Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Are Grace To the Brokenhearted

My life has theme songs. That's all there is to it.

There was a time, at the beginning of our recovery, when I was probably legitimately depressed and wasn't doing anything about it yet. I wasn't exercising, I was sucking down coffee-which has proved to be a total depressant to me, and I was underestimating what being in the throes of a crisis really meant. Ignoring myself emotionally and spiritually, I might focus on everything physical around me ...which means, in every direction I look, I'm a failure. I'm hard-pressed to find a success on my long list of expectations for myself...except that my kids are cute, happy, smart and haven't managed to kill themselves yet, although the youngest one gives a daily go of it.

"...Times are tough, the goin' rough, like there never was a Master Plan."

This crisis of discontentment and exhaustion sat patiently next to the recent one I'd gone through in my marriage, reminding me that there is hope within brokenness, a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will.

This is the song that encouraged me, in view of my struggles in my job as a stay-at-home mom, and crisis in general. Thank you, Lost Dogs, for preachin' it to me again and again...God speaks to me in Rockabilly.

Blessing in Disguise-- Lost Dogs

How often do you spot the angels

Or feel the unseen hand?

Most times are tough, the goin’ rough

Like there never was a master plan

Those steadfast doors don’t open

And you pray but you don’t understand

You’ve got to...

Hold fast the hope that’s in you

Don’t always trust your eyes

Sometimes it takes a long time to see it as a

Blessing in disguise

We live upon this dark surface

And God, He moves upon the deep

What is concealed will be revealed

There is no promise He won’t keep

Some are confused by the shadows

We’re awake now but we’re half asleep

Hold fast the hope that’s in you

Don’t always trust your eyes

Sometimes it takes a long time to see it as a

Blessing in disguise

Sometimes the dark can move our hearts

To lean for the light of the Son

And our ways don’t become His ways

Until we are undone

Hold fast the hope that’s in you

Don’t always trust your eyes

Sometimes it takes a long time to see it as a

Blessing in disguise

And after you’ve been broken

You may not realize

That you are grace to the broken hearted

And a blessing—a blessing in disguise

Thank you, LORD, that you bind the brokenhearted, that you are renaming me an oak of righteousness, a planting of YOU, for the display of your splendor. This is the year of the Lord's favor.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Restore My Soul

Here's another song that has moved me since, well, at least the early 90's when I first heard it...mostly for the music which is impossible not to dance to...which in itself is impressive being a "Christian" song and all. But recently, as I heard the song again on my old Mix Tape, I heard the lyrics for the first time. Not that I really had never heard them before, but they were sorta poetic garbledy-gook to me before. Suddenly it was me in that picture, my fingers, my spirit, my soul in need of restoration...

Restore My Soul-- The Choir

I call to you with one lung exploded
from breathing the dust of the earth
with my tongue eroded
from licking the crust of the earth

a tear away from reconciled
a prayer away from whole
restore my soul...

I cry to you with two eardrums blistered
from laughing at pictures of night
with my vertebrae twisted
from dancing with creatures of night

a day away from sanctified
a breath away from whole
restore my soul...

I crawl to you with ten fingers smoking
from turning the pages of sin
with my spirit choking
from earning the wages of sin

a bridge away from justified
a step away from whole
restore my soul...

Imagine crawling on blistered hands and bloody, dirty knees toward Jesus. You know that he's closer than he looks (a blurry image out of reach) because you can hear his voice, although it is Truth that merely whispers through the noisy crowds and clouds of lies and culture, history and codependency.

Two extraordinary things happened as I drug my tattered soul toward the blurry image of Christ, leaving a trail of bloody mud as I went. The final thing is what I'll tell you first. I recognized one day my own image in the mirror, and it was more like the one I used to know: the one more innocent and clean. The blood was gone, and the wounds were...not open...and still tremendous scars- pretty ugly, gnarly scars, pink and fragile- but what's that? No pain. Even as I touched them, lightly at first--no pain! Of course, once in a while I will have to jump back in a sudden searing sting, like the scars are being meddled with by a tick or some huge, intrusive insect. But a swat away, and my mind is snapped back to that Truth that is all too real to me now, and the pain subsides. I rub gently the scars as the adrenaline melts. I sometimes whisper the name of Jesus over and over.

