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My younger daughter told a friend at school that she was engaged and moving across the country to live with his family.  Friend texted my older daughter that she was concerned, older daughter showed text to husband and husband calls a family meeting to confront younger daughter about the text and she said:

She is flying out on Tuesday afternoon to meet her boyfriend and on Wednesday they fly to his family where she is planning to marry him then stay with them while he goes back to base and applies for on-base housing, get a job and restart her senior year of high school.

Oh crap.

My husband starts his traditional routine of cold, accusing questions – he is hurt, angry, in shock and frustrated and his posture and tone of voice shows it.  My younger daughter was calm, clear-headed and for the most part soft-spoken.  She shared her reasons for leaving and they begin and end with her father, my husband.  She is hurt and angry that he has never listened to her, never tried to understand her and has never been there for her.  Her voice began to raise just a bit when she became passionate and broke once when she almost cried but overall she stood her ground and stuck up for herself with grace and poise, I was so very proud of her and I told her so afterward.  I don’t agree with the choice she’s made and I wish she would stay here with me but I will always love her – I told her that too.

My  husband’s facial expressions and posture did not change throughout the conversation but his voice did become a whisper when he asked her to reconsider.  My first thought after it was all over was that he thinks he has totally humbled himself to her and was begging her to stay but that’s not what came across, what I saw, and I’m sure what my younger daughter saw as well, was that he was looking down on her from a place of moral superiority.  He was nowhere near heartbroken at her news, simply outraged that she could defy him like this.  I happen to know that he is also terrified at the thought of the consequences her choices will most likely bring to her life – I am too – but the fear turns his conversations with her into an inquisition while my conversations with her run to gentle reminders that she will always be loved, information to help keep her safe and that it’s never too late to change her mind and come home.

My older daughter sat and listened to the entire conversation without a word or a single emotion showing on her face.  Afterward we each gave my younger daughter a hug and then our younger daughter went to bed.  My husband asked our older daughter if she was OK and her response was yes but her tone said “Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” as if nothing important had just happened.  She frustrates me.  A lot.

My  husband asked her to go to church with them today “to say goodbye to people” and for some reason she agreed.  I was surprised because I know she hasn’t wanted to go to that church for a long time now.  She did go and said it was horrible, that her father had told people that she was leaving so they came up to her and told her she shouldn’t go, etc.  He came home and said it was great, that she got to hear the same message that he was trying to tell her from several different people and he hoped it would impact her.  Seriously?

I’m ready to shoot both of them.  He needs to realize that all we have left is a chance to maintain a future relationship with her and quit demanding answers to his questions.  She needs to realize that she is blowing everything out of proportion and that her life is not as bad as she thinks it is.

I talked with him tonight and told him that we only have a day and a half left with her and he needs to stop asking her questions.  He didn’t think he could do that.  I told him to find a way.  He asked if he was too black and white.  I said yes but I recognize that it’s a part of his personality.  He asked me something along the lines of “What am I supposed to do now?” and then started to get upset with me when I didn’t have a ready answer, he even said “You’re my helpmate, you’re supposed to have the answer and help me” and I cut him off saying I had already told him what needs to be done for the next couple of days and that’s all I’ve got right now.  I told him it could be worse.  She could be planning on just living with him and not getting married or finishing high school.  She could have committed suicide instead of leaving.  There are lots of ways it could be worse.

It feels weird to be the person with their head on straight in this situation.  I feel like I should be sobbing on his shoulder, being consoled instead of holding his hand and telling him everything is going to be all right.  This isn’t really a marriage anymore but I don’t know what to call it.

I would like to sleep for a week but that’s probably just my way of sticking my head in the sand.  Still, it would be nice to get that much rest…  One more day of work for me and then one day with my younger daughter before she flies away and life as I know it changes forever.

The beginning of the end has truly begun.

 

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Each post on this blog is a little snapshot of my thoughts, feelings, emotions, decisions… it’s glimpses into my life as raw and unfiltered as I can write them out.  I don’t always have the right words to properly express myself but I try.  I’ve spent most of my life stuffing my feelings and emotions in a bottle and putting them up on a shelf because “nobody got time for that” so now I’m not very good at identifying how I feel, much less knowing how to deal with those feelings, which is one of the big reasons that this blog is pretty much anonymous – I think I’ve only invited a couple of people who know me to read it and if you do know me please don’t tell anybody my secret identity, lol!  This is how I sort things out in my head and in my heart, by writing them down and mulling them over, and over, and over…

If you’re reading this and it doesn’t make sense normally I would say that you’re just going to have to wade through the last two years of posts although I suppose after this amount of time it’s worth summarizing – OK, here goes:

I’m in my 40’s, married for 20 years with two kids – one is barely a legal adult and the other 6 weeks away from being a legal adult.  Thanks to my upbringing and then marrying a man who treated me the same way I was treated while growing up I never believed I had any real value as a human being until about two years ago when something changed.

