meet & greet.

this is the final post in our study of romans. thanks for joining us!

Romans 16, nlt {emphasis mine}

Paul Greets His Friends

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. 2 Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

3 Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. 4 In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. 5 Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. 6 Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus.11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. 12 Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

14 Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. 15Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. 16Greet each other in Christian love. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.

{paul makes it clear that he has not forgotten, and in fact wants to honor, those who have paved his way through ministry. something important for each of us to remember, no?}

Paul’s Final Instructions

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, the one writing this letter for Paul, send my greetings, too, as one of the Lord’s followers.

23 Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus.

25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

awake, o sleeper.

today, you woke me in hours early to say i love you and i know in my being, heart of my hearts, this to be true and i arose from slumber deep with a thankful heart and the peace that passes that all is well

and i am okay.

good morning day three of welcoming this foreign agent into my foggy body and i know it will take a few weeks before i’m no longer bug-eyed and i can eat again and sleep with rest but i am for now again thankful for my saving grace.

and i am ready for my soul to rest and my spirit to soar and for my heart to not be weepy anymore. and perhaps and most likely it’s psychosomatic that i only just found hope again on tuesday in his office and already feel good inside but it’s all jesus, every bit…

rescuing me, pulling me up step-by-step and out of the hole i stumbled into again but i will leave the gorilla there because that’s where he lives best, where he belongs, and i don’t need him here on the outside.

i feel alive, i feel free and i feel awake again. ready to face the day and all that it holds, with open arms and a willing heart and a spirit inside that heartily offers a resounding, yes.

alive, free and awake.

a good way to start the day, the new year, off with a bang.

   “Awake, O sleeper, 
      rise up from the dead, 
      and Christ will give you light.”

-ephesians 5:14, nlt

you have once again awakened this deep sleeper come alive again in every way.
and i will live and breathe and have your being, from the deep calls to deep…
lord, have your way in me this day.

today’s prompt: awake

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you can find my previous 5mf posts here.

tears of a clown.

i have felt like a crazy person for the last couple of months.

i have been irritable, self-centered, and extremely cranky. pissy, i say.

i don’t even use the word pissy normally. that’s an annoying & gross word. this is also a sign to myself.

i have not been available in ways i am when i am my most generous self.

i have been impatient and unkind, not at all characteristic of me on my better days.

(i have also found myself to be self-righteous.)

i have judged people in ways i haven’t heard myself judge in a really, really long time. the kind of judging others that you learn in your first few therapy sessions are actually the characters flaws you see in yourself. and, quite honestly, it disgusts me. i am not that way, not normally. it’s weird and i hate it. 

i have gotten on my own nerves, so i would understand if i have gotten on yours.

the most heartbreaking part of this whole mess that is, well…me…over the last few months is that i have especially lacked grace where i would like to think it has otherwise flowed so freely.

grace is my…well, if i don’t have and show grace? she who knows how much has been and is continuously extended to her? who fights for and seeks it and pursues it with vigilance and hello, it’s in my very own blog-tag? grace is the very heart and soul of my being. 

like i said, that’s been The Most Heartbreaking Part Of It All for me. it really devastates my heart because i know better. i don’t know differently. (not anymore.) but i have acted as if i don’t know better and i do know differently and this sucks.

i have been very up and down and all over the place and sideways these last months. i could blame it on certain crazy-making people or circumstances because there are a few of those, too. but, the truth is, i have lost some of my tools and have forgotten how to use other ones which, even around my crazy-makers, i am normally capable of making better sense of the world and of myself when i am in my right mind.

surprisingly, i haven’t made a fool of myself or lost my shit in public or toward my family or said anything to anyone i would have to later repent for saying.

(that i can think of, anyway.)

i have had the wherewithal, fortunately, to call out The Cranky and apologize or stop or remove myself before severely manifesting. that, and i’ve pretty much only put myself around folks i know that i know that i know wouldn’t bring out The Cranky or would love me through it, and have avoided those that i feared i could hurt with The Cranky. i don’t trust The Cranky. down with The Cranky.

the sad alternative, though, has been that i have isolated and climbed back into my very hollow, uncomfortable shell.

i am not surprised. i know where i am. 

i recognize this place. this lonesome, dark, full-of-fear place.

it is not the place of my holiday funk, though i hoped for a moment that’s all that it was.

there are days and even just moments when i have thought, no, i’m okay. it’s passed.

but the truth is, i tripped a few months back and have slowly fallen backward into the very lonely, dark hole that is my depression.

hell, who am i kidding? it’s not been backward at all. i pretty much dove in, face first. because that’s what happens when i, you know, try to play my own hero.

i cry when no one’s looking and sometimes when they are, if i am especially safe in their company. in this place, i get stuck and i can’t get myself out. and even if i could, i don’t have the energy to try. i have heard myself say a few times that i feel lost and alone. i can’t make sense of very much and i’m motivated to do even less than that. things that usually roll off my back have bothered me in ways that nag.

to be real honest with you? if you were to call me a dry-drunk, i wouldn’t couldn’t get upset with you.

well, and to lay it all bare for you? i’m real surprised i haven’t just forfeited all my chips but for the grace of god. i have enough sense about me to know i can’t go back there again, though i can’t say it hasn’t been a thought in my mind.

(we’re only as sick as our secrets, right? so, there’s mine.)

i leave the shoebox because i have to work (thank god), but most mornings i attempt to beg the day not to come by forcing my eyes not to open. (strangely enough, this doesn’t work. i know. ODD.)

i still fight for myself as best i can.

sweet little zella-girl makes me take her on long walks (scratch that, reverse it) and i make myself listen to either worship or my favorite fun songs as we bumble along down the road. and the breeze feels good on my soul.

some days, i will call friends in order to get outside of myself.

on my very best days, i will have coffee with a friend.

but most days, i cancel plans or say no all together.

i want to get out of myself. i have wanted to say yes. i haven’t wanted to be here.

but most days i haven’t been able to be anywhere else.

and, unfortunately, this hole isn’t big enough for company.

depression isn’t moodiness. and it’s not what normies might liken to a bad day. it’s not feeling sad (not on any normal level, anyway). for one, it’s chemical. so, there’s that. but, for two, the last time i found myself here, i said it is like i am in a black, me-sized hole and god can’t reach down far enough and i can’t reach up high enough for us to get to each other.

it’s just that also with me in the hole, see, is this monkey on my back. only he’s more like a gorilla. a limp, lame, deaf, dumb, blind and mute gorilla. just hanging out. on my back.

down, down, down into the hole the gorilla and i go. went.

and down, down, down the gorilla and i will stay until one of us gets restless enough to try and get out again.

even still, i pray. oh, i pray, i pray, i pray…believe me, i pray.

and i have felt close to god, perhaps closer in these long legs of my journey than in any other…which i guess probably sounds strange? that i would feel so close to god, yet so far away?

i know god is and has been there each time i have found myself in the hole (which, incidentally, has been three very significant times; this being the third.) karen first made me aware of my depression in the first 30 minutes of my very first appointment with her after i had been sitting in it comfortably like a sad, drunk, homeless person living beneath a bridge for the better part of my life. that is to say, i was 26 when i faced and started dealing with what she thought landed on me like a disease around the time i was 13. the spiral began the second time…around this time of year, actually…four years ago, when i first moved from my hometown to the town where i now live.

the thing is, it’s always looming. it’s not like it strikes from nowhere when i’m not looking. in between the three times i was staring at it directly in the face, it was always hanging around, waiting for me to notice or engage it. like the dark, brooding bad-boy (ahem #ryangosling #badboyworldtour #jordancatalano) who hangs around outside the soda shop smoking & playing it cool, waiting for the pretty girl to notice him, only he acts like he doesn’t notice her just so he can get her to notice him.

my depression is kinda like that. 

i know the bad-boy isn’t good for me, but i kinda feel sorry for him and wonder what the mystery is all about. plus, i think i kinda like danger.

but then i get swept up in his sad drama and maybe i even start smoking again and i wear his leather jacket and my friends stop calling and when i realize i can’t figure him out because he can’t be figured out, i remember why i should have just walked on by the first time i saw him. and the second.

there are ways i can make it more difficult for myself, and ways i can live with it more manageably and actually enjoy a happy, fun and successful life. six or so months ago, i made the best decision i could make for myself at the time when i gradually took myself off my anti. but what i couldn’t pay for with insurance, i have paid for in deuces with this fog i’ve been walking through.

i’m not suicidal, but i wouldn’t care very much if i slipped off the attic step. or if that car hadn’t seen me. or what if…i just…disappeared? those are the unsettling kind of thoughts i’ve had.

uplifting, no? encouraging, isn’t it.

the thing is, i know how pitiful i sound in my depression. maybe it’s all the therapy or too much aa, but i have enough self-awareness to know that to those who can’t relate (thankfully), i sound really, really pitiful. so i’m doing well to laugh at myself.

and the limp, lame, deaf, dumb, blind and mute gorilla.

who sometimes gets his feelings hurt.

and has itches he can’t scratch.

i walk around in a haze or a daze, depending on the day, and i paint my face and plaster on my smile and pray, pray, pray that i can make it through the day without falling apart completely because, were that to happen, i wouldn’t have a very good reason for it.

or any reason at all.

i could have seen it coming. i did, actually. and those who were paying attention best of all saw it coming, too.

i was just hoping it wouldn’t. come, i mean.

i tried to talk it out of coming. tried to convince the depression not to come.

but it did. it has. the depression is here. and it’s been here for the last few months.

you shouldn’t be surprised about it, either. in fact, you probably aren’t. because don’t you remember the day i told you how i lost my insurance and weaned myself off my anti?

i was secretly thankful and thought maybe my depression wasn’t as bad as it had been before, or maybe i just didn’t have it anymore. you know…like a virus. 

i fought it. i was pro-active in the beginning. i asked friends to pay attention, and they did.

i tried.

i tried, i tried, i tried. oh, how i tried. believe me, i tried.

i tried not to have it again.

i tried not to be depressed.

but i can’t try not to have depression, i realize now.

there aren’t words enough to pray my way out of it, no matter how loud or hard or quiet i am or close to jesus i feel.

