Tag Archives: journaling

Two Week Follow-up

Standard

My two week hiatus is over. I’m feeling rested and slightly petrified.

After finally calming the crap down around Day Six, I spent lots of time napping, dancing around the living room to “I Will Survive” and “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart” and drinking fizzy fruit sodas. My blood sugar raged but the Inner Emo felt better for the exercise, thanks much.

Then the emails started. The beast tightened the financial screws which makes job-hunting higher priority than before. I’m no longer looking for work in my field and have cast the nets further adrift so to speak. Trying to find work after so long out of the loop is tough. Trying to find something that pays a living wage is worse.

Hate to be so cryptic but keeping identifying details to a minimum while updating is difficult on a good day.

All this sounds pretty rotten and–well, it is. But during the last two weeks, I felt my Father’s joy and His assurance of provision. He assured me that those who trust in Him will not be put to shame. He assured me that He keeps watch over His children and He will repay their enemies. And He assured me that He knew beforehand and made provision accordingly.

Like a Light in a Storm

Three months ago, I had a strange dream. I wrote it down, including all the odd details. At the time, the dream made me feel  better even though it made no sense and knowing it was from the Lord, I tucked it aside with other journal gems, then went on about my business, promptly forgetting the whole thing. It went something like this:

I’m in a store doing ordinary things which I wrote down. These things were quite specific and not the least bit scary and yet I am terrified anyway. I wake, screaming at the top of my tiny lungs for the Lord to come comfort me right-this-minute.

Only I wasn’t actually awake. I’m a little girl, maybe six to eight or so. I’m in a big double bed. The covers are horribly rumpled as I’ve obviously been fighting in my sleep, my head down by the foot of the bed. Beautiful soft light streams in through the window and I am squealing like crazy, crawling up on the pillows and calling for Jesus to come get me.

It’s the middle of the night. I may be awake, but I am little and I am scared.

All of this, I perceive in a bare minute. The colors, the lighting, the perception– much more than a dream. And in the split-second it takes to start squealing, I see my Lord, all warm and drowsy and stumbling over to calm down this wailing child of His heart.

Which wakes me up out of the dream-within-a-dream. I am no longer scared. I realize I’m home, I’m safe, my Lord isn’t the tiniest bit worried and I  have woken Him up for no reason as there is actually nothing wrong– no danger, no imminent threat, no looming destruction. The ordinary items that terrified me are not a threat. I tell the Lord that it’s okay, He can go back to sleep, I’m fine.

I get some loving up anyway.

And then I actually did wake up.

How the Story Plays Out

For several days before the email of financial doom, I felt a need to go back and reread my journals. I remembered things, reread encouragement and replayed some of the sweet moments from time spent in His presence. Pretty nice stuff. I reread answers to prayer given before I knew to ask. Holy moments tucked in between panicky moments of desperation. I got a snapshot of the way the Lord has upheld and sustained me during this transition. Yeah, things stink sometimes. But, there is beauty in His sweet care.

The evening of the email’s arrival started off pretty nice. One of the kidlets had the nerve to get older than allowed for a youngster of my tender years so out we went for a little birthday sushi and a generous helping of family gossip. Afterwards,  dear child invites Mom to their favorite thrift store (some things definitely run in families). Nice surprise and lovely end to a wonderful visit.  We  drive over, park too far away after so much raw fish and part ways near the door as I’m more of a home goods kinda shopper and kidlet loves the clothing section.

Round the corner and there, hidden in the back tastefully arranged with a grouping of tacky ’80’s mauve and blue geese sits a vision from heaven– the most awesome little table to grace a thrift store in ages. A 1930’s, drop leaf office typing table, complete with wheels that raise and lower, a foot operated devise that actually works to lock the table down. The top needs refinishing but all the marvelous, industrial metal goodness is perfect.

The table is mine. I know it. I love it. It loves me back. We are meant to be united in decorating bliss. There’s a great big freshly painted wall back home with an empty slot in need of just such a wonder. I drag my treasure to the cashier, knocking various grandmother-types out of the way as I go. This baby needs to get bought and paid for pronto before some big city high brow sees what I’ve found and tries to wrestle it from my grimy clutches. After all that raw fish, I’m in no shape for a tussle.

Fourteen dollars and twenty minutes later, the table sits near the front door with a lovely sold sign attached. I threaten the cashier with immanent doom if she lets my baby out of her sight for one minute and head back to the book section. I have vowed to quit bringing home anything bigger than a matchbox but a quick perusal yields an armload of HUGE hardbacks meant to melt the  heart of any bibliophile. Someone cleaned off the coffee table. Whatever– they are  mine. I remark to the cashier that I have no place for these boat anchors and quickly calculate the probability of getting both the rolling table/cart and the huge box of books to the car.

