Jesus Loves Me, This I Know . . .

I was weaned on hymns and Jesus loves me songs. I believed that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were all three in one. I believed that Jesus was born and lived and died on the cross to save me from all my wretched sins. With every breath I believed in God’s love, but my battered, bleeding soul couldn’t grasp it.

For many, gut-wrenching years my God-relationship went something like this: Jesus was my best friend. The Holy Spirit was a floating ghost. God was a mighty giant somewhere high above and looking down with glaring, scornful eyes. Oh, and His arms were always crossed and his foot tapping beneath His long, flowing white robe.

In my mind, heart and soul, God was anything but love. I couldn’t get close to Him no matter how hard I tried, so I quit trying. I just stumbled through life with Jesus somewhere near, the Holy Spirit floating far behind, and God looking way down shaking His head with absolute disgust.

But a constant, nagging, desire to know God, that mysterious giant in the clouds, flickered in my heart, guiding me toward the truth about myself, about my shattered past, about God and His unconditional love for the seemingly most undeserving ragamuffin on the planet.

I could tell you about the dark, lonely, twisted path I followed that led me straight into God’s, outstretched arms. I could tell you how I trembled and sobbed there, how He cleansed and clothed my filthy, naked heart, how I never ever felt such warmth and love and forgiveness. But if you truly want to know God you must doggedly follow the crumbs scattered along your own dark and twisted path. You must see His outstretched arms through your own tear filled eyes. You must feel His love and forgiveness with your own sobbing, broken heart.

Then you will know.

Then you will never question His love again. He will never seem a million miles away again. He will be the father the mother the brother the sister the everything you searched and longed your whole life for but never found. Then you’ll have only dipped one little toe into the vastness of God’s love, His mercy and forgiveness. Try with every fiber of your God-created being and you’ll never understand it. You’ll never be able to explain it. You’ll just know!

 

To Go to Church or Not Go to Church

It’s Sunday morning. A few years ago, I would be putting on makeup, fixing my hair, slipping into my Sunday best, grabbing my Bible and heading out the door for church.

But, like I said, that was a few years ago.

As a kid, mom never had to fight with me to go to church. I wanted to go. Like, taking a bath and washing behind my ears, it’s what I did. It’s who I was. Besides, anywhere my mother went is where I wanted to go. I even begged her to let me go with her when Oliver Green https://en.wikipedia.org held revival tent meetings in our community, promising to get up in time for school the next morning.

I got saved when I was five. Got baptized when I was seven in a freezing cold creek on a freezing cold Easter Sunday morning in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Jokingly I tell people my sins were frozen when I got baptized.

I can’t remember a time growing up that I didn’t go to church or Bible School or Christian Camps or revival tent meetings. Regretfully, for reasons unknown, I never got to go with mom to the Billy Graham Crusade back in the ’50’s.

Yet, here I sit this cool, Sunday morning, drinking coffee on my messy, cluttered back porch having church. In my pajamas. No makeup. No spiffy outfit. No congregation. No choir. No entertainment. No preacher behind the pulpit. No Bible on my lap. Just me and God and the birds and the squirrels.

And God spoke to me. He told me stuff about myself that I didn’t want to hear. He broke my heart. He made me cry. He made me see into the depths of my soul. And there I sat, coffee cup in my hands, tears streaming down my face, seeing and hearing and surrendering my stubborn will to God.

I could give you a million reasons why I stopped attending church, but that would only open a can of ugly worms and be seen as blasphemy in the minds of many. And nothing anyone can do or say will ever change the way I feel and perceive the church today. And the last thing I want to hear is that you have to go to church to worship God or to even get one little toe into heaven. That kinda limits those who are bed-ridden in nursing homes, or hospice or an iron lung, don’t you think?

So please, don’t question those who don’t attend church. Question those sitting in church whenever the doors are open. Question their motives for being there. Watch what they do. Hear what they say. No one is what he or she wants people to believe they are; especially in church.

Things happened in the church I attended for over twenty years that after four years, I’m still working through the hurt, anger, and disappointment. Things that opened my eyes and made me question, made me think, made me wonder why I didn’t quit attending church long ago before it finally crushed my spirit.

People will argue that I need to be in church to connect with other Christians. Well, that’s funny because most of the time I felt as connected sitting in church as I did walking through a crowded mall.

So, there fly’s that theory out the window.

I’ve heard all the arguments, I’ve weighed all the pro’s and con’s, and I’m over feeling guilty for the choice I’ve made. I feel happy and free from the hypocrisy and pretenses I observed and adopted over the years. It’s like my brain went through a deprogramming process of what I once perceived as truth and discovered that much of it was a lie. Especially all the rules and regulations made by the church to keep its members on the straight and narrow and making a good appearance.

