The true me

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Something about this saying, which I saw Facebook, really spoke to me…

After my ex walked out eight years ago I started finding myself. And no, I don’t mean in some weird spiritual sense where I traveled the world trying to figure out who I am…makes me think of the movie, Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts who travels to various countries seeking to find herself or perhaps really seeking something more, but that is a whole other post. LOL

The day he walked out the door of the house we had moved to 6 years earlier, that was the beginning of finding out who I really was — who I really am. You see, the real me who had been buried for so long, 20 years to be exact, started coming out little by little, with each step I took down a long, hard, often lonely road. Layer upon layer of stuff was removed and slowly I discovered things about myself.

And the truth is, the harder the journey was, the more of me I found. The true me.

The me who was done being afraid to speak the truth.

The me who discovered how to feel again after years of repressing so much.

The me who learned what it was to forgive, but to move on and stop looking back for something that would never be.

The me who while being told was bitter and hateful, was actually unfolding into a loving more forgiving person.

The me who stood up and said, NO MORE!

And the me who emerged was stronger, more confident, and more beautiful than she ever knew or believed herself to be.

 

What had been meant for harm, God used for my good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 NIV
This was our message at church on Sunday — God can and does use everything we walk through in this life for our good. We may not be able to see it at the time but every little event we walk through is the catalyst for the next thing which ultimately brings about goodness in our lives.
 
And usually it is hard to see the big picture because we are so caught up in the little things. Just like the surreal scene which unfolded in my life eight years ago. While at the time it was difficult to see past that moment, I now look back on it and see how it was the beginning of many things which God would use for my good.
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The road can often feel treacherous but it’s during those times we develop into the person God intends for us. And it’s that road which God uses to bring goodness into our lives if only we will trust Him.
Blessings,
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What a joyous day!

Eight years ago today — February 13, 2009 — was the beginning of the end of a twenty-year destructive marriage. And today is a joyous day indeed as I celebrate the beautiful life God brought forth from those ashes.

Two years ago I wrote this post about that very day and when it popped up in my Facebook memories today I found myself smiling as I read it. A smile filled with happiness and a heart bursting with thanksgiving at being so far from those years and having survived an abusive marriage.

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Today is a truly joyous day and I thank God for not only setting me free but redeeming those years in a way I would never have imagined.

The Day You Left…

Blessings!

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Pulling myself up by my bootstraps

As I pulled on my boots this morning to get ready for some long overdue grocery shopping it reminded me how some days, many days in fact, I have to pull myself up by my bootstraps, putting on one boot at a time. And today was definitely one of those days where I had to remind myself — one step at a time.

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It’s over halfway into the new year and this new season of my life as an empty-nester. While the letting go has many times felt like a crushing weight, I’m finding that as the days of the new year are already swiftly moving one into the next so to the ache in this mama’s heart lessens with each passing day. And while I still strain to hear the sound of a car door out front or glance expectantly at my phone throughout the day for a text, the pang of disappointment in the silence is not so heavy these days.

Funny how when my boys were infants and needing constant feeding, diaper changes, soothing and all other form of no-time-for-me attention, it could at times feel like a life sentence with no end in sight. But I very clearly see how those times were a life-giving force bringing beauty and meaning to my days — days which quietly slipped away into the past.

Bagging my groceries today — yes, we have that kind of grocery store — I oh-so-subtly watched a young woman and her preschool-aged son across from me. Smiling at the little boy, I asked if he was helping his mama to which he quickly replied a resounding, “no”! As the woman and I laughed, I commented how much I missed my boys being that age and ‘helping’ me. With a weary smile, the young woman loaded up the last of her groceries and taking her little boy by the hand said goodbye. Walking to my car I couldn’t help but smile in remembrance of days past where little tow-headed boys would be riding on the end of the cart, under the cart, or ‘helping’ to push it! LOL

Days can quietly slip into the past while we are busy looking towards the future until suddenly we are standing in the midst of it wondering where the time went.

