Digital Art: Pocket Full of Happy

Sometimes our own little world is not very happy. Bad stuff happens. Pets die. Friends disappoint us. Parents get old and sick and spend their remaining months or years in a nursing home.

Having battled depression most of my life, I like being around happy people and creating happy stuff. I hope my creations put a smile on your face. As always, they are free for you to use. Click on any picture to enlarge.

 

Be Still and Listen

I raised the windows in the living room, poured a cup of coffee and snuggled in my favorite chair. The one that glides and swivels so I can keep busy while I’m sitting and doing nothing. The one that Pepper loves when she curls on my lap and I rock her to sleep. The one where I sit and think and dream and talk to God.

So, as I sat gazing out the window, feeling the breeze, listening to the wind chimes, and watching the salamander skittering across the porch rail, God whispered,

“Stop pushing so hard and trying to fix everything. Stop fretting about getting old. Stop worrying about your husband’s diabetes. Stop complaining because you can’t do things you did ten years ago. Just keep trusting me. I have everything under control. I will never let you down.”

Yeah. God whispered that to me this morning through the gentle breeze, the tinkling wind chimes, and the salamander skittering across the porch rail.

I Want More of This and Less of That

I got a makeover today. I asked the makeup artist to make my eyes look bigger, my nose to look smaller, and my lips to look fuller.

Yeah, I’m just clowning around. But how many of us are never satisfied with our looks? As a kid, I used to sit for hours drawing before and after pictures of myself because I never liked what I saw in the mirror: freckles splattered all over my face, eyebrows and eyelashes you couldn’t see with the naked eye, and straight, stubborn red hair. And I was skinny. Like, Olive Oyl skinny. My clothes looked better on the coat hanger than they looked on me.

But, I wasn’t alone in my self-loathing world. My best friend was so self-conscious of her weight that it was like coaxing a mule to get her to poke her head out the door. Another friend hated her feet and nose and said they were the two ugliest body parts ever. And then there was the boob thing. They were either too big, too little, or non-existent. Guess where I fit in.

It’s a shame that many of us go through life feeling “less than” for whatever reason. Why do we do that? What is so awful about that body part we don’t like? So awful that we feel we belong in a zoo; or even worse, a freak show. So awful that many have spent thousands of dollars to fix only to end up broke and just as dissatisfied as ever.

Ken and Barbie didn’t help much. And neither did models and movie stars with their dazzling eyes, flawless skin, and perfect bodies. The unspoken message was and still is, what you see is what you should look like. And if you don’t, you might as well wear a bag over your head.

And we believe it!

I fell into that deep dark hole of believing that people didn’t like me because I was ugly. The truth is, I didn’t like myself because I believed I was ugly. I believed that from head to toe something was really wrong with me. I mean, really! Other girls my age had boobs. Why couldn’t I?

According to guys, boobs were way better than brains. I grew up with brothers, I know. They would laugh and tell me I was a pirates dream because I had a sunken chest. And they hid Playboy books under their mattresses and google-eyed every girl who bounced like a pair of basketballs when she walked.

So yeah. I got the message loud and clear. If you don’t have boobs you might as well be dead.

While laying in the sun one day, my bathing suit stuffed with toilet paper, I felt completely hopeless of ever looking like a real girl. But I believed in prayer. I even believed in miracles. So I prayed, “Lord. Please give me some boobs!”

Today, I’m so thankful God didn’t give me what I asked for. And I’m thankful that I learned to love myself as I am. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how can we possibly love and accept others? If all we see when we look at someone is their physical appearance then we’re not seeing that person at all. There’s so much more to a book than its cover. You have to open it. You have to read it. Only then can you know and appreciate what it’s all about.

So I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what color your skin is. I don’t care if you walk with a limp, stutter when you talk if you’re gay or straight or have tattoos and piercings from head to toe. I care about your heart. And I judge whether I want you as my friend by what’s in your heart.

