letting things go

It always comes to this. Circles. Endless circles leading me back to the same thing. Again and again. It has to do with letting things go. It began in high school. That’s when I let my grades go. They started to slip when I began pursuing other things. Namely, the opposite sex. Because really, that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I simply wanted the love of a boy. Thus, school work slid to the back burner.

Next, my self-esteem went out the window. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You feel like such a door mat, you believe you’re just as lowly. Unworthy. And seriously, if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from the people who surround you. So first, grades. Next, self-worth.

Eventually, you lose your reputation. It’s inevitable. Because one bad choice after another leads to a bad name. So you try to hide who you really are. You shove things down and pretend they never happened. You try to forget and strap on a mask. You hope that if you play the part, you’ll really be the part.

But that’s when you lose yourself.

Because after all is said and done, you don’t know who the heck you are anymore.

The girl you were is gone.

And in the end, you’ve lost all.

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I agonized over whether or not to include the above. Because the “F” word is in it. But I had to use it. The words are just too powerful to ignore. All that about openly bleeding and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And how it’s actually the things that kill you that make you.

So I ask myself, what led to my ultimate demise? Did something specific “kill” me (metaphorically, of course)? Because if that’s true, I believe I’ll find my purpose right there. In my death. In the midst of my trouble, I’ll find the real me. The girl I was meant to be.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m reading a book called The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller. This morning’s chapter was about grief and experiencing loss. The testimonies she included had me in tears (not unusual); a woman who lost her eight year old daughter another who lost her husband. Both to cancer. Both losses were much too soon. And both were equally heartbreaking.

And so in light of what these women endured, it’s tempting to minimize my own loss. For more than one reason. But I am encouraged by J. Raymond’s words above. I’m emboldened to bleed openly. And to be honest. Vulnerable. For God’s sake. And for my own.

So I look back. I revisit the place where my life ultimately took a turn for the worse. It’s where I hit rock bottom. And where I let everything go. Including me.

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I’m pointed to the military. I spent four years in the Air Force. No surprise, I allowed my heart to be trampled in Oklahoma. But despite my woes, there was a bright spot. Her name was Carmen. My best friend. The very best. We shared everything and I was happy as long as she was by my side.

Next came Korea. Such an unusual experience. And as with my first station, there was bad and good. The good being my close friends. How quickly we formed our attachments. Because we were all thrown together. We shared bathrooms and refrigerators and the intimate details of our lives.

There was Cheyenne and Stacy. Then came Tina and Loree. And Nicole. And oh, I loved them all. I adored being surrounded by my friends. But it was there, really, where I started to slip. In the midst of such love and supportive friends, I lost control. Of everything.

Overall, the bad outweighed the good in Korea. The bad being unhealthy relationships culminating in two abortions. Thus, Korea became a dark blot in my memory. A time I chose to leave behind. And unfortunately, because my friends were intricately woven into that era, they didn’t make the cut.

In the end, I let them go. One by one.

Sadly, this was the pattern of my life.

Letting things go.

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

For me, letting go had everything to do with chasing love. Because that’s all I ever wanted. And so I cut away me. I fashioned myself into what I thought a particular person wanted me to be. From the very start. In high school, I liked heavy metal. In Oklahoma, it was rock climbing. I assumed another’s tastes so that I’d be appealing.

But the tragedy is, I never knew myself. I never knew my own heart before I began giving pieces of it away. And in the end, I whittled away so much of myself, there wasn’t anything left of the girl I was. Not one thing original about me.

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. William Shakespeare

I did the same with Jason. I fell in love and I wanted him to be mine. So, I tried to take on his likes as my own. I strapped on a mask called “good girl” and never looked back. Today, though, I realize my error.

I cut away too much. Too much of me. And too many friends. Nearly all of them.

And today, I grieve their loss.