I can’t tell you exactly what it was that gave way inside of me  – I had gone to a few years of counseling but all the counselors I had didn’t give me any solutions, they just said that I was doing great and they didn’t know why I was going to see them so I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it.  I had been on anti-depressants for a couple of years by then but I was actually getting worse, more depressed and more suicidal so I don’t think that was it either.  About that same time I started to have concerns about the church that we were attending and I brought those concerns to both my husband and the pastor’s attentions – nothing happened and I sank further into my depression.  But somehow, something snapped almost 24 months ago and I started this journey of becoming bolder, stronger and brave.  I dared to believe that I just might even be beautiful.

The first thing I did was to give my husband an ultimatum to quit his pornography addiction “or else”.  In February that will have been two years ago.  I didn’t specifically state what the “or else” would be but it was going to start with separation and go from there.  I let him talk me out of separating that night because I honestly didn’t think that he would be able to quit but he surprised me.  Almost two years later he has not only kicked his addiction but he has been instrumental in starting a men’s purity group at his church and is co-leading it, helping other men in their fight against pornography. He has also worked very hard to become a nicer person, a better husband and a more involved father.  I have both noticed these things and told him, repeatedly, that I am proud of him for all the changes he’s made but we can both tell that it’s a “That’s nice” kind of proud of him.

I should be bursting with pride.  Why aren’t I?

I guess I feel like it’s a day late and a dollar short.

About nine months ago I started seeing a new counselor and she made a difference in my life.  The reason I went to her was because I didn’t like sex.  My husband fully endorsed my going to a counselor for this reason but I think he soon came to regret supporting me in that manner.  What she actually helped me with was opening my eyes to see that I was in an abusive relationship.  There was no physical abuse going on but nearly every other kind of abuse was present.  Had I been physically abused, i.e. beat up, I would have left a long time ago but mental and emotional abuse are “invisible” and “don’t really count” in the Christian church today and there seems to be no such thing as sexual abuse between a husband and a wife.  In America, and as far as I know in the world at large, sexual abuse within marriage is barely recognized and rarely addressed but in the church the subject is completely taboo.  My counselor told me that being manipulated, coerced or guilt-tripped into having sex when you don’t want to is sexual abuse.  Who knew?  I thought that the only thing “sexual abuse” meant was that you were raped or forced into giving oral sex against your will.  Being a good, submissive Christian wife I stayed married because it was “the right thing to do” and that kept me in a miserable relationship for 20 years believing that by doing so I was pleasing God.

It got to the point that I was considering changing my faith – or abandoning it completely – in order to leave the church we were and get him to divorce me.  I considered suicide many times because I thought it would be easier than divorce and I had become crazy enough that somehow I thought suicide might even be a spiritual solution because it would fulfill the “till death do us part” vow I made.  Yes, I’ve been messed up in the head for a long, long time now…

Ultimately, in an act of abnormal bravery, I left that particular church without him.  Aside from a couple months of extra stress immediately after that decision our life has returned to “normal” –  we just don’t talk about the fact that he is still attending that church and I have been trying out other local churches to see where I will fit the best.  Now the only real decision I have left is do I stay married or not?  I honestly don’t want to be anybody’s wife ever at this point but I’m not sure leaving is the right thing to do either, I’m in a quandary.  I have begged God to change my heart and make me fall in love with this man that I’ve never had any kind of passion for and yet he’s made so many changes to please me.  I have pleaded with God to make me enjoy sex.  And yet for 20 years nothing has changed in my heart – or my with hormones either for that matter.  It actually makes me understand homosexuals a little better – I can’t change it no matter how hard I try so maybe God made me this way.

And that’s where I’m at right now.  This is really real life – my life.  I have a big decision to make, do I stay or do I go?  I’m not going to rush this choice though, I want to be sure that if I leave I have done everything I could have possibly done to make it work.  If I leave I don’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t explore every option or try hard enough.  If I stay it will be because I chose to stay and not because I felt obligated to stay.  I’m going to  make this choice, probably within the next 6 months, and be comfortable with my final decision.

