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It’s a hot humid summer day in Louisiana. It’s the summer I turned five and I’m with my grandmother running errands. We stop at the drug store to pick up a prescription.

“Look Grandma Sugar she’s white too!” I say this truth boldly and loudly. The woman of whom I speak smiles. She is dressed in her Sunday’s finest on this mid 1960’s day. I like her smile and hat with all the netting on top.

My grandmother grabs my arm telling me to be quiet using my first and middle names. I’m confused about why I am in trouble. Believing she doesn’t understand, I speak my important discovery louder. “No really look, she’s white too!” The black woman looks concerned as I continue. “See Grandma Sugar, look at the palms of her hands and bottoms of her feet!”

The woman smiled. I liked the sparkle in her eyes as I pointed to her hands and the heel revealed by her sling back shoes. I smiled back. I try to walk toward her.

My grandmother having paid for her prescription, promptly pulls me towards the exit rebuking me to be quiet. “Robyn, we don’t say things like that.” She says harshly under her breath. I try to ask why, but she is not stopping or listening to me. The beautiful black woman now looks sad and the sparkle is gone.

Some responses to Charlottesville have been surprise that racism still exists in 2017. Others say they don’t understand the mindset of white supremacists or racists. While still more have called for the eradication of racism.

At first my heart was pulled into all of those responses. Then a different question, a different response, plagued my heart. Am I a racists? “No, not me!” And then I sadly wondered if indeed I might be more than I care to admit. And perhaps aren’t we all – no matter what race.

I lived in California for my late elementary and early junior high years. We went to a church that asked a mixed racial couple to leave our church. The reason? They were unequally yoked. They were a fun couple, I liked them and I was confused. What happened to “red and yellow black and white they are precious in His sight”? I remember crying they would no longer be at our church.

My growing up was plagued with the words that people who were not white were different: white was better, made the rules, smarter, yes – even privileged. I will not share the more offensive things I heard during my growing up years. By some miracle I did not adopt the belief system of my grandparents or my church.

Personally, I’ve had evil things happen to me from all races. Truly I could tell you many stories of harm. I’ve been searching my heart these weeks. And here’s the thing, we live in a broken world. Sadly, this will not be remedied, whether you believe it or not, until Jesus returns. Evil has reign over our world. The truth, evil is no respecter of persons. This does not by any means say we we should not be intentional about changing what ails our world – in the USA, Burundi, Thailand… the whole earth.

The answer? Love your neighbor as your self. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Many of us do not even love ourselves. So, how can we truly love others? We cannot. Only through the grace, mercy , and healing of our stories through what God has provided through His Son Jesus Christ. It starts with a heart change in all of man/womankind.

There will be those of you who read this that will truly hate what I have just written. Much of who people believe about who Jesus is – reflects on error. I believe that breaks Gods heart.

Truly… He is the only way. We cannot love without Him. He is the answer. The only answer. It is what He came for; to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free. All of us!

Red or yellow black and white; they are precious in His sight.

*And yes, brown included!

PC: Bing Images

Hummingbird (archilochus colubris) in Flight over Purple Flowers

My backyard is once again filled with aerial displays and duels.  The garden is abundant with sweet nectar, as well as insects, and the hummingbirds have staked-out their territories.  The guarding is fierce with loud chatter and puffed feathers.  With iridescent flashes, quick soaring assaults are initiated from towering vantage point lookouts.  I laugh.  You’d think food was scarce.

I grew up in a home with a scarcity mindset.  Whether in abundance or shortage, my mother was certain there would never be enough.  To be fair, there was a short time of single motherhood when things were truly tight.  Even after she was re-married, the panic remained.

Her doubts did not cling purely to money and material possessions.  They bled into relationships, talents and her personal worth.  She lived her life as if there would never be adequate resources to go around, yet she refused to receive from others.  Her heart was constantly comparing herself to everyone around her.   She was never enough.  Sadly, I am not sure she has ever found rest.

I do not know what happened to my mother.  She has alluded to deep hurts in her past.  I do know she lost provision through divorce.  Perhaps this catapulted her into a state of insatiable craving and resource guarding.  I may never know.

