Happy Birthday to My Blog! (And Step 5)

Diva CupcakesToday marks exactly one year since I hit “publish” on my very first blog post. My goal was to post something authentic and encouraging once a week. You see – blogging would become my way of putting my very private toes into the public pool called “writing with real readers in mind.”

Although I’ve always been a closet writer, about two years ago, I felt a distinct calling to write my memoir – the one that begins with being the wife of a cocaine-addicted Christian, and ends with becoming the wife of a small-church pastor. Against my better judgment as an introvert, I obediently began to tell the tale of how God redeemed the things I thought were lost during those locust-eaten-years of my first marriage.

People close to me asked questions like, “Now that your life is amazing, why do you want to dig up all those old bones?” But once they began reading the first chapters, they quieted down and began encouraging me to continue. It has been a long journey. Blogging has helped to keep me moving forward – forcing me to remember, holding me to my self-imposed deadlines, and inspiring me with feedback from real people who are experiencing some of the same hurts that I survived as the codependent spouse of a chemically dependent person.

I know there’s an audience for my book. I believe that it will give hope and tools to those traveling similar trenches. I’m excited to announce that I’ve just signed up with Westbow Press! My book, Same Dress, Different Day: A Spiritual Memoir of Addiction and Redemption will be available in early 2015 on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and elsewhere, as an e-book, or a “real” hard cover book! I am excited, humbled, and grateful for the opportunity to share my story with a wider audience.

(Since this post is officially supposed to be about Step 5 of the 12 Steps, let’s see how I can weave that in, so those of you following the Steps here won’t get lost in balloons and streamers of my little hallelujah party!)

Step 5 MemeStep 5 says:

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

That’s tough. When I do wrong, I want to hide. I don’t want to ‘fess up.

  • It’s easy to justify not talking to God about it by saying, “Why should I talk to Him about it? He already knows everything anyway.”
  • It’s easy to walk around in a bubble of denial, blaming everyone else for        what’s wrong in the world and justifying or ignoring my own behavior.
  • As an introvert, it’s more than easy to never talk to another person about my feelings or problems or mistakes. I can hide it all, stuff things down, get lost in busyness and never be real with anyone.

Yeah… I’ve been there, done all of that, and “worn the t-shirt” for years. I just have one thing to say about it: None of that hiding has ever been as fulfilling as being authentic, being heard, and being loved anyway.

The book, Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, says this about Step 5:

“This may be one of the most challenging steps we face in our recovery process, but it can also be one of the most fulfilling in terms of removing us from our isolation. In order to accomplish Step 5, the three-part sharing it endorses must take place. That is, all of what we discovered about ourselves in our Step 4 inventory is to be freely admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being…

…Because these areas are so sensitive and so very personal, it is important to exercise care in choosing the person or persons with whom we formally share our fifth step. Such individuals should be trustworthy and somewhat detached from the situations about which we will share. For example, one would not usually call on a spouse or immediate family member to hear this confession. In fact, it is quite common to choose a therapist or pastoral counselor for this purpose. Also, such individuals should be compassionate, not condemning.” p. 45,46

If you are ready to be authentic, transparent and real, please allow me to encourage you to find a safe person and a safe place to share your story. Healing takes place in community. When we are ready to be real with God, with ourselves, and with a trusted friend, counselor, or sponsor, we are ready for the next Step.

What’s it gonna be, friend? Will you give yourself the gift of healing today, on the birthday of this blog? Will you trust God and a friend to love you for who you are and not judge you for the mistakes you’ve made in the past?

Happy Blogday! Happy Book Publishing! Happy new-found-freedom-to-be-real! Happy me! Happy you!

Taking Step 4 – Fear or Faith?

