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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.

State Forest

A friend tagged me on a Facebook post.  A challenge that read:

“Girls can be mean, so let’s share the love.  All of the women that I’m nominating are strong women that I admire and inspire me for one reason or another.  You’re all beautiful.  It’s that time of the year  when we often get challenged.  And now I’m challenging you.  So, upload 3 photos that make you feel the most beautiful.  Then challenge 37 or more gorgeous girls that you think are beautiful to do the same.  Build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down!!”

I couldn’t do it.  That first phrase stopped me cold.  Because let’s be honest, girls can be mean – whatever age.

Female relationships can be difficult and complicated.  Often competition lines are drawn.  Not to mention all the comparing of bust lines, waistlines, bottom lines, wrinkle lines and finish lines.  Add gossip, misunderstanding…  And oh yes, let’s not forget envy.

And it doesn’t have to be like that.  There’s so much more.

The day began with an early morning walk with my friend.  Our conversation was deep and personal.  No chit chat for us girls.  My heart lightened with the goodness of being in her presence.

Years ago when we first met, it seemed like we had known one another for a lifetime – odd how that happens.  She gets me.  I get her.  However, we don’t speak regularly on the phone.  Nor do we spend predictable time together.  No standard lunch or coffee dates.  It’s been a few months since I had last seen her.  And yet, these moments seem to be perfectly timed for our hearts.

Where I am mature, she is young.  And where I am young, she is mature.  I am better because of her.

She is dear to me.

Perhaps most important to me, she is not envious.  My friend accepts herself, her gifts and her strengths.  She’s intentional to remember her authentic self, no copy of someone else – true to herself and her talents.  A woman who knows that life’s not feast or famine, it’s a buffet.   There are opportunities everywhere.  She’s not out to conquer, it’s in knowing herself that brings life to herself and others.  My friend doesn’t need me or our friendship to be good enough.  She is at peace with herself, knowing she is a woman created in God’s image – seen by Him, known by Him, loved by Him.

And, on the days she doesn’t like who she sees in the mirror or wanders from the truth – she struggles well to honor her true beautiful self, choosing to turn her face to Jesus when He calls her name.  Yes, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

She’s not perfect, she is authentic.

We parted ways all too soon.  I left her that day knowing, she is a woman that if I royally screwed up, labeled and forsaken by others, she would be standing close beside me in the mess with her own designated letter upon her chest.

She is a rare find, a soul sister.

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“Hey Robyn, I was taken off guard by our abrupt ending. Do you think we could meet again and try to end well? I think it would be good for both of our hearts.”

Full disclosure, I was the one who instigated the abrupt ending.  Sigh…

Endings are difficult. I’ve discovered I don’t do them well. And if my heart is involved, I really dislike endings. Perhaps that is how it started – this not ending well. I did not want to bear the heartache of endings.

Growing up there were few happily-ever-after conclusions and lots of painful endings with no emotional follow-up from the grownups in my life. My parent’s marriage, family, friendships, pets, twenty-six moves which found me in many new cities and states by the time I was 17. All these experiences created a bottomless pit of pain that I hated.

With no one to comfort or help hold the ache; I did what I could to end the agony that became too big for my tiny heart to bear.

As I grew older, envelopes arrived with backsides splashed with bold curly-q letters, “Best Friends Forever” or “Deliver, De-letter, De-sooner, De-better,” filled with promises to write till we died. It all sounded so good, which added to the distress of knowing the letters would quickly stop arriving in our mailbox. My friend Carol from 5th grade did her best and wrote for almost a year, until our moves outran the postal forwards.

Over and over again, people were leaving my life. It felt easy and right to guard my heart with a fierce, “it doesn’t matter, I’m never going to see you again anyway” attitude. It’s like I became a shark, in need of forward movement in order to breathe. Unable to stand still in the sadness, if I stopped I might drown.

And that’s what I did, just kept moving on. Never looking back.

This past April, I had two exquisite invitations to end well. They scared the-you-know-what out of me as desire had been aroused in these relationships. And yet my heart was hungry for something different. It was time to put away my childlike ways of protection. They were invitations to respond kindly and maturely to the ache of the “we will never pass this way again” – the ending. And to honor all hearts involved.

Ugh, so difficult!

And oh my… in the end (no pun intended) so very lovely.  My hope is to continue to offer my heart well to the very end.

Now some of you may be saying: “That’s all good and fine in amicable endings, but I’m more than ready for things to end with this person or that group.” -Or- “Our relationship is toxic.” -And- “Robyn, it’s just time to cut my losses and move on.” Believe me, I’ve been there. In certain circumstances it is prudent to end and to end quickly.  Possibly abruptly.  Maybe ending wasn’t even your choice – it felt forced upon you.

