Changes

I have been jotting down changes I have noticed since praying with my friend.  Here are the lists:

I have been able to forgive my Dad for:

  • Robbing me of my purity and innocence.
  • Making himself my first love.
  • Destroying the opportunity for my husband to be my first love.
  • Destroying my ability to be truly intimate in all ways.
  • Favoring my sister – after forgiving I was led to break my bondage to that family pattern both with my family of origin and with my existing family.
  • Making me dependent on him in very unhealthy ways.
  • Destroying my ability to be myself.
  • Not being a man or father I could respect .
  • Destroying my love for my name – hearing your father longingly murmuring your name from the darkness of his bedroom will do that…
  • Not being the father I needed.
  • Taking away my ability to experience God in the reality and truth of who He is as my Heavenly Father.

Fortunately, over the years God has been in the process of taking that which was intended for evil and working it for good as only He can. (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-29)  He has been healing me, and I have been growing into understanding and experiencing God and life as my Creator meant it to be.  He has been bringing me out of the darkness created by my earthly father into the light that is my Heavenly Father. (Isaiah 9:2, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:13)

Differences in the daily stuff:

  • Physical therapy has revealed a great difference in my body.  My muscles have become looser, more relaxed, and have responded more quickly to my therapist’s manipulation.
  • The above discovery gave rise to the following question.  Did the back pain I continued to feel following my last therapy session have more to do with our desk chair than abuse (oh, happy thought)?  Since that consideration came to mind, we have bought a new chair and my back, shoulders and arms feel much better!  (Wouldn’t you know that a cheaper chair is better for me physically than a big, fancy, mesh, more expensive chair…which we originally bought for my comfort while working on the computer…go figure…)
  • I am feeling more love for Bmy husband and am relating to him more freely.
  • My attitudes are more upbeat, and I am not as critical towards people and life in general.
  • I am more deeply moved by both joy and sorrow, which to me means I am living more in the now rather than being controlled by the past.
  • Here are a couple of things that occurred which were previously unheard of…one day I stayed in my pajamas until after lunch…I don’t know if I have ever done that…another day I slept so long I ate breakfast at noon. 
  • Writing has come more easily.
  • I am calmer and more joyful and am definitely laughing more.
  • A gear has shifted in my mind or a puzzle piece has fallen into place resulting in my perceiving the physical world in a slightly different way.  Somehow things are a bit clearer, colors brighter and everything appears to be more intensely real.

Now I know there will always be things about me that will need to be changed, and there wil be more battles to be fought (at least until I get to heaven).  Yet, I am so thankful for what my Lord has done now, and no matter what the future brings (figurative biting of the nails), I know He will work it for good in my life, to conform me to the image of His Son.  So, onward and upward…or as the unicorn cried in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle, as he sprang forward into the beauty of New Narnia, “Come further up, come further in!”

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Continuing on…

I must admit the birth of our amazing granddaughter has provided a much welcome break from the journey on which I have been traveling…her entrance into this world was like coming upon a sunny meadow after trudging for days through a dark, dank forest.  But, I hear the call of my God to continue my journey.  Staying in the meadow to avoid the painful, yet exceedingly joyful, path on which I have been traveling has begun to dry up my spirit.  Where else can I drink deeply from the well of Life but in the gracious will of my heavenly Father?  To meet and experience Him, to receive His ministry, to learn more of Him, to live with Him is far more soul gratifying than anything this world can offer.  So, again I move forward anticipating renewal, His love and His continued healing. (I am also still planning on enjoying our granddaughter!)

To refresh your mind, my last post (prior to those about our delightful granddaughter) was The terror cont’d in which I described concurrent nights of waking visions.  Subsequently, I experienced two more nights of visual revelations.  The first time, I awoke to see my small child crouched behind my grandparent’s living room couch carefully and meticulously using the nozzle tool to vacuum the carpet’s edge (this was one of the chores I was required to do)…and she was crying.  This was significant and unusual, for tears were not part of the culture of our household.  One did what one was told with no questions asked, talking was a rare commodity and expressing one’s feelings was unheard of.  Surprised by her weeping, I realized I was looking through a window into her heart, and for the first time I understood the pain and weariness of her toiling isolation.  She was being trained to take up the baton of her grandmother’s obsessive compulsive work ethic and dreary “I am a rock, I am an island” mentality (to quote Simon and Garfunkle)…there was no room for play or meaningful relationships; to learn to work was of first importance.  In the days and weeks following my newly gained perception, vignettes paraded across my mind of the manipulative drudgery required during the formative years of my child’s life by the ruling matriarch of our family.  In that environment, I learned my value was determined by what I could do, not by who I was.  Any sense of personal worth was wiped away, until the core of my being was filled with emptiness. 