Yellow orange light crept across the sky just as I finished typing. From my seat in our loft, I saw the sun rising red through the round window overlooking our scrubby three acres. I had been up all night, pouring my heart into letters that made words and paragraphs and pages of explanations and apologies and pleas for mercy. In a desperate attempt to appeal to the head director of the adoption placement agency, I had written our entire story, including the part about how we loved this child as if she were our own flesh and blood, promising that we would never do anything to intentionally cause her pain.

Our meeting with the director was scheduled for nine o’clock that morning. Please Lord God, I prayed as the printer spit out page after page, Please let him have compassion on us.

That’s how Chapter Eight begins – with me in a position of begging: begging God for mercy after I had compromised the truth by turning a blind eye to dishonesty. Begging the director for a second chance. Begging my spouse to stay present through the pain, rather than turning to the numbing comfort of his addiction. The begging did no good. I was broken.

Recently I read the story of King David, after he was approached by the prophet Nathan and forced to face his sin concerning beautiful Bathsheba (See 2 Samuel 12). It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a man who allowed his own desires to supercede his good sense, his calling, and his conscience. He got rebuked by the prophet and suffered some painful consequences, one being the death of his firstborn with Bathsheba. In verses 16-18, we find King David in the posture of pleading. He refused to eat for seven days, choosing instead to lie on the ground and allow himself to weep.

I understand his anguish. His guilt. His shame. King David’s moral failure resulted in devastating loss. So did mine.

The first time I walked through the dreaded Fourth Step in a recovery group, I was struck by the words “searching” and “fearless.” If you are unfamiliar with Step 4, it says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”Step 4 Meme

I was terrified. I was also determined that there would be no skeletons in my closet and that I would ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything I needed to add to my list. Although I had long ago repented of the sin of being dishonest on our adoption paperwork by neglecting to admit my knowledge of my spouse’s chemical dependency history, I had not allowed God to search the recesses of my heart for the motive behind my dishonesty.

During the process of making my fearless and searching moral inventory, I asked God to reveal the motives of my heart that had led to past moral failures. When He did, I was surprised to learn that FEAR was at the root of my failure to report the truth on our paperwork. That dishonesty was a fruit that could be traced down to a root of fear in my life and a distrust of God’s ability to handle a situation without me manipulating it.

When the Holy Spirit revealed that truth to me, I realized that FEAR also operated in other areas of my life, manifesting itself in unhealthy ways. Working Step 4 allowed me to take a deeper look at what seemed like a one-time incident. It allowed me to see patterns of thinking and behaving that could be traced back to FEAR. It allowed me to come face to face with myself and face to face with my faith.

Can FEAR and FAITH operate simultaneously in our lives?

We are each invited to do a thorough self-examination. Lamentations 3:40 (NKJV) says, “Let us search out and examine our ways.” But, it doesn’t stop there. After we examine our ways, God invites us to turn our backs on the past and turn back to Him. Here’s verse 41: “And turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”

David is a good example of someone who does this well. After being confronted by the prophet, here’s what happens next: “So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Samuel 12:13). Isn’t God gracious? After all that David had done to lust, commit adultery, impregnate another man’s wife, and have him murdered! Still, The Lord “put away his sin!”

After David pled with God for days, begging in vain to be that sinfully-conceived child’s father, he accepted his harsh reality. The baby would not live. Did not live. When he realized this truth, the Bible says, “David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20).

That’s a hard pill to swallow. But he took it like a man who trusted the heart of his heavenly Father. I cannot say that I completely understand this passage, nor can I fathom the reasons that an innocent child could not live. Even so, I choose to trust the heart of The Father.

I choose to trust Him now, and I chose the same, all those years ago when I was not allowed to raise the child I loved more than anything. Did I always choose worship as the avenue for healing? No. But sometimes I did. And when I did, those were the moments that gave me the courage to take one more step out of the valley of the shadow of death – the death of my dreams, the death of my marriage, the death of my life as I knew it.

