flying dandelion seeds on a blue background

It can feel rather tenuous to sit in a circle of women.  Especially those you do not know well. Then add that after only 3 previous weekends with these women you will share an artifact that represents who you have been created to be for the kingdom of God. And if that isn’t enough vulnerability, you will then bless each woman with words and receicve words of blessing from these women on the last day.

Needless to say, after a personally tumultuous year, I was feeling rather vulnerable and very protective of my artifact and my heart.  I wasn’t sure how they would hold either one and I felt anxious and a bit fearful. Then it dawned on me…  I longed for the blessing of the women around this circle.  I could taste the desire.  And if I wasn’t afraid before – I sure was now.  It all felt pretty risky.

I have also ached for the blessing of my mother.  Words that consecrated not only her love for me but that she knew me.  Really knew me.  I waited to receive words and actions that told my soul that she knew places of my heart like no one else.  A kind of knowing where you live life fuller and breathe deeper.

Now, let me clarify. My mother’s blessing did not have to be perfect.  That is not what I’ve yearned for at all.  Confession is also a blessing. Owning how you have wounded the heart, mind, body, and soul of another.  But not to bless, in any way, leaves you with only one option.  To curse.  Perhaps that seems harsh, but it is true.  Think about it.  There is no in between.

My mother died late last year.  This Mother’s Day season leaves me with ambivalent feelings.

Sadly, we had been estranged for many years and with her death a relief has slowly settled.  The angst of the years has departed.  Now, there may be those who say I did not love her well.  It is a fact that I did not do everything right, but I continued to invite restoration and offer forgiveness even when I believed she could not engage or perhaps better stated – would not.  My heart was for her to live fuller and breathe deeper.  So, in that I believed I loved her really well and blessed her life as a woman and as a mother.  I truly wanted so much more for her.  And for me.

Then there is a deep grief for the lost hope of creating a new kind of fellowship with her on this earth. From a tiny girl I was truly for my mother like no other.  She could not see it.  Actually, I believe that she did and used it for her sole benefit.  A piece of my heart feels bare; for there will be no mother’s blessing over my life.  Although I lost her in many ways decades ago, this grief comes as a bit of a surprise.  And, I welcome it.  For I know, in the end, it will bring healing and life.

So the time came to share my artifact and eventually be blessed by the circle of women.  Seven women’s words spoken over my aching and fearful heart.  Will they see me?  Will they speak to who it is I truly am?  Will it be authentic and not just an assignment created for the program?

I am sure I wasn’t the only one feeling and thinking these things.  I felt like a little girl – maybe five-years-old, longing for a woman, motherly women, to see me.

All I will say is that in my heart I felt known.  Never have I had words spoken over me that brought a continuous stream of tears.  And.  I breathed a little deeper.  Thank you, thank you, good women!

And a thank you to the many others in my life who have filled the gap of my mother’s blessing.  Women who have blessed me well.  They have brought me closer to my God who loves me completely and knows me fully.

Oh my, our hearts long for a blessing.  I wonder, who is it that yearns for your blessing?  I urge you, take the risk.  Regardless of the response – for it will be well with your heart and soul.

butterfly-1518060_1280

Over my years of healing, I have had the privilege of having the best Story Sages in the world hear and engage my story. Although the story has always been mine, there are times when I was not able to see the truth by myself – as I was just too close to the pain.

Most of us grew up knowing a bit about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. We know about the ravenous consumption that brings the caterpillar to find a perch to form a chrysalis, and the end result is the emergence of a butterfly. Yet, the truly amazing part of this transformation is there is no structural similarity at all between a caterpillar and a butterfly.

Sources indicate that inside the caterpillar are “imaginal cells” that have remained dormant during most of the caterpillar lifecycle. These cells represent the blueprint of a flying creature. Initially, each imaginal cell operates independently. The immune system of the caterpillar identifies them as a threat and goes on the attack. Yet the imaginal cells persist, multiply, and connect to one another forming clusters. These clusters begin to resonate at the same frequency and communicate in the same language. Eventually, a caterpillar must surrender to the imaginal cells to be born a butterfly… to become what it was created to be!