Stay tuned…

Last week I overheard a lady on the bus say:  “It’s terrible, there’s no shadows on the ground from the sun, it’s just terrible!”

She seriously sounded like the world was going to end if the shadows didn’t come back so I, of course, quickly glanced out of the bus window and was able to see the shadow of the bus on the sidewalk…  Whew!  That was close!  To be fair it was a really faint shadow because of the smoggy atmosphere but the shadow was most definitely there so I don’t think she had very  good eyesight.  But like many of the tangents in my life it made me think…

A shadow is essentially proof, in darkness, that something is standing against the light, blocking it from reaching the surface.  Shadows can be very dark or very faint, depending on your light source and the opacity of the object causing the shadow… and, apparently, your eyesight.

A shadow is not good or evil in and of itself, it’s all in how you perceive it.  Some examples are:  The lady on the bus viewed the absence of shadows as something terrible and unnatural, scary even but people under trees in the middle of a hot summer view shadows as a blessing.  At night, when a statue is lit from the bottom the shadows make the face look very creepy and it becomes a wonderful place to sit and tell ghost stories.  When that same statue is lit from the top it appears normal and your ghost stories have less umph.  Walking from bright light to deep shadows can be unnerving because you can’t see anything until your eyes adjust whereas going from deep shadows to bright light is usually quite nice.  Your perspective changes everything, eh?

My musings turned me towards wondering – where the shadows are in my life?  What bad habits are standing up, against the light and causing a shadow on my surface?  Where am I dark?  Is the darkness OK?  Am I providing people shade or scaring them with my shadows?  What I am using for my light source?

For me personally my light source should be my Bible because it is the standard of my faith and I believe it is the written word of God.  “Should” obviously implies that it isn’t… not really.

I had to apologize to God this morning because I haven’t been a very faithful follower of His for the last few years…  I allowed my circumstances, my bad shadows, to drag me down and I’ve just kind of stayed there for quite a while, having elaborate pity parties and pushing away the people who love me.  I’m trying to change but definitely can’t do it by myself, I need God’s help!  Thankfully His mercies are new every morning…

Next weekend, for my 40th birthday, I’m going out-of-town on a trip with my two best friends, (who are finally going to get to spend some time together, whoo hoo!) and I’m just going to bask in the shade of our girlfriend-ness.  We are all believers but my friend from high school has a very strong faith and I really need that encouragement, that renewing right now.  I’m ready to start my relationship with God over and want their support.  I need to reach back to the people at my church who have reached out to me and try to start over.  It’s time to come out of the bad shadows and make a new beginning!

Our neighborhood is full of these bright-eyed, bushy-tailed squirrels that love to run across the street.  (No, I did not hit one…)  They almost get to the other side and then they notice me in my car.  Some pause before running back to the side they came from (those are usually the young ones who aren’t sure what to do) but most of them turn on a dime and scamper back to safety, back to what they know – you could even call it “the past”.  Unfortunately safety isn’t always on the side they came from because it’s a much shorter distance to the side they were trying to get to originally, but it’s unknown, like “the future”.  More often than not us friendly neighborhood drivers will slow down for them and laugh as they zip back and forth across the streets in front of cars and the brainless squirrels are safe.  But on the main roads our own safety and the safety of others does not allow us the luxury of accommodating a rodent with the Squirrel Mentality and they get… well, let’s just say I see far too many splotches of fur on the road…  😦

How many times have I had that Squirrel Mentality?  Running back as fast as I can to what I know, what seems “safe” rather than darting ahead to the Great Unknown where my goal lies?  When is it better to go back?  When is it better to go forward?

I need more sleep.  I want off my meds.  I don’t want to be married to a 7th grader (in his emotional maturity, not physical age).  I must get out of debt.  I need my body to stop hurting constantly.  These are just a few of my goals – the other side of the road.  But car after car after semi-truck after scooter keeps coming down the road and chasing me back to where I am…

I’m going to start with more sleep.  It’s Mother’s Day and I’m going to stay in bed all day tomorrow if I can.  We’ll see if that works out or not.  I don’t have a solution today, I’m just getting my frustrations out there and identifying with that tiny, pea-brained little squirrel.  I know why they run back to the side of the road they came from, I do it too.