It’s been a long, hard journey, this self-discovery thing. A journey that most of us have traveled. And until we can realize that there is no “perfect” in this world we’ll never end that torturous journey. We’ll never be happy with ourselves. We’ll never dig deep inside ourselves to see what really makes us tick. We’ll die wishing we could be like someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Lock Me Up and Throw Away the Key!

I sat on the edge of the sterile, paper-lined examining table, laughing at my husband’s silly jokes, my mind racing like a team of runaway horses. My husband accuses me of never being able to sit still for five minutes without jumping up and doing something.

A brief knock at the door and the doctor walks in, shaking his head and rolling his eyes playfully. Laughing nervously, I said, “Yeah, I know. Just cut off my head and be done with it!”

He sits in the chair across the room, crosses his long legs and patiently begins his interrogation. I look at my husband for comfort, wishing we were at the beach or the Bahamas; anyplace but here.

Finally, satisfied that I had answered all his perplexing questions accurately, he has a diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder.

Great! Not only do I feel crazy, I am crazy!

Suddenly, it all started making sense, though, why my brothers called me Sybil, why the rollercoaster of high’s and low’s, the crying spells, the anger and rage, the gnawing, gut-wrenching feeling that something is wrong with me. No normal person flies into a rage over a squeaky chair or broken vase. And certainly, no normal person feels like a terrorist lives inside them, setting off bombs and blowing up their insides and sense of reality their entire life.

No wonder I was more wildcat than my mother could handle. We were like two live wires striking against each other creating more sparks than either of us could handle. She didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her, yet, we were both the same.

So, I’m sitting there thinking, now what. Am I stuck like this? Do I just live out the rest of my days feeling guilty because of who I am, hating myself because no matter how hard I try I can’t get my act together? Give me a break, I’m old. I’m running out of time!

Other than gaining an ounce of wisdom and a sliver of understanding, I’m no better off now than I was before sitting in the doctor’s office. I’ll take the medicine like he prescribed and just keep doing the best I can. Since I can’t tame the beast within I’ll keep avoiding people, places, and things that make it roar the loudest. I’ll try to stop cleaning my house all night long and pushing myself to the nth degree in everything I do. I’ll try giving myself permission to screw up and work on forgiving the stupid things I do and say.

But, do you have an inkling how hard that is? People with mental disorders feel they have to be punished; purged from their abominable sins to be allowed back into the human race. They have to work twice as hard to receive half the benefit of “normal” people. We have to hide who we really are, don’t dare show the world our ugly side. Keep it stuffed way down deep and never, ever let that stinking sewage rise to the surface and erupt. Do you see the dilemma? do you feel the pain and desperation of just wanting to be okay?

Pretending became a way of life for me, and how I hate pretending! It goes against the grain of who I really am. So many times I wished I could go shopping for a new brain that functioned with love and peace and joy, was more positive and happy and full of fresh ideas and creations. A brand new brain without a junkyard dog tied to it.

I realize that no one is perfect. No one is “normal”. We live in a fallen world of brokenness, none of us escapes the trials and tears and long, lonely nights. We all have our own battles to fight. We all want to win.

So, I sit here today, feeling anxious as usual, worrying about this and that and hoping the medicine will kick in before I die. But, I am thankful for my life, the things I’ve gone through and the wisdom I’ve gained in the process. I’m thankful that God chose me to live this life with its many challenges so that I can better understand others going through similar circumstances. I’m thankful that I don’t have to be “normal” for God to love me and use me for His purpose. I’m thankful that I have sense enough to know that only God can put me back together again. All I have to do is trust Him.

Borderline Personality Disorder | Learn About This Disorder | rtor.org‎

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Week Down

Twas’ a Few Days before Christmas

Twas’ a few days before Christmas and there was nary a tree. No stockings were hung by the chimney with care, no presents, no decorations; no sign of Christmas anywhere. At least, not in our house. Not that we didn’t want to decorate and go shopping and at least conjure up a Christmas spirit, it just wasn’t there. It got gobbled up by pain and depression, empty bank account and a just plain too-sick-and-tired-to-care attitude. Plus the stuporous side effects of the pain medication I was taking didn’t help either.