But look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus thought of His wounds: “Here, Thomas. Look at My wounds. Touch My scars. These are the proof of My resurrection. I bear the marks of death, but I am alive!” Jesus knew His wounds were beautiful. At the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me for others. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the power of the resurrection is put on display. I can say, “Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Founder of The Praying Life Foundation

I had such a thought today. It was staggering. And so deep, I know it didn’t originate with me. No, with all my soul, I believe God deposited truth in my ear this day. It has to do with everything I’ve let go. From the get go. See, I lost my self-worth early on. I’d lost every ounce of self-esteem before I even considered abortion.

But a miracle took place after I lost all. I encountered my husband, a man who continually tries to build me up to this day. He affirms my self-worth. He tries to restore my brokenness and loves me unconditionally. Through him, I encountered God. And through God’s word, I find evidence of how very much I matter to Him. My life matters.

But I still don’t believe. Why? Why do I choose to stay where I am wallowing in my lowliness? And this is what He whispered today… could it be that if I dare believe He values me, that I’ll finally have to accept the truth. That all lives matter. Because if I finally take God’s words to heart and trust that I matter, then that holds true for everyone else. All lives matter.

Including my unborn babies. The ones I got rid of. The two babies I chose to let go.

And this thought stopped me in my tracks. It brought forth a cry I didn’t know I had in me.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

This is truth. I am worth more than many sparrows to my God. But by accepting this fact, I have to truly face what I did. And that means I have to grieve. I have to mourn the loss of two lives.

What’s worse, death came by my own hand.

And I don’t know if I can live with that.

So, I am halted.

I stay right where I am. Paused.

Unable to take another step forward. Not till I accept God’s truth. That I matter to Him. And so did my babies.

Mended Heart Challenge

  • Designate a specific time and place to express your grief with Jesus.

I read the above this morning. My mother-in-law has been telling me I need to participate in a post-abortion recovery retreat… when the time is right. That time may be coming. Because this keeps coming up. Endless circles lead me here. Again and again.

I had babies and they are no more.

And I haven’t grieved their loss. My loss. I don’t think I deserve to. Because I’m the reason.

But deep, down, I grieve daily.

And so, I go back to that post I saw on Facebook. About the things that kill you making you. And I reread Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s words:

“Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story.

It’s abortion. This is my wound. I carry the scars of a womb that remains eternally pregnant (Jeremiah 20:17). And unless I am resurrected from this death I carry around in me, I’ll be of no use to God. People will never see the life of Christ in me. Not unless I rise from the opening of my tomb…

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

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If I could just go back to the girl I was at sixteen. To the time I first began letting things go. Like my grades. And then my self-worth. I’d caution her. I’d tell her know your heart. I’d say take time to know yourself. I’d assure her that she matters. That’s what I’d say.

Oh, little girl, be strong in who you are before you start giving pieces of yourself away. Because some things are irreversible. Some things you can never, ever get back.

Yeah, I’d tell the younger me to really think about it.

I’d say consider carefully what you keep. But more importantly, consider what you let go.

straight A’s

I am but a child. A silly, little girl. At forty-two. How can this be?? Incredibly, I find I haven’t advanced much beyond my primary school days. No. Every single thing that mattered then still matters today. Like grades. Because at forty-two, I discover I’m still striving to be a straight A student.

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Recently, I felt as I did in first grade. Our teacher, Ms. Wittle, would walk slowly around the classroom and squat by each desk to check our work, red colored pencil in hand. She peered over my paper but oh, there was an error. And then another. So no, I didn’t receive my reward. A sticker to indicate a job well done.

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Instead, I got this…

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Oh, how my insides churned as Ms. Wittle looked over Martha’s paper. Because apparently, she was a good girl. She did very well, indeed. I can still see the smile my classmate was favored with and hear the crinkling of the paper as the sticker was lifted away. Martha won the day.

It’s this memory that presses into me today. As vivid as the day it occurred some thirty-six years ago. The recollection was burned into a heart that felt as heavy as lead. Because that day I felt small. Inadequate. Insecure. And unacceptable. Basically, unlikeable. This is how the red lines etched upon my paper made me feel. And this is how I felt this week.

