What’s next?

That is my question regarding this blog.  While unburdening myself to two friends regarding the emotional stress of simultaneously writing a book and a blog about abuse, one asked, “Can you do both at the same time?”  Stopped short in my tirade, I have been tossing her question around in my mind for a few of weeks.   This is the scenario:

When I am writing the book I am reliving the past; when I am blogging I am reliving God’s healing work in the present.  Both are intense, require extreme focus and deep thinking, and can be quite emotionally and mentally draining.  Thus, it is hard for me to jump from one to the next; in fact, I have not found that possible.  It seems to be all or nothing, one or the other.

What does this mean for the blog???  For one thing, I know I need to focus more on the book which will result in fewer posts on the blog (which I have begun to do already).  Will I stop blogging entirely?  I don’t know.  I’m going to have to see where God leads. 

So the down the healing path I will continue to go.  To all my faithful friends, thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement and support.  Don’t stop; I still need all of that!  I will try to keep you updated on the process.

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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!”

The next day

I rolled out of bed the morning after praying with my friend, and I stopped in my tracks (or mid-roll might be a better description).  Wait a minute, thought I…that movement happened fairly easily without flinching and stopping and starting due to tight, sore back muscles.  Hmmm…could this be one of the results of yesterday’s healing prayers?  I moved quickly through my morning routine noticing how free my movements were compared to the previous day’s heaviness and inertia.  Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I continued to observe myself, cautiously happy about my renewed energy and drive. 

Still afraid to totally embrace the restoration that God had begun to bring about, I envisioned my heavenly Father before me, His arms wide open in a gesture of acceptance and love.  But, I had a hard time meeting His eyes.  Deeply ingrained inner patterns caused questioning to arise.  Could what had happened be real or was it just another cruel joke, a perverted teasing that delighted in lifting my spirits in hope, but then mercilessly dashing them to the ground?  (a favorite pastime of my dad’s)   Despite great changes in my perception of who God is as my Father, sometimes old residual thought processes still taint my relationship with Him.  (There was a time when I prayed only to Jesus for I could not open myself up to a God called Father.  My relationships with my mom and sister have also tainted my relationships with women…at least I never had a brother to contaminate my relationship with Jesus.)  Oh my God, my heart cried, rid me of this barrier to knowing you!  So far you have brought me, how greatly you have changed my understanding of you…please continue Your work…and, I know He will, for when we pray in His will, we can expect Him to act accordingly with overflowing abundance.

Another old pattern I fought today was beating myself up.  There are many different ways in which I was taught to condemn myself; this one may seem silly…and, in a way it is except for the negative fallout which it inflicted.  Let me explain.  In Continuing on, I posted how the baton of my grandmother’s obsessive compulsive behavior had been passed on to me.  Bucking this expectation has sometimes been an uphill battle, but I have come far in learning how to relax over the past 30 years.  Yet, sometimes the baton still seems to appear in my hand, as it did on this day.  My pattern-breaking activity was to watch a little TV instead of continually working throughout the day (gasp!).  (To reassure you… this isn’t always a struggle now, but it was in the past.)  In my mind, I could hear my father’s voice dripping with disappointment has he expressed his sadness in my not living up to the family legacy.  Trying to pretend his reproach did not exist was not successful (as I need to learn to expect…pretending just doesn’t seem to work), so I accepted the fact of his censure and the inward struggle that arose from it.  But, acknowledging the reality of a situation is a step in the right direction, just as recognizing the truth of a circumstance is half the battle.  And, I can thank my Lord for enabling me to do that.

Two other things I noticed as I went through the day.  One observation came while I was walking the dog.  Seeing our neighbors outside on their patio enjoying the cool morning air, I approached them and shouted out my hello.  Immediately my attention was caught by how much more open my heart felt towards them and how much more free I felt in relating with them…interestingly our relationship has always been one of love and acceptance. The second observation came as I was writing this post.  The day before, I could barely put words on paper (figuratively speaking of course…since all this is done on the computer); on this day my thoughts were flowing.  Up to this point, I generally had edited my writing as soon as I wrote a sentence or paragraph, trying to get everything written as instantly perfect as possible.  (Needless to say, that creates a very slow process.)  Moving forward, I decided to adjust my writing habits.  Henceforth, I would just jot down my thoughts, focusing on the gist of the story and leaving the editing for later.  I do not expect writing to ever come quickly to me, but I do expect this will help relieve the stress of composing the text.

Will all this continue and grow?  I don’t know…but, one thing I do know, when we prayed together, my friend asked the Lord to help me see things differently…my guess is that this is the beginning of His answer.

The board revealed

Weeks after the nighttime revelation of which I spoke in my last post, realization dawned that the board was my dad and his presence was still oppressing me.  Deep gut-wrenching anger and hatred towards him began to well up inside me.  But, before delving into those feelings, I would like to explain how my understanding of the plank’s meaning came about.  Here was my train of thought:

I began by wondering if the board was constructed by my child as a shield to ward off the pain of my dad’s sexual abuse and the many other detrimental patterns of my family of origin.  Then, when anger and hatred began to well up inside me, I began to visualize hurting my father…kicking him, beating him, scratching him.  With this understanding of the extreme loathing and animosity I harbored toward him, the question came…could my emotions be the board that was suffocating me and causing so much physical tension and anxiety?  As I turned this over in my mind, I became aware that the board had seemed to come by its own volition; I had nothing to do with its appearance.  While contemplating this thought, a new picture appeared: the plank began forcefully moving against me, and I had nothing to do with its action.  Internally rebelling against facing the truth and not wanting to be placed once again in that frightening room which held my father’s bed, I reluctantly allowed God to help me see that the plank was a representation of my father and his sexual abuse to my small toddler’s body. 