In my life, each Story Sage has helped me to identify many individual truths in my childhood trauma narrative. I have felt these truths within my body. However, as truth was named, my old survival defenses often attacked the truth. Yet as I continued to hear from these dear sages, the truth has persisted and multiplied. And I am so very grateful.

Yet, sometimes I believe one must find and speak the truth for themselves. After all, the decision to surrender is all mine.

Recently my body has recognized that my “imaginal cells” have clustered and are speaking the same language. “Robyn, it is time. Release the old. It is not what you were created to be!” Ironically, “release” was the word I reluctantly chose for this year. At the time I had no idea what that could even mean.

So, I have known on a dormant level that I was not complicit to the sexual abuse that occurred during my childhood. And, I have ravenously endured shame to sustain control and some semblance of life. If I believed I was complicit, then I could do something about me. Yet, I have felt full and heavy with a sense there was more.

In March, profound truths were revealed about my complicity as a thirteen-year-old. I went back to the bedroom in my mind and watched the scene. In the dark of my twin bed, I saw the light of three truths that had never been named in all the years of my healing process. I was not complicit! And it was no longer just head knowledge.

I began to feel this cluster of truth and others resonate within my body at the same frequency. As if new information was passing back and forth in the same language until there was a tipping point. My immune system was failing. I could no longer just eat the leaves of shame – I knew that I couldn’t stay the same.

I cannot fully explain, but something shifted in my body and brain. Somewhere along the line, I ceased acting in protective mode and surrendered to my “imaginal cells” to become more fully Robyn. Sure, I could feel the writhing struggle to release the old and then the soupy mess of change. Eventually, there has been a rest. Yet, don’t be fooled by the stillness, it is where the real transformation is happening.

So, I am grateful for every Story Sage that has engaged my childhood trauma. You have seen me and named truth well. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I would not be emerging if it were not for your kindness over my life. And, it has provided a space for me to name deeper truth that others have not.

I just believe sometimes, a person must find and speak the truth for themselves. After all, the decision to surrender is all mine.

It was my time.

 

Music background design.Musical writing and Christmas carol

I was not disappointed to open the Christmas gift and find inside my requested wireless headphones. Attached was an envelope from his stationery. The ones I sometimes find upon my pillow. So, I was going to wait until later, but my husband insisted that I open it in front of everyone.

As a child, piano music filled my home. It was our lifeblood, putting food on the table. We traveled from city to city chasing my father’s dream to become famous. He was headlined as “The Young King of Ragtime” singing and playing top pops from the Gay ’90s to the fabulous ’50s.

I remember singing songs like “Five Foot Two” and “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” by his side at the top of my lungs. A few years ago he told me a story about one of his gigs. I was two years old standing on the bar doing the twist to one of his songs. People loved it, and apparently, I did too.

The entertainment business was a hard life for a young family. And the temptations too great for my handsome and talented father. So, the piano music left with my father. Never to be heard in my home again.

My mother remarried, and it was as if our previous life never existed. I still loved to sing and listen to music. Yes, even dance. As a teenager, I’d practice behind the closed doors of my bedroom. Watching my moves reflected in the mirror of my dresser.

I yearned to go to a concert. It seemed everyone my age was going to Foghat, KISS, Styx, or Queen concerts. I was not allowed to go. Apparently, concerts were from the devil. I heard my youth leader at church say that only burn-outs went to rock and roll concerts.

So back to the Christmas envelope… I opened the flap and unfolded the contents. Inside was a printed website receipt for tickets arriving by mail. My response was something like, “No way!” He replied something like, “Yes way!” I was going to a Fleetwood Mac concert in February!!

Waiting was actually good for my heart – something fun to anticipate that kept me going in this busy season. But as the time got closer, I found my heart starting to doubt my desire. I had talked about this for years.  What if I didn’t even like concerts? What if I wouldn’t like Fleetwood Mac – my bucket list band? Bottom line… what if I was disappointed? I felt the walls of my heart begin to rise.  It was a struggle to keep my heart open.

But when I walked into the venue and saw the Fleetwood Mac sign…there was no doubt my heart was all in. I began to cry. Not for the band, but for the redemption I could feel swelling within my soul.