The first extraordinary thing is that the closer I got to Jesus, the more in focus the blurry image became, the less it looked like what I thought Jesus was supposed to look like. Instead of this iconic, long-haired stranger-man in a robe coming at me with arms open as if all I needed was a big hug, I saw: a woman with blonde hair who makes me feel like I still live in California, and there were tears in her eyes as she watches my Lover dice up my heart and lay it on the table like a tempting sushi display, and I could tell her heart was breaking right alongside mine as she served us both grace in a chocolate cake. I saw another woman with sad eyes of understanding and compassion watch me through plastic glasses, her token red lips telling me that because of Christ, I will survive this. And yet another woman, running alongside me on a treadmill, coaching me to work out the body and heal the soul, and I remember how we strengthened muscles, built up endurance and how my head cleared until I finally understood that Jesus actually loves me, just the way I am, with all this blood and dirt and brokenness. I saw the couple who counseled us, smiling with the certainty that of course we'll get through this, like they knew that we'd already won, and they were calling it like it was, showing us the truth and asking us what was stopping us from doing the hard thing. As the image got clearer I saw that it was actually countless babysitters and friends and neighbors, helping me with the everyday tasks of life, and believing in the future that I myself could not bring myself to believe in. He looked like all the people who said they'd stay by me until my heart was whole, promising that happy endings are possible, that you just have to take the risk and trust God with what 'happy' is going to look like, because you have never seen anything like this before.

As Jesus came into focus I realized it wasn't one guy in a robe--it was a whole crowd of people, each of them carrying Christ's redemption in their own hearts, each of them an oak, a priest, a shepherd. As I approach this Jesus I am enveloped, and I am no longer crawling. They absorb my body and I absorb theirs, and I remember suddenly how my soul got to taking that nosedive into an empty pool...

It was a long ladder up to the diving board. I didn't always realize where I was going or that I was still climbing, because there seemed to be so many people there with me. The whole world seemed to be cheering me on, my Lover just rungs above me, just out of reach, and I needed to touch him. Finally at the top I'm so close, I can almost feel--

I lunge out arms extended....into nothing...emptiness.

My lungs explode and I can't breathe, I notice finally the eroded state of my tongue and I can't speak, the pain of my blistered eardrums (I can't hear God!), the twisting of my vertebrae. My fingers burn, blistered and smoking, and my spirit....chokes. What have I done, what have I become?

Then the tears. Days and days of tears. And the prayers. Some are mine, many are not, because I just don't have the strength. Days go by, sometimes taking years just to pass hours, and I have to remember to breathe. So He breathes on me, an immaculate CPR and my consciousness resumes... Those friends, those bodies making up the image of Christ, they have been busy building a bridge for me, and wholeness is on the other side. Before I can wonder if I have faith enough, I realize I've already been walking across the bridge, and my steps have brought me to justification, sanctification... and I am reconciled... to Jesus! Reconciled to my Father. I plead with grateful tears for him to restore my soul and he tells me it has already been done, and I am whole.

And yes, I'll take that big hug now....

"Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you...Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding..."
Jeremiah 3.14,15

Friday, January 18, 2008

Post-it Notes

The other day I came across this note I gave my husband a year ago February; he keeps it in his work-shirt pocket, transferring it to the next-day's shirt every evening (he'd left it on the dresser). To be honest, I love that he keeps it with him as a reminder of this journey we're still on together.


I hope you don't mind that God has been USING you,
and your self-destruction to bring me to the end of my own--
And the rebuilding of you to open my eyes to the Kingdom.
I was too scared to open my eyes before and feel the tension of trusting God!
Somehow, we've both said, "WHAT THE HELL!" and jumped
naked into the craziness of trusting God, and our eyes are being opened;
we're seeing what He's been trying to show us all along.
I'm glad to be here with you. It's this sober, not giddy love I have for you, and what's more--RESPECT! I hope you can finally respect me too.
I love you.

