. 

     I remember making that conscious decision to follow Christ.  I began going to church.  I had gone to church with my parents when I was finishing up grad school.  I had seen the change God was making in their lives and attitudes.  Unfortunately, they never allowed God to fully penetrate their hearts and kept doing things their own way.  They fell back into Satan's trap and eventually harmed me further.   I had to break ties with them completely because of their continued abuse.  It seems ironic that the people that hurt me the most, actually helped me turn to Jesus when I desperately needed Him. 

     I can say that in spite of being raped by my own father while my mother turned a blind eye  - God is still good.  People, on the other hand, are often not good.  When they turn away from God, it leads them down wrong paths.  I've heard a saying, "Sin will take you further than you intended to go."   I believe this to be true.  I don't think my father intended to rape his daughters when they were born.  His hardened heart led him to dark pathways that were unspeakable.  My mother's hardened heart allowed her to ignore the sexual abuse of her daughters.   

     When you fully surrender your life to Christ, you are letting go of any sin in your life.  You are working towards removing yourself from sin and its grip on you, your heart, soul and mind.  You are working towards forgiveness towards those that hurt you.   Forgiveness is a conscious choice that you make for your own healing, not for the person who hurt you.  As a follower of Christ, you are seeking healing, spiritual growth and helping others do the same.  I can guarantee that God will richly bless you when this happens.  He has blessed me richly as I've learned to surrender my life to Him. 

     Thank you God!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Breaking Free of Strongholds in Our Lives

I've begun the Beth Moore study: "Breaking Free" with a very small group and viewed the intro video on Sunday.  Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:  

On Sunday as I was reading my Bible, I turned to the book of Isaiah and read the following passage:  
Isaiah 59:13 ff “….we utter lies that our hearts have conceived…., then on to verses 14 - 15:  "truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. "Truth is nowhere to be found."

We create lies within our hearts and we are told lies that we believe by other people.  Here is what God thinks about this problem in verse 16:  “He (God) was appalled that there was no one to intervene….no one helped the people.“

These lies destroy our hearts, souls and minds and no one helps us by telling the truth, not even ourselves.  God is the only one who can expose the lies, but only when we cry for help. (Judges 6:6, Joshua 24:7, Judges 4:3, 1 Samual 12:8, 2 Samuel 22:42, Psal 18:41)  Until that time, we live in defeat amidst the strongholds and shelters we have created for ourselves.(Judges 6:2).  The shelters and strongholds that we create to protect ourselves and cope with life and vulnerable to the enemy's attack.  If you read in Jeremiah 49:29:  "their tens and their flocks will be taken; there shelters will be carried off with all their goods and camels.  People will shout to them, "Terror on every side!".  They could not escape, their shelters failed to protect them and keep them from harm.  

My strongholds, which when Beth Moore stated to pull the words apart to understand, were many,  How about you?  I had managed to avoid pain and face my problems by staying busy.  The captivity of activity, as Beth Moore pointed out.  Yes, I was captive by my own feelings of insecurity and the thought that I needed to prove my worthiness.  I had no idea that I was not ever going to do that by my own power.  Only when the lies were exposed and I knew that I had value because God made me and tells me I have value, was when I was finally able to stop attempting to do something I could never do, regardless of my accomplishments. 

Isaiah 59: 4 ff “…lips speaking lies.  They rely on empty arguments and speak lies, they conceive trouble..”   We hear so many empty arguments these days and they all tend to sound good.  Such as,

  • ·         All people who are in committed relationships deserve to be married
  • ·         People should have sex before they get married, because if they aren’t compatible in that area the marriage won’t work
  • ·         No woman should be forced to have a child.
  • ·         All you have to do is to believe in yourself to make it in this world.
  • ·         Never let anything get in the way of your goals.