I lived with the memory of her oppression and pain for days until I could bear it no longer.  To experience release, my God once again led me to forgive…to forgive my grandmother for trying to live her life through me, for trying to conform me into her image rather than helping me to grow into the person I was created to be, for not nurturing me and allowing me to be a child. 

Yet there was still a dark cloud hovering over my personal landscape, weighing me down and blocking the light from above.  Asking God for insight led me to realize I was still carrying my grandmother’s onus, the responsibility she had laid on my child to carry her legacy, her traditions, her code of life, the family curses and the family’s bondage.  Her burden had overcast my life with gloom, draining my energy, hiding hope and the wonderful plans God has for me.   

But, I was not bound forever!  At that moment of spiritual understanding, I refused to be her standard bearer any longer; I laid down her tyrannical charge on my life at the foot of the Cross.  There I saw the heavy mists of her powerful control absorbed into that instrument of Jesus’ death as smoke would quickly be sucked into a vacuum…and I gained a deeper understanding of what Scripture teaches when it states that Jesus “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” and bore on that torturous wood the wounds by which we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)  Through His sacrificial death, which defeated the powers of this dark world, her sin and misery was lifted from me, and I bore her burden no longer.

The terror cont’d – onward in victory

The next night I was stunned by the continuation of “the terror”.  Again, false expectations set me up for a rude awakening in more ways than one.  Naively supposing one night of rediscovery would bring relief to the affects of my dad’s four year war against my soul, I had blithely continued to new memories and experiences.  Imagine my surprise, when my child’s voice whispering desperately in the dark for her mommy startled me into consciousness.  Now, given that my relationship with my mom was less than stellar, I don’t particularly like it when that happens (and besides…I am 58 years old).  Also, I had thought I was finished with that phase (again those expectations).  Inwardly sighing, I turned my mind to my Lord for understanding and direction.

He began to bend my thoughts towards nighttime in the small, cramped house where we tried settling for a second time following my dad’s acceptance of a new job.  There, according to my mom, horrible nightmares would cause me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night.   Since I don’t remember much about those dark years, I have often wondered about the reasons for those distressing nighttime experiences and my frantic cries…in the darkness of this night I would find out.

After waking, my body began to convulse and with silent screams I began to relive the excruciating pain of my initial encounters with my father…again muffled by my gracious Lord and Savior.  (I wonder how similar this was to those frightening, forgotten nights in my 8 year old life…).  When I could no longer endure, I got up and moved to the couch.  There, once more, I was led to forgive.  I forgave my dad for his selfish, self-absorbed infliction of pain on my toddler’s body.  While writing this, I was struck with the realization that I must also forgive him for the pain he inflicted on her psyche: her soul, her spirit, her mind and her emotions.  So, I did.  And, miraculously, I drifted back into sleep.

Exhausted, the following morning I actually gave myself permission to relax, to be kind to myself (a thing unheard of in the past), and the day developed into a good one…praise God.  As I headed to bed that evening, I wondered if the night would hold any new revelations.  When I awoke in the dark, I found that it did.  This time, I gained a clear understanding that it was my dad’s choices which took him down the path of perversion.  His choices to disobey and rebel against his God (he was raised in the church with an understanding of Scriptures) and his repetitive conscious decisions to continue on that route were the cause of my suffering.  Again, I was led to forgive.  And again, I amazingly drifted back to sleep.   (Another buried truth has risen to my consciousness as I write… the abuse was his choice; it had nothing to do with me.  What relief!  I know that victims often blame themselves, but I did not know there was some residue of that belief still in me.)

The third evening, I eyed my bed with some mild trepidation wondering what, if anything, might be revealed there in the night.  Stirring in the small hours of the morning, I came briefly to the surface of slumber where an image awaited me…a mental picture of a steel ball.  This steel ball was at the core of my child’s being where her feelings had once resided.  Her inner person had become impenetrable and cold because of the continuous recurring trauma of her father’s abuse.  Her suffering was too great; becoming numb to the pain was the only way to cope.

Normally, following such a revelation, the pattern has been to forgive.  But, to my surprise, when I tried moving through that door, it was shut.   And, clearly that moment was not the time for it to open.  Sensing there was more that needed to be understood before I could cross its threshold, I surrendered to the greater wisdom of my God, trusting Him to guide me in the way I should go.  (This is what my God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8)  Gradually sleep again enfolded me.