Oh my… I danced, I sang every song at the top of my lungs, I cried, and I laughed. I felt 2 years old and 5, 7, 13, 17, 20, 30, 40, and a woman in her 50’s. I was me! And, I worshipped. That’s right, I worshipped. Not the band, but God. Yes, He was there. And how could He not be when I was surrounded by 1000’s of people created in His image.

Even though I am getting older, I felt the child in my heart rise above.  And I know that He will be with me in the changing tides, helping me handle the seasons of my life.

 

Pinus taeda seen from below

I watched the tall loblolly pine sway with ease in the blustery morning.  This tree presides over others of its kind and the hardwoods behind my house.  Yet, I look on with concern. In its youth this member of creation experienced trauma. I can clearly see its wound as it curves severely and gradually straightens.

And I cannot help but wonder if one day it will fall.  Wreaking havoc and trauma for me.  After all, whatever happened years ago has undoubtedly left it in a weakened state.  Yet, looking closer, I see the struggle to recover and survive.  It seems to have fought for its life.  I like that.

The loblolly is an aromatic tree that has a tendency to take over abandoned spaces.  It provides shelter and food for many southern animals. Squirrels make their home in the forks of its branches.  Woodpeckers feed upon the insects it attracts.  Many birds and small animals consume its seeds.

So this day, I watch. It seems to embrace the wind – gently swaying as its canopy is tousled – as if somehow stronger, more flexible, because of its trauma.  Standing in all of its 100+ foot glory within the chaos of the wind with its crown facing the sun – living into what it was created to be.

I see it with new eyes this day.  Wounded, resilient, strong, and giver of life.  I want to be like this tree.

2019

We are a people wired to live by the rhythms of the calendar. Appointments, schedules, celebrations, and seasons mark the days of our lives. There is no greater honoring of the calendar than the New Year with its invitation to look back, look inward, and look forward.

As a child, I was confident that New Year’s Eve was magical. I believed life-changing events happened with a kiss and the stroke of midnight. It brought such hope to my aching heart. Things would be different in the New Year. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s how it was supposed to work.

And I was a little girl that needed a miracle. I waited with great expectations that when my eyes opened to the New Year, all would be well in my world. But it didn’t come. No matter how many resolutions I made or determinations that the New Year would be different – there was no magic. I couldn’t say, “good riddance”, to a year that only followed me into the next.

My child-like heart found reasons as to why this was not happening for me. “There must be something wrong with me”.  “I must not be good enough – yet.”  So I doubled down with the resolutions and swallowed the bad – determining to press through as if things were indeed different. Of course, nothing had changed, but it helped me survive.  And those resolutions and determinations didn’t last much longer than February.

When things did become different, I was more than ready to ditch the bad years as if they had never happened. My heart already tangled around a black and white/all or nothing approach to life that squeezed more tightly each year.  I would discover almost a decade later that I hadn’t really hidden the wounds of the past so well after all.  There would be no magic, but a journey that required an honest look at the past. A struggle which miraculously revealed a way forward to my healing.

New Year’s Eve 2018 found my husband and me outside sitting by the fire, glass of wine, and smoking a cigar (one of three in my lifetime which I tasted for days).  He asked our sacramental New Year’s Eve questions.  “What were the highlights and low points of the year?”  Then, “Where did you find Jesus in the midst?” And lastly, “What do you hope for in the New Year?”

For me, I now know why the “good riddance” to the old year never really worked.  A turn of a page, a kiss at midnight, or a resolution do not change my world. There will always be things from the past that will follow me into the future. If I am not intentional about looking back, understanding what the experiences have meant in my life or who they may say that I am, then there is no real way forward.

These days I long to hold life’s moments with the reverence they deserve.  To intentionally mark the seasons of my life with kindness – instead of “good riddance”.  Which ironically has increased my capacity to give and receive.  My heart is no longer tangled!

I could wish you much goodness for the New Year – and I do.  Moreso, my hope is that you and I will bring our presence and participate fully in what this New Year has to offer.  For we are a people wired to engage the pain and beauty of our lives.