Of course as a child I did not understand her fear, but I was pulled into its vortex.

I’ve often found my heart flying around like the hummingbird.  I’ve been taught well to guard my resources, my desires, and to go after only what I can make happen myself; that there really is not enough to go around and that God holds out on me. That’s when my heart runs for the trees for cover.

Recently I went to a writer’s conference and was certain after looking around that I was in the wrong place.  Scarcity haunted my thoughts.  What did I have to offer?  Haven’t all the books been written?  What are you doing here when you have no seat at the table?  I started making plans for what I could make happen – a back up that would sabotage my desires.  And I struggled to remember who I was created to be.  I forgot whose I was.  Gradually throughout the cries of my heart to Jesus, I settled back into my skin.

And yes, there is my own story of harm that adds to scarcity: neglect, lack of protection and victimization.  Part of my healing has been to tell the story of how I got to a place of scarcity.   To lament the lack of protection during my childhood years, name accurately neglect and victimization, struggle with God’s goodness, to hear and speak truth, grieve betrayal and ultimately give thanks to a God, who I now believe is truly good (even when I don’t feel it or see it), for His redemption, healing and care for me.  Not a short process.  At times it seemed to take forever to feel even small changes.  And I am still healing and changing.

I smiled as I heard my husband’s account of a tiny hummingbird attacking a cardinal to secure its patrolled territory.  It’s quiet fascinating that hummer’s fight less when food is scarce.  In those times they are able to rest, to give and receive.

I wonder what exists in your life as a place of scarcity.  What sends you scrambling to have only what you can give yourself?  Will you take the risk to cry out and imagine something different – something more – in abundance or lack?  Or will you fly around frantically guarding your resources?

It is my hope to live my life not killing desiring, while being content with what I have been provided – to rest, have hope and to give and receive.

 

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I have spent the last six mornings awakening to the sunrise from four, twelve foot, window panes.  Without fail, each morning it has gently pried my eyes open to watch.  The glow peeking over the hills, dissipating the darkness and reflected on the water has been nothing short of magnificent.

No, there are no pictures.  I lay in bed and fully took in being present to each moment of the morning colors.  Although the hills, landscape and position of the sun never changed, the palette certainly varied.  My heart enjoyed everything from vivid pinks, oranges, to pale peach and golden yellows.  One cloudy day brought the many shades of grey to the morning painting.  While one dawn so brilliant; my heart still aches for more.

My life is a multifaceted array of colors.  There have been dark, light, grey and colorful days.  Although I’ve walked many different paths, the terrain of my story has never changed.  Nor has the source of light.  There would be those who would say to never, ever look back at the black or grey of your life.  To do so, some might even label you as a person stuck in a victim-hood mentality.  And yet, I cannot ignore the call to beauty these spaces hope to bring.  Yes, I have known dark days where I have desperately wanted them to depart and needed the light to come bursting over the horizon.  I also know to forgo looking carefully at these dark or grey days, annuls the glory of the true beauty to be had when the sun breaks.  To risk letting the light shine in dark places – truly, nothing short of courageous.

I no longer fear the dark, because I know the light.  There is always something deeper for me to glean.  Yes, even if I have visited the space before. I often find something oozing that I have tried to hide.  It needs the kind care of truth from me. To ignore it, brings continued death to a part of who I am created to be. Of course, I hold the healing that occurs and bring it forward; for, I am an over comer.  I believe those who try to hide the wounds of the past are sadly the true victims.

Tomorrow will be my last day to lie before these spectacular windows and anticipate the sunrise.  Regardless of the new day’s tint, my hope is to stand and face the color of the new day.

 

 

 

 

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Love, they say it heals all wounds.  And it’s been my experience it creates many more.

At first sight, my heart clenched with fear at each daughter’s birth.  Would I have what it takes to love this tiny one well?  In many ways my own little life had not experienced a mother who loved well.  One thing she did teach me well was how not to be as a mother.  And for that I am truly grateful.  I knew I’d make my own mistakes with these beautiful babies, and my heart desperately wanted to love them straight, like an arrow that never wavers and hits the bull’s-eye.