I remember that note: inspired words written on post-it notes, stuck to the bathroom mirror for him to find in the morning, because it was late at night and he was asleep when I wrote it. I was doing the dishes--one of my best times to reflect. I believe these words were not mine; I think they were God's heart speaking to mine. These few, post-it words speak volumes to me of God's opening my eyes to the reality of His incredible presence and loving authority in my life. I am a planting of the Lord... and what I mean by that is: He's got my I know who I am, and I am not afraid to be so raw and real with my husband and with God. My husband has taken the same risk of being real with God, and I'm telling you, it's terrifying to stand naked before God. I now know why Adam and Eve freaked out and ran behind the bushes! But God has snatched us up and whisked us away on a crazy road of redemption and blessing that is so different--and most likely much better--than anything we could have thought would ever happen to us. It's baffling....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Signs, and Wonders

I have been feeling the pull to write, but not having a lot of time alone, and being a perfectionist, I don't think I can get all my "deep thoughts" down before someone needs me again. I have a great story to tell: a story of betrayal and redemption and drama and rejoicing!! But I'll just have to rest in the fact that God knows I want to write, God knows I have a story to tell (He's the author, after all!) and He knows what it's gonna take to get the two things together.

For now, I will be simple and sweet...

In Yellowstone, I was struck with irony when we were driving about on roads that were flanked with--yes, buffalo--but also caution-yellow, diamond-shaped signs that read "ROUGH ROADS AHEAD" followed by, "VERY ROUGH ROADS AHEAD" and then, "EXTREMELY ROUGH ROADS AHEAD".....until finally you came around the bend and saw the breathtaking Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (I had amazing pictures, but they are lost in a crashed hard drive--argh!).

We had traveled the "extremely rough roads" and we were on top, looking down into the valley! This incredible expanse of beauty, with visual depths that boggle the mind because it's hard to grasp the immenseness of the valley, its waterfalls, and the life springing up all around it after staring at the winding pavement for so long. This breathtakingly beautiful expanse that is so huge it threatens to swallow you up! As you stare in awe and the peripheral caves into your focal point and the thunder of a waterfall roars next to you, drowning out all your fears and your doubts, you realize God is very big and I really am very small--certainly he is in control and knowing--as even all of this was formed with but a whisper from His lips, and I can rest, not knowing, not seeing, not being capable, or able, or confident in myself. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, indeed...

Psalm 93

1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.

2 Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

3 The seas have lifted up, O LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

5 Your statutes stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days, O LORD.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Luck" has had nothing to do with it...

This is another update of an old post from a former blog...
Our 10th anniversary was March 1, 2007. All the plans I had been formulating in my brain had been shredded when my husband disclosed to me that last November (funny--his company has a document-shredding division). I really had only mildly hoped that there would be a meaningful celebration of our years together; pretty much all my expectations in marriage of your basic love, respect, teamwork, honesty, had all been given up on and my heart was so full of disappointment, there wasn't much there for hope to stick to. Still, it was a definite bummer to hear that what I thought we had left between us was really a total mirage, a lie, a joke...whatever. However, I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit within me (I don't know how to say that without it sounding bible-y) that pointed my heart toward the future, and the big picture, and wrapped my brain around the realization that time means nothing to God, and that it is possible, even at this very moment of devistation, to look forward to better celebrations at 15, 25, maybe even 50 years. I believe in a God that can do that!

When March 1st rolled around, we were actually in the middle of our 90-Days of Celibacy, probably one of the most helpful exercizes in our healing process. Yes, that means that we didn't have sex or do anything alone or with each other that was sexual in any nature. We actually started this 90 days in November, but we messed it up twice and had so start over...from...the...begining... This is no easy feat, but I'll say it again: it was one of, if not the most important things we did to heal ourselves and our relationship. I'll explain more of the wonders of celibacy in another blog.

