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

Yoga Pants, You Are Not My BFF! (Denial Series #3 of 5)

I don’t do Yoga, but the pants became my best friend. I’m not sure how that happened, but perhaps you can relate.Macarones 2-2

Our relationship began innocently enough; I was writing a book. At home. I could roll out of bed and begin keying in an unfinished sentence from the night before. Yesterday’s yoga pants called to me from the chair where I’d tossed them. Before I knew it, My Honey was home, and I’d nether showered, nor changed from those pants. That’s how I rolled through at least eight chapters.

Yoga pants are comfortable. No zippers. No buttons. That’s the good news. The bad news? No zippers + No buttons = No accountability. A few pounds can slip into place without proper acknowledgement. Before ya know it, the yoga pants are the only pants that fit! That’s a problem.

Welcome to blog post number two in my series on DENIAL.

What is denial? Basically, denial is maintaining that a problem does not exist in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Hindsight tells me I’ve used two types of denial in my yoga pant ordeal. I’ve used minimizing and blaming.

Let’s talk about minimizing for a moment. Minimizing is defined by dictionary.com this way: “Minimize – to reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree.” We maintain that although a problem may exist, it is not very serious.

I totally did that with my recent weight gain. “Oh, it’s just a few pounds. It’s not that big a deal,” I’d whisper unconvincingly to the mirror after realizing that half the clothes in my closet screamed at the seams when I attempted to wear them.

No problem, I can get this off with a few extra trips to the Y,” I’d promise myself, forgetting to factor in the fact that after forty, the “freshman fifteen” doesn’t budge as easily as it did during college.”

Whenever My Honey wanted to go out for frozen yogurt, pizza or Thai food, I’d minimize my feelings about gaining the weight and go ahead and eat like a teenager anyway. Then I’d come home and immediately put on my yoga pants. “Ahhhhh! That’s better. Please pass the popcorn. I haven’t gained that much.”

Now comes the blaming part: What is blame? Again, dictionary.com says, “Blame is to hold responsible; find fault with; censure.”

Blaming is denial because we refuse to accept personal responsibility for the problem, maintaining that it is someone or something else’s fault. We blame people and circumstances for our own problems or lack. Blame can become a way of life if we are not careful.

I stayed stuck in denial by blaming my husband. “You eat later than I’m used to. That’s why this is happening to me,” I’d say. Part of that statement was true, but he never forced me to eat. I could have had a cup of tea, or made different choices. “You tempt me with sweets that I usually don’t keep in the house,” I’d whine while munching a piece of dark salted caramel chocolate from the stash on top of the fridge. “You served me a huge helping. You didn’t want to share the entrée, so I had to order my own.” You. You. You… Blame. Yeah, I did that.

The truth is, when I am fully surrendered to God, through His power I can choose when, what and how much I eat. No one else has that kind of control over me. Even babies know that. (Try feeding strained carrots to a tiny set of resistant taste buds!)

It’s time to stop minimizing, stop blaming and start owning the fact that I must either buy new pants, or shut my mouth if I want to fit into my old ones. It’s my choice. My decision. My life.

What is it with you? Where are you sinking into the murky waters of denial through minimizing or blaming?

Sometimes our bodies will tell us when we’ve been in denial long before our brains do. Physical symptoms, like weight loss or gain, unexplained illness or pain, migraine headaches and other symptoms with unidentified sources are often the direct result of deep emotional pain, rooted in our lives. When divorce from a chemically dependent spouse became my unexpected reality seven years ago, I was instantly “cured” of debilitating chronic migraines!

Why do we wait so long before acknowledging pain or abuse? I waited until my scales showed a combination of digits I’ve never seen, before snapping out of denial. I waited until I had a grownup meltdown in my closet every time I needed to wear something other than yoga pants. Only then did I get serious about my weight gain.

Maybe it’s not weight with you. Maybe it’s something else that you are in denial about. Think about it. Pray about it. Ask God to reveal it to you before you, like me, have a long, unnecessary road ahead before you are back to “normal.”

If we are consistently doing or using anything to numb, hide, or alleviate emotional or physical pain, we may be in denial of the root of our suffering. That root, if left intact, then grows a trunk and branches and leaves that take many different forms.