Oh my, that first moment in my arms!  Love somehow overcame my fear.  Love after all is the greatest of these.  And my heart throbbed with a deep ache that pulsed through my being.

My daughters didn’t just come from me, they came through me.  I’ve known their thundering presence.  They ignite within my brain, consume my heart, run through my veins, I feel the love in my gut and they settle deep within the marrow of my soul.

Love came and continues to blow through my being like a hurricane.  It has sharpened the pain of my own mother’s lack of attunement and care.

As my daughters have grown and become adults, there have been times, and still are, that I have thought, that I wondered if I could live without such a love.  It just hurts so dang much to see someone you love draped in wounds.  You see, love felt so great within their laughter, but when my heart broke for their pain, disappointments, abuse, inequality and for the consequences of their choices – oh my, such a different gut-wrenching grieving space for a mother’s love.  And, I choose unashamedly to live in both sides of this love with my daughters.

Love, straight love, that arrow enters the joy and the sorrow.

Oh yes, I have most certainly had regrets.  Things I wish I had done so very differently.  Where fear veered me off in the wrong direction and my love was inconsistent.  It has brought me face up with the pain I have caused; a space of choice, to love well or hide, where every time I discover if the Gospel of Jesus is true.  It brought opportunity and invitation for repair.  And this is where I need Jesus, because I do not have the power within myself to love my children 100% straight – a love that never veers off course.

Love perseveres in the mess; the mess of the both of us.  My heart is truly for them.  I’m not going anywhere.

Love is kind, it is full of humility.  Conversations have been spoken, I have seen my daughters, heard them and my harm to them owned, shame regulated and repair engaged.  No, it is not finished and there will be more words exchanged.  Yes, it’s been difficult and so very kind to a little one, now grown, fully mother woman to her fully grown daughter women – to know that I have loved not perfectly, but well.  A love that I never experienced now offered imperfectly to those I appropriately and fiercely love.

Wounds healed by love.  It’s a gift – the reason for everything.

Thanks Mom, you had no idea.

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It seems I was born extra-sensitive to my environment.  I know when things are wrong, off, changed or even right and good.  And, I experienced a great deal of childhood trauma – some of it truly terrifying.  As a result, I am a woman who knows that bad things can happen.

As a small child I remember getting those vibes that someone or something just wasn’t right. And there were many things happening that were wrong in my little life and world.  With no language to adequately express what I was experiencing, attempts were always made by adults to deny, disregarded and re-write my little girl words and emotions.  No that did not feel right either and caused me to question further, which often created more trauma.

Over and over, bad things continued to happen.  As a result, it was natural for me to desire to keep myself safe when no one else seemed capable or willing.  Due to the terror, betrayal and powerlessness involved in my abuse, I expanded the beauty of my natural curiosity and sensitivity into scanning every room I walked into looking for suspicious characters.   I would not be taken by surprise again if I had anything to say about it.

The repeated exposure as a child to the inaccurate information about my external and internal realities eventually had me doubting my own feelings and robbed me of my innate intuition. Over the years I’m learning and healing in both of these areas. I still find it difficult to trust others who want to be my friend. “What is it that you really want from me?” Because, I know that bad things can happen in relationships. They still do.

Last year I discovered that I am hardwired to worry.  That’s right; the potential is in my DNA!  A mutation on a gene called COMT.  Google it, I found it very interesting.   I can now see how this gene mutation added to the already fertile soil for the seeds of trauma to grow rapidly into a well-honed hypervigilance – a truly exhausting way to live for anyone, especially a child.  Ultimately, I gave up hope for protection.  So, I’d just have to do that myself.

Today, I’m in another season of struggle, residual debris from a childhood of constantly living on the brink of life and death.  The terror finds its way into the here and now in unexpected ways with people that I care for deeply.  Without meaning to, I find myself conjuring up frightening scenarios.  Because if I can endure a little trauma before it arises, in small controllable doses, it might act as sort of a trauma vaccination.