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Some days, perhaps most days, are meant for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and taking one step at a time — one breath at a time.

“The years were short, son. The years can be too short, and all the ways you fell short, too long.” ~The Broken Way

Those highlighted words in my book kept jumping back at me with all the truth they bear. The years are so very short and even seem to quietly slip away faster and faster the older I become. But isn’t it also true how our shortcomings seem to hold on far too long.

I admittedly fell oh-so-short all those years trying to raise my sons the best I could or at least how I felt was best those long-ago days. I got a lot wrong and made a lot of mistakes, some of which continue to haunt me to this day. But it was never for not trying.

A couple years ago my oldest son angrily reminded me of how much I’d failed him, how much his childhood was ruined because of me. Yet even through the pain of his words ripping apart my mama-heart — words sown from his own pain — I tearfully agreed with him about my mess-ups and falling short as a mother. “But,” I countered with these heart-wrenching words tumbling out from deep within my soul, “I may have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but the one thing I got right was loving you and your brother with my whole heart.”

The one thing I never got wrong in all those fouled up years of his was loving my son, both of my sons, with a love that can only come from the very depths of a mother’s heart. And I tried my best — at the very least, wanted the best for my boys — even if they didn’t see it as good enough in the end.

My love for my boys never fell short, even if I as a mother did.

Ann Voskamp writes even more truth-felt words as she contemplates her short-comings as a mother:

“I never expected to get so much wrong. I never expected love like this. I never expected so much joy. Be patient with God’s patient work in you.” ~The Broken Way

Yes, I never expected such joy that comes from being a mother. Such love. And also getting so much wrong, at least in my eyes. How grateful I am for the Grace of God which covers all my mess-ups, short-comings and failed attempts as a mother.

Isaiah 54:10

I’ve always wondered how my boys didn’t seem to understand what had really happened with their father and I. How they could blame me as I struggled to find my footing after their father left us. How did I turn into this ‘bad guy’ who had been out to destroy their lives while they showed favor on a man who treated them abusively throughout their childhood? How is it I was held accountable for the things their father had done? Why is it they could so easily heap the blame and persecution upon my shoulders while I was already stumbling under the weight of two decades of blame for another person’s actions?

But the truth is, I never spoke of those years with my boys because I did not believe they needed me to heap more on their shoulders, things which were not for them to bear. My boys will never really know what I walked through all those years, because no matter how similar one’s path is to another, no matter whether people are victimized by the same person or living within the same walls — no one can truly know the extent of how another is affected.

We may have lived under the same roof but my boys have no idea what I endured in those twenty years with their father. And I cannot expect my children to understand the depth of pain I felt all those years. The lack of love, the lack of respect, the lack of a real marriage. Yes, they had their own struggles with their father and yes, they were victims of his abuse too, but perhaps they did not see my struggles as the same as theirs because I chose their father and continued choosing to stay.

Perhaps their lack of respect for me evolved over the years of watching their father treat me disrespectfully or perhaps it developed because they watched me succumb all those years to that type of treatment not respecting myself enough to stand against the evil in our home.

Letting go of my sons as they’ve walked out my door into their own lives has not been easy as it never is for any mother left in an empty nest. But much of my heart-ache has stemmed from wanting to make up for all that was lost to my boys. I would give anything for them to have not lived through abuse and the fractured family it produced. Some days I yearn for just one day to go back and make things right for them, but then by doing so would change the course of the future — the place where we are currently standing.

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I yearn for my boys to know how very much I loved them and tried my best when they were still those little tow-headed boys. I want them to know that my staying in the walls of abuse were not necessarily because I lacked the courage and strength to leave, but because of my love for them and thinking, however erroneously, a fractured family held together with tears and heart-ache was somehow better for them than leaving. And while I know better now, I truly tried my hardest back then to do the right thing.