The terror – onward in victory – part 11

The day after being freed from the leech of fear, memories of my dad’s sexual abuse began to come to the forefront of my mind.  These did not come as previous memories had; I was not observing theatrical vignettes from afar, detached from events with little emotion and sense of experience.  This time I was there, the suffering of my two-six year old child, the assault on her senses, the violence …her fear…were all mine.   That is all you need to know, dear reader, except that God protected me through it.  As a muffler protects our ears from the raw explosions of a running car’s engine, so my God absorbed much of the unbridled physical force and suffocating weight of my dad’s unmitigated, self-absorbed, maltreatment of his daughter.

What purpose was served by reliving such horror?  Again, I found the purpose was to forgive.  (Forgiveness seems to be one of the objectives of this tunnel journey.)   Because my experiences were beyond that which I could bear, my battered child coped by disassociating and forgetting…my first eight years were a blank in my mind; what I knew was information given to me by others…people who had their own biases, their own interpretations, their own agendas for the past.  I needed to rediscover my experiences, my reactions and how it all affected me to expose those unknowns from long ago which still controlled my present.  To recognize my own pain and hatred was the only way to reach the point of being able to truly forgive.  .

After these difficult days passed and I reached the end of this leg of my journey (which was the place of forgiveness), I awoke the next morning noticeably more relaxed with my arms and legs feeling a bit like cooked spaghetti (al dente, of course…).  Bodily tension has generally been part of my mode for sleep; my arms are tightly curled with my legs and back taut as though anticipating the night’s suffering.  Tension still is with me in the morning; my short, quick anxious breaths give lie to an inner turmoil.  Surprised enjoyment followed that morning’s waking freedom…what luxurious relief for my stressed body!  Light and peace also came to my soul and spirit providing re-creation for my being, a mini vacation from the strain of my internal travels.  Two nights and a day of tranquility undisturbed by stirred memories…two nights and a day of blue skies with no heavy clouds…ah, bliss!  Thank You God for R & R in the battle for healing…thank You for a time of restoration and revitalization.  Thank You God for the pause that refreshes, for bringing me to a bright spacious place before I again enter the dark, narrow valley.  You are so good…all of the time…You are good.

Darkness to light – onward in victory – part 8

I have often felt like a kid locked out of the candy store of life; hands and face pressed to the glass I longingly gaze through the window at those who are enjoying the treats inside.  The colors are bright and welcoming under the warmly glowing lights, but I am denied access and must always be on the outside.  This feeling comes and goes, but recently it came again in full force bringing with it intense emotional pain.  Grateful for my friendship with a deeply godly woman, I looked forward to meeting with her one evening to see if God would give us insight into the source of my distress.

As we shared our lives with each other, I began to go on and on and on about my sense of exclusion and lack of acceptance in a particular situation I was experiencing.  Perhaps perceiving I was dancing around the heart of the issue, she gently interrupted me by asking, “And, what is your question?”  After a moment’s thought I responded, “How long does one stay in a situation that is painful?  When do you know God is saying it is time to leave?”  (This has nothing to do with my husband or family.)  Her answer was to turn to God in prayer, and we began to worship and seek Him for His wisdom and guidance.

Little did I know my question went far beyond the circumstances of the present, reaching beneath the surface to a time I had not yet faced.  As we prayed, I began to weep.  Weeping grew to deep sobbing, wave upon wave welling up from a lost place inside.  Crying opened the floodgates to a dried riverbed that had been blocked by pain; the torrent of tears carried me deep into my soul to its beginning.  When the anguish gradually subsided, I found myself with inner eyes wide open gazing at one source of a lifetime of rejection…the reality of my young life at my grandmother’s house.

Oh, I already knew about my dad’s sexual abuse (which took place there) and my mother’s mental illness, but I had romanticized growing up with Granny.  Placing her on a pedestal, I believed she was the only one in my family who truly loved and accepted me.  I loved Granny…I loved that she cared for us to the best of her ability, but I needed to come to terms with the fact that her ability didn’t reach very far.  Indeed, she and Grandpa supplied our physical needs when our mother committed herself to the mental hospital, taking in my Dad, my sister and me, giving us food on the table and a roof over our heads.  For that I am thankful.  But, in the realm of emotional needs, she lacked the capacity to give the soul nourishment necessary for my sister and me to thrive and grow.  In fact, each adult in that house had their own agenda and their own enormous personal deficits of unfilled needs and unresolved hurts which blocked all ability to love another person unconditionally.  The truth had at last become clear.  There was never a time in my growing up years when the person I was created to be was accepted.  Everyone tried to shape and mold me into the person they wanted me to be, to satisfy their desires and to comply with their ulterior motives…even my Granny.  (Years ago, God had even brought healing to me from rejection in my mother’s womb.)  As much as I had tried to deny their existence, God knew the facts needed to be uncovered and acknowledged.  By bringing to my consciousness that which I tried to avoid, He answered the question I had asked my friend…He let me know the time was right to emotionally leave the painful situation of being raised in part by my grandmother.  This was the time He wanted to release the chains which continued to hold me captive to my family of origin to enable me to move further into the new life He had given me. 