It might sound as if I am paranoid.  This is different.  I’m not looking for things that are usually not likely to happen.  The stuff I “worry” about is based in a piece of reality.

I am still on the road of recovery from PTSD that has left my brain in a constant battle-ready state.    And because I now recognize hypervigilance, I can often catch myself before I spiral down into my own negative thought patterns.  I take time to breathe and calm myself – good kind care I missed as a child.  Then I’m curious and consider how the present spiraling was triggered by something that happened in my past.  I speak truth to myself or ask for help when I need it to keep from going down the rabbit hole.  And because I do not control the world, I eventually leave my concerns with God.  I chose to trust in Him – regardless of outcome.  Yes, much easier to write than to practice when the rubber meets the road.  During this healing process, I found myself wrestling with intense doubt and anger towards God.  Maybe I’ll write about that some day.  I will say I found Him to be man enough and kind enough to receive and respond lovingly to anything I had to say.  And I said a lot.  Today, I am learning to trust Him more and more.  The result, I am growing in much needed rest for my mind and body.

And, believe it or not, there are some positives to being a “hypervigilant”.  I often see things others do not and I am able to reach out with care in unique and sensitive ways when others cannot.  My healing hypervigilance is helping me to become a perceptive and responsive woman.  I can easily pick up on people’s feelings and emotions.  Plus I have an extraordinary memory and eye for detail that has great benefits when used in a healthy manner.

My desire is to live in the present, not the past.  And I want soul-enhancing relationships.  Yes, I am a woman who knows bad things happen.  Betrayal shatters peace and is extremely painful, while powelessness steals hope.  I am also a woman who has experienced much goodness, empathy and trust in relationships.  A place of hope and full of joy.  I’m walking the path towards wholeness and my wounds are healing.

Yes, I am sensitive to my environment; innately and by gifting.  And that can be a beautiful thing that brings much life to others.

Here’s to life!

 

PC: Pixabay

The phrase What If written on a blackboard

“You are going to be a worry-wart just like your grandmother.”   My grandmother worried about many things, my mother too; the ‘what if’ conversations were mind boggling even to me as a child.  They seemed to live in a ‘the sky is falling’ world.  I remember reading Chicken Little and thinking this is just like my mother and grandmother!  “It’s hereditary.” I heard others say.  I never wanted to be anything like the nervous Nellie’s of my family.

And as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  This past year I discovered that there truly is a ‘worry-wart’ gene; COMT along with MAO-A, break down the catecholamines – dopamine/noradrenalin/adrenalin in our system.  My body breaks down catecholamines very slowly.   I’m not a doctor, and there is much more to all of this, but this is what I understand for me:  I have several SNP’s (variations) for COMT (my worrier gene) and no variations with my MAO-A.  This means that a small stressor can make me feel very stressed-out.  Although I have never considered myself to be anxious or fearful regarding things in general, during stress my head can spin out with ‘what if’ scenarios and my body and mind floods with the energy of dopamine and adrenaline.  Ask anyone in my immediate family – this can be beautifully helpful with its super powers of laser focus, attention to detail and a good memory, but if I am overstressed it can be just a plain ugly stress-mess!

Add to this a childhood filled with being watchful, always looking for the shoe to drop and my source of fear the very caregivers I was to run to for protection.  Shoes were always dropping and ‘what if’s’ became realities, and I was often left in an overly aroused state of distress without any comfort from a caregiver.  Needless to say living in a world of insecure attachment, it was often traumatic being a child.

Since the moment of conception we are programmed to respond to stress in our environment.  It is how we survive. (Dr Rostenberg)  Because of my variations, I have the unique ability to produce excess adrenaline.  The body uses adrenaline to shift resources around during stress, fight or flight.  It helps sharpen our focus, releases stored energy, increases blood pressure and muscle strength.  We are lucky to have it (Dr Rostenberg) – it helped me to survive an abusive childhood.

It’s quite possible that I wasn’t born with the ‘worry’ variations.  Trauma changes our brain and the body does indeed keep the score.  It is quite possible that the trauma I experienced from infancy through my teenage years turned on the variants of my genes.  I will never know for certain.  What is true?  I have variants and the big question has been how to care for myself.