So today and the next day and the next, my church is my heart; the Holy Temple of God. As broken and screwed up as it is at times, it’s where God really wants to be. I think He enjoys cleaning and redecorating as much as I do. Anyway, He kicks off His dusty sandals, pulls up a chair and makes Himself at home there. And if He sees a crooked picture on the wall or dirt on the floor, He doesn’t shake His head and wag His finger in disgust, He helps me straighten it and clean it up. Best of all, I don’t have to dress up, primp up or put on my Sunday-best behavior. I just have to be me. Raw and naked, honest to the bone me.

So tell me, why should that offend anyone?

 

 

 

 

He is All I Need

So, I’m having coffee on the back porch this morning, thinking.

I wish I had a new pair of shoes for every time someone told me I think too much. But that’s part of who I am. A thinker; just like my dad was.

Anyway, I’m sitting there, observing my dogs and thinking about life; the way it was, the way I wish it had been, and the way it is.

It’s Heartland’s fault, the TV series hubby and I have been watching on Netflix for the past few weeks. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s funny, it’s everything I wish my family life had been growing up. The way I wish I’d had a grandfather like Jack, a crusty old man with a soft heart, who loves and encourages and fights tooth and nail for his family.

How different my life may have been had my dad opened his arms and his heart to me and if mom had talked to me instead of yelling at me. If they both had made me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone trying to figure things out. Maybe I would have made better grades in school, had more courage and self-confidence and married the right man the first time around. Maybe I wouldn’t have tried so hard being what I thought everyone wanted me to be and just learned to be me.

My brain keeps reminding me that I’m a free woman. But my longing heart tells me I’m still that scared little girl behind bars; locked up with the taunting ghosts of the past. I still get depressed. I still get angry. I still feel I have to perform perfectly. I still have those tear-jerking moments when I feel I just don’t belong.

Yet, I have come a long way from where I was decades ago. I realize that freedom is a painstakingly, on-going slow process. We don’t soar like an eagle out the cage door when it’s opened. Our wings are broken; crushed by the weight of the grimacing world, and it takes time to heal. It takes time to learn and rethink and trust even good things smiling in our faces.

I was reminded of that sitting there on the back porch, observing my four-legged babies. I realized that as dependent as they are on me to take care of them is how dependent God wants me to be on Him to take care of me. That, no matter how hard the struggle, no matter how tremendous the doubt and fear and emptiness I feel at times, He is all I need.

I just have to keep reminding myself of that, keep moving forward and stop flying back into that rusty old cage of sadness, loneliness, and regrets, because I don’t live there anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartland_(Canadian_TV_series)

 

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.

Diggin’ Up Bones

While letting the dogs out this morning I frowned at the holes Bella, our greyhound mix, has dug in the backyard. I don’t know what she’s digging for, bugs, probably, but I don’t like it, especially when I nearly break my neck stepping in one of them.

It got me to thinking, though, about my digging adventure. Not in the backyard, although that would have been much easier, less time-consuming, and a lot less painful. No, I picked up my shovel of determination and began digging up bones buried deep beneath a ton of hurt, anger, and confusion. Of course, God orchestrated the ordeal, otherwise, I never would have done it. But first, He had to do something to open my eyes real wide.

I’ll never forget the day I got zapped; sanctified, the preacher called it. Doesn’t matter to me what it’s called, I got a bath. Well, my heart and mind did. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all religious on you. I’m just going to try my darndest to show my deepest feelings and my personal experience with God.

My heart was as battered and broken as a fatal car wreck. My mind was a cesspool of depression, anger, rage, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, noise phobia, mood swings, all adding up to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Of course, I didn’t have a clue what all that stinking garbage was called, I just knew the hellish torment it was causing in my life and I wanted to know why. That’s when I became a digger. And that’s when everything got much worse before it got better.

Mom didn’t like the idea of my digging up the past because she didn’t want to face or feel responsible for the role she played in it. Daddy didn’t care one way or the other and my sister and brothers chose a destructive path to deal with their pain. So, that left me, the crazy one in the family to go digging for the painful truth for my sanity. And because mom was the fuse that lit the dynamite inside me, I severed all ties with her for six, long years. Did I feel guilty? Did I care what people thought? Did I cry my eyes out? Did I agonize over whether I was doing the right thing? YES! But that was my first, gut-wrenching giant step toward freedom.