At this point, I park myself near the door on a second-hand sofa and look smug. Occasionally the thought crosses my mind that I can’t possibly lift the book box and the cart but decide that God Will Provide and thus, turning religious, move on to more pressing matters like watching other shoppers gawk over my table until they see the sold sign. More smugness ensues.

Trust me, there is a point in here somewhere.

Eventually, my daughter and I get everything loaded with the help of a nice gay man who does, in fact, make a play for my table although my heart is hard to his cries for mercy as he assures me that he, and only he, can properly appreciate it’s wonderfulness. I snicker and head homeward, arrange table in place of honor, grab the laptop for a quick check and bam– the beast strikes again.

Don’t know if anyone else can relate, but the world stopped turning.

I am petrified. Bills loom. The little bit of personal credit in my own name is liable to be ruined. Important things must be paid or put off indefinitely. My kids will do without and there’s not much cuts closer to the bone.  I’ve tried to find work already. I see no answer, no solution, no promise.

Of course, this is not all technically true. I’m not exactly on the street. I haven’t tried Walmart yet and I hear they hire just about anyone. That doesn’t help however. Spiraling commences. I’m not thinking anymore and a big hot wad of Ugly wants to take me under. I see myself living in a box under the bridge, selling plasma and eating radioactive carp from the bayou.

After plenty of this, I head on to bed, get still and hear my Savior.

He reminds me of His promises. He quotes from my journals. The stories just read only nights before replay through my fear-soaked brain.

I can hear and I know– there’s a decision to make. I can chose to trust the One Who brought me this far already or I can head on into this shit-filled pit the beast so kindly dug and stay there for only the Good Lord knows how long.

This time, the good guys win.

Spiritual wrestling makes me hungry. There’s crackers and cheese in the kitchen and as I’m no longer headed for life as a bag lady, I head to the fridge instead for a midnight snack. I may be better but sleep is out of the question so I open up the journal I’ve been reading for days now and scroll down to the next entry on March 10th.

And there’s the dream. I’m munching crackers and reading all this incredible detail from the first section of the dream which I’d forgotten as it made no sense whatsoever. After all, it wasn’t scary and yet I was terrified. The part which I kindly left out earlier to make the story much juicier. . .

. . . the part where I’m in a store. And I’m terrified. And I find a rolling table that might be a cart and I’m trying to get it out of the store. Except that I have a huge box of heavy books. And I can’t figure out why I’d buy these great big books.  I know I can’t carry both the books and the table and everyone wants my table and it makes no sense whatsoever to be frightened of rolling tables and books but I am and . . .

I am Fine.

At that moment, crackers falling out of my open mouth, I know, beyond a doubt that my Father knows everything. I’ve heard this all my life but the reality of experiencing trumps the head knowledge of hearing any day.

Nothing takes Him by surprise. He is watching. He knows. He gives me a dream three months in advance and makes sure I find it again on the day I need to hear from Him so desperately. He knew where I would be, what I’d be doing, how I’d be feeling and that I would squawk like a trembling baby bird in a rumpled nest.

He gave me some loving up ahead of time.

Now isn’t that something?

I’d like to say that everything is all better now but circumstances have not change quite yet. I know they will. Not how or where or when– just that they will. I may panic again tomorrow.  I wish I could say I’m strong enough to remember this little miracle when the crap hits the fan again– which it will– but I am not.

What I can tell you is this.

If I squeal, my Savior will come and pat me until I’m better. And for now, that is plenty good enough.

Burnout: Going to My Happy Place

Standard

A few days ago, I realized I’m just about crispy fried. Hand shaking, nail biting, random crying, nervous edging. Not like those months right after leaving, mind  you. Just enough to know something needs to change pretty dadgum quick.

I wrote a few friends, asked for advice and prayer, then settled in for a nice vacation.  Not actually going anywhere,  but for the next two weeks I’m purposefully disconnecting from the thoughts, worries and activities that litter my days with reasons to freak.

This morning I realized just how often we all struggle with burnout and decided to share. I’ll post a quick update every day or so complete with pictures and a bullet point list of stuff that’s helping along with the crap that most decidedly is not. I’d love to hear your comments and ideas if you’ve got a notion.

Right now, the plan involves extra sleep which may or may not work out so well but I’m going to give it the old college try regardless. I bought a couple of how-to-paint books which look hard enough to engage the mind and easy enough for some instant gratification. My ipod is fully loaded and, I swear, I’ll drug the dog is he barks one more time.

Things not to do:

  • No job hunting
  • No serious blog post writing until vacation is over
  • No worrying over things I can’t control anyway (I am cracking myself up over here)

Thoughts and prayers much appreciated.

Screaming in the Basement

Standard

Stephen King talks about the boys in the basement helping out with his writing. Since this is Mr. King, there’s no telling what he really means, but in the context of craft, the idea is to give yourself plenty of information, then let the subconsciousness go to work. When the boys send something up,  write it down before it gets away.