So, what I am learning is that something so powerful requires effective management.  My body needs help; from myself and others.  The past few months have been quite stressful in all areas of my life.  It has never been more apparent to me just how much my husband has lovingly taken the role of a comforting caregiver to me.   He rarely leaves me in distress.  Thank you Jesus!  He provides a healing secure attachment in my life.

It has always made me curious how well he handles stress.  And yes, I’ll admit over the years it has made me angry at times.  While I’ve been spinning in my adrenaline deluge, he has already found a place of calm in the midst of tension.  What? Does he not know how serious this situation is?  Does he even care?  What’s wrong with me?  No wait, what’s wrong with him?  It all makes so much sense to me now.  He has a body that can regulate adrenaline well.  It is how he is made.  And my body, either through creation or environment, has an abundance of adrenaline that needs kind, extra help.  I have found that  kindness starts with me by not criticizing myself for how my body functions during stress, but to be mindful – paying attention to what is going on with me in the present moment.

So, here are a few things that I know my body needs:  1. Eat as cleanly as possible.  I also have issues with inflammation that ramps up adrenaline.  This was difficult.  Not that I ate junk food, I don’t like being restricted.  I am learning that healthy boundaries make me feel better and I do like that!  2. Moderate exercise is a must for me.  It helps calm my nervous system down.  I used to do a high intensity work-out, but it kept my system ramped in a fight mode for hours later – although I accomplished a lot, it was dangerous to my body.   3. Get at least 8-9 hours of sleep.  Easier said than done; I usually get 7.  And yes, I needed help with this too.  No shame if you need a supplement to help you sleep.  4.  I say no more often and take time for me.  Recharging is not selfish or lazy.  I don’t have to be and do all things.  Phew!  Again, healthy boundaries that help me feel better.  5.  I visit a chiropractor regularly to keep my joints, muscles and nerves functioning properly.  6. A spirit of gratitude.  It may seem like an overused concept these days, but gratitude does change my attitude and brings peace to my heart, mind and body.  7. Spiritually speaking – it is God that brings my soul and body to true rest – trusting Him during difficult seasons or everyday stresses.  No secret this is easier said than done and I still on occasion wrestle with God about trials and His care for me.

I do feel a little high maintenance at times.  Again, kindness required.   In perspective, I have years of care to make up for and my body is more than ready.  I am learning more and more how important it is for me to give my body care and compassion.

‘What-if’ is an influential phrase and mindset.  Negatively it has the power to keep me in distress with thoughts which can lead to raw frantic words, actions and cynicism.  Where there is no hope.  Positively it can be the catalyst for change and the stuff that dreams are made of.  It can bring me joy instead of fear and resolute courses of action.  I get to choose to be aware of my feelings and determine those that need my reaction.  I am no longer a child swept away by the responses of others.  Hope resides here and ironically as I have heard it stated, “When we give ourselves over to a hope that moves us closer to the person we are meant to be, it quickly becomes unmanageable.  Because, ultimately it is not meant to be managed.  It is meant to be parented.”  (Trapper Lukaart – Allender Center Blog, January 26, 2017)

Most of you reading this do not have my gene or abuse experiences.  And as I read and listen, there seems to be much distress in this world.  So I wonder, what if… you took the time to find out what your body, mind and spirit needs during these stressful times.  For me it has allowed me to hear not only myself, but to hear others and find compassion for their distress and pain.

It is my hope that you will find true peace in the midst of this crazy world.

Until next time, I’m off to parent my heart, mind and body.  What if… oh my, the startling , wild goodness of hope.

**You can read Dr. Rostenberg’s article here:  http://www.beyondmthfr.com/a-genetic-cause-of-pain-and-anxiety-comt-mao-and-mthfr/

pc: bing.com

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For the record, I am not a Scrooge.  There have been many joyous Christmas seasons over my many years on this earth.  Although, I have experienced more than a few dark Christmases of loss; ones in which my heart waited and longed for The Light.