These “leaves” can be shaped like shame or poor self-esteem. They may be depression-shaped or look like isolation or anger. Sometimes they resemble powerlessness or even suicidal behavior, but they are all just symptoms of some underlying root that needs to be exposed.

That “root” may be abuse or neglect that we have suffered at the hand of others. The root could also be sin in our lives. With me, it was both.

I was sinning in my yoga pants. We’ll talk more about that next time. Until then, may I invite you to join me in taking Recovery Step 1? It says, “We admitted we were powerless over our compulsions, obsessions and addictions, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Pizza Pie

Father in heaven, I’m coming to you today because somewhere I got off the right track, and I realize that only You can redeem the things I’ve lost (or gained). Forgive me for minimizing my problem and for blaming You or others for what I know is my responsibility. I surrender myself to You and admit that I am powerless over my compulsions, obsessions and addictions. This area of my life has become unmanageable. I am powerless. I need Your power. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

Love Rescued Me

He offers a piggyback ride out of the mess I created. Shards of glass glisten on the tile as morning sunlight spills into our kitchen. I stand barefoot in the middle of broken glass, afraid to take a step in any direction.

It’s all my fault. In my usual hurry, I hadn’t taken time to thoroughly dry my hands. When I lifted a full quart-sized glass mug, it slipped from my grasp, shattering on the edge of my cast iron skillet Glass and water splashed across the stove and counter top. Larger pieces shattered again when they met the tile floor. Within seconds, it was over.

Are you okay?” Honey’s voice beats him to the doorway.

Yes.”

Don’t move. Let me get you out of here.”

He rescues me and cleans up the disaster. It takes almost an hour to restore our kitchen to its normal safe-to-walk-barefoot status. His voice and mannerisms remain calm. Not once does he scold or chide. His only concern is for my safety.

It is me who huffs and puffs on the inside. I am the one spewing and blaming myself for being a klutz.

This is the first of three broken-glass dramas within the span of a few days.

The next time, in a hurry to get out the door, I knock my Voss water bottle into the corner of a thick piece of glass that covers an antique sideboard in our entryway. The moment the sound of glass on glass hits my ears I know that I have cracked something. Closer inspection reveals it’s not the water bottle. Voss

Frustrated and disappointed, I’m quick to glance at my husband’s face for condemnation. Finding none, I continue to beat myself up about it as we head for the car. Through the maze of our neighborhood, I berate myself for being so careless. He holds my hand as always, acting as if nothing has happened.

Finally it’s Friday morning. I’m making a quick breakfast so Honey can head out to a meeting when I knock a Mason jar, filled with homemade spaghetti sauce off the refrigerator’s top shelf. “NO!” I holler as it heads for the tile. Instantly our kitchen looks like a slaughterhouse.Sauce

Lord, what is going on here? A roll of paper towels later, I’m still waiting for His answer. It comes quietly as I sit alone in the house, reflecting on my husband’s responses to my bull-in-a-china-shop ways.

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” I continue reading from the open Bible on our kitchen table. “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

I realize that I have had false expectations of God and my husband. When I repeatedly mess up, I’m waiting for someone to shout at me, blame me, or remind me of the other times I’ve failed.

In retrospect, I’m the only one doing that. I’m the one insisting, “I made this mess I need to clean it up.” I’m the one remembering how many times I’ve already failed. I’m the one pointing spaghetti-sauce-covered fingers at myself.

During a moment of quiet introspection I ask, Why must I insist on doing something to help, even after someone who loves me has gently removed me from the danger of broken glass on bare feet? Is it a way to alleviate guilt? Why am I the only one remembering how many times I’ve already failed, when 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells me “Love keeps no record of wrongs?”

When we have suffered neglect or abuse in our past, lack of trust can haunt our present. If humans have made statements like, “You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it,” we may subconsciously begin to believe that’s what God says, too. He doesn’t.

If we stop for a moment, like the woman caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus, and allow ourselves to look up into LOVE’s face, we will hear these precious words: “Where are your accusers?”