Whatever your circumstance, whatever giants you face today, will you choose to fight your FEAR with FAITH? As you make your own “fearless and searching moral inventory,” will you simply ask God to show you the root of your sin and trust Him to love you anyway and restore you to wholeness? Will you choose to trust your Father’s heart with your Step 4?

P.S. If this post ministers to you, please FOLLOW & SHARE. I’d love to grow our readership! Thank you!

Hello, I’ve Just Got To Let You Know…

“I long to see the sunlight in your hair
And tell you time and time again
How much I care
Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow
Hello!
I’ve just got to let you know
’cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do…”

Hello Gritty

 I mailed a card to her today. Haven’t heard from her in a while. Five months to be exact.

Just want to say, hello.” I pen the words carefully. Prayerfully.

I never want to be “too much.” But something within me desperately wants to keep this silken thread of communication alive. When half a year passes, my heart knows she’s grown half a head taller, a whole lot smarter, and is now, perhaps, too old for a “godmommy.”

 Father, she doesn’t even know me. Why do I keep reaching out to her? Why does stepping into a middle school classroom set my heart astir with the wonder and magic of the emotional chaos that is life as a “tween?” Why is hers the face I search for among those chattering girls in the hallway, when I know that none of them is hers. Will never be hers. Not here. Not now. Not in my world.

 Disappointment is hard. When we are responsible for the choices that bring the disappointment, it’s even more difficult, because there is no one to blame but the person in the mirror. When my heart aches with the pain of certain searing losses, I want to blame someone…anyone. I want to point a finger, say a bad word, work up some anger to mask the hurt, and maybe eat some chocolate (or something) to calm my nerves; none of that works to resolve the tangled knot in the center of my being. Those are simply smokescreens. I’ve been known to hide behind them very well in the past.

 That was before Step Three.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”

 I’m familiar with God. I understand Him to be the only “Higher Power.” He’s been my Father, my Friend, my Rock and my Refuge for my entire life. Although I was birthed by Christian parents and raised in a Christian home, I admit (reluctantly) that there are areas, corners of my heart, that I have failed to turn over to God’s care. Step Three, for me, is about those areas. About trusting Him with her. About trusting Him with the leftovers of my heart after the enemy beats me up with lines like, “This is your own fault, you know. You lied. You lost her – your fault.”

 It’s a long, story – one that became Chapter Seven of my manuscript. I’ll not go into the details here, but I will say that I regularly take Step Three concerning this chapter of my life. For my own sanity’s sake, I must make that decision to turn my will and my life over to the One who understands the backstory. The guilt and the heartache would be too much to bear on my own.

 Doesn’t the enemy of our souls love to pour the alcohol of guilt, shame and blame into our open wounds?

 I fight him with the sword of God’s Word, which promises me this: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1, KJV)

 I choose to make the daily decision to place my life in the hands of the One who says, “Woman, where are your accusers?” (John 8:10)

 My accusers are mostly in my own head, if I allow them to be. It’s not my God who sends me back to the pit of shame every time I hear her name. It’s the Liar, the Accuser of the Brethren, the Guilt-Deliverer who gets more business in my neighborhood than Dominoes Pizza. I will survive his attacks when I make a decision to release my stubborn will into the hands of my Redeemer.

 What about you? Is the enemy knocking on your door with a steaming box of regrets? Does the scent of shame fill your home whenever you allow yourself to remember the choices you made that caused you to hurt the people you loved the most? Do you accept his lies, and even tip him for his services, or will you send him packing with the words, “This is not what I ordered today?”

 If your loss, like mine, involves a child, may I invite you to take another step?A step which Father to the fatherlessinvolves choosing to trust God with that little one (who may now be half-grown). Will you choose to believe that God loves that person, the very one you carry on your heart, even more than you ever could? Whether your baby was aborted, adopted, or fostered by another family, God tenderly holds your child in the palm of His heart. Will you choose to surrender that little life over the care of its loving Creator, who understands the circumstances that led to your heartache, and offers redemption for your loss?