(don’t you know i would if i could? if that were enough? all that it took to get me out of the hole and over the hump?)

but i can glorify god through it.

it’s a slow fade but i see it now. i recognize it. i know it all too well now.

the gift that is my depression, i mean.

but things will be different on tuesday.

everything will be better on tuesday.

see, i am considered high-risk because i’ve been treated for both a melanoma and depression; therefore, i qualify for guv’ment-based insurance, which kicked in for me on january 1. (say what you will about our president, i could kiss him on the mouth for the new healthcare system.)

so i’ve very willingly tucked my tired tail between my paralyzed legs and me and the gorilla are surrendering again to my p.a. tomorrow.

as it were, i only checked in with him for about 15 minutes every few months, so he doesn’t know i broke up with him and my anti. (totally awesome of me, i know.) i was just sort of hoping he wouldn’t, you know…notice…so we wouldn’t have to…you know…have a weird, awkward break-up talk when i would tell him it’s not him, it’s me, when we really shouldn’t have ever been together in the first place and

wait, what?

um, anywho

(weird.)

anyway, i’m not sure what to expect when he finds this out, though i’m sure i’m not his first client who tried to save her own day. like i said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

but this i know, of this one thing i am certain:

come tuesday, i will have hope again. 

an aside: i told leigh when i finished writing this on saturday night that i realize i haven’t really shared this part of my journey with you all. she said it may not have been time, or perhaps it wasn’t on my heart, before. good point, i told her. (she is always full of good points, that one.) better to write on in when i’m in the thick of it, i said. or…when there’s a soon-and-coming hope.

{thank you, jesus, for being my one-and-only hope.}

another aside: just as it took several weeks to get out of my system, it will likely take a few weeks for my anti to get back in to my system. i am praying against for minimal side effects during this time. but, just so you know, it may get worse before it gets better. and by ‘it’ i mean ‘i’. the good news, the part i know you’ve all been waiting for, is that i lost weight the last time i started taking it. so, here’s hoping. :)

i fear i have not won the battle against my flesh over these last months, so please know how profoundly sorry i am if i have made any off-color remarks to you or said or done anything that has been hurtful, even virtually. admittedly, i lack a filter between my brain and my mouth but i can usually access my delay button so please, please forgive me if i have failed to use that button when i should have but forgot. or just didn’t, but should have.

(as long as it’s something that actually does belong to me.)

(dang. see what i mean? the no filter thing.)

ugh. everything will be better on tuesday.

(for all of us.)

i promise.

thanks for loving me.

xo

tomato sauce.

do you really think i didn’t know the outcome? 

no, lord. i know you knew.

then do you think i allowed it to happen because i’m loving?

or because i’m spiteful?

uh…

* * * * * * * * * *

i likened my heart recently to a can of crushed tomatoes.

no big deal, i’m over it now.

(really. i’m over it.)

(for real. i promise.)

(okay, so i’m getting there.)

(plus, i may or may not have been a tiiiny bit dramatic and it turns out the thing was much bigger in my head than in reality.)

but for a hot minute my heart hurt in a long-forgotten way.

and when i took it to jesus, that’s what i heard with the ears of my crushed-tomato heart.

i forget sometimes that jesus is all-knowing and all-powerful but he is also, always and in all ways ALL-loving. because it’s who he is and it’s what he does.

 he can’t not love.

he ONLY loves.

do you get that?

so, even when i ask a thousand questions and don’t have any answers and my heart is a can of crushed tomatoes and i can’t make sense of the why’s and the how’s…

he is working on my behalf for love and not for spite.

not to punish but to progress.

not to hold me back but to propel me forward.

i continue to be blown away by this man who came to seek and save the lost.

the one who knows and goes after his own.

the one who stands at the door of my heart, knocking, waiting to be invited in so he can show and tell me how much he loves me, not so he can come in and take over and affront and offend.

the one who lovingly and persistently pursues my heart, my life, my whole soul and being in a way that points directly and only to himself.

he hurts my heart only in the best ways, never in a way that would bring harm or do damage. not in a way that brings confusion, but offers clarity.

so, yes, lord.

yes, jesus.

come in.

come in to this still-beating heart of mine. because if hurting it only draws it closer to yours and i see my choice to become softer and not bitter, then make it so.

make my heart a can of crushed tomatoes if you will, i don’t mind.

because i know

i know that i know that i know

that it’s only because

you love me

that you allow my heart to

hurt so good.

pain is the special province of the heart. and in the providence of a merciful god, he is able to convert it to something golden. something good. -paula rinehart (strong women, soft hearts)

on getting it.

there have been times in my life when i have wanted -nay, needed- a man, a brother, to step up in my defense to say, ‘no more. this ends here. now.’ sometimes that has happened. other times, i have had to stand up for myself. sometimes the latter is necessary in order to realize my own strength and stand in the confidence of who god has created me to be.

on other occasions, the former matters most.

i love it when a man – a man’s man, one of god – gets it. he just…gets it. gets a woman. gets a woman born of the same god.

preston gets it. 

thank you for getting it, preston. for wrapping words around strong women who fit a proverbs 32 model, or no real model at all, except that our heart’s desire is to become and look more like jesus in his entirety and to love god more fully. i needed for a man to get it.

thank you for getting it, preston. truly. 

alternately, sarah also gets it.

it’s a different kind of ‘it’ sarah gets, but it compliments what preston gets. she gets the struggle but also won’t relent to it and instead just wants to be about her father’s business.

sarah, thank you for this.

and my best heart-of-my-own-heart, sister-friend of my soul amy gets it. she has always gotten it but, like her own best friend, has taken the long road to getting it, one that neither of us would trade for any shortcut.

at the end of her first book, messy faith, amy states on page 203,

i don’t know how messy your faith is. i just know that god is there. i have no eloquent words to help you on your journey other than to tell you he is right beside you. he longs for you. he wants you. he has not given up on you. he has not forgotten about you. and no matter what the picture of your unique road of trusting in god looks like, know that he is right there. his presence unchanging and eternal. 

faith is not just messy. it is not only an experience of struggle, despair, and hard times. so much beauty and joy and peace and comfort are intertwined even in the darkest of places. sometimes we just have to do a better job of paying attention to them…

friends, thanks for getting it. and for putting words to what you’ve got. you inspire and encourage me. i’m thankful for you. xo

this mystery.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 11: 25-36, nlt {emphasis mine}
God’s Mercy Is for Everyone

25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,

“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
27 And this is my covenant with them,
that I will take away their sins.”

28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. {FACT} 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. 31 Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

* * * * * * * * * *

congratulations, melissa! you won a copy of shawn smucker’s book, my amish roots. i hope you love it, friend. email me your addy and shawn will get a copy of it to you asap. xo

30 days & 30 nights.

i really enjoyed finding the emails i wrote to my secret society of friends of who were cheering and praying for me during my first days of sobriety. as a follow-up to the email i posted upon my fifth anniversary, this is the email i sent to them 30 days later. xo

monday, december 4, 2006

hey my friends,

i just want you to know that i got my 30-day chip today.  below is my account of the last 30 days.  you know how long-winded i am over email (l, hire a babysitter and fix a cup of coffee), so you don’t have to read it.  i realize i wrote it more for myself than anyone else.  the main thing for you to know is that i did it!  i’ve been to a meeting every day, too.  you never graduate and i’m still very much in the beginning of recovery, but it was much easier to pick up the chip today than the first one 30 days ago.  one day at a time.

love you very, very much.  (and, h, i still have your wedding present!)

mary kathryn

* * * * * * * * * *

i feel like today is my birthday.  i kept waking up in the night because i was afraid i wouldn’t hear my alarm go off or something.  i was so excited to go to my meeting this morning BECAUSE i would be getting my yellow chip to denote my 30-days of sobriety.  after i got it, an older man asked if it felt like 30 days.  i said, “it felt like it had been 30 days on day 5.  today is reasonable.”

i remember on day 4 i thought, “i don’t belong here!  i’m not like these people!”  on day 6 i was mad because it was the first weekend i didn’t have the option of going out with my friends.  i mean, i guess i did.  but i knew better.  so a car full of people asked me if i wanted to get coffee with them when they were pulling out.  “yes, please.”  i didn’t know these people, had never seen them.  i met them a few minutes later at elmo’s and, after i asked one of the girls where she was from, she said, “none of your business!” and then left saying she was “probably going to get drunk” when we asked her where she was going.

it turns out no one in this group knew each other, which made it all the more funny.  i didn’t learn that until the mean/crazy girl left.  and then the next night i was invited to a “dance at my halfway house” by a lesbian.  a new friend told me that one of the guys who went to get coffee with us, told her that he used to take medicine that made him homocidal.  not SUIcidal.  HOMOcidal.  it took me at least 48 hours to recover from that weekend.  and to feel safe in my house.  i never thought i would survive and i certainly didn’t think i fit in.

and it bothered me that i started to wonder if maybe i actually did.

then, when matt came to visit from florida, i started going to the 7 AM meetings so our time together wouldn’t be interrupted.  and i think it was a combination of finally starting to be comfortable saying, “my name is mary kathryn and i’m an alcoholic” and just sort of falling into this new group of people in the mornings, whom i’ve really grown to love and regard as family.

it’s a bunch of “old timers” (that’s what people who’ve been in the program for a while are called and, apparently, this is universal all the AA-world over) who have been working the program for a long time.  retired and sleepy people who start their day together.  they all knew this day was coming up for me.  well, they knew because for a while there, every time i would speak, i would say, “i’m on day 17 of the program…i’m on day 23…”  i stopped saying it last week and only remembered that today was the day i would be getting my chip.  last week, i was really afraid -terrified, really- that i would do something to sabotage myself.  i’ve actually had the thought of, “maybe i’m going to die soon and God just wanted me to clean this up as part of my testimony before i go…”  who in the world thinks that?  i think it’s part of my whole “waiting for the other shoe to drop” attitude.  something i’m working on.

on day 16 i had a small meltdown.  that was the day you left, matt.  and i realized how alone i was feeling -in my recovery, in life.  i had gotten some unsettling news from my doctor -i was just alone.  and i sat in my car and, for the first time in a really, really long time i just sat in my car and cried like a baby.  it wasn’t one of my drunken-cries (chsc -whoot!) and i didn’t even think about drinking in order to numb myself to the loneliness.  and i remember sitting in my car thinking, “i’m just so glad i can feel this.”

that saturday, matt and i had gone hiking through the uwharrie forest and that night i said in my meeting, “i felt like i was seeing color for the first time, the way it was meant to be seen.”  i guess, i just didn’t realize until then, even though i knew i had had a problem with alcohol, i didn’t realize how much a part of my life it had become.  it had been my tried and true friend.  in part, i suppose i was also grieving the loss.

i had heard different ones laugh about how self-centered they were as alcoholics, or had been while they were drinking.  and i had joked about how i *definitely* was not that way… :)  last week, over thanksgiving, i started to see just how self-centered i really was.  i mean, part of it i come by naturally -i don’t have children (well, zella) and i live alone.  i don’t have to ask permission from anyone and i really have only myself to think about.  but part of it is/was just immature/whiny/fighting tooth-and-nail to have it my way/it’s all about me-ness.  and, let me tell you, that SUCKED to feel that.  or to recognize it.  but, i’m glad for it.  i don’t know if it’s changed, but i’m glad for the awareness.