Sometimes we make repeated mistakes. Sometimes we break glass. Sometimes we break hearts. Whatever it is that’s broken in our lives today, we have Someone who wants to rescue us from our mess, clean it up and let it go. We can continue to beat ourselves up because we’ve made poor choices in the past, or we can move forward with a redeemed and forgiven future. The choice is ours.

I choose LOVE.

Caught Off-Guard

“Our silence equals death with addiction. If nobody knows how many people are affected, that people they love are affected and people they work with, why should they care?” David Sheff in an interview with Will Godfrey, Editor-in-Chief of The Fix. See the entire interview here: http://www.thefix.com/content/david-sheff-addiction-clean91667?page=all

“Are you married?” Her brown eyes looked up at me inquisitively as we walked together through the labyrinth of middle school hallways.

Yes. Are you?” I reply, my own brown eyes smiling as I tease her. (She’s a petite sixth grader.)

Laughing softly she quietly fires her next question, right into my heart, “Do you have kids?” How could I know that her words would catch me off-guard? I get that question all the time. I’m used to easily responding with some sort of, “no.”  I stall.

What?” I force her to repeat herself, as I compose my response. It is simple.

No.” I shake my head.

You don’t want any kids?” She innocently presses. What does a substitute teacher say to an angelic, dark-haired sixth grader whom she has just met when the child has just scratched the scab off of her healing-from-the-inside-out soul? (Don’t puncture wounds always take the longest to heal?)

February is a difficult month for me. It holds the birth day of a child whom I neither bore nor raised, but fiercely love not one ounce less than if I had done both. Maybe the emotion I choked on today as I escorted a curious sixth grade girl to science class sneaked up on me because SHE, too is in the sixth grade this year. And SHE, too has big brown eyes and a gentle spirit. And HER birthday is just a few days from now. I still haven’t bought her anything.

I don’t know what to buy. What do sixth grade girls want for their 12th birthday? I remember what I wanted. I got it, too. A blue diary with a gold lock and teeny key. In it I recorded all my girlish hopes and hurts. I wish I still had it. Maybe it would give me insight into a twelve-year-old’s soul. I’ve forgotten what it was like to be a pre-teen. What it feels like to know that you are almost grown (or so you think), but still like to play dolls with your little sister when no one is looking. Do they even make diaries these days? Or do Facebook and Instagram document kids’ lives in posts and snapshots, no longer private to be opened only with a golden key, but wide wide open for all the peering world to see? Kind of like my heart tonight, I suppose.

I digress. What is the point of this post? Maybe it is simply this: we never know when we will have a head-on collision with the pain of our past. It can be a smell, an image, a simple phrase, or an ill-timed question. But our heavenly Father knows. And He promises to give us “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.” This afternoon, I felt His strength as I gently assured the inquiring little mind before leaving her with the science teacher.

Somehow I came away from that conversation emotional, but not angry. Guilt and blame used to come knocking my door down whenever I allowed my thoughts to turn to HER and to why SHE is not mine in the way I had once hoped SHE would be. (See chapters 7 & 8 of my upcoming book for what my story-telling hero, Mr. Paul Harvey, would call, “the-rest-of-the-story.”)

I totally get David Sheff when he states in his own heart-wrenching memoir Beautiful Boy that, “Worry and guilt and regret may serve a function – as a turbocharger of conscience – but in excess they are useless and incapacitating.” For years after losing HER to another family because of the illegal drug use in ours, I was emotionally incapacitated by guilt and regret. It was only by God’s sweet grace that I was able to put that darkness behind me. However, as anyone who has been wounded by the shrapnel that addiction sprays over entire families knows, there are triggers to the past that can evoke emotions that have to be dealt with over and over again.

It does get easier with time. Rather than come home and crawl into my bed, as I may have done in years past, I am writing this post in hope of helping another weary soul to find some peace. Joyce Meyer Ministries reminded me this week that, “God wants to heal us but then He doesn’t want us to forever be in recovery. He wants us to recover and then get busy helping somebody else.” I suppose His healing is exactly why I could happily hum on my way home from school today, “Great is Thy Faithfulness…Lord unto me.”

You can listen to one of my favorite versions of that hymn sung by Selah here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrsfCZvqGxQ