Spiral Up

When I was a kid my mom would talk to herself out loud ALL THE TIME. She would literally share her verbal brain while she was doing an activity. It stressed me out to listen to her audible to do list as a kid so I just learned to tune her out.

But in reality we talk to ourselves in our brain all the time. Sometimes it’s just a feeling- that guilt when you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, that anxiety before starting your first day of a new job, that pride after marking a new personal record. But sometimes it’s actually words or a conversation: “What are you doing? You’re a failure. No wonder she doesn’t love you anymore. Look at your thighs, your skin, you’re disgusting. No one is ever going to want to be close to you. They aren’t going to believe you. He’s going to leave you like the rest of them do. No one cares about you. They’re going to find out you’re a fraud. They’re laughing at you and how stupid you are. Here we go again.”

Ouch.

That’s VERBAL ABUSE, my friends.

This inner critic serves a primal purpose- to keep you safe and part of the tribe. But I also think this is Satan’s favorite tactic to stop us from doing God’s will: “Let’s make him strive to be perfect. We know he won’t be since he’s human. Then he will feel like a failure. He will tell himself over and over again that he is a failure, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Once he believes he is a failure he won’t have the courage or motivation to do God’s will. Works every time.”

When we are triggered to think something may be the case, we look for evidence to support it and go further down the path of self sabotage, reaffirming our perceived worthlessness.

But we don’t have to go there. This voice can ride along, it always will. But it doesn’t get to drive. We have the power to spiral up, too.

You’ve always had the power, my dear You just had to learn it yourself.” – Glenda, Wizard of Oz.

The Bible says to take captive our thoughts and turn them towards him:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

That didn’t say we would have lovely thoughts all the time. It said we have thoughts that need to be captured, caught, arrested, bound, confined. It also didn’t say this is wrong- it’s human.

We need to stop beating ourselves up for being human.

These words are not the typical weapons of the world; they are the sly tools of the devil. BUT! We have been given the power to apprehend and redirect these flaming arrows (Ephesians 6:16).

One day when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I wrote down everything my inner critic was saying. At first it wasn’t words, just feelings. I dug deep and gave it a voice. Half way through I was in a cry-writing frenzy. All the while realizing that I had a lot going on deep inside. And then my critic, Veronica (because that just sounds like a woman of sass), said “wow you are really messed up. You’re hopeless; look at all this mess!”

Later I went back and reviewed my diatribe to myself. There I sat, tearing up in the living room, reliving the most egregious string of abuse I’d ever seen in one moment. I was horrified that anyone would speak to another human being like that- and those were MY words to myself.

I then decided to go back through, line by line, and take hostage each thought and turn it to God. “You’re lazy and selfish” became “you are practicing self love when you a take rest and speak up when you need something.” “You’ve forgotten everything you learned in school, you’ll always be a dumb failure” became “you always try hard at work to do what’s best.”

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This verse means a lot of different things to me. But in the context of how we talk to ourselves- imagine saying the same things you say to yourself that you’re saying it to Jesus’ face. Would He be hurt by your insults? Would He be offended by your implications that He didn’t make you ‘good enough?’ HE is inside you. He chose you as a vessel of his good and perfect spirit. And here we are tearing it down, one piece at a time. It’s heart breaking. But we get to have do-overs. We get to redirect our thoughts. We get to say “wow that is actually not how I’d like to see myself; instead, I want to see myself as valuable and holy in His eyes.” We get to say “the old me would have believed these lies, but today I’m choosing to count these phrases as irrelevant.” I still have moments where I catch myself in a 5 minute negative spiral. But the graceful part starts where I realize it and choose to spiral upward.

Take inventory of what you’re saying to yourself in the background throughout your day.

Write it down. Take away its power. Bring it to light. Then give yourself a heaping pile of grace and love.

Now, rewrite those phrases through Jesus’ smiling eyes.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21

Extra readings:

Mark 4:22

Ephesians 2:10

Ephesians 4:29

Proverbs 15:4

Proverbs 16:24

1 Samuel 16:7

1 Peter 3:3-4

Mathew 12:36-37

I already know what you’re going to say

I met our son when he was barely 2. I had to have my husband translate for me at times because I wasn’t versed in the “cursive” baby talk.

I’ve been fortunate in being a part of his crazy and funny life. Once, while changing his diaper he pulled on it to be ornery only to find his poop pebbles shoot him in the forehead like BB’s.

Now that I proudly say I’ve been in his life for more than 50% of it- I’ve watched him grow and learn and slowly become a little person. Lately, he’s been doing this thing where he starts to say something, hesitates, and then continues with

“I already know what you’re going to say.”

Don’t we do that with God at times? “I want to ask your for this thing but I already know you’re going to say no!”

I struggle all the time with the purpose of prayer. If He knows what we are thinking and saying and doing why do we have to approach Him with it?! Just the other night at bedtime our son asked the same question: why do we have to pray if He already knows?

Sometimes I already know what our son wants before he asks. And usually I have my answer prepared. UNTIL he says WHY he’s asking. The MOTIVATION behind what he is asking changes my mind from time to time. God is not as concerned with what we are asking- it’s the why.

I don’t want to apply my limited human thinking to Gods awesomeness. But we were made in His likeness. I like the thought that I inherited some great traits from my Heavenly Father.

I don’t know to what extent we can change God’s mind. That gets me swirling in a cycle I’m not equipped to figure out. But Deuteronomy 9 and Exodus 32 show where God wanted to destroy the Israelites because of all the disgrace had done. But Moses said please don’t kill your people!

So whether or not we can change Gods mind He made us for a purpose. I like to think He didn’t make us to be puppets for his show. He made us because we are a part of Him and He is love. He CRAVES a relationship with us. He wants us to come to Him with our fears, concerns, celebrations, and trust. What have you neglected to give to God because you already “know” what He would say?

“Others” Day

When you think back to the dreams you had as a little girl- the dress, the Prince Charming, the happily ever after- I’m willing to bet it didn’t include being a step-parent. No one grows up dreaming of caring for SOME ONE ELSE’S kids. And yet here we are.

According to stepfamily.org around 50% of women live in a step-family relationship.

The dream of having the “ideal” family of 3 kids, a dog, a career, the perfect doting husband has gripped my heart in shackles of perfectionism (thanks a lot Disney). This ‘dream’ is rare. It’s NOT the norm. When I was divorced and single I had turned down a few men just because they had kids. I didn’t think I was selfless enough to take on that daunting task.

One day my friend told me to try match.com. I thought this was a terrible way to meet people- superficially judging people on their BEST selfie (ewe) and what THEY think of themselves. I was on there for 3 whole days before I couldn’t take it anymore (y’all the dating scene as a 30 year old is ridiculous). In that short window a very sweet, down to earth man messaged me. His tag line said God and family were most important to him- right under the picture of him and his 1-year-old SON (thank God NO selfies). Fast forward- he’s now MY son too.

Through this journey I have had to learn A LOT. And I’ve learned about myself and my own upbringing along the way. I’ve had to deepen my roots to produce good fruit. Learn how to offer myself grace. Grow closer to God to discover how to do my new role. Prune the branches with rotten fruit. Learn how to ask for forgiveness for buying a little boy pink scissors.

It’s funny how God uses your past to prepare you for the future. My husband needed someone who came from a divorced family to help him navigate the waters. He came from the “dream” family and was very naive to the new “norm.”

In the mean time we also starting trying for more children. Our struggles are still ongoing as we haven’t been able to conceive almost 2 years later (whole other heaping bag of self inflicted anguish). BUT it got me thinking- this MAY be my only child and I have to be ok with that. I felt so alone- funny how we think we are alone when we are where we don’t want to be in life. But then I started thinking about my aunt who adopted twins, my friend who was a foster parent, my mom who was also a step parent. The act of raising someone else’s children suddenly wasn’t so foreign. Love, for me, is not a feeling. It’s a daily choice to act in love. To chose every day to hug, kiss, encourage, feed, grow with your children whether they’re yours or not. I’m not looking for gold star but for someone to care for someone else’s tiny human WITHOUT that emotional and biological connection is even more commendable.

My first Mother’s Day was hard. Not what I expected. I felt second fiddle and it sucked. But I also mentally already put myself there. There’s no pretending to be a replacement or the only mom when their biological parent isn’t around- that’s just the nature of the relationship. BUT I get to be an adjunct- the addition – the gap filler -the OTHER mom. Now that is a role I can fill! At our house we say “other” or “biological” mom. No thanks to Disney (again!) the evil step-mother symbol still lingers in my mind. So in our family, the weekend before Mother’s Day we celebrate “Other’s Day.” MY day.

Maybe some day I will take on making it a national holiday. But in the mean time, happy (very belated) Others Day to all those raising their unbiological children!

Remember that one time when…

My first post! I hesitated immensely and really thought for a while about what I wanted MY FIRST post to be. It sets the tone. Where do I want to take this? How much sharing about my personal life do I want to divulge? What’s the theme? (Cue eighth grade writing assignment nightmares).

It just so happens that yesterday marks the 3 year anniversary of a decision I took that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t decide to become sober (a very brave thing indeed). But I did choose to embrace the fact that life is short and that I’m the one in control of how it goes (for the most part).

August 12, 2014 was the last day I would be who I “was.”

August 13, 2014 I sped home at 7am after my 24 hour call shift at the hospital. I walked in, looked at everything for about 10 seconds, not knowing where to start or what to do. Then I snapped out of it and quickly starting snatching overnight bags, stuffing them full of essential clothing and toiletries I could quickly get my hands on. In the silence of me standing in my bedroom after zipping my bag I heard the front door unlock as clear and loud as I’ve ever heard it. I sprung to the bedroom patio door and bolted out as fast as I could around to the side gate. It truly was in slow motion, like a bad dream, trying to run through quick sand. I sprinted as fast as I could until I got about 3 houses down-literally running FOR my life. I peered back over my shoulder to see the 6’1″ man standing there in the front yard staring at me in his white t-shirt and work jeans. The rest of this story involves me waiting at flagpole for the police to come (God’s symbol of my freedom). Three hours later the two police cars would drive off, I would hug my neighbor goodbye, my mom, her friend (I had never met before), and myself would drive to my new sanctuary.

THAT was the day I made the very brave decision to leave the abuse, the gaslighting, the threats, the narcissism, the lies, the blaming, the victimization, and the martyring in my marriage.

This blog isn’t JUST going to be about the perils of abuse. But whatever topic presents itself I always want to bring it back around to “The Fruits of the Spirit.” I want to notice the God in my life. Feeling Him move and seeing His plan come into action. I owe all I am today to the one moment, on my bed, feeling absolutely hopeless, pleading: “God save me. If you do exist you HAVE to do something to help me. Because if you can’t then no one can.”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —”
Ephesians 5:8-9 HCSB