 

Yesterday morning I sat up in bed as my husband was sitting across the room putting his shoes on.  He had been withdrawn and grumpy for the last few days so, in my never-ending quest to become bolder, I simply said the words:  “Are you upset with me?”  I’m so brave, I know…

He paused and then we had a conversation where he told me:
1.  His addiction wasn’t really an addiction, it was just his attempts at filling a “hole” in his life of something he was missing and he only accepted 50% responsibility for this “hole”, the rest was my fault.
2.  He didn’t think I was a Godly Wife because I didn’t “desire” him but he couldn’t prove it because he didn’t know any scriptures to back it up with.
3.  He couldn’t believe that there was never any “attraction” between us because why else would we have stayed married all these years (almost 19) if we weren’t attracted to each other?

I felt he was angry and speaking from his heart, finally saying how he really felt so I very calmly asked some questions to clarify his statement until I was satisfied I knew what he was saying.  Be proud of me, that took A LOT of effort, just sayin’.

I rode the bus to work and started writing him a letter which I finished on a break later in the day.  I wrote about how he had brought pornography into our marriage right from the start and after just a few years we were convicted that it was wrong so “we” stopped viewing pornographic materials.  (It always made me feel so yucky inside, it wasn’t very hard for me to stop.)  I felt like I was writing with “righteous anger” and the words just poured onto the page.  I refused to accept responsibility for any percentage of this “hole” in his life that was clearly there long before I ever met him and I informed him that yes, indeed, he had an addiction and needed to admit it and defeat it.  I concluded my handwritten, 9-page letter (on 6″ x 8″ paper) by saying there were plenty of $500/month apartments near where he worked and he should go get one and be gone from our house for a minimum of one year.

My anger has changed over the years, I used to withdraw and “turtle up” until it was safe to come out again.  In my quest to “find myself” I have become a warrior, hard as a diamond and cold as the Arctic.  Don’t mess with me, I will not be your doormat anymore.

So after work I go home and immediately have a phone situation to deal with.  Almost 2 hours later I have solved one of our two problems and am sitting in the easy chair, playing Farmville2 on my laptop while my husband is sitting on the couch next to me, watching a show and reading a book, acting like everything was fine and dandy.

I have not given him the letter, wanting to write it up neatly because it was a rough draft with things crossed out and what not.  I am trying to keep my face neutral to stern, hoping he will notice and ask me what’s wrong…

It finally becomes obvious that he is not operating under the belief that our morning talk had an impact on our relationship so I finally asked him if he had any other thoughts regarding our conversation that morning.

He put his book down, sighed and said that obviously I had some thoughts about our conversation so why don’t I share them?

We wound up having a good, open, honest talk.  Maintaining my austere aloofness I asked him, point-blank if he still thought I was an Ungodly Wife and if he still believed he didn’t have an addiction.

It immediately became clear that just as I shouldn’t have any serious talks at night after I’ve taken my sleeping pills, he shouldn’t have any serious talks first thing in the morning, despite his belief that he is a morning person…

I put my newly-found sunglasses of Love and Forgiveness on while he did most of the talking and realized four very important things:
1.  My husband has absolutely no self-esteem whatsoever.  The self-talk that goes on inside his head is so cruel and negative – he almost cried while talking about it and if I wasn’t in Xena Princess Warrior mode I would have cried too, it’s horrible to imagine anybody living with that.
2.  My husband has the emotional maturity of an 8-year-old.  Seriously.  Sticks and stones can break his bones but words and dark glances will kill him.
3.  My husband is not a good communicator.  He uses words that I associate with completely different things than he does.  For example when he said I wasn’t a Godly Wife because I didn’t “desire” him I immediately thought “sex”.  He meant something more along the lines of “respect” and wanting to spend time with him… and so on.  Most likely I’m so weary of having sex all the time that I’m on the defensive, hearing and seeing “suggestiveness” in everything he says and does.  But still, what he means is not what is usually communicated to me.
4.  My husband is probably depressed and should be on medication.  He actually said the first part – that he wonders if he’s depressed.  I said let’s go to the doctor and he immediately resisted, claiming it was embarrassing enough to be going to a counselor.  I have quite a bit of Prozac left over from when my doctor switched me to another medicine so I suggested he start taking that (yes, I know, all kinds of wrong and illegal) and if after a month he felt better, then he could go to the doctor and get his own prescription and if he didn’t feel better he could stop taking them.  He said he doesn’t want to be stuck taking pills for the rest of his life…. ugh!  (This one I will win, he just doesn’t know it yet.)

So, to sum it all up, for almost 20 we’ve pretty much had the exact same needs – to be appreciated and loved/respected for who we are – but we’ve been speaking totally different languages and had completely unreasonable, and entirely unspoken, expectations regarding the other.  That, right there, changes everything…  I decide to hold off on giving him the letter.