And how silly this is! Incredulous that in the midst of random police shootings and a loved one’s struggle to simply live comfortably, I cry over my report card. I agonize over the grades I receive in the school of life.

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Last night I had hot tears. I ached inside. It came from the pit of loneliness. As I lay next to my husband, tears spurted. He comforted me and asked me what was wrong no less than four times. Because I didn’t want to say it. I know how dumb it sounds. How trivial. And yet, it’s real. My hurt is real.

Finally, I uttered what lie in my heart. I told him I want to be first. I want to be the one who’s someone else’s first choice. And unlike my last cry fest in which he chastised me for my luxury complaints, this time he held me instead. He told me there are three people in our home who pick me first.

And though my husband’s tender words soothed my festering wound, they didn’t eliminate the poison that pollutes my soul…

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Growing up, I always had one good friend. Kindergarten through third was Jennifer. I loved her so as she shone in my eyes. Pretty and popular. And strong. In second grade, we had the opportunity to try and lift a fireman’s oxygen container. Tony told me no way could I do it, but Jennifer could. And she did. Me? I struggled but managed to lift it a few inches off the floor.

Fourth grade was Hannah. She wore a purple Hang Ten mini skirt. Definitely a leader as all us girls flocked to her. Fifth I had two best friends. Jennifer and I were reunited and Sarah came into my life. And as time wore on, others drifted in and out of my life. But the point is, there was always one. One special friend. Or two. Really close. Like a sister.

We knew everything there was to know about each other. Colors. TV. Music. Boys. And truth is, that’s what I long for today. I want a woman who knows me from the inside out. How I take my coffee. How I feel just by the look on my face. A woman who can drop by anytime without having to call first. A woman who will choose me first. Every time.

I want. To be. First. First pick. First place. Just first.

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. Colossians 1:18

I picked up a book I hadn’t read for over two weeks this morning. The above verse is what I found. Mind you, I’d already logged in my journal how I wanted to be 1st choice. But lo and behold, I discovered the position is already taken. Or it should be. First place belongs to Jesus. He should be my choice.

Amazing.

So here’s the thing about life. And striving for those straight A’s. See, there is no one person who can give me a passing grade in every single category. No friend (no matter how good she may be) can give me everything I crave: approval, acknowledgement, accolades, affirmation, assurance and acceptance.

Oh, she may give me a piece of approval here and a slice of affirmation there. But she is not God. I cannot look to her or her red pencil for acceptance. Because she is not capable of affirming me like I hope she can. Or will. And like me, she may even be trying for an “A” herself.

Sigh.

“Great Expectations” keeps coming at me. The title. Charles Dickens’ book. I think God is trying to show me my expectations are too high. I am placing people too high on a pedestal. The danger there is they’re likely to fall off. Because no one can stay that high. And the first time they let me down, I’ll end up pushing them down. Off that pedestal. And when that happens, no one gets an “A”. Or the gold star. Or the smiley face.

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It’s true. I am a lonely woman. But I keep looking in the wrong places for fulfillment. It’s not one woman who will fill all my emptiness. It’s one Man. Jesus came to be first. And I’m His first choice. For Isaiah 43:10 tells me I am chosen to know Him. Exodus 33:17 assures me He knows my name. Thus, I find acknowledgement.

By 2 Timothy 2:15, I know I am His approved worker. I receive a pat on the back from my God through Matthew 25:21. Hebrews 10 assures me I have boldness to enter His presence at any time. No phone call necessary. Revelation 3:11 tells me if I hold on to what I have, my crown awaits. And if I can just persevere… if I can fight the good fight and finish this race, I’ll get that blue ribbon after all.

And so, through God’s very word, I find the acceptance I so desire. And affirmation this little girl so desperately seeks. My God squats down beside me at my desk. He takes out His red colored pencil and gives me the grade I’ve been looking for. Not only is it an A, but it’s an A+. That’s what my Teacher has done for me today. And the tears flow down my cheeks.