With the sole support of my husband and my son, I began psychological therapy sessions once a week for two years as well as months of counseling sessions with my pastor. But, my number one Hero in teaching and leading me to the truth, is God. He is the only One who knew and completely understood my unbearable pain. He’s been there every step of the way. I’ve never known such love from anyone on this earth. And it’s His steadfast love and encouragement, His longing to set me free, that kept me digging up those ugly, dry bones buried in the darkest recesses of my mind, heart, and soul.

In the end, instead of casting blame on him and her and this and that, I took full responsibility for my lack of understanding, my anger, and rage, my unforgiveness, my stupidity, my choices. It was no longer about what happened to me but how I responded to it. It was no longer about the unfairness of being controlled and manipulated by guilt and shame and being my mother’s scapegoat and feeling emotionally raped. It was no longer about making excuses, getting revenge, seeking justice, but about healing and forgiveness. I wanted to break the chains of the past, to be free, to think for myself, to decide my fate, to be happy in spite of my brokenness. I wanted to learn more about God, about myself, about what having an abundant life means that God promises His children (John 10:10b).

There were times I wanted to give up. There were times I did give up. There were times I wished I had never been born. But I always got back up and kept going. And like a loving father rewarding his child, God turned my tears to joy. He never left me stranded. Through the darkest, scariest tunnel, He never left my side.

Am I there yet? NOPE! The journey will never end for me this side of Heaven. But I will never stop moving forward in my quest for freedom, knowledge, and understanding.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Psalms 34:8).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face, to Face

Into the darkness, He came

He whispered my name

He took my hand

And the journey began

Down the steep winding stairwell

Into the dungeon of my soul

Where I dare not tread before

And I was afraid

Of the ghosts from the past

With glaring eyes and scornful frowns

Violent screams pierced my ears

Shattered my soul

Shook my world apart

And I felt worthless

Unloved

Unwanted

And I wept

I wanted to run and never stop

Then I felt His gentle nudge

So we moved on

To the bottom of the stairs

Where I saw a little girl

Gazing into a hazy room

Where her dad sat

Like a corpse

Oblivious to her tears

Her pain

Her longing to crawl on his lap

To fall into his arms

To feel his heartbeat

His love

His protection

From the angry world in which she lived

But he never looked her way

Ever

Then she turned

And saw a face

Shining like the sun

Smiling

Arms extended wide

She ran to Him

He hugged her tight

She felt His love

He dried her tears

And there at the bottom of the stairs

In the dungeon of my soul

I met my Heavenly Father

Face to face

He Was There All the Time

He was there at conception, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, watching me grow, delighted with His handiwork. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first breath, beaming with joy as my mother held me to her breast and kissed my downy head. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first step, picked my first flower, and chased my first butterfly through hills of green. And He smiled.

He was there when I grew up, fell in love, got married and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And He smiled.

He was there when my body was slammed against the wall and vice-like fingers squeezing my neck. And He cried.

He was there when anger consumed my heart, hatred ravaged my soul, and darkness flooded my mind. And He cried.

He was there when I sobbed in the darkness searching for His face, questioning His love, cursing the day I was born. And He cried.

He was there when I ran away, far from His beckoning call, ignoring the thorns and choking vines along the foreboding path. And He cried.

He was there when my heart was shackled by fear when my eyes were filled with tears when my lonely soul was shivering in the bitter cold. And He cried.

He was there when I fell on my knees calling His name, surrendering my stubborn will; deeply grieved that I made Him cry. And He smiled.

He was there all the time patiently waiting to set me free, to prove His love, to draw me back to Him. And we smiled.

It’s Funny, But Not Funny Ha, Ha

I’m not the only one with this neurotic disorder. I know because I went online to see if there was even a name for it. And there it was. Trichotemnomania, a disorder characterized by compulsive hair cutting or shaving. It is often triggered by intrusive ideas or stressful experiences.

It’s scary having a disorder I can’t even pronounce but at the same time, I’m relieved knowing that I’m not crazy all by myself.

And for me It goes way back; as far back as the time that I made all my Barbie dolls look like Ken and our neighbor’s ten-year-old look like a skinned cat after cutting his hair with the electric clippers. I watched mom cut my brothers’ and daddy’s hair so much that I was sure I knew how. I did okay till I removed the attachment to get it just a little shorter. I should have stopped while I was ahead. But his dad liked it, so it was all good.

Then I began bugging mom to cut my long, red hair; an absolute no-no according to my grandmother who only had her hair cut once in her entire seventy-something years.

Finally, to shut me up, mom got out her big silver shears and cut it. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my scrawny shoulders.

From there it escalated from mom cutting my hair to me cutting my hair. After all, I had plenty of experience.

When I was a teen I wanted everyone’s hair but my own. Every Sunday at church I sat behind Freda, drooling over her short, dark wavy hair neatly combed back into a drake’s tail. She was beautiful, like a China doll, with big brown eyes, thick dark lashes and porcelain complexion.