I grew up with no self-esteem.  I started to recognize that fact it in my 20’s and have been actively working on believing that I have value for the last 10 years.  I never imagined guys would have this problem too, and especially not my macho, controlling, selfish, easily angered husband.  I had actually thought he esteemed himself too highly for all these years, if you want my honest opinion.  But last night he was broken before me, poured wide open in emotional honesty for possibly the first time in his life.

This changes the way I will talk to him – I will use simpler communication not expect him to react like a mature adult.  I will give him more encouragement and praise and ask the girls to do the same.  I will (quietly) ask men at church to encourage him and build him up.  I will wait another year to see if he improves and re-evaluate life at that time.  If he is playing me, and I’m sure some of my friends will think he is, then a year is ample time to prove himself to me one way or another.

My eyes are wide open and my heart is still going to be guarded but last night, in just a few moments of listening and hearing what he was saying, everything changed.

It really isn’t.

And now that all the people who consider themselves True Christians have armed themselves with pitchforks and gone off looking for me I can finish my thought.

If you became a Christian (or joined any religion for that matter) because somebody “helped” you decide to do so whether it be to please them, they out-debated you, gave you guilt trips and a fear of hell or you became a Christian out of a sense of obligation and duty because you grew up in the church and your entire family is Christian… then in my experience, your Christianity will only last as long as it continues to make sense.  The minute something else makes more sense you will change your mind and go a different direction.  Why?  Because your heart wasn’t changed by what you said you believed and the mind can be easily swayed to and fro without a firm, heart-held conviction of what you belive.

True Belief Changes Your Lifestyle.  People become vegetarians all the time after being made aware of the life animals destined for the meat market lead.  Did these people all of a sudden stop loving the taste of a juicy steak or Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Probably not.  But the thoughts and images of what they learned overwhelm the pleasure of eating the meat and they willingly made a change in their lifestyle because they believe in their heart that their refusal to eat meat spares animals from slaughter.  These people don’t have a problem telling others that they don’t eat meat and why.  Some vegetarians are very passionate about it and will try to sway you to become one of them while the rest just say “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian” when you offer them a slice of Meat Lover’s pizza and that’s the end of it.  They hold to their convictions without apology, without regret and without much care in regards to what you may think of them for being a vegetarian.

Most of my life I would have told you I was a pretty good example of a Christian but when I compare the strength of my beliefs to those of even a basic vegetarian I find myself coming up short…and how sad is that?  The conviction of my Christian beliefs don’t hold a candle to those of somebody who has chosen not to eat something for the good of an animal.  And honestly, how many new Christians change their lives so drastically, so visibly as new vegetarian?  How many church members will stand up to the girls at the office and say “Sorry, I don’t participate in gossip, I’m a Christian”.  How many professing Christians will give back the extra change the cashier at Wal-Mart gave them on accident?  Are those who call themselves Christians today truly any different from the average American?  Unfortunately the people typically identified as being a good representative of religion aren’t usually Christians in this day and age…

I grew up in church, at one time my parents were the youth pastors and my father was often involved with the worship team in one way or another.  I remember praying the salvation prayer at age 3 and did my best to be a good little Christian girl thereafter.  And that may be my biggest problem, I think maybe I tried harder to be a Good Girl than I did to be a Good Christian, not knowing they were different.  Please note I’m not trying to say that Good Christian Girls are not Good Girls because they most definitely are.  I’m trying to say that Good Girls are not necessarily Good Christian Girls.  In the spiritual realm A = B does not always mean that B = A.  That would be too easy…

True Belief Shares Itself.  Someone once said “Witness at all times.  When necessary use words.”  When your heart is different your life will be different.  When your life is different people will notice and you will not be shy about explaining yourself, in fact it will be easy and you will be eager to do it.  When the beliefs of your heart change your lifestyle then, and only then do you have a chance to create a convert because hearts respond to hearts.  Seeing the actions of another can inspire a heart to change but are rarely responsible for any permanent, lasting effects.

Having said all that I will once again repeat that your relationship with God is none of my business.  My relationship with God is my entirely my own business and none of  yours.  The Bible says that your relationship with God should be my concern, a topic of my prayers and even reason for my tears but each person has to make the choice to live for God – or not – on their own.  Nothing I say or do can force you to change your mind one way or the other with any lasting, heart changes.  I have no power or control over your heart save my witness, my example and my lifestyle.

