faith

God Doesn’t Waste A Wound

Everyone has a story. Chances are that story has a time of crisis or trauma. That moment may be the worst, most terrifying, darkest, lowest time you’ve ever been in, in your life. Often, it becomes a defining moment…a quickening. It becomes an opportunity, an invitation, to do more than survive. It is a moment of learning and growth  . . . or it can be.

That’s what last night’s message and discussion was about, within my faith community. How these times of crisis often present us with a question which causes us to examine ourselves, our lives, our priorities, and cause us to decide who we want to be in our lives and in the world.

Just about everyone has at least one…possibly more.

The Bible is full of them, starting from Adam in Genesis, through to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, on and on through to the disciples and Jesus himself.

In those moments of trial and pain, many of us, if we are persons with a spiritual faith, question whether or not God is real. We may come to believe that we are being punished for some sin or that he is causing our trouble and pain in order to accomplish something. I personally believe that everything we experience is part of a cause and effect cycle, even if we can’t identify the cause.

The initiating cause doesn’t have to be ours, it can be that of someone or something else, we just happen to get caught in the effect. It is especially in those times when we can’t identify the cause that we may think we have been abandoned by God, believing that he should have protected us against and rescued us from the painful situation.

The reality is that we have a God of redemption and restoration, as well as a God of salvation, refuge, and protection. This means that those crisis moments can lead to us spiraling and spinning into a life of crisis and reactivity. We can feel shattered and completely broken. We may feel as if we’ve lost everything and have no reason to move forward. We wonder why God did this to us or allowed it to happen.

My experience has been that he is present all the time, including in those moments of painful crisis when we feel lost and alone.

Last week, I shared with you about one of those times for me. It was a brief overview of one of the defining relationships in my life and a time fraught with crisis moments, culminating in a near death experience. You can read about it here.

A brief recap: When I was 16, I was a victim in search of a predator, but didn’t know it. I was seduced and manipulated by a man 14 years older than me. I spent 3 years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars with him . . . before, during, and after my pregnancy with our son, who was born when I was 17. When I was 19 and our son was two, he almost killed me in front of our son. He stopped at a moment when there was no reason or sanity to intervene. I felt as if there was a second between when I was alive and when I would die. In that second, he got up and moved away.

In that previous post, I said that he stopped short of killing me for some reason. I believed then and I believe now, that God was that reason.

There were consequences of that moment. The effects of it weren’t just in me, they were in my son. He was an angry child. I didn’t understand why throughout his childhood. However, once I started my healing process, five years ago, I came to understand that the root of that anger was planted in that moment of crisis.

Several months ago, my son and I had occasion to talk. During that conversation, we touched on his anger and I told him that I knew why he had been so angry as a child and why it continues to affect him. He wanted to know why, so, I told him about that crisis moment when he was two.

About two months later, he called me and told me that he needed to tell me something. He’d experienced a revelation while he’d been in prayer, asking God to show him a more complete picture of what happened and where he had been during the experience. God showed him where He had been in that second between life and death.

My son told me that God showed him that He had been present in my body, my bones, my muscles, my ligaments and tendons, protecting me from the physical effects of the attack. That I had been saved so that I would be here, now, in this moment.

I believed my son, because I knew that there was no earthly reason why his father would have stopped himself and allowed me to escape and get to a place where I could call the police. I just didn’t understand why my life had been saved. I didn’t know what was so special about this time of my life that I would have been saved then so that I could be here now.

Now though, I think it has to do with the career trajectory I’m on. I have a compelling desire to become a Mental Health Peer Support/Wellness Specialist. Not just because of my experience of living with Bipolar II, but also because of the PTSD and how it has manifested in my life. I want to help others navigate through it in ways I never had anyone to help me.

The deep wounding of that event will not be wasted.

 

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Blocked

I feel like my brain went on vacation and forgot to take me with it. There’s just a hodgepodge of feelings, thoughts, and experiences from the past several weeks, swirling in my psyche. I didn’t really know what or how to write about it. So, I started where I was and followed where it led.


When my mind is blank
and my vision dim;
my heart is heavy
and my soul is grim.