“And there he is at the end of boy and becomes man while we both were just turning around. And that is all this has ever been, a passionate process of turning all that’s been into velveteen.” -The Broken Way

In the book The Velveteen Rabbit, the rabbit wonders what it takes to become real and if it hurts. Yes, being real hurts but until we choose to be real we can never experience love to it’s fullest.

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“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day…

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse…”When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once…” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time…but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

-The Velveteen Rabbit

One day I turned around and there were no more tow-headed little boys fighting to ride on the end of the grocery cart or reaching their little hand into mine. Bit by bit, the years slipped by until two young men stood in the place of those little boys and it was then my velveteen became Real. And I can never be unreal again for who I am is who I am. Being a mother changed me forever and the love between a mother and her children lasts for always. There is nothing which can break that bond — no amount of miles, hurtful words, or silence.

Perhaps we develop into our real selves by being fully unconditionally loved or maybe it’s when we fully love with abandon that our velveteen becomes flesh and blood — we become Real.

Some evenings the deafening-quiet of the house is broken by the sound of the clock tick-tocking away the minutes which turn into hours overflowing into days, months and years. Bit by bit over the years, my worn, shabby velveteen has been made into something real because of being loved beyond measure and in all my realness I’ve wanted nothing more than to love my children with my whole heart. And I have.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” -I Corinthians 13:13

And when tomorrow comes I will again pull myself up by my bootstraps and remember who I am — I am Real because I’ve loved and been loved.

Blessings!

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A season of Grace

Children grow up and take flight into their own lives. And although that’s how it should be…

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…it’s hard.

Seasons come and go on this earth and in our lives as well, but even though this time of letting go has been creeping closer, I’m struggling to accept that it’s actually here. Kind of like knowing that summer is coming to an end — those carefree days filled with barbecues, watermelon juice-stained faces, and running barefoot late into the evening. I don’t know if we’re ever ready for it to end and a new season to begin.

From my kitchen window I watch as the trees drop their fiery-colored leaves across the yard signaling the transition from one season to another. And that’s how it feels in my life lately. My identity as a mother suddenly feels like it’s been shelved even if that isn’t the case. Those moments which brilliantly colored my life for so many years have dropped away just as the leaves on the trees, and now suddenly my life feels bare.

There’s this inner struggle deep within myself, as if the longing for days past are trying to catch up to the reality that those days are over. My heart aches while also bursting with pride as I watch my boys move into their own lives. The two conflicting feelings struggle to intermingle with the other and it’s that forging of the two which causes a dull ache in my heart.

While I’ve watched those little boys of yesteryear suddenly morph into young men my heart still holds onto the feeling of their little hands in mine.

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Yet it’s no longer for me to kiss away the boo-boos or wrap them in my arms comforting them through the trials of this life or give them gentle direction on making tough decisions. It is now for me to give love and encouragement from afar while teeter tottering on the line of letting go and yet still being there.

There is this gentle shifting in my life as the old merges into the new. Floods of smile-inducing memories occur one moment then a deluge of regrets the next causing tears to intermix with the happy thoughts. And some days are overshadowed with the realization that your only regrets in this life are of those moments never taken and now lost to time never to be recaptured for a do-over.

I’m feeling a little lost these days as I try to settle into this new season of my life.

And while wrestling with those feelings one day, my husband spoke these simple words as he wiped away the tears on my cheeks, “You’ll find your way. It may take some time to figure it out but you always do.”

And I know he’s right. I’ve always found my way and I will through this season as well.

“…when my identity is tied to circumstances I become extremely insecure because circumstances are unpredictable and ever-changing…I’m desperate to keep a relationship that makes me feel valuable. Then I’m constantly terrified of that person slipping away. Because I don’t just feel like I’m losing them…I feel like I’m losing a big part of myself as well.” -excerpt from the book Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

These words describe this feeling deep inside my soul. Like I’ve lost a part of myself as the relationships with my sons shift and change — like I’m no longer valuable or needed even if that is not true. I feel as if I’m searching for something, perhaps trying to find another part of myself to replace what I’ve always known my identity to be. While talking about life with my youngest son one day and trying to put into words how I’m searching for something to do in this new season, he matter-of-factually asked, “What is it you want to do?” Good question. And one I ponder often these days.