I’m not perfect but I am forgiven.  I try, try and try again and trust that God knows my heart.  I choose to Believe the Bible, Love God and People, Know Others by Their Fruit but Only Judge Myself and Obey the Bible.  It is all that I can do.

I was listening to the radio on my way home from work last night and they played a blurb about “Parenting Teenagers”, you know, one of those minute-long speeches that’s supposed to encourage you… Anyway, this guy started off with “Your Boundaries Define You” and I was immediately side-tracked away from parenting my teenagers. My Boundaries Define Me. More specifically he focused on – My Boundaries, that I set for other people not to cross, Define Me. Really. I had never thought of it that way before.

Up until that moment the word “boundaries” has always been more of a negative word meaning places I can’t go, things I can’t do or limitations placed on me by society/other people. I never imagined I could set boundaries on myself for other people to deal with…

So what are healthy boundaries for an almost 40-year-old woman?  What are appropriate boundaries for a husband and wife?  What are good boundaries for the mother of late-high schoolers?  I feel like I need to quick, come up with a boundary just so I have one…

<thoughtful silence>

Nope… nothing…  My mind is completely blank.  Why has it never occurred to me before this that it is OK to have rules about how other people can interact with me?  Maybe assertive people are better about having boundaries – I’ve been trained too long to hold my peace and not to fight for myself.

Hmmm…

This one is going to take some more time, I’m still trying to accept the feeling that it’s OK to have boundaries for myself.  And I’ll probably need to research what other people have as their personal boundaries because I still can’t think of anything, not anything at all except the awe and wonder of the thought that I am worth having a boundary or two of my own…

The Whole “I Love You”… Thing

My teenagers are a sophomore and a junior and I’m noticing that everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in high school, including my two daughters, are saying “I Love You” to everybody else. Everybody else that is, except their sister and parents. What’s all that about, seriously?

Guys say it to girls seemingly regardless of whether or not they are The Girlfriend and I myself have witnessed several studly, 18 year olds shout out “I Love You Man!” to other teenaged guys. These same young men will pack at least one more body onto my sofa than it is designed for and all sit there, jammed in like sardines but grinning like the Cheshire cat and pretending to be just as cozy as can be, some with their arms around the other’s shoulders and sometimes there’ll be one or two guys sitting on another guy’s lap. I see strong indications that the Personal Bubble space has shrunk in this last generation and is all but ready to pop! And thankfully, the message seems to finally getting through that Real Men can hug and say “I Love You” without losing their Man Card, yay!

Today’s teenaged girls seem to be on the same page because they not only say “I Love You” to their girlfriends, they also write it, and sing it and my girls in particular like to shout “I Love You” from the open window of my car at anyone they see and might possibly know (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) as I’m driving them home from a school function. I’ve heard girls say “I Love You” to guys where there is no Girlfriend/Boyfriend relationship there. I hear my daughters say “I Love You” at the end of nearly every phone conversation and in-person goodbyes, IT’S EVERYWHERE! Either this generation is a bunch of first class saps or maybe they’re on to something…

To quote the Princess Bride: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means…” We all know words change in meaning as cultures change, for example to be “gay” used to mean you were happy and now it has a homosexual connotation. So has “I Love You” changed in meaning as well? Or maybe I never learned the true meaning of love in the first place.

I grew up thinking there were two kinds of love – romantic love between a husband and a wife and family love between parents and children. Anything else seemed to be wrong. (Yes, the more I write about my childhood the more I realize it was pretty screwed up and heavily contributes to the mental mess I am today. Thanks Mom.) Needless to say my growing-up years saw very few hugs, kisses or touching of any kind that was not discipline and I’m struggling to remember my mother ever saying “I Love You”. Once I turned 17 my mother seemed to see that something was wrong with me and she started to say “I Love You” and tell me that I was pretty but by then I didn’t believe her.

To have feelings of “love” for my best friend in high school meant, to my mother, that I was on the verge of becoming a lesbian. I don’t think I ever told Mom that sometimes we would hold hands, hug each other or wrap our arms around each other’s waists just to be affectionate. As much as I craved the physical affection and desperately needed it – I felt evil for participating. My best friend from high school is still my best friend now and to this day I have a hard time saying “I Love You” to her in our phone conversations even though she’s always saying it to me. I am so grateful she’s hung in there despite over 20 years of my crazy weirdness in trying to figure myself out. I wasn’t very nice to her sometimes and she just stood back so I could work things out and when I finally looked up she was right there, waiting for me to be ready to be friends again. Girl, I know you’ll be reading this – I Love You!