When my words are lost
and my mouth silent;
my lungs are empty
and feelings are violent.

Avoid and evade
the sorrow and pain.
Numb the body
Disconnect the brain.

This half life
I do not want.
Yet, in this moment
my will is daunt.

The tank is empty.
The drive is gone.
It’s time to rest
and wait the dawn.

Open the heart
and clear the mind;
heal the soul
and mend the blind.

Love lives in me,
a spiritual well
I forget to drink,
my thirst to quell.

Reach deep within
Touch the eternal
Connect with love
Fraternal

Grasp the vine
In him abide
Mind, heart, soul
Full life betide.

What if…?

Yesterday’s guest speaker spoke about sabbath, rest. She and I had talked earlier in the week about the subject, since I was the one leading last night’s discussion. Our conversation has been on my mind ever since.

After our conversation, I went to my R.E.S.T. group therapy class. I don’t actually know what that acronym stands for. I just know it’s a class about Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I find it coincidentally interesting that immediately after a discussion of “rest” as part of faith practice I would attend a class titled “REST.”

In class we talked about seeking happiness inducing experiences as part of managing our mental health issues. I think the two go hand in hand: rest and pleasure.

Rest means different things to different people and things which bring pleasure to one person are not the same as what brings pleasure to another.

What we, as Christians do know is that the Sabbath is made for people, not people for the Sabbath, at least according to Mark 2:27.

Another name for The Most High, The Almighty, The Lord, God is Abba or Father.

Now, if you’ve experienced the trauma of religious abuse or an abusive or neglectful relationship with your own father, this will be difficult, painful, or impossible to relate to, which is totally understandable and reasonable. I’m not trying to force feed my beliefs or faith on anyone. I’m simply saying what it means to me. You have free will and get to decide for yourself. No judgment. All are welcome here.

I never had a relationship with my own father. Nor has my life ever afforded me much of a sense of safety, an ability to rest, or experiences of delight. I didn’t grow up attending church, and I have had religion used against me and to manipulate me. It’s taken me a long time and a LOT of mental health healing to get here.

So, I find myself contemplating what it means to be a child of God, resting in his arms, and taking delight in him.

What if our hearts’ true desires are to be known completely and loved unconditionally? What if being fully known and wholly loved is our refuge and our shelter? What if what allows us to rest and let go of the tension, worry, and fear is a sense of safety? What if being rested opens our senses to be able to experience delight? What if this is what it means to become “as a little child?”

What if we could believe that God lives in us? What if we believed God is love? What if we believed God encompasses time and eternity?

Would all of this mean that we have constant access to God, who can fill us with love, offer safety, shelter, and rest, who can enable us to experience delight in the eternity of each moment in time…even in the midst of all the trials and pain?

What if…?

Not Alone

I seem to be straying from my original intent to focus on my job readiness journey this month. But, perhaps not. Today, I’m talking about mental health.

Here’s why: If you’re struggling with mental illness or emotional instability OR you have a loved one who is OR you have experienced trauma OR any combination of the aforementioned, you need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I want you to know that, despite however weak, fragile, overwhelmed, and incapable you may feel right now, you are one of the strongest, most courageous people you know.

Feeling the way you feel, experiencing anxiety, depression, hyper-reactivity, mania, having compulsive self-harming behaviors, experiencing suicidal thoughts, or any other “wrong” thing does not mean you are “less than,” unworthy, insignificant, or “damaged beyond repair.”

You see, I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. I have friends and family who have been or are there. I’ve known those who didn’t make it and know those who make it one day at a time, if not moment by moment.

Last night I had the privilege to speak with another mom, who is facing and navigating challenges similar to those I have experienced – some of which I’ve come out on the other side of and some that will ever be with me. A history of physical and mental trauma, mental illness, and parenting a child with mental health and behavioral challenges through childhood and into adulthood.

Feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair, and thoughts of permanently packing it in are all things I’m more than familiar with and gave me the empathy she needed. I was able to listen with understanding. I had knowledge of resources and professionals better equipped to help her than I am to offer her. I was able to share some of my stories, giving her hope and shoring up her faith.