after my first meeting, a guy {who i learned a year later had only gotten there two days before me} said, “they suggest you try to go to 90 meetings in 90 days.”  i can’t remember if i thought, “hell no” or “okay”.  i’m pretty sure i thought, “okay.”  of course, i was still drunk and hungover and was pretty broken, so i was agreeable to just about anything that night.  i’m glad.  i needed to be.  and i’ve done it, too.  i’ve been to a meeting (at least one) every day so far.  and i never -ever- want to forget the stories l told me about the night before…or my birthday party…or mandy’s wedding…or my christmas party…

different ones have said, “well, good.  maybe, since you caught it early enough, you’ll eventually be able to enjoy a glass of wine again.”  i appreciate that.  but, no.  it was a loss that i grieve even in this moment, but i know that will not be a possibility for me.  at least not today.

i’m trying to stay balanced because i know i’ll never be immune.  i want to fully have this moment and enjoy it but today is only day 30…of the rest of my life.  you never graduate.  last friday, a german woman who says, “i’m an alcocolcic” because of her accent said, “i have to be careful when i’m in a good mood!”  so we laughed about that walking out, “have a very bad day, leisl*!”  and today is one of those days where i feel good inside, so happy to be alive -and so grateful to be sober.  i’m going out to dinner tonight with the chapel hill social club and i know it would be like me in this state to say, “let’s have a toast!”  only this time, i’ll be lifting my sweet tea and no one will have to secretly worry if i’m going to make it home okay.  i’m not sure if i’ll ever not be afraid of going back, but i think it’s a good and healthy kind of fear.

AA is so largely based, if not entirely…yes, definitely entirely based…on our “spiritual condition” as we relate to the “God of our understanding”.  i know that will rub some of you the wrong way -it did me at first- but i love it.  i stopped even mentioning in passing that i’m a christian because, in that group, it doesn’t really matter.  in there, we’re all children of God.  i don’t have to “prove” God because He’s already in charge of the program.  i said it in the beginning and it’s still true 30 days later, i think an AA meeting is what more churches should look like.  {btw, after i published that in my last post, my friend quoted me as saying that but, while i can’t find where i heard him say this, i know i got it from brennan manning.} but, my point is, i’m so, so glad that the God of MY understanding is the one who said to me, “it’s okay, mary kathryn!  i love you!  now, come on and let’s deal with it!”  so many people come in with questions about their own “Higher Power” and i’m glad i don’t have the same kind of questions about mine.

i guess, what i’m not doing a good job of trying to say is, it is only by the help of God -and surrendering this to Him- that i’m able do this “one day at a time”-thing.  i’m just really grateful that i do know God, have known Him and have had a relationship with Him, for so long that it hasn’t been too hard to hand this over to Him.  i know i’m meant for more, for greater, than that path would have offered me.  and i’m just so, so glad that it was in response to His tenderness and love that i was able to say, “i love you.  and i give up.”  so grateful that He loves me like that.

last night i  went to the 8:00 meeting, which is the same meeting i walked into 4 weeks ago.  when it came time to give out chips, and they said “yellow for thirty days”, i piped up and said, “i’m going to wait and get my chip tomorrow, but this is the first meeting i walked into 4 weeks ago, and i just want to thank this group specifically for what that night meant for me.”  “big ed*”, who looks like he could be brutus’ father, was sitting outside when i walked up crying that night.  i see him from time to time and he found out last week today would be my “big day”, so he came to the meeting this morning just to see me.  we hugged for a long time.

i knew how important this day would be to me but i didn’t realize that it’s a big deal to other members of the group.  they say, “it helps keep us sober” to watch the newcomer.  this weekend, when some of my 5:30-friends found out i would be getting my 30-day chip today, they said, “come to the 5:30, too!”  it means a lot to me to have their support.  my sponsor -oh, i got a sponsor, who’s so gentle and kind- said she wants to come this afternoon, too.  they say you can pick up chips all day long!  one will do me fine, thank you.

someone told me recently that they have 18 white chips -18!- “but you don’t have to do that, mary.”  i don’t plan on it, though i know it’s a possibility.  ugh.  i don’t ever want to have to pick up another white chip again.

i’m just grateful today.  for you, for God, for the program of Alcocolcics Anonymous.  for my life.  life is good.  moment by moment, if we keep our head where our feet are, life is really, really good.

mk

*names have been changed to protect anonymity. duh.

kind & severe.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 11:1-24, nlt {emphasis mine}

God’s Mercy on Israel

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

4 And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”

5 It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. 6 And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.

7 So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. {this actually really gives me a greater understanding. you?} 8 As the Scriptures say,

“God has put them into a deep sleep.
To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see,
and closed their ears so they do not hear.”

9 Likewise, David said,

“Let their bountiful table become a snare,
a trap that makes them think all is well.
Let their blessings cause them to stumble,
and let them get what they deserve.
10 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
and let their backs be bent forever.”

11 Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. 12 Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.

13 I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, 14 for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. 15 For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! 16 And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.

17 But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. 18 But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.

19 “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” 20 Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21 For if God did not spare the original branches, he w spare you either.

22 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. 24 You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.

one thing i love about this passage is not how his heart is any less for the gentiles, but god’s desire is for the jewish people; rather, for all who believe, but not more for gentiles than jews.we as christians sometimes act like we are god’s chosen people, but he had already chosen his people. they just didn’t choose him back is all.

there is so much about this i don’t understand, so much about god’s characters and ways.

and i’m beginning to think these are the parts my brain isn’t meant to wrap around, my heart just isn’t meant to understand.

just to know that god is good and great and his mercy is both kind and severe…

this is all i need to know for today.

special brand of crazy.

over the last week, i’ve had several moments of hearing exactly what i needed to hear at exactly the time i needed to hear it. i figured if these nuggets helped me, then they’d probably help some of you, too.

p.s. once written, i knew i could make these anecdotes flow better than this, but now it’s requiring too much juice in my brain to figure it out so just go with it.

* * * * * * * * * *

i learned last week that my oldest childhood friend is expecting twins.

she got married…let’s see…pre-sober…so…in 2005?…and is expecting her first child(ren) next summer.

she may not remember this, and i’m certainly not going to remind her (i’ll just, you know…tell you all instead…), but she told me once that they didn’t really want to have children, which i get. i myself go back and forth on the matter, which is…well, since, you know…IT DOESN’T MATTER RIGHT NOW, ANYWAY.

but it gave me hope to know that one can change her mind even on a decision as big as having babies.

it’s never too late to make a different choice.

* * * * * * * * * *

and while i’m indifferent about the matter of growing people inside my body who would be little versions of my own heart running around in the world and calling me mom, my bff-karen told me the other day that she pictures my 3-4 {future} rambunctious children with dark, curly hair and i’m barefoot in the kitchen laughing at a carton of broken eggs on the floor.

my children, whom i can’t recall ever picturing myself.

(although i’m sure she was spot on about the broken eggs because. well.)

sometimes it takes someone else sharing vision for a piece of your life before you have one of your own.

(and in mine, i’m skinny, too.)

* * * * * * * * * *

i may or may not have told a small, little, tiny white lie a few days ago to get out of a commitment, one that i should have just said ‘no’ to when i was first approached for various and sundry reasons which, if i were trying to justify myself, i’d tell you that piece of the story and you’d understand. but the fact of the matter is, i wasn’t in my right mind when i committed myself but when you’re a pleaser and, well, a martyr, saying ‘no’ doesn’t come so naturally.

so i said ‘yes’.

and then i lied about saying ‘no’.

my co-spouse said, ‘we’ve all done that before’.

my sister said, ‘well, you did need a mental health day’.

and it doesn’t take away from the part that i wasn’t truthful but it sure was a relief to know that i’m not the only one who has done that before and that mental health days are easily sick days.

y’all, i know i was wrong. i judge myself. i was planning to delete this story because, well, i like letting you…ahem…think i’m…well…a perfect christian. the truth is, i am actually a very bad christian, like anne lamott says. and if you’re only as sick as your secrets, then i’m not doing anyone any favors by not sharing it, least of all myself. plus, if it helped me to hear it, it might help someone else.  

* * * * * * * * * *

my bff-karen and i somehow ended up in a conversation the other night about relationships. i told her that my last three major relationships (and each one before those) were so completely dysfunctional, codependent and unhealthy that i wouldn’t recognize a healthy one if it were staring at me in the face.

she disagreed with me because, yes, i would. especially because it’s now been over two years since i’ve seriously dated anyone and i know better because i’m better. changed. old(er).

sometimes all it takes is one word from a soul-sister of the heart to dispel a lie with truth when we forget who we are.

she also pointed out that, while our healthiest relationships should be easy and drama-free, it’s easy to mistake health for boredom. don’t know if that’s a word for someone or not the way it was for me.

* * * * * * * * * *

i asked my cousin to have lunch with me the day after big myra died because i thought i was slightly traumatized by the night’s events. i’ve been with folks just after they died, but never with someone while they actually died, and i have most assuredly never been The Only Person Who Was With Someone As They Died.

so, i needed to process that.

my nerves were put back together again when my very smart and wise clergy-cousin said, this was but one event of many, many special ones you have had with her in your life, especially over these last few months. in an instant, the pendulum swung back to center and i gained perspective.

our relationships do not culminate in one major event, for better or worse. those most precious to us are defined by moments and milestones, both heart and hard conversations, and special glances and sweet touches along the way.

also, perspectives can change in an instant when shared with the right person.

* * * * * * * * * *

after it happened, i realize now i was in such shock that it took what felt like 30 minutes to tell the story to her daughters of how big myra died which, really, was very uneventful and isn’t a long story to tell at all.

by the time i repeated it to another daughter, my sweet sister-friend who i recruited as another of her caregivers and is also a nurse was then present.

she said, you did all the right things.

because sometimes all you need to hear is you did everything right, even on days when it seems like  you didn’t.

* * * * * * * * * *

jane lynch was on live with kelly on friday (regis retired, you know). she was talking about her new book happy accidents (which, incidentally, i am neither pushing nor promoting, neither am i not pushing or promoting it – i haven’t read it and i’m not getting anything for mentioning it). i don’t know who she is or what she stands for except that she plays sue sylvester on glee, which is neither here nor there, because i really haven’t gotten into that show not for any reason at all other than i just haven’t.

anywho.

she said in passing she was intentional not to ‘take anyone else’s inventory’ in her book, which is a practice i learned early in my recovery as it is the fourth step: to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of one’s self.

not someone else’s self, just my own.

but i forget that part sometimes and i was thankful for the reminder. that, on a daily basis, it is my responsibility to be honest and truthful with myself and with others about myself. it is not, however, my responsibility to do that for anyone else no matter how justified i feel in doing so. that’s when resentments form and i get arrogant in my ways and that is a dangerous place for anyone to be.

* * * * * * * * * *

speaking of not taking anyone else’s inventory, i hesitate to tell this story, too, because it could sound like that’s what i’m doing. if anything, i’m just sharing my own brand of crazy.

my very…ahem“special” dog was explicitly uninvited to my parents’ beach condo for thanksgiving weekend; however, as i just lost a job last week, i couldn’t afford alternate plans for her.

but i cannot tell you that my feelings weren’t incredibly hurt by what was my mom and stepdad’s right to make this decision. and while my dog does require special attention, which i am used to giving after 7 almost 8 years, my sister’s family-dog was not uninvited to come.

as in, there is not a general policy on the matter, just as it relates to my dog.

even though they said it wasn’t personal, it felt very personal to me. as if they were rejecting my very, extremely, incredibly sweet but ill-mannered and hyperactive child who can’t be tamed.

so i reluctantly drove down to the beach on thanksgiving day to be with my family at my granddad’s home, resolving the whole way that i would be kind and loving as i could be and that i would turn around and leave if i just couldn’t get over myself.

zella came along for the ride and would have been content to stay in the car all day. but when i got there and saw my about seven of my cousins’ dogs, i let her spend the day outside with them.

and do you know what happened?

mine was The Only Dog Who Did Not Get Into Trouble All Day Long.

just, you knowFOR THE RECORD.

my co-spouses said their feelings would have been hurt, too, and they understood why i didn’t want to go. they also said my dog is welcome in their home any time.

some days all i need is for my closest friends to validate my crazy. (other days, i need to be called out.)

some days a girl and her dog just need to be accepted. (other days, they both need to be sent home.)

also, my dog is The Most Clever Dog In The World. clearly.

* * * * * * * * * *

my blog-friends katie & tony got married about 2 months ago. if we lived in the same town, we would totally live on the same cul de sac. i adore them, both separately and as a couple.

i really love reading about their journey and all they’re learning about marriage, probably because i recognize myself in their story. of all my married friends IRL (and there are many; in fact, most are), i probably relate most to katie’s belief systems and broken (and redeemed) path that led her to tony, whose integrity i admire tremendously.

katie’s thoughts about settling down have been sitting on me since i read them the other day. i think because i didn’t know her points are what i have falsely believed about marriage.

as much as i needed to be told i was wrong, i also needed to know i wasn’t the only one.

i woke up this morning thinking the one thing i’d add to her list also is the lie about ‘my life began the day i married…’ because…WHAT.

* * * * * * * * * *

i was catching up with katy’s blog (different katy. see? names are spelled differently. that’s how you can tell.) this morning and especially loved her most recent one, featuring special pins she’s recently found on pinterest. i was especially encouraged by some of them and thought you would be, too.

* * * * * * * * * *

and in katy’s reflections (same katy) about the women of faith conference, i was struck by something henry cloud said:

Happy people are givers—BUT there are some of you who have been giving and giving and you’re held captive by controlling people and you’re being stolen from these people who aren’t facing their issues.

i want to be a giver, don’t you? and i want to be someone who recognizes her issues so that i don’t rob other people of their own happiness. (again with the inventory.)

lord, help my happy.

and help me get away from any thieves.

* * * * * * * * * *

last week i tweeted about not being able to sleep and how i was looking forward to being awesome the next day.

catherine said, you will be awesome because you are awesome.

sometimes you just need to hear that you’re awesome.

* * * * * * * * * *

lastly, my special friend alece has said to me a couple of times over the last few weeks, i  believe in you big time.

doesn’t it do you a world of good to hear that? me too.

* * * * * * * * * *

you?

are awesome.

and i believe in you BIG time.

and you are definitely

definitely

DEFINITELY

not the only one.

(ever.)

cinco de sober.

i’ve now been sober for five years and three days. 

this is an email i sent to a group of friends exactly five years ago today, three days after i attended aa for the first time.

wednesday, november 8, 2006

the last time i lost my power to choose. and my shoes. {11/4/06}

i’m not sure how to start this.  well, first, {bride}, to you, especially – i know i don’t have the power to have ruined your entire wedding, but you must know how deeply sorry -not to mention embarassed- i am about the attention i drew to myself at your reception and afterward at the hotel.  i was mortified to hear how horrible it – i - was.

i really have no idea what i would have done if l & c hadn’t been there to take care of me and i’m sorry to them that they had to do it.  i’m also grateful that it was l & c because i know that it would have been easy for anyone else to say, “it’s okay, mare.  it happens to the best of us.”  i have really appreciated that in the past but, the truth is, we all know i have a drinking problem and it’s time i address it head-on.

l, in tough love and all the grace i’m sure she could muster, said, “i can’t sugar-coat this.  you were horrible.”

after a certain point in the evening – i’m not sure which point, but a certain point – i have no memory AT ALL of anything.  i remember dancing…and then trying to take someone’s grilled cheese sandwich (good idea, by the way, having grilled cheese sandwiches)…and then i…ugh…remember watching this girl at the hotel in the chair throwing up everywhere in front of everyone.  i know i was that girl and so i’m not trying to say that it wasn’t but the only way i know to explain it is that i don’t remember experiencing it but i know what i looked like doing it.  and then i woke up and laura told me all of these stories.

i wept like a baby in the shower, just crying my heart out, utterly MORTIFIED that y’all had seen me like that; rather, that i was like that in front of everyone i grew up with, including my parents’ friends who know my family history of alcohol abuse.  sadly, i know some of you have seen me in a similar condition before.

apparently, i put my head on the table while talking to s and just passed out.  i have a scrape on my chin and a big bruise and scratch on my leg from falling, apparently.  and then i lost my shoes?  i really have no memory of any of this which i’m sort of thankful for but i’m glad to know the truth of the story and that laura didn’t sugar-coat it.  it doesn’t sound like there was anything redeeming or cute or funny at all about any of it.  even though i can’t remember it, i hope i always remember l’s stories -and any that you want to tell me about myself, i can handle it- so that i don’t forget the path that led me to recovery.

