Tag Archives: living for Christ

Lent Is An Opening, Not Simply Abstaining

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So, in times past I have “celebrated” Lent, intermittently over the years, but my focus had always been about merely giving something up. It felt… miserly. It never really had been presented to me (nor had it occurred to me) that it was not really just a time of self-deprivation, of simply giving something up, but is more a time of opening up and receiving MORE.

Last year, I found this beautiful post by a fellow Restorative Exercise Specialist-in-training, Katy. It was the first time I’d come to the idea of not giving up some physical thing, an item. My heart was woo’d in that short article, glimpsing in to something deeper than merely giving up some luxury item for 40 days.

Later, I came to a different article, that I can no longer seem to find, but it presented the notion that Lent is a reminder to us that in Christ’s fasting, we do not just see Him giving things up and sacrificing food, we also see Him taking on challenges and opening up to God’s will in a very different way than He does most of His ministry on earth.

Sometime between last year’s Lent and this years, Lent became about realizing sacrifice really isn’t a withholding. Sacrifice is an opening – an invitation for more than we can imagine without that sacrifice. This has transformed every sacrifice I’ve seen someone make, in my own mind. It is not, at the heart, a giving up, but a widening. Karen Ehman wrote about this to a smaller degree than the article I am thinking of, but I still love this heart: The Reverse Lent Challenge.

I have several different things I am doing this Lenten season. I hesitate to say them, if I “fail” at going 40 days, but that is actually something I am making a part of my Lenten giving up: criticism. Giving up criticism opens me up to unconditional love and acceptance – to receive grace (Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils and Feelings: Buried Alive, Never Die are both excellent resources for understanding this!. Which means I can be okay with sharing my stumbles and forgetting things over a 40 day period.

First, I am going to make a Lenten calendar, as a celebration of what giving up really means – beauty.

Right now, a huge time-suck for myself and my children is technology. Television for them and internet for me. Shifting away from “device” is not merely to abstain, but to open up to so much more in our lives. So, my biggest physical “giving up” is televison and internet. We’re putting holds on Netflix and Hulu, freezing our internet service, and in these things place, spending more time outdoors, making handicrafts for others, and enjoying time reading and cooking together. Being with others.

Daryl, hearing me hash all of this out, started thinking quietly to himself. The following day, he said, “I was thinking about what you said, about giving something up actually leading to opening to better things. I want to give up overtime for Lent.” {stomach punch} To myself: you mean the thing that helps us make it paycheck to paycheck? 8 hours a week for meeting our bill needs and lately  another 8 to pay for extra like internet, school books (not really extras, but yet it is) and my certification week coming up.
What an encouragement from my husband, though. Trusting God will provide while Daryl spends more time over the next 40 days with us and with our community.

Not only am I putting our tv away for Lent, I am pulling specific books in for our family, incorporating/encouraging a blend of fun activities, rich activities, and quieting activities.

My heart is open and ready, preparing for renewal.
Do you do something to celebrate Lent? How have you viewed the Lenten season over your life?

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Forgive As You’ve Been Forgiven – The Science of Relations

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I’ve been talking about the connections of faith, healing, and PTSD, but I haven’t really gotten to the PTSD aspect yet.

I’m a serious work in progress.
I have ups and downs in my healing path through PTSD. Some days I am at peace and calm (really, it is more and more often now), while other days I feel like there isn’t “the other side” or that I won’t reach it.

After the failed criminal trial, I spiraled downward.

I think I’d been silently living feeling victimized the majority of my marriage to Doctor Horrible – he rarely slept with me despite my sometimes begging, did not financially provide, called me manipulative when I cried (after he called me a whore… I can actually laugh at that insane insult, now, while realizing sadly that he is a narcissist), used the little bit of our money on drugs and alcohol, and told me it was none of my business where he was until 3am.