I have friends who are blessed with the gift of festivity.  They start the Christmas countdown early and seem to joyously squeeze out every minute of the glorious fa-la-la this season offers.  These friends herald the season loudly and joyously.

As a child I longed for this magic and delight of Christmas, but it was tethered by fear.  With Santa and God watching over little boys and girls, I was certain I didn’t stand a chance.  My life experiences proved to my young mind that I would indeed be stamped naughty and zapped before dawn.  “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  A prayer whispered in earnest by a little girl trying to figure out her broken world.  Christmas morning brought temporary relief from my anticipated doom.  I was not dead and there were sweets and trinkets not coal in my stocking and presents under the tree.  Somehow, perhaps miraculously, I had escaped my ultimate doom for another year.

So you see Christmas joy has been a journey.  One I believe I have struggled well for as an adult and allowed my spirit to fill with its wonder.

And.

More than any other year it has felt that Christmas has been forced upon me.  Those of you who know me well – I don’t like to be forced into anything.  Carried with it are the messages that by this time I should have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf” at least twice each, enjoyed the Christmas music the moment it was piped through the system and had my tree up the day after Thanksgiving, [oh wait perhaps even before].  Commercialism seduces me to believe there is something wrong with me.

What I really want, what is “wrong” with me, is to wait.  I yearn to anticipate, hope and celebrate – in my own way, in my own time.  For me, Christmas is a time of honoring the current and yes even some of the past hurts and disappointments this season has held for my heart, body and soul.  It starts small and quiet as I ponder my need for The Light and name the particularities of my grief.  Deep sorrow accompanies me as these sad memories surround my aching heart with the naming of my story.  I want to escape this feeling of death, and I cannot.  Peace has been shattered and it does not my heart well to swallow it.  I cry out to the heavens!

But this is not a sorrow unto death.  It is a sorrow unto life!

Wait for it…

Somewhere on the horizon of my heart, a small light appears.  I hear the soft cry of the Savior.  It is here where my spirit finds the courage to surrender to His comfort and joy.  I feel sorrow for what I have done to keep me separated from my story and to hide my face from Jesus and the story He has created in me; where I have done my very best to protect myself from death and find shalom apart from Him.  Upon my return, He greets me lavishly – no coal, no sticks, no zapping, no death, but life!  Even if circumstances have not changed, my heart is at rest.

The wait is over… and it has been one full of awe and gratitude.  A journey of all this sacred season deeply offers to my heart and soul.  It has filled me with a great joy!  Oh my…I truly love Christmas.

And now it is time to celebrate!

PC:pixels.com

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We both sighed deeply as we entered the gates of the property.  It’s been a busy year.  Bob and I were looking forward to the chance to rest and catch our breath before the holidays.  Prior to our get-away, we had experienced two days of rather sand-papery communication.  My exaggerated responses to our miscommunication and disappointments could have been my first clue that something much deeper was going on in me.  But I ignored the signs.  All would be well; nothing a bit of respite in the beauty of one of our favorite spaces wouldn’t cure.

Forty seven years ago in November, my father walked away.  My body still feels it today.

I hadn’t seen my father since the end of that Nebraska summer when he left looking for a new job.  Goodbye hugs and promises to quickly return and bring us to Minnesota began to fade with the autumn colors.  My mother decided to load up the car and make the long drive.  Her hope was a reunited happy family for Thanksgiving.

Upon our arrival, the bitter northern air echoed his icy reception.  Hope corroded as the hotel room erupted with angry words and violence.  To this day, I clearly remember the Right Guard can my mother threw at my father; impressive because I had never seen my mother so alive.   Yet, instantly she froze with my little sister clinging to her side.  There would be no new home in Minnesota.

Distraught we girls left the next afternoon for my grandparent’s home in Kansas.  I fought to stay awake all night to help my mother “drive” telling stories, singing, watching and talking about the stars and praying we would make it safely.  In the wee hours of morning, as family members slept, we silently crossed the threshold; tip-toeing through the first floor and up the winding stairs like thieves.  It felt like we had done something wrong. I remember feeling so happy we had arrived safely and afraid that even with family we no longer belonged.