The next phase in this process took me down a curious route.  I tried to imagine singing (which is something that is difficult for me to do, even though I have been developing my voice for many years), and I couldn’t.  I imagined trying to do anything that I loved, and the same thing happened.  (While writing this, I am realizing my father’s abuse destroyed my ability to be myself…I will dig into that in another post.)  Following those musings, an image came to my mind of what I was like when I was with people…I embraced the board, and it was absorbed into my body, which meant I was frantically trying to pretend to be someone other than the pain filled person I was…someone I perceived they would love.   Then I pictured the way I functioned when by myself, and I saw my arms crossed in front of me pushing with all my might against the weight, holding the plank about 8 inches from my body.  This turned my thoughts toward the constant tension and discomfort in my lower back, shoulders, neck and arms.  I have always guessed many of my physical problems were connected to my dad’s abuse, and these images confirmed that belief.  The stress of my child’s past was still reflected in the way I carried my adult frame.

Why was the board distinctly plywood ?  That question continued to niggle in the recesses of my brain as these reflections unfolded.  It seemed odd that such a seemingly unimportant detail was so clearly significant.  As I scrolled down the computer screen searching for images to illustrate this post, the pictures to which I deeply responded were those in which beautiful light wood veneer covered the plywood layers beneath.  Thinking the appearance of the board should reflect the ugliness of my dad’s deeds, I rejected them and continued my search. Yet, I was unable to settle on one; the representations I chose never seemed entirely appropriate.  Viewing photos again which portrayed the original concept of a board with a pleasing appearance provided the catalyst needed for the puzzle pieces to fall into place in my mind.  The beautiful veneer depicted the decorative covering my father presented to the world; the layers beneath were the unmasked realities of his life. 

Where will this path of awareness lead?  Ultimately its destination will be healing, but the immediate outcome of these realizations did not bring relief from the oppression and pain which continued to weigh heavily upon me.  I got up from the kitchen table where my head had been resting on my arms during this process, and began to again slog through the day.   Meeting a friend that afternoon to share our lives with each other and to seek God in prayer provided a thin ray of light in an otherwise gloomy day.  In the past, God had chosen to work in us during those times together, relieving burdens and bringing healing; perhaps that would be His course of action today.  Tentatively hopeful, I headed to her house.

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)

Truck stop revelation (Onward in victory – part 4)

Pulling into a truck stop for a much needed bathroom break on our way to visit our daughter and son-in-law, I noticed a semi trailer parked by the side of the road with a large cross and something written about Jesus on its side.  I was reminded of an article from World Magazine about truck stop evangelism and happily said to my husband there would probably be a Sunday church service in that trailer.  With this realization lifting my spirits, we parked and visited our respective places of “rest”.  (Ahem….I will try to say this delicately.)  As I was “resting”, I heard groaning and muttering issuing forth from the furthest stall down the line.  First wondering if someone was very sick, I came to the conclusion there was a deeper issue being expressed.  Frantically praying, my mind raced…should I say anything, do anything or reach out to her in any way?  Then I remembered….mentioned in the same magazine article were truck stop prostitutes called lizards: women who scuttle from truck to truck selling their services.  Could she be one?

She was at the sink when I emerged from my ”resting” place, and I tried discreetly (hopefully) to observe her.  A young women, probably in her early 20’s, obviously in some sort of emotional distress with an underlying, frightening almost animalistic quality running through her expression of pain.  She continued her low indistinct utterances and soft moaning oblivious to my presence and then went out the door.  Right or wrong I did not speak to her.  Disturbed by her distress and not having conveyed my concern, I continued to pray as we paid for our snacks and went to our van.  As we drove away, I saw her walk toward a cluster of trucks parked behind a building somewhat separate from the station.   Leaning forward with head down, her steps determined as though approaching an unpleasant task, she adjusted her bra strap under clothing that draped unkemptly on her frame.  Certain she was selling herself, I desperately pleaded with my God to deliver her…perhaps He would touch her through those ministering at the stop in Jesus name.

Approximately a week after arriving home as I began to move through a new day, my shoulders and back felt like they were being compressed by a heavy weight.  Moaning a bit and muttering to myself, I stopped in my tracks.  I sounded like a less agonized version of the woman at the truck stop.  Quieting my spirit and listening for the still, small voice of my Counselor, the knowledge came that I was sharing the heavy yoke of sexual abuse with all those who have been violated and with all those who have perpetrated that despicable crime.  I also realized as we carried our burdens together, we were made sensitive to each other in a way that enabled me to discern the reason for my chance encounter’s suffering.  (Later, mental pictures of me showed my stride at times had been similar and my clothes had at times been as carelessly worn.)  Knowing this yoke needed to be lifted and broken, I prayed to my God to do so.  He raised it off my shoulders, and I broke it through the power of the name and shed blood of Jesus whose death and resurrection has destroyed the curse of sin’s dominion over those who believe.  Immediately the oppression lifted and the tightness in my back eased.  In awe of this revelation of the truth of His word, my spirit bowed amazed before my great and mighty God.

As the deft hands of my physical therapist probed tight muscles, I told him of my experience, wondering if he would find the knots in my back loosened.  Although pockets of tension still existed, he did notice a significant change elsewhere…a place in my neck, he had once described as an old wound always similar to an immovable rock, had begun to become flexible and pliable.  Like muscle instead of stone, for the first time he could press it and feel the vertebrate.  An old wound…certainly old, since I had been forced into the yoke of sexual abuse at age two.  Certainly a wound…inflicted like an axe chopping at the jugular, my dad’s shattering acts had drained my life force.  With this yoke removed, hardness had become pliable; release and freedom were being accomplished.  Rejoicing, I knew my God would carry on to completion the good work He had begun (Philippians 1:6), and I looked forward to experiencing further fruit from His labor.