Do some of these sound familiar?  Do we hear these types of arguments all of the time in the mainstream media and even among our Christian brothers and sisters?  I know I have heard them from Christians.  They don't like to take a stand on moral issues.  The accept the other empty argument, "well, what is right for me may not be what is right for you".  That means what is right is flexible, adaptable to fit each and every person and lifestyle.  We do what we think is right out of personal preference, rather than because it is a clear-cut standard of what is morally right.  When we begin to compromise our morals, which come from God’s word, we allow Satan to gain a foothold within our lives.  We utter lies that we conceived in our hearts or others conceived in their hearts, then hide behind our own shelters.  

We, as Christians, may not agree with God’s values at times.  They don’t jive with what is popular and “acceptable”  which puts us in direct opposition to God and delights the enemy.   When the Bible states something is morally wrong, and we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and it is the truth, then we cannot also believe in something that is opposite.  That is what God calls double-minded. In James 1:8, it states:  "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."  In James 4:8, it states: "Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."  We cannot believe in contradicting things and stay within the will of God.  

But, remember, God has plans for us.  To prosper and not harm us(Jeremiah 29:11).  His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30), He does not place a bar across our shoulders.(Isaiah 9:4).

As I continued to study  Isaiah, I came across Isaiah 60:22 “…..the least of you will become a thousand….the smallest a mighty nation.”  How often have we felt small and powerless?  God wants nothing short of amazing things from your life. He will work a miracle in your life if you turn to Him and commit your life to His will rather than relying on those strongholds and shelters you have created.  It begins with a cry for help.  He is the Great Healer and can heal your life and make you whole.  As long as we continue to look up, to cry for help, to ask for healing, He will continue working in our lives and perform miraculous things.

As I listened to Beth Moore’s words about being prepared for spiritual warfare, I was also cognizant of a good friend’s words just last week about the same topic.  I told her that I preferred to be unaware of these types of things, living life in ignorance.  As long as I commit my life to God, I don’t have anything to worry about, right?   If there is evil around me, I don’t want to see it.  But, as we all know, we can’t avoid being faced with evil.  I can pretend it doesn’t exist, then I will be letting my guard down, unprepared for his attack.  We must be ever watchful of the enemy and his tricks.  “whoever shuns evil becomes a prey”.  Just by turning away from evil, be become a prey for the evil one.  It is not enough to turn away from it.  We can’t be protected from him on our own. 

Go back to Isaiah 59:14: "Justice was driven back and righteousness stood at a distance."  The people were living in rebellion and standing on lies.  When we stand on lies, we crumble and fall, and they ultimately cause our destruction.  God was there wanting to help, but the people were not asking for His help because they wanted to do things their own way. 

When we turn to our own shelters and strongholds, we are under continual attack by the enemy.  The lies in our hearts guide our lives.  We need to get out from under the lies we’ve been told by others and the ones we have told ourselves.  Am I a victim because I’m an incest survivor?  No, the child was victimized, the adult is not now a victim.  As Beth Moore said, we are meant to be more than overcomers.  Staying in the role of victim, holding on to the pain, bitterness or unforgiveness only allows me to continue being victimized and never being free.   

The things we tend to use to cope or manage our pain are strongholds in our lives:  sexual sin, substance abuse, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, hurt, painful relationships, only serve to hold us back.    Justice is drive back, righteousness stands at a distance.  We say, “I’ve got this” and continue in “our” struggle.  These struggles were never meant to be undertaken alone.  We don’t have that kind of power.  Only God can bring us out from under these types of burdens in our lives. 

What we need to do is to throw away the measuring tools we have used for ourselves to measure our worthiness.  Our attempts to prosper ourselves only result in self harm, which causes us to seek those strongholds and shelters, leaving cornered and vulnerable to the enemy.  We end up feeling alone, damaged, heart-broken, destroyed.  Satan wins the victory because we decided to trust in ourselves.  We believed the lies. 

As humans, we like being in control of our own lives. We formulate, calculate and carefully lay out our plans for our lives.  When they don’t work out, we get frustrated and angry at ourselves and others. We begin placing blame, we get stressed out.  We feel like failures because we can’t make our plans happen the way we want them to happen. When we are unable to live up to our standards, we set for ourselves, we will always fail and feel like failures.  This is exactly where the enemy wants us to be!