And I’d sit there thinking if my hair looked like hers, I would be transformed from an awkward, ugly duckling to a beautiful, graceful swan. My freckles would disappear, my straight, unruly red hair would become dark and wavy, and I would finally like the gawky kid looking back at me in the mirror.

Thus began my full-blown hair obsession. I’d cut it, color it, curl it, tease it, and spray it. Some mornings I’d spend hours doing and redoing my hair till it was perfect. Other days I’d get so angry and frustrated that I’d throw my hairbrush across the room and cry. And yes, most mornings I was late for work in spite of getting up at four in the morning to be at work by seven.

I bought wigs to cover the shame of cutting my hair too short. But, even my wigs weren’t safe with a pair of scissors in my hand.

Beauty School taught me the do’s and don’ts of cutting hair, but I taught myself how to use the electric clippers.

That’s when I really got crazy. There’s just something about the sound and smell and feel of the clippers in my hand, especially when I’m feeling stressed and anxious. A coworker once told me that she knew how stressed I was by the length of my hair. So when I’d come to work wearing a ball cap, she was tempted to call the Mental Health Hot Line.

One time my husband hid my clippers, but I hunted till I found them.

I could go on and on telling you how I’d stay up all night cutting my hair, but that would really make me look stupid. And I could tell you that I like wearing my hair short, and laugh when strangers ask me if I have cancer and little kids asking me if I’m a girl, but I’m afraid you’ll think I belong in the loony bin.

But I can tell you that I’m okay with cutting and wearing my hair short and that when I screw it up I slap on a ball cap till it grows out and I begin the madness again. And I don’t mind telling you that my family laughs at me, and that’s okay because I laugh harder at myself.

So yes, I admit to having OCD. But, believe it or not, I’m dealing with it. I take medication, which sometimes isn’t enough and I feel like getting good and drunk. But I did that once and got so sick I swore I’d NEVER do it again! Besides, I can’t stand the stuff.

OCD is painful. It messes with my mind, heart and soul. It cripples and enslaves and makes me feel like I belong in a freak show. I’m restless, my mind races, my insides feel like a bomb exploding and I wonder why I was even born. I question if God really loves me, I’m so messed up. Some days I can’t stop crying, other days I’m so depressed I think I’d be better off dead.

I pray and read my Bible. I talk to family and friends and realize that they love me in spite of my insanity. Most of all, I continue working on myself. Medication alone can’t fix everything that’s wrong; I wish it did. And although God doesn’t remove the thorn in my side, He gives me the strength to bear it. Sometimes, like the one set of footprints in the sand, He carries me till I can walk on my own.

I couldn’t make it without God and family and friends. They’ve been there, helping me pick up the pieces of my life, loving me, encouraging me, and seeing me through the darkest shadows of despair. I’m thankful and blessed that God loves me so much that He never leaves my side.

So does that mean I’m throwing away my clippers? Are you crazy?

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believe it or Not

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned or I just can’t help myself or I’m too old to change my heart and mind, but I believe in God. Not a deaf and mute god that just sits and blankly stares all day. But a big and mighty God, Creator of everything, Savior of the world, Lover of my soul. I believe in the Great I AM, Heaven and Hell, and every word on every page of His Holy Word. I believe that the only way to Heaven is through the blood of Jesus Christ. I can’t earn my way there and I can’t make myself worthy enough to get there. It’s just not within me. I was born into sin and without my belief in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I will die in sin and receive an eternal sentence in Hell.

It bothers me that many don’t believe for one reason or another. But that’s their choice. I can’t change their mind and I won’t even try unless it’s up for debate. God created us with a free will so who am I to try to take it away. I just feel bad for the unbeliever. Where do they put their trust when troubles come in like a flood? Friends let us down. The family can’t always be there. Strangers don’t care. So where is their hope?

The church can only help lead us to salvation but it can’t save us. And in some churches, everything and everyone but God is allowed in. But we can find Him on a fishing bank or in a barn or under a tree; anywhere and everywhere we go He is there and ready to speak to our hearts and to cleanse and make us whole. It only takes one simple leap of faith. Why is that so difficult for so many to do? Why is it so easy to believe in nothing and so difficult to believe in God?

Believe it or not, God is alive and well. He sent His Son to die that we might have life. He loves us more than we love ourselves and wants what’s best for us. He heals broken lives, shattered hearts, and troubled minds. He is always on call, every minute of every day. Believe it or not, it’s either your eternal gain or your eternal loss. I pray it’s your eternal gain.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s One and Only Son.” John 3:17, 18 NIV

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?