But now back to the Archive Post. Our 90 Days ended just after our anniversary, and my husband had asked me to renew our vows at that time (you know, so we could "honeymoon" properly). It was all tied in: moving back in (we were separated for about 2 months), ending the 90 days (which meant he could sleep in our bed again), and renewing the vows...and our counselor made it very clear that I was not to take my acceptance of any of these things lightly. I wasn't to just let my husband move back in because it would make my life easier, or end the 90 days just because I like to have sex and a warm body next to me in bed at night. It was a VERY hard decision to make. It was like there was no right answer, no way of knowing for sure that it was safe to make such a committment to this man who had done such horrible things. But there was evidence that he was changing in ways that are only explained by the supernatural. Stuff that doesn't look extremely convincing yet... you know that it seems to be growing in a soil tended by the Almighty, and just might be worth making a leap of faith.

So leap I did. I accepted his proposal, and it was insane how opposite these vows were from the originals. Not just in the words, but in the conviction of them. We were damn serious, let me tell you. This was no light-hearted act of commitment; I believe it was more of the kind of ceremony that the angels sing at, because we were knowingly taking a step forward in full trust in the Father that loves us more than we could ever love each other. Renewing our vows meant we were giving God a chance to heal our hearts, mend our marriage, and live through our redemption. It was the most beautiful ceremony...the beauty being mostly unseen.

We renewed our vows on St. Patrick's Day, next to a very green duck pond (God's little irony, perhaps?), hence the title. But it's true: luck had absolutely nothing to do with getting us to that point. It was pure providence. A series of miracles, and this St. Patrick's Day marked the begining of a whole new set of miracles to come...

Original Post: March 17, 2007

We renewed our vows to each other this St. Patrick's Day, after 10 years of marriage and surviving more than a couple of marital crises...

My Beloved, this is my covenent to you and our God:
I will be faithful to God by seeking His truth and guidance daily
I will be committed to honesty and integrity.
I will connect regularly with God-fearing men in our community to help strengthen my faith in the Lord.
I will be committed to maintaining sexual purity and obeying His commands.
I will be faithful to you, Beloved, by loving you as modeled in Ephesians 5, "just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy..."
I will love you as my own body and self.
I will continually lift you up in prayer, and will pray with humility, out of submission to God, so I may admit when I'm wrong.
I promise to continue taking spiritual leadership in our home as God has placed me as your head.
And, I will be proactive in planning for our future together, and the future of our children.
I love you!
My Lover, my Husband:
My promise to you is to--first and foremost--be faithful to our Lord God.
I will try to always be teachable, keeping a soft heart toward God.
I will strive to understand His Word, listen to His voice, and always be obedient.
I promise to be faithful to you emotionally, physically and spiritually, regarding you as my head, submitting to you in everything as to the Lord.
I will continue in my quest to be a wife of noble character, so that everything I do will bring glory to God and will bring good to you all the days of my ife...
I love you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Condemning Myself

The following post from another blogging attempt, was my first admission of anything personal and it's really vague. I really wasn't sharing my true heart with anyone at the time. My husband's addiction was effecting our home: remodels would be started and NEVER finished. I didn't want to complain because for one, I didn't want to be a nagging wife. Also, I didn't want other people to judge my husband, which would have fueled my own frustrations about him, and opened that can of worms that was our disintegrating marriage. I didn't know it was disintegrating, I just knew there were things that I didn't like that I felt I had no control over. Why involve your friends in something you can't do anything about? I have since learned that God doesn't operate that way, and I should've sought community, friendship, and help! This was also the start of me finally hearing God tell me to regard my husband as an unbeliever and to obey God accordingly. I fought God on that one for a long time...

Original Post: July 2006

"...Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" -Ro.2.4

The thing is, I've just got to leave it alone. Whether or not I like how things are, I too need to be kind, tolerant and have patience. Maybe my kindness leads to 180's too...