I don’t know how long my mother cried.  It seemed like forever to a seven year old.  And somehow I knew her life was on the edge.  Ultimately she received appropriate care, healed, got back up, moved on and remarried.  But my wounded heart, my loss of home, face, voice and name were not cared for – at all.  I did not move on.  In spite of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona, he was still my daddy.  I hated the violence.  I loved him.  And he would never return.

They say time heals all wounds.  It is true that there came a time that I didn’t think about him every day, week or month:  Do you love me?  Where are you?  What are you doing?  Will you come back?  What do you look like?  Do you think about me?   Time had dulled the pain, along with his face and voice, but the ache for my father never went completely away.

For decades I have experienced seasonal depression that lasts for about 2 weeks.  It begins just before Thanksgiving and ends shortly thereafter. I have always been aware of “why” the phenomenon occurred, but pushed it away with humor, busyness and in the name of maturity.  After all, it was a long time ago and I just needed to grow up and get over it.

But, it followed me anyway.

In my early adult years I concluded this down-in-the-dumps mood was due to a lack of gratitude.  After all, I had a loving husband and daughters in which to enjoy life.  Be grateful for what you have Robyn – which is so very true.  And as a child, grown-ups often told me I was selfish.  So, this had to be the key.  More gratitude during this season of thanksgiving would cure my blues.  Right?

Wrong.  Surprised?  I was.  Gratitude was never meant to be a sponge that absorbed my sorrow.  Gratitude does not cancel out grief.  I adore my husband and daughters, and I am so grateful for the life we have together.  This joy did and does not eradicate the deep pain of a seven year old.  Life is full of the both/and – joy and sorrow can be experienced together.

Here’s the deal, shame disrupts gratitude and along with it connection and peace.  For years I had been ashamed for not moving on – because I was a grown woman, I should not continue to feel sorrow over trauma that I experienced as a child.  And there is only one thing that is big enough to cover shame, contempt; contempt for you and/or contempt for others.  My over reactions during this season, served to brilliantly push away connection and peace.  The very things my heart feared, yet desperately desired in my relationships with God, family and others.

So in honor of my seven year old, I will be paying attention to my body this season.  [Overreactions = Something Deeper is going on inside my heart]  I will remember what I lost at seven.  For those losses will always be sorrowful.  No, I don’t live in the pain of yesteryear, but it is appropriate and kind to remember and give care because my body has never forgotten.  I will also allow myself to experience God’s comfort in that little girl space of my heart.  Furthermore, it is my hope to spend this season in joy; enjoying life-giving connections with God and others.   And I will let my heart be glad, rejoicing in the bounty of God’s loving kindness towards me – for I do have so very much to be grateful.

I’m taking back Thanksgiving.  Now that my friends is what I call redemption!

(photo credit: Bing.com )

 

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The barrage of texts began at 2:30 am.  Unprovoked, over the next hour her venom spat paragraph after paragraph upon my screen.  Hurtful biting words seemingly crafted to rob me of my dignity.  By the end, there would be 15 full screens of text.   My night’s sleep ruined.

This was not my first experience with toxic interactions and this family member.  Her texts, voicemail and phone calls often ended in a rant.  Even opening her letters frequently took days for my agitation to calm.  Boundaries, kind words, owning my stuff, staying in the mess with her, inviting her to something different and good, never seemed to make a difference to her heart.  It was as if I had challenged her to a dual – pistol drawn.

There came a day when “no contact” with toxic family members was the right decision for me.  I did not do this lightly.  It’s not easy to cut off communication with a family member, especially a parent.  I struggle with the choice – always.  And my relationship with these family members was so toxic that I felt I had no other option.

Today I do not open their letters, read emails or listen to their voicemail’s – my husband protects my heart and tells me anything I need to know – and some of their phone numbers are blocked.  They are not my friends on Facebook.  I do not attend family dinners or celebrations – nor do I invite them to mine.   I’ve received a lot of push back, from family about my decisions.  Friends have been confused and have told me I have an issue with forgiveness (words that family has also shot my way).   Friends can’t imagine anything bad enough to stop interaction with family members.  And the church would often say, forgive and forget if I were a true believer of Jesus teachings.