PC: Bing images; hnewyea.com

 

 

 

 

Five Red Christmas Stockings

Almost every afternoon a ray of sunshine falls upon our family picture. It highlights what I care about most on this earth. I would do nearly anything for the four people sitting with me.

The gathering begins today. This Christmas season we are breaking from many of our long-held traditions. And there has been disappointment before we’ve even gathered.

I was 10 the first Christmas at my stepfather’s childhood home. It was a large gathering of his family with a living room packed with presents. I was not happy.  The reality of the transition was slowly making its way into my little girl heart.

Walking into the living room my eye landed on the biggest gift under the tree. A red and green package at least 3’X3’ nestled in the back. The only one without a name.  With childish wonder, I asked, “Who is that present for?” The reply, “It’s for you.” As all eyes fell upon me, comments rounded the room about how lucky I was to have the biggest gift under the tree.  Sure I was being teased, I dismissed that the package was mine. Yet, come Christmas morning the package was presented to me.

I was thrilled!  Why would I get the biggest gift? I had no idea what was inside but was certain it would be a 10-year old’s greatest delight. I let my heart go to full-out desire. Everyone seemed to be watching in joyful anticipation as I tore off the wrapping.

I opened the box to find it filled with tightly wadded up newspaper. In the background, I heard a snicker and a hushing. Undeterred, I continued to search – certain a wonderful surprise still lay within the inked paper. Finally at the bottom was a football. My face must have shown my hearts confusion. And laughter erupted around the room. It was not the first time of disappointment nor of my desire feeling dangerous.  But the laughter stabbed my heart that day and I began to shut down more pieces of my heart.

As I anticipate the present day family reunion, my heart is raw and achy from this past year. My heart seems to fluctuate between grief and relief.  I hear the call to fortify! To guard and distance my heart.

But I’ve also tasted much goodness this past year, and it is sweet. So, I’m trying to hold the tension of great desire and disappointment. I hope to release my heart to feel all things. Yep, even if it gets messy.

There will be disruption and harmony in our time together. And bottom line… we would do almost anything for one other. For we are family.

 

christmas christmas ball decoration frost

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tis the season of family gatherings.  Photographs full of extended family flood social media. I missed having all of my daughters here for Thanksgiving and cannot wait to have them home for Christmas!

It seems this time of year we glorify family as a place of nurture and care as if being born in a family is synonymous with healthy love.  It is simply not true for all of us.  There are those of us who grew up in abusive families that have remained abusive. Often, if you try to speak the truth about your family it is met with skepticism, criticism, and really bad advice from well-meaning relatives and friends.  Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

People with reasonably healthy families have a difficult time understanding that your family might not be like theirs.  Other people don’t see what you see.  They may even blame you when you seek out empathy for your pain.  Which often results in feelings of shame by the attempt to face the truth about your family and overcome your history.  But you cannot experience healing and restoration from your deepest wounds unless the truth is spoken about your story of abuse.

Now I am not talking about blaming your family for everything that has gone wrong in your life. That would be untrue.  We all have a responsibility in how we respond relationally in this world.  Yet the fact remains that there are unloving abusive families out there – they might even share a pew with you on Sunday.

Some of you will be navigating this season with a “grin and bear it” status.  All the messages you have gotten whenever you tried, to tell the truth, will come flying back at your mind and heart; disloyal, shame, too sensitive, it’s your fault, you’re wrong, etc.  And you will keep the peace while emotional fissures quake right below the surface.

I don’t blame you.  Perhaps keeping the peace is the kindest thing to do for yourself right now.  It often seems taboo to speak the truth.  But a problem cannot be resolved until it is faced. This does not always equal confrontation.  However, love does not minimize the past. Nor does it seek revenge.

Our family of 5 is not perfect but we love one another well.  Even when it gets messy.  My heart is full knowing that we will be together soon.  I cannot wait to hear the stories and the laughter as we gather. And, yes, there will be tears for things that have been lost – as we have created safety for our love to grow.

So grateful for this season of celebrating the babe who came to make restoration possible.  Thank you, Jesus!