I can look back now and see I constantly felt like a martyr – I had to die to me to serve AND survive him… but I don’t mean that in a Biblical way. I mean that as in, I felt like in order to survive, I had to strip myself of me. I had to stop feeling, stop having opinions or thoughts or values that effected anyone else. I often felt like to survive, I needed to be on automatic, like a robot… because letting myself feel the full weight of what Doctor Horrible was in our marriage would crush me.
I also felt like my outward doing would be a light to Doctor Horrible, and despite that I am bold and striking, I tried to be soft and subtle in it, thinking that was somehow “more” God’s nature than the one He instilled in me and being me would be a sin.

Then I learned about Melody’s assaults and the wall I’d been slowly building, came crumbling down.

Through the next year and a half until the criminal trial, I think I went through most of the “stages of grief” except the fullest extent of anger. I look back and think that I struggled a lot with denial. Not denial that he had done it, but denial that while God is black and white, the world is grey… and that justice on earth may never come.
I convinced myself through my prayers that he would see justice on earth and mercy in heaven. The knowledge that we reap what we sow terrified me to think of Doctor Horrible not having justice here, and instead spending eternity separated from our Creator. That reality was and still is the most painful.

When 12 strangers chose to ignore Melody’s story, the trauma I’d been struggling through intensified to an intolerable level. NO ONE cared about the victims. No one asked what we wanted… did we want vengeance or restorative justice? Did we want eventual contact or permanent isolation? Did we want him to offer restitution to us, as it really is not society he offended, but US? Not only was our autonomy stripped away by Doctor Horrible, but it was continually stripped by the society that pretenses that it cares about victims, while they took charge of our situation for us, yet again dis-empowering us. Feeling all of this, but not having words for it, made it difficult to process it. How could we? No one allowed us to regain our autonomy in the process that should have been for us.

It wasn’t until I started slowly working my way through Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr, after having read Feelings by Karol Truman, that all of those thoughts and feelings in me had words… “oh my gosh… these words… these are what I have been feeling, thinking about, churning around and around… and no words of my own could express this.” Melody and I read part of this book together, and we both wept. I have since set it aside for Melody, while I slowly work my way through it, but the bit we did together was transformative and freeing, while also heartbreaking.

If I had been allowed time to process things and think about what I hoped for from the situation, I can say that locking Doctor Horrible in prison for the rest of his life (and he would have been, had he been found guilty, as he is still on parole for murdering a child over 2 decades ago), while giving me and Melody a temporary sense of security (from him), was not what I hoped for him, for us, for the situation. That would not only not solve much of anything, it would put him in one of the most deliberately violent, breeding-of-con-man-mentality places after telling him how bad it is to be a con-man, a violator, a violent person who would strip away another’s autonomy… while striping him of his.
I know that is what some people want with child molesters. They want vengeance. I really do get it. Sometimes, on a rare day, I breath in that holier-than-thou mentality, too. I’m human and I sometimes struggle to remember that I too nailed the nails in Christ’s wrists and that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I look back from the failed criminal trial, onward, I can see two things going on me in my disappointment and brokenness. One is my humanity, angry that even though we had all of our power taken from us yet again in how I/we wanted justice to be sought, and the system that stole this from us failed even by their own standards of “justice.” I felt like our victimization was ignored (and Howard Zehr confirms this is the reality, not just my feelings) and justice was not truly what was being sought (this is my own feeling). The other is something of the Christ within me, I hope, that what I really wanted was time to heal and an opportunity to keep Melody safe from Doctor Horrible for forever, but to have advocates come to him and hold him accountable to growing up and seeing Christ in their lives, even if he chooses to never trust God. I wanted to know he would not come near her, but not to be doomed to hell on earth or in eternity. I wanted to know that justice – restorative justice could be sought and exemplified. This was a man I once loved in the most intimate of ways, had chosen to bind my life with, as evil-hearted as he had chosen to be… and I still know him to be a child that God loves.

It’s taken me so long to get to the place to be able to express all of this. But, releasing my emotions rather than pretending I could bury them and seeing Howard Zehr almost flawlessly speak on my behalf (and probably many more victims) and express my confusion, anguish, and hopes amidst a nightmare…. have helped me to do this. They’ve helped me to do even more with my past beyond Doctor Horrible, too.