I see dreams this way. Things I can’t quite get my literal mind around squealing like pigs in the dark time. Whatever. I wish they’d shut up already.

Still, I had a doozy last night and spent the eternal sixties between three and four this morning checking under the sofa.

Would You Like to Share With the Class?

Instead of regaling you with my bothersome imagery, I thought we’d play a little. Perhaps we could share and get a little insight from each other.

Here’s one of mine to get you started:

I’m sitting in a nasty swamp. Over to my left, I see the beast playing with another man. They are carrying on big-time and ignoring me completely. I notice that other folks are arriving but they are smart enough to be getting into boats before going out in this murky mess. I start getting anxious and decide to head to shore.

When my feet hit bottom, I feel snakes slithering around in the goo and promptly get bit on the foot but by this point, I don’t care. I’m getting out or I’ll die trying. That’s when I notice the alligators swimming back and forth between me and the shore. I plunge on ahead, expecting to lose an arm or a leg any second.

Once out– appendages still intact– I have no idea what to do next so I go sit in a little changing shed  (down here, that’s an semi-open shed where you shower off and change into your bathing suit or back into clothes.) I sit on the hard wooden bench and watch out the open door. I’m waiting, but don’t know why.

Then the alligators start marching by. They’re walking in line past the door. I tense up, all quiet hoping they don’t spot me but of course, this is a nightmare. The lead gator swings his big ugly head my direction and. . .

. . . they all turn into zombie gators, walking upright on their hind legs and headed right for me. I am trapped inside this stupid shed which is the worst place on earth to be in case of zombie-gator attack.

The End.

Your turn.

Hearing God’s Voice in the Rubber Room

Standard

Love my journals.  Should they perish, Canadians would hear the  weeping and join the chorus, sorrow unmatched in this, or any other continent. Perish the thought–

My backups have backups. I fret each time the computer freezes which is silly as I have plenty of backups. Still, in the interest of International Peace and Good Will, I check my collection from time to time and make sure they’re all healthy and happy.

Nobody wants a chorus of weeping Canadians on their conscience.

Journals are kept in digital format, password protected. Without that luxury, I couldn’t journal as  the anti-husband could not see anything  negative or critical or his delicate feelings might be hurt. No, I’m not joking. Never mind that my thoughts and feelings were never safe with him. Not that I would know but I heard a rumor once that’s how its suppose to be with husbands and wives.

My journals begin November of 2005 and continue through last evening. In general, I sit down to chronicle every day or so unless something out of the ordinary happens in which case, I may write three or four times in twenty-four hours.

Over the years I started and stopped plenty of journals. This time around, something changed. This time, I was desperate.

Always before, I wrote only safe things in case I got busted. I colored in events with pretty colors when the facts were less than lovely. I left out hurtful events unless I intended to take the blame. I also developed a talent for punishing myself on paper,  a reminder to  do better in the future. This verbal playacting got old pretty fast and another half-empty journal joined the pile,  collecting dust on a closet shelf.

The password changed everything. Even so, I wasn’t so good at telling the truth. My reality was harsh, ugly. I refused to say what I really thought.  I didn’t know my feelings were valid, and  it was plenty okay because God knew what I was thinking anyway so who was I kidding? With time, I’ve gotten pretty dadgum good at laying out the trash and sorting through later.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

My reasons for writing were twofold—I was confused and needed to hear from God. At first, I had no idea why I was so confused.  Maybe writing stuff out  would bring clarity. Took time but that is indeed what happened.

As a Christian, I believe God is plenty alive  and He wants fellowship with His children. I believe in prayer. I believe in answers to prayer. I felt certain He wanted to speak but in the state I was in, I couldn’t hear a thing. I thought maybe by consistently recording experiences, thoughts and prayers, I could learn discernment.

There’s a Party Going On

Ultimately, there were too many voices.

I heard things alright. Lots and lots of things. Sometimes I heard my mother’s voice, telling me I was nothing without a man and if I couldn’t please my God-ordained husband, my life was a failure. I should lose weight, fix myself up, stop letting myself go. Since mom was still alive and talking plenty, it got pretty easy to tell when she was carrying on inside my head without permission.

Another voice sounded like mine. I transcribed its rantings on a regular basis. It told me I was a failure, I deserved to be punished for my faults, I couldn’t get anything right, there wasn’t any use trying anymore.

Give up, give in and die already.

Sometimes this one spoke in the background, more an undercurrent of hopeless, helpless frustration. Other times, it got really, really loud. The more I wrote these words down, the more I began to see their point of origin.

These lovelies belonged to the voice of my husband—not  his actual words, but the message received after so many years of trying and failing to gain his love and approval.

This voice needed a good crucifixion, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m still working on that.

God Said What?