I have one more best friend, unfortunately I moved 8 hours away from my high school best friend so while we have great phone conversations we don’t get to see her much. My “new” best friend is a gal I used to work with and we’ve been friends now for just over two years…wow it seems like longer than that though! She is only about a half an hour from me and we try to hang out as often as we can. I love her too.

I’m afraid I’ve become far more like my mother than I intended to. I don’t say “I Love You” to my children nearly as much as I should – although I saw it far more than it was said to me. I try to give hugs to them but it still seems so foreign to me, almost wrong, because that’s not how I grew up. All I can do at this point is pray that when they’re parents they do better with their kids than I did with them. I think that’s every parent’s prayer for their kids.

I used to say “I Love You” to my husband all the time, hoping desperately that he would say it back and believing that if I said it enough with my mouth that my heart would start to feel it. Neither happened. The people who say that love is a choice are correct. I have chosen to stay with my husband of almost 19 years because I made a commitment to him at our wedding ceremony and it’s the right thing to do. I choose to love him by staying in this marriage and by trying to make our house a home. I do not have feelings of love for him and as far as I can tell he feels something that he thinks is love for me but cannot properly express it. I’ve always been a good girl and tried to do the right thing and so I will stay with him.

As far as the whole high school fad of saying “I Love You” to anyone and everyone I’m thinking I approve. At least their hearts seem to have something in them and they are getting affection from their peers. May their lives be fuller than mine!

While on our Christmas travels this year we drove hundreds of miles on the freeway and I couldn’t help but notice all the tumbleweeds caught in the fences that lined the roads. A simple, four strand barbed wire caught so many tumbleweeds that it appeared in places to be a solid wall of tumbleweeds, you couldn’t even see the barbed wire or the posts.

Tumbleweeds are fascinating, although annoying, plants. Oddly enough a tumbleweed is not a specific plant but rather a generic term for any plant that, once mature and dry disengages from the root and is blown about by the wind. So a tumbleweed starts out as a green, living plant but when it dies, it becomes a nearly indestructible nuisance, blown about by the whim of the wind. You can run over a tumbleweed with a car and the darn thing keeps on rolling. They’re tough, wiry, resilient and crazy hard to get rid of.

My thoughts feel like tumbleweeds rolling through my mind – I frequently wonder how do I catch them? How do I stop them? How do I change them? Which thoughts are OK to think? Why are some thoughts OK to think and some aren’t? Who decides what’s OK to think? And on and on it goes…

I think the church we attend is trying to tell us what we should think and say and what we shouldn’t. The pastor of the church we attend gave a sermon this last Sunday that defined its mission as four very Biblical steps: Win, Connect, Disciple and Send, based off of the Great Commission – Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and Teach them to Obey Jesus’ Commands (Matthew 28:19 – 20). One of the final slides of the PowerPoint was “The Chief Challenges” (to accomplishing these goals). Copied directly from the photo I took of the PowerPoint they are:

“The Obstacle: Unbelief.
UNBELIEF is doubting questions or negativity that destroy faith leads to lost joy and an unfaithful heart.

“The Challenge: Faith.
BIBLICAL FAITH is not being willing to ponder any fact of life or circumstance that opposed the revealed will of God.”

Given those guidelines what on earth can I question or think about then? I feel like any question I might raise to another church member or the church leadership will be seen as doubt or negativity and talking about my actual life circumstances without sugar-coating them will instantly label me as not trusting in God. Does anybody else get that too or is it just me and my desperation to leave this church that is seeing things that aren’t there?

Like the four-strand barbed wire fence caught the tumbleweeds on the highway I need a fence of my own.  Here, I think, are the essential principles of being a Christian and there are more scriptures than what I listed but in effort to keep this post short(er) I’m just going to put forth a few for each category:

Strand One:  BELIEVE.

A)    John 3:16 says:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
B)     John 20:31 says:  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
C)   Romans 10:9 says:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
D)    1 Thessalonians 4:14 says:  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again…

Strand Two:  LOVE.

A)   I John 4:8 says: “God is Love”.
1)  I Corinthians 13:4 – 8 says:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.   It does not
dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but
rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.
B)   Mark 12:30 – 31 says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”
C)   Matthew 7:12 saysSo in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
D)   Galatians 6:2 says:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Strand Three:  KNOW PEOPLE BY THEIR FRUIT BUT ONLY JUDGE MYSELF.