The connection from these books, these teachers, has been astounding in my life, to free me to express… that I can seek forgiveness and extend it, because of the One who forgives us all of far more than we deserve.forgivenessfreedom

Joy

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A strangely difficult, beautiful conversation came up recently.  From it came, what is happiness, what is joy?

Once upon a time, shortly after Melody told me she’d been molested… a frien-emy (I did not set myself out as this, but they constantly only ever had negative things to say to me and never edified with me, so, I can’t call them my friend really) told me for someone who talked about joy all the time, I sure wasn’t very happy.

I chuckled to myself because I knew the me that once thought JOY meant “super happy cheerfulness!” But in that valley, I knew that joy is completely separate from happiness. They can mingle together sometimes, but they are not by any means intertwined.
Joy can radiate from those that are broken, hurting, and very unhappy.
Like peace that surpasses understanding, joy is a choice to be made about our view of life and our level of faith in God. It can connect, deeply, with emotions, but it almost isn’t one in and of itself.

During the conversation about negative people, happiness, joy, struggles… someone shared this beautiful song from YouTube. I listened and wept. It was the epitomy of my life from the time Melody told me she was molested, until the day the verdict was read at the criminal trial. I could FEEL this song and it immediately brought me back to the most unhappy, joyous time of my life. It made me yearn for that joy once again.

This is the song, Joy, along with the story behind it (that I found after the first hearing).

This triggered memories of the time from Melody telling me of her assaults, all the way through the hellish three years after the trial, in which I stopped choosing joy and chose bitterness, brokenness, and anger instead.

And tonight, I realized something completely new. Something I’ve known this whole time, but not put together in my puzzle of that time.
While I was grieving my child’s molestation, my husband’s clear abandonment, everything… I never felt abandoned by God. I never felt as though He didn’t care. I knew His Truth, and that gave me joy unspeakable.
Toward the end, before the trial, He placed Daryl in our lives. I had never felt so loved by a man, romantically. I still haven’t, praise God, truly.

When I railed against God and the world in the hours after the verdict was read at the trial, I lay scared, angry, and weeping on Daryl’s couch, and uttered words I will always regret. Basically, “I hate Him. I hate that He could allow us to go through this hell, allow her to be abused by him, and then have the world act as though we went through nothing. He hates us and I hate Him for letting her go through this for nothing.”
I saw deep sadness spread across Daryl’s face. His eyes read pain. I knew it hurt him to hear me say this.
After actual hours of crying and railing, I looked at Daryl and told him that I loved him, but I could feel something shifting in me and I knew I was going to be angry for a long time, maybe forever, and I didn’t know what my faith life was going to come to. I told him that right then was the opportunity to break off our engagement if he wanted to, and I wouldn’t blame him one bit.

He looked me in the eyes and told me he loved me, and he wanted to love me like God loves me. Even when I push away, He wanted to be there to love me, and Daryl wanted to love me like that. I tasted Grace in that moment, even as I was spitting at God.

For almost three years, I struggled with God. After a few weeks, I turned my face to Him, but I resisted Him and I distrusted Love, even though I knew I was wrong for doing so. For three long years, Daryl loved me as a bitter, negative, scared, broken-spirited person. I was so very different than the woman he met and fell in love with.

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How can I not look back on that as a gift from God? In the midst of feeling abandoned by Him, in the midst of my sorrow with Him, in the midst of my fear of His will for my life… He ensured a daily surrounding and caressing of my soul with His love for me in the grace, mercy, and patience of my husband. And I’ve known this all this time… yet… never placed it into the pattern of my life: as one of a thousand generous gifts of God to a wounded, bitter, broken daughter.

How can I not want to chase after His Joy when I come to see all of this?

Classics Challenge Book 1

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I’m starting the year of Back to the Classics Challenge off with my favorite kind of book, non-fiction. I figured that mentally, this is going to be the toughest to chew on, so I best read it now rather than over the summer when I’m nursing a newborn!
As soon as I hopped in my car to get breakfast this morning, I could hardly wait to start my first challenge book.

I am opting to read and listen, using the Podcast addict app to listen to this version while I read as desired from my free Kindle book.