Even then, “Will you honor your heart?” Yes, in the midst of ending a bad situation,  when it’s messy, harmful, or for the greater good of all concerned – there are places of goodness that I’d invite you to bless and honor in order to end well for your heart. It’s possible they once aroused your spirit – bless a heart that is alive and can be awakened. And then bless your awakening of the harmful dysfunction. Perhaps there are children you have from the relationship – bless and honor the goodness of their lives. Bless what you have learned about yourself from knowing that person. Honor the truth that set you free.  Yes, even honor the disappointment of a relationship gone badly. Take the time to grieve what you have lost – don’t swallow the pain and just move on.

“You know.” I said to my friend. “I’ve been thinking about that very thing and feel sad for how things ended. I would love for us to meet again and end well.”

The conversation was full and intimate. A part of our journey together had reached its end. Tears easily flowed from both pairs of eyes making rosy cheeks shine. We were leaving what was over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives, while acknowledging our relationship would be different moving forward; an engagement that brought dignity to our bond.

Endings done well are intentional. They honor the road that’s been traveled together; acknowledge the relationship will look different moving forward and stir-up hope for something different, if possible, in the future – if not with them, perhaps with someone else.

“We can trust our future to God.” she said.

It all left my heart aching, oddly comforted and longing for much more in my relationships. Endings are always sad, even when there is something to look forward to on the other side.

My friend was right. It brought much goodness to both of our hearts.

And guess what? I’m still breathing!

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Purge, change, let go, organize, plan, resolve…words flittering around the Internet like neon signs. It’s the New Year – out with the old and in with the new. The tug is on to change your life.

And…

Funny, no one talks about what we will keep, what we will hold gently and move forward as the new year dawns.

Here are a few things I want to hold from last year; things my body, mind and heart have fought diligently to find and carry.

Gratitude, and practice it each day. I’m not one for magic bullets. I resisted getting on the gratitude bandwagon. Not because I am ungrateful – mostly everyone was doing it, posting it, encouraging it, journaling it, as the answer to all of life’s attitude problems. I don’t like to be duped. So I found something a bit different. The intentionality of the gratitude practice remained while coupled with seeking God’s Presence – made gratefulness a game changer in my life. It brought not only the words, but created for me an intimate relational experience with my Heavenly Father. So, my hope this year is to awake being grateful to God for another day of life – to hone my eyes to gratefulness and hold it close to my heart.

Which brings me to the next holding. To keep my heart open to God’s Presence. To sacredly hold these moments, subtle and glorious, wild and restful throughout my days. To eagerly look for His Presence in the world around me. He’s there you know… Gently touch your face. Yes, He is that close.

I desire to hold the courage I have been given in kindness. Seasoning my words and actions in love. Battling for my heart and the hearts of others with grace and truth.

In 2015 I felt like a very small child thrust into a PH.D level course of understanding more fully what is going on in and with my body and emotions. I was not happy to say the least. And…Oh my, I’ve learned a bunch. In this season I am learning to bear what is going on inside of me. It has been difficult to allow my body to feel and experience what’s happening and befriend some deeply buried emotions. This year I hope to continue to hold sorrow with kindness and joy with extravagance. Keeping both in close proximity.

I’ve struggled with forgiveness in new ways this year. To clarify…with that “forgive and forget it” type of forgiveness, without really understanding what the “it” is all about. The exchange of the words, when our hearts don’t even understand the pain. Stuffing “it” down somewhere deep, only to have it ooze out later in b”it”terness. And we certainly cannot forget, which keeps us in more shame for not doing it right or not having enough faith or… Leaving us haunted by whether we offered true forgiveness. There is much I could write here… Yes, forgiveness is a choice. And I am sure you have your own opinion. I believe forgiveness is a process of grieving over pain we have received. Owning the sorrow, revoking revenge and inviting others to repentance and reconciliation. Something not lightly offered or given. There will be a cost and ultimately it will give your heart freedom from a heavy yoke to offer it – even when the giving of forgiveness is not possible or they are unable to receive it through lack of repentance – and yes, even when reconciliation is not possible. So, I do hope to give and receive forgiveness this year. To love one another in this way and to hold forgiveness close to my heart- ready to offer it with grace and truth.

A friend has said something like this, “Dreams, require defiance, involve spiritual warfare and a hell no and a heaven yes! What in your life are you willing to die for? What are you willing to live for?” I want to hold big dreams with hope. Dare to see them, risk to taste them and boldly live to carry them out.

I want to know more fully and remember who I am created to be – a woman uniquely created in the image of God. In kindness I will hold it before me to guide my mind and heart.

Going forward, my being longs to gently embrace the splendor of beauty – my own, in others and in the world around me.

I hope to hold struggling well. Caring appropriately for my mind, body and heart in the midst.  Because even with a heart holding gratitude, difficult and harmful experiences come our way.

My heart longs for the continued and growing intimacy I have with my beloved husband. That my friends has been ground hard fought over the years as a couple. I don’t intend to let that go.

This certainly isn’t my full list and…

Yes. I will make a few changes. Say no more often, get rid of a few things, organize to make life easier and set some goals.

So, here’s to 2016. May you find much goodness. I do hope you have many joyful life-giving things to hold close to your heart in this New Year.

If not, it really is time to make some changes.

Mostly, I’ll be holding on.