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Matthew 23:8

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Yes, I am just a child. A silly little girl. At forty-two. Inconceivable.

But despite my shortcomings, God assures me of truth. His truth. I may fall pitifully short in the school of life, but in His grade-book, I’m a straight A student.

Perfect in His eyes.

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Finding His Feet

 

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He lifted me out of the watery pit, out of the slimy mud. He placed my feet on a rock and gave me secure footing. Psalm 40:2

He lifted me out of the watery pit, out of the slimy mud. He placed my feet on a rock and gave me secure footing. Psalm 40:2

At 2:00 a.m. this morning, my mind whirred. After feeding my infant daughter, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I laid down, closed my eyes, and yet my brain stayed alert. Sentences formed and paragraphs emerged, but only in thought. Because I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. Not in the middle of the night. For sleep is too precious when you have a new baby. And so after some time, I willed myself back to sleep. And my last waking thought… murky waters.

Last night when I should have been sleeping, I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday. See, it should have been fun. I took my son to a birthday party at an indoor pool. And I think I was looking forward to it more than he was. Because believe it or not, after a woman spends eight weeks at home with a newborn, even a child’s birthday party can feel like an event. And so both son and I eagerly set out to enjoy a few hours of social interaction. But for me, expectancy dampened quicker than my son’s swimming trunks for more than one reason.

First being my son’s clinginess. After arrival, he stayed close by my side and that concerned me. When asked, he said a lot of the kids were fourth graders. And this is where I caught a glimpse of his insecurity. To encourage him, I offered to walk him to the water slide to see if he measured up. I knew he’d used that slide once before but he seemed reluctant yesterday. Sure enough, he made it just to the penguin’s wing. Just over four feet tall. Tall enough to stand in the 3’6″ water the slide would shoot him into.

The lifeguard spoke to me… as long as he can find his feet in the water, she said. He’ll be fine, she said. And I think I needed that assurance more than Levi. Because I’m the one who fears water. I’m the one who needed to see he was big enough. I’m the one who had to know… can he find his footing?

Pushing aside my fear of the waterslide, we joined the birthday crowd. And that’s when I observed my boy. I took in that he was a full head shorter than most of the others. But that’s not a big deal as my son has always been short… like his Paw-Paw. No, other than being tall enough to use the water slide, height was not, and is not, an issue with me or my son. It wasn’t the physical attributes that pierced my heart as I sat poolside. Rather, it was how my boy conducted himself in the group. And what I witnessed cut me to the core… see, he wasn’t comfortable. He seemed so young. So incredibly insecure. And maybe just a bit awkward in comparison to the others’ ease.

No, my son didn’t appear to be the social butterfly in that group setting. And more than that, I could tell he wasn’t the one. You know, the one others wanted to be with. In fact, as one hour turned to two, it seemed he was on the outskirts of the party just a little. And my heart sank because I knew the truth… my son was turning out just like me. And though this has given me and my husband occasion to smile in past, this time I felt overcome by sadness.

See, yesterday, I saw another side of Levi. It was the side of me I’ve tried to put behind me most of my adult life. And so I discovered the truth. My boy really is a little me. More so than I ever comprehended.

And so it’s much deeper than what I initially thought. Because yesterday became about so much more than Levi finding his feet in over three feet of water. At least in my eyes. I realized the time has come for my boy to navigate the murky waters of life. That’s really where he needs to find his feet. It’s there he’ll have to find a firm place to stand. And I fear for him. Because he’s a little me. And I know what I did. And I wonder what he’ll do.

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So it begins. School is where a child really has to find their footing. And the truth is, sometimes they don’t. I know because I never did. Because in school, I came to believe I didn’t quite measure up to the other girls. But height had nothing to do with it. I was painfully shy and awkward and didn’t know how to conduct myself in a group. And though I liked to share stories and participate early on (so says my kindergarten report card), that wasn’t the case by the time third grade rolled around. Somehow in three short years, my openness closed tight and my words lessened. My light diminished. When did that happen?