I’m not even through the first chapter and am totally blown away by the eloquence of thought put into this work by passed-to-glory fellow anarchist and pacifist.
Already I’ve found an aspect we will be using in our historical document overview or using excerpts as memorization (or both) with Ambleside Online, though it is from William Lloyd Garrison, given length in Tolstoy’s first chapter. It is the Declaration of Sentiments Adopted by the Peace Convention. I just cannot stop rereading it.

I was very excited for the inclusion in the challenge for a work in translation, as I knew it would be the perfect time to dig into this Christian anarchist treasure for the first time. I’m not just invigorated by it, I’ve been challenged less than a chapter in, to conform my life ever more to the call of Christ.

I can’t wait to give a full review of this whenever I finish it!

When The Heart Isn’t In It

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Many times I have heard people justify not following one of His commands because if they did, they would not have the “heart” in it, they wouldn’t be joyful about it, etcetera. Most of the time, it’s even talked about as God’s will for their life simply because He allowed them the free will to choose it, despite His Word speaking plainly against it.

I’ve even said I didn’t have the heart, myself, at one very specific point. I remember saying it about forgiving the lawyers and jury when the criminal trial came back not guilty for a man very much guilty and needing to be kept away from children – that my heart just wasn’t in it, and so I couldn’t forgive them then.

Obedience to God is not just doing the actions He commands, but following His commands with the heart He has called us to cultivate.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

~Psalm 84:5

So many times, so many reasons:

  • If mom/wife stayed home without a paying career, they would be bitter and feel unsatisfied.
  • If they taught their child(ren) at home, they would feel stressed out, so it would just be “best” to send their kiddos off (and not have to deal with any sin issue in their own heart or their children’s).
  • If they were to witness to others, they would feel nervous and “do a terrible job.”
  • If they trusted God with their fertility, they would “go crazy” (His children are supposed to have the *mind of Christ,* so it seems difficult to me that a genuine Follower of Christ can “lose their mind,” when they have so strong a foundation)… if God wants to work through all their methods of birth control, sure they’ll “accept it,” but until then, they’re going to work really hard to prevent the children He designed to be the biological norm for marriage and that He calls wealth and blessings, while they work hard to accumulate financial “wealth,” which God calls a curse.
  • If they stayed single and celibate, they would lose it and do something terrible in another area.
  • It’s just too difficult to forgive… we wouldn’t really mean it (let’s forget we’ve been forgiven for far more by a gracious God).

“If I did X, Y, Z that God calls all Followers of Christ to, I would not be able to _______ or I would not have ______ in my heart that He tells me to have. I can’t obey Him AND have a content heart in this!”

O LORD, teach me how you want me to live! Then I will obey your commands. Make me wholeheartedly committed to you!
~Psalm 86:11

But… we’re called to do both… to both obey Him and do it with a joyful heart… and relying in His strength, we can.

Why do we so often justify inaction and outright disobedience to His commands for blessed living, based on our emotions? Thinking lately of the many times I have done this, heard this from others, and the countless times in human history it has been done… it makes my heart sad that we are such hypocrites. We say we are Followers of Christ, but when He calls us to live certain ways that we don’t really want to follow, we justify ourselves instead of admitting we are in rebellion against His commands. We are merely Believers in His sacrifice, but refuse to be true Followers of Christ (“You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! The demons also believe that, and they tremble with fear.” ~ James 2:19)

What we fail to realize is that God’s commands are NOT to burden us. They are to help us live beautifully. His plans are best, yet we act as though we know better. Constantly.

I am so encouraged by Followers who live out God’s call. My friend, Marie, said something awhile ago that encouraged me that there are beautiful, willing hearts for the Lord:

I’m learning how important it is to read the bible, not to be a ‘good Christian’ (not a good enough reason), but because it is filled with the important stuff God wants us to know in order to live fully in this depraved world, not trusting in the way the world thinks, but trusting in His ways.

I pray I allow God to cultivate this in my heart, that I choose to cultivate it in my own heart – that God’s Word can be trusted to guide us to full living and He can grant us joy in the midst of obeying Him.