And to top it all off; the last straw that broke the camel’s back, Pepper chews the corner of the cushion to the love seat. She might as well have chewed up everything in the house. At least the scenario that followed next would have made more sense.

Crying, and limping in pain to my husband sitting at his computer, I sought solace. No, I sought a full-blown miracle. I wanted him to fix it, right then and now. I wanted him to suddenly become the Dog Whisperer and teach our two bratty dogs how to behave. I wanted him to wave his magic wand and make a Christmas tree appear with presents piled under it and a magical star on top. I wanted him to rip the pain from my hip and leg and send it back to Hell from whence it came. I wanted him to be God!

I guess my expectations were just a bit too high. Because, well because he’s just a man, and as hard as he tried to understand this woman boohooing before him, he just didn’t. So we ended up arguing. And I ended up in the twilight zone of ghosts and goblins as I lay sobbing in my bed.

There was the house I grew up in, and my grandmother shuffling from her bedroom to the living room, Bible in hand heading towards her favorite chair. And there were my brothers and my mom and dad, and even me; young and vibrant, not a care in the world sitting on the couch. Between sobs of grief, I saw the spruce Christmas tree decorated with bubble lights, vintage ornaments, and tinsel hanging on the branches. I saw presents under the tree, stockings hanging from the mantle and the spirit of Christmas dancing like jolly elves in everyone’s eyes.

Like zombies everyone I loved and lost wandered aimlessly through my mind, making me happy, making me sad; making me cry and cry and cry.

My husband is beyond frustrated now. He comes to me, pleading with me to tell him why I’m crying so. But no words could describe the awful grief that seemed to have carried me to my own grave.

So he threw up his hands and left me laying there sobbing and clinging to the ghosts invading my mind. That’s when the tree appeared, the one I always ran crying to when no one seemed to understand or care. Now, in my frenzied mind, it was more than just a tree; it was my best friend; my grandfather I never knew; my dad who was never there; my mom who never understood; everyone and everything I needed in times like these but was never there. Void of human arms reaching out to me, I always ran to the tree.

Now, in total desperation, I cling to the tree planted firmly in my mind, drawing comfort from its unshakable strength. The tree, so rugged and steadfast never feared my tears, my overly sensitive emotions, my anger and frustrations. It never made me feel stupid and insignificant. It just let me sit beneath its protective, sturdy limbs and cry and work it all out my way and in my own time.

Suddenly, in the midst of my inconsolable grief, the tree faded away and God appeared, mighty and strong and holding me tightly in His arms. I felt His love and understanding. I heard His words of comfort. I saw His smiling face and knew everything was going to be okay.

Twas’ just a few days before Christmas when an unexpected check arrived in the mail for my husband, enabling us to do a little Christmas shopping for our family. The pain became more bearable, the depression lifted, and I decided not to strangle the dogs. Hubby, the man who grew up with five women, is still scratching his head and wondering what the heck that was all about, and that’s okay. I understand and that makes me easier for him to live with, so what more does he want?

Second Chance

I wonder, did the tree cry when Eve plucked its forbidden fruit? Did it sob with grief; cry out to the universe of the treacherous crime she committed?

Did the luscious fruit writhe with pain between the jaws of death? Did it mourn for the woman who so brazenly murdered her soul?

Did the flowers become faint and did the color drain from their lovely petals? In the heat of the woman’s lustful desire did their faces burn with shame?

Did thunder shake the heavens? Did lightning strike the earth? And the mountains and streams, did they tremble and quake? Did the rocks cry out and the willows bend and weep?

And I wonder, did Satan laugh? Did his devious heart dance with glee? Did his eyes glisten with delight for the victory he thought he had won?

Did the Garden rumble when God called out, “Adam, where are you?” Did the wind whistle and blow? Did the sea become boisterous and did the sun hide its face in the clouds?

Did God cry? Did His sobbing heart split the earth in two? Did he regret forming the clay and breathing into its nostrils the freedom of choice?