 

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Ever since I was a small child, I have tried to get people to understand the truth – to protect, to warn, to make it right, and to invite them into something new and good. My hope… that I will find a way that you will hear me and that life will arise from the shadows.  I’ve mostly been loving, kind and playful, yet persistent. Although, sadly there was a season in my teens that I spoke truth to hurt. But that’s a different story for another time.

It was a spring day in the late 60’s and I’m 7-years-old.  I’m walking downtown in Holton, Kansas with my beautiful mother.  My hands are filled with a large fountain drink from the drug store. The delight momentarily distracts me from the stares of the people.  You see, my mother, sister, and I live with my grandparents. My father abandoned us for another woman during the week of Thanksgiving.  It’s been a difficult 6 months and she’s slowly coming back to life. 

We enter French’s Hardware on the square. My mother leaves me to wander the small toy section. My freedom cut short by the owner’s big finger pointing in my direction. He’s yelling at me to get out. “Didn’t you see the sign?” I’m stunned. I had not seen the sign. I moved in the direction I’d last seen my mother – only to be stopped by his large body blocking my way and once again told to leave. “I’ll take care of your mother.” He snorts.

I left the store confused and afraid. I frantically ran back and forth jumping up to get a better look through the large store windows for my mother. When I see her, I am flooded with relief. I do not want her to get into trouble. But, she does not understand what I am saying through the windows. I gesture towards my drink shaking my head. Still no understanding. I feverishly wave for her to get out.

The owner has picked up the sign and its large base like it’s a toothpick. I know I must leave my drink outside and rescue my mother. Entering the store, I see the owner leaning on the sign having placed it directly in my mother’s path. As if in slow motion, I try to get to my mother. But fail. I watch as she turns, hits the sign full-on, says excuse me, walks around it, and continues shopping drink in hand. The owner’s brief satisfaction turns to disgust. She finally sees me. I blurt out my distress. She dismisses me and walks out of the store. I try again, but she’s busy enjoying sips of her drink as if nothing has happened.  She looks at me like I’m crazy.

This is how my mother lived her life. The truth right in front of her yet walking around it as if nothing had ever happened. Over the years I kept hoping for the right words or the right gesture to help her hear and to know she truly loved me. That never happened.  And the thing is, I said it right the first time.

Heartbreakingly, my mother left this world in September with un-resolve and a refusal to face the reality of her life and my life.  It could have been so different.  Yet, she persistently refused repair and denied abuse.  In many ways nothing changed the day she died and everything changed that day.  A hope for repair on this side of eternity lost.  Gosh… I still find my heart hoping even after her death for repair and reconciliation.  I feel a bit foolish.

Yet, death does not win! There will be a day of repair and resolve for the abuse I suffered.  A day where I don’t have to say it just the right way, make it right, or invite.  It will be made right for me on the day that God, the One who created me in my mother’s womb, invites me to sit with Him – face to face in my stories as He wipes away every tear and every pain. And if that’s not something to hope for – I don’t know what is.

Someday!!

 

Painting by Natalia Tejera 

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-and-daughter-natalia-tejera.html

cleft of the rock

Good always startles me. I like that, and it scares me. Why? Big or small, my heart can barely fathom what has been offered. Even more, good touches deep desires and unearths life-giving passion.

I have much good in my life!

Yet, in the midst of pain, I often struggle to hold the good. For me, I wonder if it too will be taken. After all, it’s just a matter of time before the other shoe will drop. So, I get busy. Busy to numb the potential disappointment or pain. Because it will come. And if I can inoculate myself ahead of time, I won’t feel the brunt of the pain as intensely. I won’t die. It’s what I do.

Ah yes, I know. Enjoy the present. Hold what is good with honor.  To fully feel what each moment brings. And. I often struggle. Still.

Because I have had and still have much pain in my life.

You see, this past year painful disruption came to places that once held safety. The spiritual battle was intense. Much has been lost. Sorrow stirred, and my heart was hot within me. So, I got busy. Knowing full well what I was doing. Although, some of the changes required me to be busy. Yet, I knew I was avoiding the disappointment, anger, and grief. Afraid of the depth of my emotions. My passion.