A)    Matthew 7:18 says:  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
B)    Matthew 7:20 saysThus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  1. Galatians 5:22 – 23 says:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  2. James 3:17 saysBut the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

C)    Luke 6:37 says:  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
D)    Colossians 2:16 – 19: says:   Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
E)     Corinthians 11:31 says:  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
F)     Romans 2:1 says:  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Strand Four:  OBEY

A)    John 14:23 says:  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
B)     1 John 2:5 says:  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.
1)  Titus 2:1 – 10, 12 and 15 says:  …teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.  Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of
respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way
they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to
love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their
husbands…  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you
may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  Teach slaves (or employees) to be subject to their masters (or
bosses) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be
fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.  …teaches us to say “No” to
ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, …These, then, are the
things you should teach…

2)  Ephesians 5:21 – 22, 25, 28 and 33  says:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to
your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for
her.  …   In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. … each one of you also must love his wife
as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And that is the essence of what I found while searching the scriptures today for “rules” on how to live a Christian life.  Nothing about “don’t ask questions”  or “you must sugar-coat all your problems”.  Indeed, how are we to “bear one another’s burdens” if we don’t share what our burdens are with each other?

I don’t pretend that I am a perfect Christian by any means but I do believe in Jesus, I do my best to love the people around me and I try my best to obey what the Bible says.   Can anybody give more than their best?

We watched The Hobbit last Friday and the line that really stayed with me was when one of the dwarves is talking about Bilbo and says “He’s been lost ever since he left home” and it got me to thinking – where is it that I’m lost the moment I stray from it?  I’m not sure…  It kind of comes back to the question of “Who Am I, Really?”, except with a twist, “Where is it that I am at home?”

Not in my house, that’s for sure.  I type these blogs in secret, worried that my husband will find them because I don’t feel like I can express myself openly without upsetting him and I’m tired of being “madded at”.  Not tired enough to put my foot down quite yet but that’s probably coming soon.  I feel like I need to figure out who I am first, before I can stand up for myself, otherwise what’s the point?

Not in my car because I don’t have “my own” car anymore.  It was my idea to have my husband trade my car in for his current dream car because mine was starting to have transmission issues and I’d had it for almost five years and was ready for something different.  It turns out that I won’t be getting something different for quite a while due to finances so in the meantime I am stuck with a car that gets great gas mileage and was really nice in its day but it’s not a SUV and I don’t really want it.  Yes, my daughter called me “Goldilocks” when I brought all this up…  Long story short is that I don’t have my own mobile castle anymore and I didn’t realize how much I would miss it.

Not at work, are you kidding me?  I was a receptionist for years and never realized how much privacy I had at the front desk until I “moved up” to my current job.  I now work in a space that is roughly 25 x 15 feet and I share with three other gals.  Also, about a dozen more people walk by our workspace constantly throughout the day so there is no such thing as a private phone call.  The other girls can see my computer screens at all times so I try not to do anything personal with emails or internet at work.  I can’t listen to music during normal business hours like I used to when I was a receptionist and my group doesn’t do a lot of chatting so it can get pretty quiet.  I never thought I would mind the silence until I couldn’t have music!

Not at church, at least not for over a year now anyway.  I have a few differences of opinion with The Way Things Are Done and my husband and I have had multiple discussions about leaving this particular church – I’m for it and he’s against it.  This has proven to be a very difficult subject to compromise on and has a lot to do with our more-than-normally rocky relationship over the last 14 months.

I have a couple of friends whose homes I feel “at home” in.  I can relax, let my guard down and breathe… but I can’t live there.  Well, actually, I’m pretty sure they would take me in if I showed up on their doorstep needing a place to stay but that’s not really a permanent fix for anything.  Also, I don’t feel lost when I leave their houses – it’s more like leaving a vacation to go back into the real world.

So that about covers all the physical places in my life without answering the question of “Where is it that am I lost the moment I stray from it?”  I think the closest answer I have is not a place but an activity – being Creative.  When I can’t journal, write music, draw or paint my world loses color and I am lost in the grey.  I’m not horribly good at any of these things but there’s something about Creating that restores me and makes me whole.  The good news is that I can be creative just about anywhere and am not limited to one place, which multiplies my opportunities to defeat depression and color my world with all the rainbow shades of acrylic paint and colored pencils that WalMart offers…

In the end I am still lost, but not as much as I was for a while there.  I am finding myself in the blues and greens of paint swirled on canvas and in the black and white of words on a page.  I am… Creative.

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