Once again I forgave.  Once again I took another step further into freedom.  Once again God had used the pain of the present to unlock the suffering of the past for His purpose of wholeness and healing in my life.  Thank you Lord that your ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that in Your wisdom You have brought out into the light that which I longed to hide in darkness.  Thank You that You listened to my groanings and transformed your answer into so much more than I could have asked.  Thank You that Your word is true and we can believe it when it says, “Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Onward in victory – part 3 cont’d

When pondering the events of the last few days, I wondered how I would go about explaining the work God has been doing to resolve the pain of my 6 year old child (as postd in Onward in victory – part 3).  I was concerned about how people would receive it…whether or not readers would think I was insane, hallucinating or making it up.  But, while driving to my physical therapy appointment, I looked forward to sharing with my therapist knowing he embraced much of what I have learned from my Master and Teacher.  Imagine my chagrin when he plus an intern walked into the waiting room.  Oh no, I thought, someone new who possibly won’t understand…how can I open myself to an unknown?  But, with some gentle prodding I did and was received with understanding.  Praise God!  Even though I knew I would write this post no matter what, encouragement definitely helps…so here goes…

After yielding my wound to the Great Physician, I continued my journey, with God bringing to light one or two new internal places needing His touch.  Not expecting further revelation soon regarding part 3, I was surprised when my Healer’s gentle hands lifted a round object from my chest and held it protected and cupped before me for my observation.  I knew my heart was what I saw.  Covered by a thin layer of skin it throbbed and bubbled, festering from a deep infection due to rejection and non-acceptance by both my family and myself.  Understanding came as my heavenly Father took it to Himself; it was also my 6 year old person shaped, wounded and bruised by the hurtful events of my life and the attitudes and actions of all involved.  Discomfort and relief followed when she disappeared into the heavens.  Discomfort because I felt bereft and relief because the pain was gone.  Seriously, the pain in my chest was gone.  Other areas of my body still ached and were burdened with a weighty pressure (I believe much of this will be released in the future), but there was an incredible relief and lightness where my inner child used to reside.  (Picture Iron Man no longer having to carry in his chest whatever it was that powered his existence.)  As wonderful as it felt, I had questions…would I not be incomplete without her?   What was going to fill the newly created void?

“I pray for God to be your eagle with arms spread like wings to enfold you”, a friend commented after reading part 3.  What a beautiful picture, I thought.  As I recalled Deuteronomy 32:11, the picture of an eagle arose in my mind catching its young on its back as they are learning to fly.  Then reality took over imagination when I realized my child had been falling and God had swooped down, caught her and lifted her on His wings as an eagle.  She was soaring in the heavens on God’s back with joy-filled wonder embracing her and the wind of the Spirit easing the burdens off her shoulders and blowing the suffering out of her heart…my God had come with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2).  Rejoicing, I knew the Lover of My Soul was giving her care and she was more than safe; she was being rejuvenated.

The next morning, God lowered my heart, my child from heaven for me again to view.  Transformed, the ball of healthy flesh no longer churned in agony; smooth and calm, her peace was deep.  This was the answer to my question; my renewed inner child was the filling for my unoccupied heart  She was to reside within me again.  Reacting with fear, I recoiled.  Oh, how I didn’t want a recurrence of the pain!  As I withdrew, the empty cavity walls within began to collapse, and I could feel myself imploding.  Realizing the alternative was worse than the original challenge, I asked God to please prepare me to take her back.  Internal change needed to come with that enabling, for her loving Father would not allow her to return to a place of rejection and abuse.  How, O Lord, I cried out, could this happen?  Forgive, forgive, was the response.  So, I forgave. 