Did the angels fold their wings and weep? Did their radiant faces grow dim? Did they cover their heads with ashes of grief?

And I wonder, while covering their nakedness with fig leaves did Adam and Eve mourn their radiant robes of righteousness? When standing guilty before God, did they wish they could somehow erase the reckless, devastating choice they made?

And when the final moment came, did they pound their fists against the iron gates? Did they kick and scream and beg for God to let them back in; to give them a second chance?

I don’t know. But I do know that in spite of His dreadful curse God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for it; to wash our hearts clean and lead us back to Him. I know that He’ll never ban me from His presence, slam the gates shut behind me and leave me to wander in the desert of fear and hopelessness. I know that when death closes my eyes on earth God will open them again in Heaven. And I know that I will live with Him there forever.

And with every unworthy breath, with every fiber of my wretched being, I thank Him and praise Him for giving me a second chance.

Seasons of the Heart

When I was a child, going to Sunday school and church was as much a part of me as putting on my clothes. I wasn’t made to go, I wanted to go.

Childhood memories flood my mind with Billy Gram crusades, Oliver Green tent revivals and meeting in the preacher’s house, then in his garage, then in a circus tent while the church was being built. Laughing, I remember the preacher’s rattle-trap van bouncing me up and down and banging my head against the window as he drove through deeply creviced ditches to pick up poor kids for Sunday school. Mr. and Mrs. Sterling were more than preacher and wife; they were our family’s best friends.

Mr. Sterling often brought us bags and bags of groceries telling mom that God told him we needed them. He prayed over my baby brother one day who suffered a bowel obstruction. When mom sat him on his potty, everything broke loose and he never suffered bowel problems since.

I felt safe in the church; like I belonged there. I enjoyed being with my friends, memorizing scripture, having Bible drills, and singing and playing my accordion. And I liked that the church was plain and simple, not big and fancy that seemed more like a morgue than a church. It was a little, cinderblock mission where babies were allowed to cry, Baptisms took place in freezing cold creeks under God’s blue skies, and get-togethers were hot dogs and weenie roasts and kids wading in the creek and catching tadpoles in jars.

I always felt that people needed to be in church and always encouraged my brothers to go, thinking that it would somehow change their lives. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t change people’s lives, but it’s not the church that changes people, it’s a repentant heart and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. And there are many people sitting in their pews thinking that because they go to church they are going to Heaven.

Sadly, along with many years of attending church, come heartaches and misunderstandings, gossip and quarrels, cliques, and favoritism, frustration, and burn-out. Instead of being the perfect place for coming together and working things out, some leaders prefer to sweep conflicts under the rug and hope no one notices there are problems in the church. And then they wonder why people emotionally and physically drift away.

I feel that many in the world today are either looking for something they long for in church or have lost hope of ever finding it and given up. And many may never find Christ as a result of it.

I’m thankful that I grew up in church and remember the good times. I’m thankful that I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I’m thankful that we have a warm and loving relationship and that He is always by my side regardless of whether I’m praising Him in church or sitting on my back porch or in my living room in front of a cozy fire.

I wish I could say I miss going to church. The truth is, my heart is totally at peace with not going. Many don’t understand why I feel the way I do, but God does. He knows and understands the deep hurt and the tears I’ve cried over things that destroyed my trust and turned my heart away. And where I expected to find love and understanding and let’s sit down and talk about this I found cold indifference; a total lack of concern.

After more than three years, I’m still struggling with hurt and anger and confusion. Call it a bruised ego, an unwillingness to forgive; whatever you want to call it. I call it a grieving process; and as with all grief, it takes time, for some longer than others.

And if anyone comes to the conclusion that the only way you can be a real Christian is to attend church, where does that leave our shut-ins and those in nursing homes?

I don’t apologize for my feelings, they’re mine and God allows me to have them plus all the time I need to work through them. Just like life itself, the church has its ups and downs, hurts and confusion, but it’s how it deals with it that matters in the long run.