Forward by Grace

on the days when you feel unBrave, you are not undone, but undoubtedly are carried forward by the determination of grace.

~  Ann Voskamp, 12th January 2017

PTSD seems to jump up at the most unexpected times. Sometimes I don’t know even what sets it off. I struggle. I feel overwhelmed. I get all in a muddle. I get tired. I conclude I am useless and worthless and a waste of space.

God says, “I will not break a bruised reed.” (Matthew 12:20). God says, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” (John 5:8). He knows my brokenness. He knows my uselessness. And He ignores all that, lifts me up and sets me on my feet again. So I go back to the laundry and the dishes and the stuff of mothering and I begin, again, to put one foot in front of the other. Only by grace.

Seven: Thoughts on Married Life

It’s been a little over seven years since I first met my husband. I was 32 then. How young that seems now! My dear Frank was a youthful 41. When I look back, when I consider the woman I was then it is almost like I’m remembering the life of someone else, so far have I come from that ill-used, halfling creature. It amazes me to think that Frank saw beyond all that jagged brokenness and, more than that, he loved me just for me. He rescued me. I was about breaking into a million sharp shards and this wonderful man didn’t run in the opposite direction when he found out my past, he didn’t even scarper when my then 10-year-old autistic and ADHD son attacked him when he babysat the kids for an evening, for the first time. Frank phoned me when I was in the middle of dance class and asked if I would come home. I confess I didn’t think it was all that bad and wanted to stay (single parenthood not giving me much opportunity for anything). Ten minutes later he called again and I realised that I needed to go home. His voice sounded polite, but strained. Here we go, I thought. I braced myself.

As I walked in the front door and saw Frank’s face, and then took in the fact that he was covered from head to toe in Vaseline and eczema cream, I knew for sure it was over. Who would willingly stay to become the step-father of a child who didn’t sleep, destroyed things and attacked you? Who would willingly desire to be the husband of someone as broken as me? Who could possibly think that we, the kids and I, were worth it? Also, at that point I had had not only the awful, abusive first marriage and the ramifications of that individual’s crimes, but a few months before had fallen for someone – a lovely Christian man – whom I thought felt the same only to find out he didn’t. Ouch. So I had wrapped my heart tightly inside me, to protect it. I had not let myself feel anything other than a moderate attraction to this new man, Frank, who stood before me as I stepped into the hall.

But the rejection never came. Instead, the very first thing he said was “you know that I love you, don’t you?” And I – well, how do I say this? – I began to unwrap the tight bindings of my heart. I can’t say he swept me off my feet or romanced me. Everyday life with two very little girls and a son with ASD meant that we stepped into (grim?) reality straight away. No time for all that lovey-dovey stuff. He stayed. And he loved. I grew to love him, and I also grew to love the ‘me’ that he saw – because I can tell you for sure that I did not even like myself, let alone love myself, and I didn’t see how anyone else could.

So I would like to thank God for answering prayers I never even uttered, and I would like to thank Frank. For being Frank. For being a man of God and a man of compassion and a man of so many other things that will remain unnumbered. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell him how much I love him. I am truly blessed! This post is for my husband. Thank you.

Flawed by Design?

‘Doing it all’ isn’t biblical. The world says we must do it all… This means abandoning the never ending need to please. The belief that we can and should do it all ourselves is a lie that haunts us. 

…God made me with limitations on purpose. Having a limited capacity is not a flaw in my character; it is by glorious design and for an incredible purpose: to realise my need for Him.

~ from Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

“Nobody… sews a patch of unshrunken cloth onto an old coat. If he does, the new patch tears away from the old and the hole is worse than ever. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine bursts the skins, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined…” 

Mark 2:21,22 (Phillips)

Learning to Breathe

img_20161002_183750

Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure… We are not saved by any formulas or theologies or any priesthood extraneous to the human journey itself. “Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can help the brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

I went through a ‘Peter’ experience a few years ago. I promised to love God, to be His child, to follow Jesus with all of my heart – and then I went and did something I was immediately ashamed of. I didn’t just do it once, either. It was a very messed-up time. I think I wanted to show God how unworthy I was of His love. I had been on the receiving end of so much hurt that I truly believed, deep, deep down, that no one, not even God, could love me, and that my behaviour would prove it. What did God do in response to this display of weakness and pain? He brought me, within months, to baptism by immersion (an amazing experience) and a few weeks later to the man who seemed to see the ‘me’ underneath all the hurt and loved me in a way that I never knew was possible (of course, I came to love him too, but Frank loved me first, in so many ways that I could never even have imagined). It was truly a match made in heaven.