Our strongholds and shelters are also our comfort zones.  We know “how to handle” them.  We know what to expect.  In my last marriage, my husband was abusive, but I knew how to handle it.  I felt skilled at deflecting emotional blows to my self esteem and value as a person.  I didn't realize that my life could look very different, that marriages can be loving, and a home something you looked forward to going to at the end of a long work day.  But when he left me for someone else, I desperately wanted him back.  He was my comfort zone.  I knew what to expect each day.  I could handle it, but the unknown, that was what was truly scary to me.  Often God has a way of pushing us into the land of the unknown, the land of faith in Him, rather than our own feelings of comfort and security.  

Do you remember hearing the acronym, FROG?   It stands for Fully Rely on God.  Here is the acronym we often choose:  FROM, meaning Fully Rely on Myself. 

Let us get out FROM the burdens we placed on ourselves.  We feel that we “need” our strongholds because they are an escape from a life that is just too difficult without them.   Don't you know that Jesus came to the earth to free us from our bondages?  He came so that we could live more abundantly. (John 10:10). We were meant to live with joy and peace in our lives.  Our strongholds only serve to keep the life God wants for us at a distance.   When we let go of our control and let God be in control, it frees us to be the women that God planned for us to be all along, but we were too busy to see it.   

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Plugged Into God

I have been working and trying so hard to overcome depression and anxiety.  I have recently discovered some brainwave synchronization music on YouTube.  I downloaded into MP3 format (just Google YouTube to MP3) and I've been listening to it on my headphones.  I even bought some special noise cancellation headphones so that I could maximize the benefit, rather than using my $6 ones from WalMart.

I've been working in therapy with a therapist that uses EMDR.  I describe the technique in my last post here.   I decided that most of my problem was a brain problem and if I could fix that, through medication, EMDR and the specialized music, I could somehow "fix" myself.   I began listening to the music at work through the day.  I could feel tingling in different muscle groups that have been tense due to my abuse.  It really seemed to be helping me.  I walked around my house with my headphones on, listening, hoping for a real change.  

Well, anyway, here I was sitting at my desk at work, around 11 in the morning, listening to my brainwave music, when suddenly I felt like I needed to leave, get out of here, go home, go to bed, do something....else except be here.

I went home, frantically washed dishes, put up laundry, took one of my instant-release anxiety pills, kept working, waiting....not much better.  Could I take an extra 50 mg of Sertraline (Zoloft)?  Would that hurt?  I tried to call my psychiatrist, got a voicemail.  Can't wait that long.  What the heck.  I took the pill.  Waited.  A little better.   I finally ate my lunch around 12:30 p.m. then laid down for a nap.  Plugged into my synchronization music, closed my eyes.  Still anxious.  I began tapping into my trauma, using a self-guided EMDR method, which sometimes works to relieve some of my tension.  I tap down my stomach, the area where I feel the pit of anxiety, focus on the trauma, experience it briefly.....stay with it...keep tapping quickly with my fingers, first one side then the other, I reach a peak of anxiety, the peak of which I'm shaking all over and can't breathe......then a sudden release, breathing deeply, my body relaxing a little more.  I completed this process several times.  It was still there.  I finally thought about the verse, "cast your cares on God".  How do you do that?  I've tried visualizing my cares lifting from my body and lifted to God, but it didn't work.  What do I do now?  I finally prayed.  "God, can you lift this anxiety from me?"   He did.  I felt better, calm, relaxed.  I took an hour-long nap and felt refreshed and full of energy.  I read my Bible before going to bed.  I then did something I hadn't done in a while, I laid prostrate on the bathroom floor rug and prayed and listened for God's voice.  I just felt on my heart that He was there with me.  He is and always was the answer for my anxiety.  That night when I laid down to sleep, I put on my headphones and plugged into my favorite Christian songs of healing.  I'll have to type up my list in another post:)

I'm not saying I'm going to stop taking medications or stop my therapy.   I still believe that these are an essential part of the process, but I need to pray when I'm feeling anxious, ask God for help.  God should never be a last resort, but the first place that I turn.