What is it I want to do?

I think all of our life experiences bring us to a place of finding ourselves and what it is we were put here to do. Maybe though it’s not so much about finding ourselves and figuring out what it is we want to do or are meant to do, but it’s more about growing through each season and finally emerging into the person we truly are. I’m beginning to realize that sometimes we find ourselves shifting direction with the changing of the seasons in our lives. What we did at one time was meant for that moment, but then time moves on, some things wither away preparing for new growth, and we emerge one day a new person into a time just for that purpose.

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Letting go can be so difficult and it’s in that place where we meet those hard feelings face-to-face. Where regrets creep up causing us to weep over the things we never did. It’s often said that regrets in this life are more about those things we didn’t do rather than the things we did. And I’ve come to see how very true that is. I often say these days how I would give anything for just one more day to spend with my  boys when they were little. If only for one more day to turn back the clock and go back in time for a do-over. A chance to do those things I never did; to take a risk I was too scared to take; to live out a dream that only stayed in my heart.

But in this life there are no do-overs, there are only do-right-now’s. And all those things we never did or may never do will still continue to lead us right to this very moment in time. Life will march on. We will find our way. And yes, we will have to let go along this journey.

How I wish for just one more moment to hold those tow-headed boys on my lap snuggled up tight reading the same book again for the umpteen time and hearing “Good-night Mom, I love you Mom”.

I am finding my way and learning how to gently transition into a new season of my life.

My house is quiet these days though, too quiet. I find myself still straining to hear the once familiar sounds like that of my son’s car pulling up out front, early morning noises of him getting ready for work, a guitar being played behind a closed bedroom door — and just the everyday knowing that they will come home. Yet while my house is quiet and my heart aches a little, I know I will find my way into a new season. For every storm comes to pass (Acts 27:44b) and no season lasts forever.

Eventually new leaves will begin to grow in the place of the old and the bareness will once again be covered in brilliant colors ushering in a whole new season of life. Just like God’s Grace in our lives.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:16

His Grace covers us with mercy and showers us with favor. His Grace covers our lives with brilliant colors turning the old into something new.

I am slowly finding my way as I move into a new season of grace bringing color to my life once more.

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My boys about 12 years ago — Nick (10) and Zach (13)

Slow Down

Blessings!

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Hidden abuse

My copy of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, LCSW has finally arrived! Now I can get out the ol’ highlighter and pen and really dig into it, since it’s much more difficult to dog ear pages and highlight and underline passages with a digital copy which I previewed last month.

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I cannot sing the praises of this book enough! Healing from Hidden Abuse is a book which should be in the hands of anyone living with this type of abuse or who has escaped a relationship of this kind and needs to find healing. Such invaluable information and insight into the mind of a psychological abuser and the dynamics of a relationship with one.

People who have experienced hidden abuse know things are not normal. You feel it and sometimes you can even see solid glimpses of the dysfunction. More often than not though, it is like a snake. It moves quickly and slithers away before you can get a good look at it. You may have tried to explain to people the exact harm that has been done to you. I bet it often comes out sounding as if you are exceptionally needy, petty, or even paranoid. Without a specific set of terms to describe the actions of a hidden abuser, targets of this type of harm feel frustrated with their inability to make other people see the games that are being played. This happens because the average person doesn’t know about psychological abuse. -pg. xvi

Not only does the author explain who this type of abuser is, why they do what they do and how it affects a relationship with someone like this, she also describes six stages necessary for healing from psychological abuse. As someone who lived with this type of abuse for over 20 years reading this book opened my eyes to the fact that healing takes time and perhaps I still have some work to do. Oh sure, I’ve moved on with my life since my ex walked out over seven years ago and have even remarried and now live in a healthy marriage, but I still experience triggers which suggest more work may need to be done on my part for complete healing to take place once and for all.