By the end of the call, we had established a rapport and a bond borne of shared experience and the knowledge that neither of us is alone in our struggle. She seemed genuinely hopeful, a 180 degree turnaround from where she was when we first began talking.

My lived experience of surviving trauma and mental illness has equipped me to be of service to others who are living through similar things. Even though I still have my struggles and even though I’ll never be “fully” healed and recovered, I’m far enough along that I have something good to offer.

I have a friend who says, “God doesn’t waste a wound.”

While I am not of the belief that God punishes and wounds us by causing trauma and devastation in our lives, I do believe he is present in and with us throughout these things. Furthermore, I believe that, if we are able to participate in the healing process, he redeems our personal tragedies in ways that can bring good.

This is what I want to do with my life. I want to walk alongside others on this healing and recovery journey, bolstering them up when they’re walk is shaky and help them stand back up, dust off, and get going again.

That’s what it’s about, right?

We all stumble. We all fall. We all get exhausted, worn down, and overwhelmed. We all need a little help getting by.

Now, due to several factors, prior student debt to a private institution being chief among them, going back to college isn’t a feasible option. Especially if I want to start working ASAP.

What I CAN do is get a certification to be a Mental Health Peer Support Specialist.

I didn’t get into the certification training I wanted to, this go around. But, I’m only getting started and there are other things I can do while I figure out how to access the training I need.

Today I start a Peer to Peer class put on by NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It will help me be less isolated on my own journey and add to my toolbox of coping skills.

Wish me luck!

Untitled

In the land of the free
And the home of the brave,
Fear and greed
Create the mind slave.

In what was believed
A land of abundance,
Writhes hate unrelieved
And lost moral compass.

Not the lost you may think,
Facade’s fake appearance;
Words and deed don’t sync,
Cognitive dissonance.

Against humanity
A legal crime
Political insanity
Time after time

Right is illegal.
Wrong wears the crown.
No longer an eagle.
Now an orange clown,

Playing the people
With words of false faith.
We’re called sheeple
Considered weak wraith.

We must together,
Stop vanity’s fight
From God’s aether
Let truth take flight.

Let compassion rule.
Let empathy drive.
Make justice true.
The spirit will thrive.

Take a stand.
Walk the talk.
Be peace in our land.
Make love the bedrock.

©️ 2019 lem

Social Justice and Being Christian

Forgive this interruption in the regularly scheduled programming about my job search journey. This is just too important to me to not talk about.

This past week I was in a discussion with several others regarding social justice issues like homelessness, stereotypes, what we believe about them, and how we act on them as followers of Jesus.

A significant part of the conversation was regarding those who experience homelessness, with much of that centering on those in chronic homelessness, who often deal with substance abuse and dependence issues.

There were the usual questions about the whys and wherefores of “those” people’s choices and lifestyles. We also touched on the changes and so-called solutions in our society which foster the problem of homelessness and its impact on society.

When we got around to what to do about it, that’s when we got down to the nitty gritty of our role as Christians and individuals. How do you love people who may be unsafe, living in unsafe circumstances, who reject the social services they may have access to? How do you determine if someone will or can benefit from your involvement? What does relationship look like in this context?

One person stated that we can’t know what to do unless we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. But, what if you’re like me and have difficulty accessing and discerning what the Holy Spirit may be saying?

Look to Jesus. Not to be trite, but, what would Jesus do?

• Make eye contact.
• Listen without judgment.
• Offer a willingness to understand.
• Treat with dignity.

It’s not our job to solve homelessness or poverty, as individuals. Those are goals to be worked toward, for sure. However, what we do know that it’s our job as individuals to love our neighbor, including our neighbors without four walls and a roof.

How to do that? Take time to get to know one of “those” people, even if it’s just to share a cheap fast food meal, a conversation on the corner, or offering a garbage bag so they can pick up their debris. These acts are acts of relationship and relationships are what Jesus is about.

I’ve experienced homelessness more than once in my life. The longest period was as a teen in relationship with a much older man who was, essentially, a professional, low-level con artist. Other times occurred when my mental health crashed and I couldn’t hold a job at the same time as my relationship’s toxicity clashed with my anxiety and mania…only I didn’t understand that’s what was happening.