This morning, I took a few minutes to read my Bible and pray before I went to work.  I'm listening to my Christian radio station as I type.  I'm plugged the One and the only One that can truly make the difference.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Brother in Denial

I've been so angry at my brother, dwelling on it, obsessing, not being able to let it go.  When my sister came forward with her abuse in August, 2011, I told him what happened to her.  He said there was no way our dad could have done that because pedophiles are single men who couldn't relate to women.  What??  Our father was married, had lots of affairs with different women, he didn't mess with little girls.  He was an alcoholic, coming home drunk most nights and passing out on the couch.  He went to jail a few times, came home with a wrecked truck more than once, the police called to our home more than once, a couple of placements in mental institutions and a few times through rehab for alcoholism, Bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, narcissistic, but no, he didn't mess with little girls, least of all his OWN daughters.  He never touched us.  If you were to look at photos of us together, my father was always standing awkwardly, his hands by his sides.  It struck me as I looked from one photo to the next, he was never touching us.  There was only one picture, in San Antonio, where he had to pick me up to peer out of a tower to the landscape below.  That was it.  Then there was me.  I hardly ever looked at the camera.  I was always looking off, a dazed look on my face, thinking about something else, completely unaware that I was supposed to be looking forward and smiling.

I told him my mother was aware of it and allowed it to happen.  "No way, that is just sick!", he said.  Our parents did the best they could and didn't intentionally cause us harm.  Hmmm....

I never got the chance to tell him about my abuse.  I knew in my heart that it wouldn't accepted.  My therapist is using a process called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).  It repairs your brain and allows you to think more rationally.  It is an amazing process that I've been so blessed to be trained in myself.  I came to my therapist's office yesterday asking for EMDR to deal with my anger towards my brother.  It was getting in the way of my healing and ability to move forward.

She uses EMDR with "tappers", which has nothing to do with eye movements.  With "tappers" you hold two plastic pieces, with wires that connect to a controller that the therapist holds in her hands.  She turns it on and you feel a slight vibration in one side, then the other, moving at a quick pace.  EMDR works through a bilateral stimulation process in which you focus on the disturbing material while stimulating both the left and right side of your brain.  We tend to think in one side of our brain, thus making us irrational at times.

As I discussed my brother, I suddenly realized how much he was like my mother.  Intense religiosity, superiority, knowing all about everything.  He was the one that was right, always.  All other opinions faded in comparison to his own.  Since there was nothing wrong with him, he never needed to look deep inside of his heart to examine what might be lurking there.  If there was a problem, it was with the other person.  Always. He couldn't face anything that might reflect negatively on himself.  His failure as an older brother to protect his sisters.  His own father being a pedophile while his mother allowed this atrocity?  No, not HIS parents.

When I told him about my sister, his reaction was to imply that she was an alcoholic who couldn't be trusted.
My dear sister, one of my best friends, whom I talk to almost on a daily basis, the one who is college educated and works full time as a preschool teacher?  A wonderful mother to her own three children, married to the love of her life for 20+ years?  The one who has never made up stories or did things to bring attention to herself?  A lying alcoholic?

I told him that my sister and I were in counseling.  He wrote that he hoped that we got the help that we needed.  We were just crazy.  Liars.  Seeking attention.  Making up stories.  He was not in denial, he made that clear in his email.

In the course of my session, I realized that he was either lying himself or in denial, both of which he would fiercely deny.  Regardless of his reasons and rationales, the issue boiled down to avoidance.  I don't see it, therefore it doesn't exist.  As long as I refuse to see, I don't have to face it or deal with it.

Once I realized it was all about his need for self-perfection and avoidance, I could finally let it go.  Let him go.  I'm so grateful that out of all of it, I have my sister.