I also would love to see Healing from Hidden Abuse on the bookshelf of every pastor, elder and anyone else involved in church ministry who may come in contact with a survivor of abuse and have the opportunity to help. Too often, the church can be one of the worst places for a survivor of abuse to turn to for help because of the lack of knowledge about this type of abuse and/or the unwillingness some have to help for fear of appearing to support divorce or dissolution of marriages. No one without proper knowledge and/or training regarding abuse should be giving counsel of any kind to someone in an abusive relationship. Typically more harm than good is done and the toxic person is let off the hook while the victim is left feeling attacked all over again even if that is not the intent.

Church leadership would be wise to watch for inconsistencies in people’s stories, and not ignore red flags that are present. When church leadership fails, or flat out refuses, to recognize abusive people, the leaders are further abusing survivors by omission. -pg 35

My experience within the Christian community, and mind you it was a small amount of people, was to be questioned about whether I’d ever been hit and then made to feel invalidated if I meekly said no. I didn’t open up to many people about what happened in my first marriage for this very reason. Yet even God’s Word speaks to how powerful words can be, either bringing forth life or destroying as a fire:

The tongue has the power of life and death… -Proverbs 18:21a

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. -Proverbs 12:18

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. -Matthew 12:36-37

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. -James 3:6

 

So let me ask you:

Do you feel safe in your relationship? Or do you feel fearful or nervous when your spouse comes home?

Do you walk with confidence through your home? Or do you constantly walk on eggshells wondering when the next storm is going to hit?

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Do you trust your spouse to listen to you and engage in a conversation with love and respect? Or are you too scared to speak up and have a voice in your marriage?

Do you share your lifelong dreams with your spouse? Or do you keep them to yourself knowing you will only be disregarded or even looked upon with disgust.

Toxic people like to accuse survivors of being selfish. This is often done when a survivor attempts something good for himself or herself. The abuser wants to ruin the enjoyment of the activity. -pgs. 46-47

Do you freely pursue activities outside of the marriage and find enjoyment in your God-given gifts? Or does the fear of being labeled selfish or stupid keep you from enjoying life?

Do you find security in the arms of your spouse? Or are you degraded and devalued in the marriage bed?

The person who was intended to be the safe harbor in their life is actually silently drowning them…Frequently, the emotional homicide is happening while other people go on clamoring about what a great guy or gal the abuser is and how lucky the survivor is to be connected to the abuser…What is seen behind closed doors is radically different than the public persona she or he is selling to the world. -pgs. 21 & 22

 

Does any of that sound familiar? Do you pray frequently and fervently for God to take you out of your relationship? Do you cry out to others for help only to be told that maybe you’re just too sensitive or need to submit more and stop being so selfish? Do you feel that nothing will ever change and that there is no hope?

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If so, you may be living with psychological abuse, the hidden abuse which shatters a person’s self-worth causing feelings of doubts and insecurities, while quietly and insidiously destroying the very depths of their soul. Please read Healing from Hidden Abuse, find a counselor to talk with and visit Shannon Thomas, LCSW for further information about psychological abuse.

Life is too short to spend just trying to survive, it should be spent living each day to the fullest.

Survivors do themselves a huge favor when they do not make excuses for harmful actions. An important question for targets: Would you treat someone the way you’ve been treated? If the answer is no, then the abuse is easier to recognize. Resist remaining in any level of denial. The truth is painful to see, but necessary. -pg. 62

May you, dear reader, take that first step right now today towards freedom from abuse which holds you captive to a lifeless existence. Only you can start the process of change in your life, but know that you are not alone on this road to a richer, better life away from abuse.

Blessings!

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