 Eternity is a long time, my friend. Heaven holds the hope of the resurrection of our relationships. Jesus died that we might live, that our babies and children might live, that our hope will live – Forever!

(Note: Above Lyrics from Lionel Richie’s 1984 Single, “Hello”)

 

 

 

Step 2 – My Redeemer Lives!

Step 2“Well I knoooooow my Redeemer lives!” I inhale the stale air in my Pontiac Fiero so I can bellow the next lines along with Nicole C. Mullen as she blows my tiny speakers with her powerhouse lyrics. “I know my Redeemer lives. All of creation testifies…This life within me cries. I know….my Redeemer lives.”

It’s 2001. I believe my life is calming down and things will be “normal” again. School is over. My students have disappeared and I am pulling out of the parking lot. Leaving early for a change. The afternoon is too perfect to stay indoors, grading papers. Texas weather will surprise you like that. Even in wintertime.

This song has become my personal anthem after surviving the shock of discovering my spouse’s life-threatening chemical dependency and subsequent stint in a rehabilitation center. I sing it LOUD, lifting both hands to heaven in an unrehearsed act of worship… “I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that, I know…I know my Redeemer lives…Because He lives I can face tomorrow. He lives, I know, I know, I know. He lives…I spoke with Him this morning.”

That was thirteen years ago. Almost everything in my life has changed. New work (I’m no longer queen of my own classroom, but flit from school to school in our county as a substitute teacher), new husband (God redeemed the things I thought were lost after my first husband chose a path that led him away from our marriage), and a new passion for sharing hope with hearts wounded by addiction. Yes. A lot has changed, but there is one constant. One never ending consistent, prevailing thing that I KNOW today, knew yesterday and will firmly believe until I see Him face-to-face: My Redeemer lives!

After years of riding shotgun on the insane train of cocaine addiction, I felt a little crazy myself. The patterns of hiding, covering, enabling, and codependent-controlling left me in need of my own recovery program. That’s when I began consciously applying Step 2 to my own life, rather than simply pointing the finger of blame at the “addict” in the family.

It goes like this: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

God, are You able to restore me in the midst of this crazy? Can I truly be sane, regardless of the choices he makes? I prayed and plead with the Jesus I’d known since childhood as season after season, hope after hope came and went.

“Yes.” His answer came quietly. “I can. Are you willing to let go of control and let me?”

It took a long time. And some cash I didn’t really have. But, God used a kind Christian counselor to hold up the mirror and invite me to take an unflinching look at myself. I got it. I learned how to hold the hand of the One who would walk me through the minefield that is living with an addicted person. I learned to trust Him more than I ever had. I learned to release the shame that accompanies the fear of exposure when a Christian family suffers a secret like that.

Today, I search the faces of people in pews and I see that once-familiar pain. They come to church, week after week, longing for some kind of relief from the hell they are suffering. I want to take them by the hand, tilt their chins upward and say, “Lift up thine eyes to the Fall Mums 2hills, from whence cometh thy help. Your help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (see Psalm 121:1 KJV). I long for them, for you, for all of us, to know – beyond every shadow of doubt, “Our Redeemer lives!” He only is the Power greater than ourselves who can restore us to sanity. Whether we are the addicted person, or the person who loves the addicted person, it is only our Redeemer who can give us HOPE and the tools to walk through this valley that feels like the shadow of death. May I invite you sing along with me?

 

He lives…to take away my shame

And He lives…forever I’ll proclaim

That the payment for my sin

Was the precious life He gave

But now He’s alive and there’s an empty grave!

And I know – My Redeemer lives!

Here are two links to this song on You tube.

The first is Nicole C. Mullen’s official video. It is beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj-pZQ_XjyU

The second is my favorite because it demonstrates so beautifully the Father’s love for His children. We are as weak and helpless as that well-loved son. Our Father carries us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF7Bv9Rjl0E