When I read the words above by Richard Rohr this morning, I recognised their import and impact on my life. Suffering – for reasons I don’t claim to understand – and shared suffering, are essential for growth in Christ. Maybe we human beings can only truly appreciate (and participate in) the Light when we have experienced darkness.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14 (NRSVA)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2

Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

From Victim to Victory

I’m in bed because I have a bad cold and whenever I catch anything these days I have to be very careful otherwise I will not get better in a timely fashion. Ugh. It’s mostly just boring and frustrating because I have a daily plan and I can’t stick to it 😕

However, this morning I am so glad because I have been listening to audiobooks and came across a wonderful recording which has been sitting in my Audible library for a while now. Today I have had the opportunity to give it my full attention.

 

“[There is] a giant step from knowledge to acknowledgement. In a family, a community and a nation there can be guilty secrets. Everybody knows something to be the case but there is no acknowledgement.”

michael_lapsley_20050501

Michael Lapsley, Oxford, 2005 (from Wikipedia)

“Prayer, love, support, acknowledgement, reverence, recognition, giving it moral content, saying ‘yes, what happened to you was wrong‘, all of this is what I would say, in terms of my faith, [is] the way in which God enabled me to travel a journey from victim [to] survivor to victor… Something horrible happens to us [and] we’re victims. If we physically survive we are survivors, but frequently that’s where people stop and remain prisoners inside themselves… Life is like a river: something terrible happens and our lives become whirlpools, and we never ever really live again except in terms of what has happened to us…”

~ Father Michael Lapsley speaking in ‘A South African Journey’

by Radio Free Maine.

Audiobook available from audible.co.uk

(transcribed by yours truly)

Michael Lapsley campaigned against apartheid. In 1990 he was the subject of a letter bomb which caused severe burns, destroyed his hands and left him blind in one eye. Since then he has worked tirelessly for hope and healing, in particular he works with former victims of trauma.

“…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

~ John 8:36 (NRSVA)

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

“Do you think you are a people pleaser?” He asks. I hesitate.

“I think abuse… makes you behave in a certain way. You always put your feelings last. It’s taken me a long time to not be like that, but I used to be, definitely.” I say.

Later, the words echo around my head. Do you think you are a people pleaser? Do you think you are a people pleaser?

I am puzzled. Why has this question stuck and no other? I know my motives are not based on approval from others. Not any more. In fact I’m quite indifferent, although I always do try to consider how someone is feeling. I’m hyper-aware of other people’s feelings. I hear a tiny voice in the back of my head, asking the same question over and over. Behind it is another question, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.

All day the question pops into my head. Finally, I talk to God about it, aware that I can’t hide from whatever is lurking behind it. It is as if God now asks me, “Do you think you are a people pleaser, Sandy?”

“Well, no.” I reply in my head, “Doing things because I want the approval of people is not right, not for a follower of Christ.”

Again the same question, “Do you think you are a people pleaser?”

I finally allow myself to look at what’s been hiding behind this repeated phrase, and give answer, “No, but I am a ‘God pleaser’.”

 Drat!

Is being a God pleaser a bad thing? No. Yes. It seems to be the best of motives. It can so easily be mistaken for the best of motives. The trouble is I know full well that nothing I do, and nothing you or I or anyone could ever do, can earn God’s love or even His attention. Not even Jesus earned His Father’s love. God doesn’t want a desperate-to-please puppy dog. That’s not relationship. That’s not love.

file

Image from idpinthat.com

 

 

So what does love look like?

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve [got] nowhere. So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:3 (The Message)