I am the one who knows exactly how hurtful it is to interact with family members who have hurt me and continue to hurt me.

My growing up was riddled with emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse. Trauma created by family members who were constantly questioning my reality and experiences.  I grew up living in a pretended family story where things were magically “resolved” as if nothing wrong had ever occurred.

Past and present invitations to reconciliation and desires for a new kind of fellowship have been responded to with anger, blame shifting and being told I am a liar.  It is the family stance on Robyn.  For you see, nothing happened in their reality.  My heart holds much grief, for what has been lost and destroyed for me and our family.

Church, I believe Jesus came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.  And that includes not only my heart, but the hearts of my toxic family members.   I have let go of revenge and hatred.  I’m not going to lie, it was a painful process.  I do leave retribution to God.  Who is both loving and just.  However, letting go of personal retribution does not mean letting go of justice or the desire for it.  For me, justice has intensified and brings my heart to long for my abusers repentance and healing.  Where it has been possible I have extended grace and goodness to my abusers – no, I haven’t always done things perfectly.  I am human after all.   Furthermore, my heart desires to offer forgiveness.  Yet, no hands have reached out to claim it for their own.  Un-confessed sin is not mine to judge, but I am not obligated to be emotionally wounded by them for the rest of their life.  And oh my, how can one forget.  I tried that in my early adult years – thought it was spiritually mature – and my own little children were hurt in the process.  Forgive and forget was dangerous.  Oh church, biblical forgiveness is so very complex.  Please examine it deeply and teach it well.

I recently read a blog authored by Gabrielle Moss.  If you have toxic family members in your life, it’s worth the read.  “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Not Talking To Toxic Parents.”  http://www.bustle.com/articles/112474-5-reasons-you-shouldnt-feel-bad-about-not-talking-to-toxic-parents

Numerous times over the years I have re-initiated contact with family members.   Sadly, nothing has changed.  And I will reach out again someday.  For I yearn deeply for things to be different.

(photo credit: favim.com/image/266940/)

 

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“Sit still Robyn. Can’t you stop wiggling.” Came the hiss in my ear.

Expected to act like an adult as my little body screamed it was a small child. I might be in church, at the dinner table, watching television or riding in a car. Sitting still was problematic for a little girl with lots of energy. I was bored, ready to explore and play. But, It doesn’t take too many whacks in the head before you realize that sitting still is your best option at staying safe.

It’s like you’re hiding in plain sight.

Yet, I couldn’t bury the truth that I was a child. Try as I may, my breathing got faster, I began to itch and my muscles throbbed and ached. Eventually body parts went numb. I couldn’t stand it, I had to wiggle.

It just plain hurt to sit still any longer.

A few years back, I found myself sitting still – smack dab on the fence. Concerned about red flags I had experienced and the aftermath of wounded relationships, I was met with more than a few whacks to my heart. So of course, sitting on the fence seemed the safest place. At first it was a great view of the action. Perhaps I could hide out here until all the mess blows over.

The funny thing about hiding, while you think you are hiding from others, ultimately you end up hiding from your true self.

Honestly, fear drove me to fence-sitting. It had nothing to do with waiting out the storm or trying to see both sides. I knew which “side” to pick. And that is exactly what I feared, because it would come with a high price. After all, my heart had invested much over the years. Old fears of not belonging, being left behind and no longer being a team player bound my heart to that fence.

And the desire to belong is strong.

But, those fence slats pressed into my body and irritated my heart. While shifting only delayed the inevitable gnawing at my bones. The pain felt deep. I could feel myself numbing out. I was not myself.

It was time to move.

Jumping off the fence, my heart and body felt stiff. I fumbled through the fog of my fears. I wobbled forward only to stop and pull out a splinter or rub feeling back into my muscles. My voice returned. And I didn’t always say what people wanted to hear.

Ahh…It’s so good to show up as me.