I can’t tell anyone how to hear from God and that certainly is not my intention. After all those years of continuous verbal and emotional barrage, I wouldn’t have known the Voice of God if it bit me on the posterior. Which it didn’t, in case you’re wondering.

But over time, I learned a few things.

  • God doesn’t speak inside my head. All that chatter going on right and left came from someplace for sure, but it wasn’t Him.
  • Those compulsions that cropped up occasionally weren’t God either. 

Go back and check the mailbox right now! Write out a check to such and such ministry for one hundred dollars before you go to bed!!

These turned out to be just another version of the same mess the anti-husband pulled, ordering me around, insisting I do it right-now-or-else with either option sure to cause trouble.

Write that check? Get in trouble with the anti-husband. Don’t write the check? Big trouble with the heavenlies. Over time, I learned these directives were not from my loving heavenly Father but another manifestation of that state of the double-bind the husband kept me in, on purpose, at all times.

(I have got to write that blog post on bounded choices. . .)

Another type of compulsion came with a whole bucket load of fear.  I have to get out of here. Danger-danger-danger-something’s wrong, something’s wrong, something’s wrong.

Once upon a time, I thought these feelings-out-of-nowhere were a form of discernment. Not so much. These anxious thoughts turned out to be triggered by some current situation recalling a past trauma which fanned those fight or flight reactions into a white-hot pitch.  By writing them down afterward, I learned to see where the little devils originated.

Writing about the evil force attacking me in the hardware section of the dollar store brought to mind the time the anti-husband went on a tirade over the drill bit I bought—

  • that he sent me into town to buy—
  • that I called him about from the store to double check the specifics—
  • that he swore later he never told me to get and besides that, I never called—
  • that cost way too much and—
  • how could I be so stupid?—
  • Women don’t know anything about tools—
  • you can’t send a women to do a man’s job—
  • why would I ever ask for a titanium bit when all I’m doing is hanging a picture?
  • which he would now bring up in front of company forever-and-ever amen.

Totally off-topic side note: These morphed into full-scale panic attacks once I left. They didn’t last as long as I  knew where they came from (thank you sweet journal). Then I could transfer all that emotion from the evil tools to the evil man who caused the problem in the first place. I still don’t like drill bits much but at least these days I can walk by without hyperventilating.

Elijah in the Cave

So how do you hear God’s voice? If I knew how to answer that question, I’d skip right over and tell you how many angels dance on the head of a pin. I’d glow with radioactive holiness. Everyone would stand amazed, basking in the reflection of all things pious and sanctified. I’d send out a few prayer cloths, dripping in overflowing saintly stuff and pass the collection plate.

Since this is not likely to happen anytime soon, I’ll start by confessing I use the shorthand version in general conversation that makes some folks cringe—God spoke to me and said this or that. Well no, not exactly. In our church from my younger days, we use to say, The Holy Spirit impressed upon me and I believe He’s saying—which  is probably more accurate as it implies the Lord may be talking but you might be interpreting His intentions all backwards.

Around here, it’s like this—

Sometimes a still small voice comes along, welling up from a place deep inside that isn’t so much a voice as a knowing. A bit of truth. It doesn’t sound like any other voice in my life. I try to pay attention to these whispers of substance and write them down, then put them on the shelf. I decided long ago that Mary had the right idea when she pondered things in her heart.

Nothing the Father says or does requires immediate action or else. If He leads, if He speaks, He will confirm and carry out His word. He’s got plenty of angels for all that right-this-minute stuff. We are His children. His delight. He loves us so dearly.

God’s word is truth. Learning to hear His voice leads deeper into prayer and study not away. It lines up with the proper study of scripture and it sets captives free. It’s consistent with His loving character but also with other aspects of His nature we might not be so familiar with like justice and vengeance so it’s important to remain open to the idea that we may have picked up wrong ideas and teaching along the way.

I’ve learned that my view of biblical marriage wasn’t His. He brought peace, joy and freedom. The religious teaching I learned as a young adult brought bondage, fear and a deathly fear of drill bits.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. . .

Journaling pulled away the confusion of the moment and helped me see the truth.  I got things wrong. I made plenty of  mistakes. But I learned to hear with my broken spirit instead of these ears.

A quick point that may not apply to anyone but stubborn me–along the path to getting free, I realized my head was chattering way too much. In response, I shut down the whole she-bang. I figured if I couldn’t tell God’s voice from others, I’d just quit listening. This was so not helpful.

There’s a risk in seeking the Face of God. There’s a possibility of making mistakes. For those of us who’ve internalized the voice of our enemy, it’s a painful process to learn discernment. From personal experience, I’m saying—keep an humble heart, keep a deep love for the truth and the understanding of the Cross—humility, sacrifice, laying down our lives for others—and press in to Jesus.

In Him is truth and light and freedom.

The destination is worth the sacrifice.