It must have been second grade. I had a best friend and I loved her so. But in her shadow, I felt the pangs of being less than. Perhaps the first cut came when a little boy pointed out I wouldn’t be able to do something that she could. And so by third grade, I was painfully aware of what I wasn’t. And what she was.

My friend was the pretty one. The fun one. And everyone liked her and wanted to be with her. Why she picked me as a friend, I’ll never know. And so the years continued. By the fifth grade, my placement was firmly established. A classmate pointed out that just because my two friends were popular, it didn’t mean I was. As if I didn’t already know.

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And so I consider Levi on the cusp of these formative years. And because I remember how I felt, I fret over his own feelings. Does he feel less than? Has he suffered those pangs? Has he been rejected? Because he’s a miniature me… And so, I compare our pictures. And I have hope for my boy. See, my face is more guarded at the same age. My smile not so bright. But Levi still has a look of confidence about him. He still looks shiny and bright. Still open and willing to share. And I feel a bit of relief. He’s not been awakened to the world’s set of scales yet. He doesn’t feel the hurt of not being the one. Chosen. Popular. For now, he’s safe. He’s still free to be himself.

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I know, I know. This is small. This is not a tragedy. This is simply school. But I ache for my son nonetheless. I want so much for him. I want it to be different. And I fear for him because he’s a mini-me. I know what I did. How I shut down. And then how I put on a mask. I pretended to be things I wasn’t. And then later, I used substances as a crutch to get me through. Whatever it took to maneuver in a crowd. And so, I went with the flow. Easily led. A follower to the core. No, I didn’t navigate the murky waters of school successfully. I never found my footing and thus, left home at nineteen not really knowing who the heck I was. What will it be like for him?

Truth is, peer pressure is hard. And the reality is I’m just now getting over it. Finally, at forty-one, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Just now finding my footing… And though I’ve made great strides, every now and then I slip. Something will present that awakens me once again to the world’s set of scales. And what took years to press down bubbles forth to the surface. Like raging water. It was a word find I saw on Facebook that did it last week…

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The first three words you see is the game. And people saw lovely things such as love and freedom. But me?

  1. SUCCESS
  2. POPULAR
  3. BEAUTY

And so, I wonder… am I, a full grown woman, really over it after all? Does this word game mean the above is what’s important to me subconsciously? Am I still held under the sway of success being measured by popularity and beauty? Or is it that I now project the peer pressure I felt for myself as a young girl onto my son.

Oh, I want him to excel. And in school, that means success is measured by popularity. By beauty. By materialism. And by physical attributes. And so, I ache. This time, it’s not for me. It’s for him. I want him to stay shiny and bright. I don’t want him to be tarnished by the harsh reality of school. I don’t want him to hurt. I don’t want him to feel that first cut of rejection. To feel less than. Because to me, he is chosen. Valuable. Worthy. Beautiful.

 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 52:2-3

As trivial and petty as all this may seem, I was in tears by the end of yesterday. And because Levi has not been awakened to the world’s value system yet, and I have been, I cried for him. And at 2:00 a.m. this morning, this is all I could think about. Levi and what the future will bring. And I pray it doesn’t take him forty-one years to find his footing… like me. And that he’s more successful in navigating the murky waters of school than I was. And because he has a more solid foundation than I did at his age, I have every hope that it’ll be different for him. Because just look at him. In my eyes, he’s a success. He’s popular. Beautiful and chosen. And more importantly, this is how God sees him. All others may reject him, yet He won’t. And in truth, that’s all that really matters.

It’s true… with God on his side, Levi’s footing will be sure. God’s security to replace insecurity. And like with the waterslide, perhaps I need to rest in this truth more than Levi does. As his mother, I need to know he’ll find his feet. I have to hear he’ll be just fine. And God’s word assures me he will.

IMG_0563For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock.  Psalm 27:5

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