on the way home, i called most of you on this list and then some.  i was a sad, sad sight to behold, i’m sure.  i kept thinking if the people in the cars around me were worried about the girl crying in the car next to them or behind them.  to be totally honest, it wasn’t until after i got home and took a nap that i realized i was still drunk on the way home yesterday morning, which is why -i’m sure- my messages were so pitiful to some of you.  i mean, it was the truth, but now on this side i could have told you all the same things without being so upset and sounding so crazy.  maybe not, actually.  i’m not sure.  it doesn’t matter, i guess.

anyway, i called another family member who’s recently been to rehab and she was so, so wonderful and gracious and knew all the right things to say after having gone through it herself.  she suggested, though, that since i’m identifying this so early, that i try going to meetings first before rehab.  she said that rehab was like a prison for her, that she really gets more out of her meetings than she did from rehab.  i know it’s different for everyone.  i do think – and i am so, so thankful – that i’m identifying this early enough that i think i can do this with meetings.  it really is true what they say – the hardest part is admitting it.  i kept practicing in my mirror, in the car, “i’m mary kathryn and i’m an alcoholic.”  from now on, i call “designated driver”.

in the shower when i felt the weight of it all -and had the worst headache ever and still wanted to throw up- i didn’t feel guilty, or ashamed, or condemned.  mortified and humiliated, yes.  but i felt God in my spirit saying, “it’s okay, mary kathryn!  i only love you more!  you can do this!  let’s just take care of it!”  in His tenderness and in l’s tough love-ness, i knew it was time to take care of business.  and then later, after i took my nap and woke up, i understood probably for the first time what it means that “His mercies are new every morning.”  that no matter what had happened the night before, each day is a new one and God’s love for me doesn’t change.  i was reminded of it again this morning.  He’s not embarrassed by me, just championing me to live fully and completely and to be the best me i can be, even in my shortcomings and my failures.  my life is my ministry and i know that God will use this.  in the meantime, i know i was a terrible witness the other night and i’m just sorry about that.

i got my first chip last night at my first aa meeting.  the first chip is the white one and it’s the one you get when you first admit you have a problem and want to set the course of your life in a new direction.  everyone was so tender and loving and they all cheered for me and the one other woman who was there for the first time.  when the guy called the first chip, i couldn’t understand what he said but i asked the guy next to me if it was for first-timers and he said, “go for it!”  and so i did.  several members afterward came and spoke to me.  i knew some people there and thought about where i could go where i wouldn’t know anyone.  but, let’s face it, i mean – a.) there’s nowhere i can go within a 30 mile radius where i don’t run into people i know and b.) who cares?  we’re all there for the same reason and it’s disarming and refreshing to be in a place where everyone has a common problem and a common goal.  it’s such a supportive and encouraging place.  church should be more like an aa-meeting, i think.

i’ve been to enough recovery meetings and family rehab and in my own personal counseling with karen to recognize that i have an issue with alcohol.  at this point, i don’t drink every day and i don’t crave it -that’s not true.  sometimes i do crave it, truth be told and now that the cat’s out of the bag.  mostly, though, i have these binges once in a while -my birthday, heba’s wedding- and i know that’s how it begins for a lot of people.  given the family history of alcoholism on both sides of my family, and due to some concern that’s been expressed to me especially over the last year, i was able to see in myself the pattern of the disease taking effect and the direction in which i was headed.  i don’t want to end up in rehab when i’m 50 and i’ve spent half my life drunk and depressed.  i recognize it now in the early stages and i want to take care of it now while i’m aware and have the power to make different choices.

i know this list seems random.  this is the group i would end up telling, anyway – if i didn’t already talk to you about yesterday – and so i just thought i’d go on and make it all-inclusive.  you don’t have to say anything, i just wanted you to know.  i know the list is long but, if you will, please -PLEASE- respect my anonymity in this.  i will tell people that i want to tell, but that’s my business and my job and not yours.  i really appreciate your support but i don’t want to hear it from others that i haven’t told.  i haven’t even told my parents yet.  i will, but not yet.  my sisters know – anyway, the people who need to know are on this list but please don’t talk about it with each other or anyone else.  if you want to talk about it with me, then obviously i’m totally open to that.

i feel like i have a healthy balance of humiliation and grace for myself in this.  i’m not beating myself up over it but i know how bad it is or how bad it would become if i don’t seek help for it now.  i know that the drunk girl throwing up in the chair really isn’t me, or at least not who i want to be.  i know the journey will be long and not-so-easy sometimes.  i’ve been encouraged to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, so i’m going back today at 5:30.  one day at a time, i know.

so, thanks for your support and your encouragement, your thoughts and your prayers.  you will never know how sorry or embarassed i am for anything i’ve said or done and had no control over because of my drinking.  if i have ever hurt or embarassed any of you in ANY way, please, PLEASE, forgive me.  and feel free to tell me stories that you think would be important for me to know about any of my behavior.  i can handle it.  mostly, thanks for loving me.  you wouldn’t be on this list if i didn’t know that your love was without measure or condition for me.  i love you very much and i thank God for each of you.

mary kathryn

 thank you, god, that with your help i have managed to not drink, even on days i wanted to and could have, one day at a time for 1828 days. there is not one thing i have done in my own power but through yours only. for this, i give thanks. xo

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