Friends encouraged me to grieve. The words they spoke were not new. Yes, I had been angry and sad but had not plumbed the depths of my sorrow nor considered fully the losses. I resisted the desert experience – afraid of what I might find. Not wanting to be a woman called to grief.

Finally too weary of resisting, I cautiously surrendered.

And the cleft of the rock has been the safest place for me to be. Covered by God’s hand as He protected my soul – I found release. I didn’t die! Nor was I left alone. He has nourished me with truth strengthening me for the battles that will come. But for now, He has called me to the river and I am resting in His good care.

I am a woman called to grief. At least in this season; perhaps in life. But God has carved out a place just for me. Hell may rail against me, but in His hand, no evil can touch me. Things may get difficult and feel overwhelming – and yes, I will be tempted to get busy to hide from the pain – but my soul is safely nestled in His hand.

This past year has brought significant changes to my life. They have affected my mind, body, and spirit. And regardless of good or painful… I have been changed.

And that is a very good thing!

 

Couple dancing salsa at sunset

The first time that I saw him I told my sister that I would marry him. She called me a “spaz”. My heart was undeterred.  And apparently he had his eye on me too. It would be almost a year later of dancing back and forth – him dating another girl, talking together, him breaking up with girl, talking together, me dating another guy, talking together, me breaking up with guy – before we had our first date.
Dance with me, I want to be your partner…
The first date? May of 1979. My high school sponsored senior all-night-party. My friends who were dating guys from the previous graduating class told me they were inviting their boyfriends. They encouraged me to invite my crush; aka: my future husband. I laughed, knowing my very strict step-father. Good Christian girls don’t ask boys out. It was just not done. But by some shift in the heavens, I got to ask him! And he said yes.
Turns out, very few of the girls invited their boyfriends. I wondered how he would feel, but it did not seem to matter. And we had a blast being together that night; talking, eating, bowling… I’m not really sure what else was going on. But there was dancing! A good ol’ 70’s Soul Train line dance. My friends remarked how awesome we looked together dancing. I was ecstatic! I love to dance.
Can’t you see, the music is just starting? Night is falling and I am falling. Dance with me…
We fell hard and early dating for 2 1/2 years before we got married. During that time we never danced again. Oh, we danced in other ways – getting to know one another dating, in marriage, and as parents. Life got busy and the dance floor never seemed to call. Or we didn’t hear it.
It didn’t call in the bedroom either. No, that’s not true. The music and the invitation to dance have always been there – my body was just too war-torn from abuse to dance freely. I participated, enjoyed, responded but always held something back. Lies spoke of always being dirty, never being enough for this man’s love.  A war torn body desiring and afraid to fully let go of my heart and soul – and trust the man in my bed.  In full disclosure, didn’t even trust myself.  For you see, even in bodily response – I have always known there was so very much more to be given and received.
I hope that you are willing. Pick the beat up, and kick your feet up. Dance with me…
Several years ago we were invited to take ballroom dancing. I was excited and he was willing. It was disastrous. He was stressed and forgot steps. I was frustrated and took over. Even when we managed to get it right… it was not fun. For either of us. So we stopped. Although we did learn a few steps that helped us to look like we knew what we were doing at weddings.
Over the past several years we have started dancing at home. At first I was leery. I was not sure I could trust the process. Wouldn’t this just all end up badly. And honestly, it was a little disappointing and rough at first. But something magical happened. We are having so much fun! As we began just doing our own thing and forgeting about focusing on the steps being right or wrong, we have learned to be attuned to one another’s bodies.
Let it lift you off the ground. Starry eyes, and love is all around. I can take you where you want to go…
And you bet. Being more attuned to one another’s bodies has added a new sweetness to our all around intimacy. No, I am still not totally free. Maybe never fully on this earth.  That goes for both of us.  But I no longer fear and look forward to more and more freedom.  It’s about time we beat that demon down! Yes, we did it together – discovering our own dance moves as we listened to the music.
Dance with me, I want to be your partner…
Oh yes, please my love! Dance with me.
Song Credit: Dance With Me by Orleans; Songwriters: JOHANNA HALL, JOHANNA D HALL, JOHN HALL, JOHN J HALL