I didn’t have substance abuse issues, but, my mental health issues, which weren’t recognized or understood by me or others around me, created an inability to toe the line of organizational and societal demands and expectations. Encountering someone willing to actually see ME and not just my circumstances or my history was priceless. It afforded me a sense of dignity that can only come from being seen and treated as if I was worthwhile and that I mattered, whether or not I could conform or meet the expectations of others.

I have neighbors who are unsheltered. Many experience alcoholism and dependency on other substances. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they panhandle. Sometimes they collect cans and bottles. Sometimes they do none of the above. They often do what they can to keep the areas they occupy free of debris. However, sometimes they don’t have a way to gather and dispose of garbage. Just like they don’t have consistent or frequent access to laundry or bathing facilities.

I’ve witnessed them helping and looking out for each other. They’ve helped me carry things too heavy for me to carry up a flight of stairs…without expecting or asking for anything in return.

Of course not everyone in these circumstances is friendly, open, or safe. There’s a lot of history of personal trauma for most people living on the streets. Substance abuse and addiction is very common for trauma survivors and those experiencing mental illness.

It’s easy to look at someone on a corner with a sign and make assumptions based on what you think you would do, given the set of circumstances you believe they are in. But, you don’t know them or their story. You can’t, unless you take the time and make the effort.

Donating money is easy – whether it’s to an organization or directly to an individual. Choosing any degree of relationship with an uncomfortable other is less easy for most of us and it’s not possible with all people at all times…but, it makes more of a difference and more impact than you may believe.

Redirection

Will I make it?

I’m doubting myself these days. Not completely, but, probably enough to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, if I’m not careful.

What am I talking about? Two things:

  1. making a significant life change and
  2. doing the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’ll start with the easiest, first, the UBC. Several years ago, I completed a couple of different 30-31 Day blogging challenges. It was fun, informative, and I “met” a couple of fellow bloggers with whom I still maintain contact.

My life was significantly different then and I was, too. The biggest difference was that I didn’t realize I had a bipolar brain and that the daily blogging I was doing was actually being done during manic or hypomanic episodes. High energy, effortless creativity, extreme motivation, massive productivity, and uncommon self-confidence were all driving affects to my writing, at the time.

I was a stay at home mom, in the midst of depression, chaos, and an increasingly deteriorating relationship I’d been in for the better part of 15 years. I was parenting a bouncy, stubborn, hyper energetic, and increasingly difficult to manage toddler. Writing was my escape and my DIY therapy.

Since that time, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder and PTSD…and medicated to stabilize my moods. I’ve spent five and a half years in therapy, learning how to navigate life with mental illness and to mitigate the effects of a lifetime of trauma.

My relationship completely broke down and now we co-parent, shuffling our child between two households. We also discovered that unstoppable child experiences and interacts with the world while navigating the the Autism Spectrum.

I haven’t been able to write consistently or complete a Blog Challenge in over five years.

The thing that hasn’t changed is my employment status. I’m still not employed. Which brings me to the next significant change I’m in the process of making…or attempting to make: financial independence. I’ve remained dependent on my daughter’s father to pay the bills and provide the basic needs of my household and myself. It’s past time to cut that tie that “binds and gag” (to quote Erma Bombeck). Yes, I’m that old.

It’s officially been seven years since I was last employed. My mental health, or lack there of, played a key role in me leaving the workforce, as did my child’s special needs. I recently turned 50. I’m significantly overweight. I have some physical health issues. All of these facts affect employability. Even though none of them are overt reasons for employers to reject me, every one of those things tap into unconscious prejudice because of societal stigma.

I am taking classes and working on some basic, employer friendly skills certifications. I’m working with an Employment Specialist. I’m continuing therapy. I’m doing what I know I need to do to be job ready. But, I’m terrified.

I know I have the intelligence and skills to obtain a job and do it well…for a time. However, every job I’ve ever left, regardless of reason given, ended due to my mental and emotional health issues. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m scared to try. I’m moving forward anyway.

I joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge this time, to test and challenge myself…and, just maybe, gain a little confidence in myself.

This month, I plan on sharing my journey to getting a job. Hopefully it will be more entertaining and less harrowing than it feels.