I forgave my mother for the rejection, abandonment, hatred and probably other things I don’t remember at the moment.  (This took time since forgiveness is a process of letting go of the pain and the desire for revenge in Jesus name and by the power of his Spirit and His shed blood…I must call upon His help for I have learned I cannot truly let go in my own strength.)  I asked God to take off and break the yoke of abuse I shared with her.  I broke generational bondage, again in Jesus name, so my family and I would no longer be linked to that which oppressed her.  And, I asked God to fill the empty places inside where pain and bitterness had resided (released through forgiveness), to yoke me to Himself and to bind me to Him and my family in health, love and in whatever way I/we needed.  (When letting go of something, I always ask God to fill the empty space with Himself and His good gifts, so the thing let go will not have a place to return (using the spiritual principle found in Luke 11:24-26).

Ready now to receive my sweet child, God slowly emersed her into me, her home.  Gradually my body infolded the sphere, and we began melding together.  This will be a process of learning to care for and of getting to know each other.  But, it will be good…we are at peace, and the pain has not returned.

A burden not meant to be carried

Driving home from a wonderful trip visiting our daughter and son-in-law I felt tired.  Understandably, considering we drove 1,200 miles straight through to get there and then happily painted and gardened and did projects and shopped and ate and laughed and hugged and cuddled and loved each other (I am so thankful to the Giver of all Good Things for the gift of my family).  But, this was more than the pleasant tiredness that one feels after a joyful, busy time.  This was an inner weariness, a life-sucked-out-of-you fatigue, a restlessness of discontent within my spirit.  Searching with my God for an answer, these verses sprang to mind, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  I recalled a mental picture God had once given me of two oxen yoked together, plowing a field…one older, stronger, more experienced (the teacher) the other younger, just learning about the work it was assigned to do (the student).  The teacher’s shoulders were muscular and broad, built to carry the heavy yoke.  No weight was meant to be supported by the student; its part in bearing the yoke was to keep pace with the teacher and thus learn from the wisdom of the elder. 

Now, imagine this younger oxen chafing at that yoke, thinking it knows better than the other about how to do this thing called plowing.  It tries to run ahead to a different pasture (the grass is always greener), tries to move sideways into another part of the field to speed up the process (focused plodding can seem excruciatingly slow), tries to walk backwards to fix a furrow (nothing is ever done well enough), or just tries to sit down because it is tired of working (it deserves a break today).  Pain and discomfort are the result as muscles and joints strain against the bond with its teacher; the yoke which-was-never-meant-to-be-carried jarring, pushing and pulling its shoulders, neck and head. 

You can probably guess where this is going.  I was the younger oxen, and something within me was out of sync with the rhythmic step of my Teacher.  My spirit was being rubbed and irritated by a tension in my mind and heart pulling against the forward movement of the Prince of Peace.  What was this not-meant-for-me burden I was trying to carry?  What did I need to give the Wise One to shoulder, so I could experience His rest?

Understanding dawned as I saw myself trying to walk backwards to fix an already plowed furrow.  That furrow was in the finished field of parenting my young children.  So much I regretted about the job I had done; so much I wish I could change….little children dragged through the muddy earth of a mom suffering from overwhelming memories and fears.  Creating a healthy environment in which they could grow and develop was a daunting, challenging struggle, one I frequently lost.  Tears, emotional instability, anxiety and depression were often the order of the day, and although I did my best to overcome there was still fallout in the lives of my children from my dysfunction.  Try as I might, I cannot go back and straighten the crooked rows; I cannot till the clotted soil or remove the offending rocks.  I can only trust the master Gardener to nourish, water and Son warm that which has already been done, so wondrous fruit can grow out of imperfect ground. 

How to stop trying to carry the burden of self-inflicted condemnation which my Jesus bore for me when He was yoked to the cross?  How to stop trying to break up the dirt clumps of remorse over immutable actions and attitudes?  Forgiveness.  Give forgiveness to myself for the unintended consequences of living a life shaped by human behavior beyond my control.  Acceptance.  Accept the past with hope, for “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) and know that He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Trust.  Trust the One who cares for us more than we could ever ask or imagine, the One who loves my kids more than I do and the One who understands all that transpired and all that affected them in their growing up years.  Be thankful.  Be thankful for the good times (and there were good times), for my husband, our rock in the midst of chaos, for those who supported us and for the God who walked with us through it all.  Be thankful for the good work He has already done in bringing healing to our family and maturing precious children into delightful young women.  Be thankful that this loving God will continue to walk with us and that He will carry His good work “on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  And, walk forward.  Walk forward with the Giver of Life who’s yoke is easy and who’s burden is light….and I will find rest for my soul.