yip-yip dogs & styrofoam walls.

wow.

first of all, thank you. thank you for the variety of sincere responses i received yesterday, either through your comments or through private emails and text messages. honestly, i didn’t know how to receive them yesterday, which is why you didn’t hear back from me individually. not because i didn’t appreciate their content but because i actually forgot that i had scheduled that post and had intended to take it down! :)

on friday, when i wrote that post, your comments would have been exactly what i needed to hear. thank you for listening to the lord on my behalf and for sharing pieces of your hearts with me. that message was every bit where i was when i wrote it 72 hours ago and not too far from where i am today. but i have since gained perspective and have had an internal shift that i’m going to try to put into words for you. (and for me.)

for one thing, can i just tell you? GOD IS SO GOOD. truly, i can’t even believe how much he loves me sometimes. he is so sweet to me.

i told you i had an appointment with karen on saturday. mind you, i hadn’t seen her since before christmas and we had to reschedule our last appointment from last saturday to this past saturday. so it had been, like, a month or more since i last saw her. i hadn’t even seen her since i had the revelation about the fortress, the father-god part -none of that- so we had much to catch up on.

i actually read to her yesterday’s post (which, remember, i wrote on friday).

she laughed at me, which was to be expected.

really, she laughed with me. (one gift i am really thankful god has given me is that i have learned not to take myself too seriously and to laugh at myself often.) as i stated in my post, and she very graciously pointed out, it was the first experience i’ve had when i wasn’t able to push someone away with my defenses. she pointed out further, though, that my friend standing steady as a tree and holding up that holy spirit mirror was pivotal for me as it only made clearer my response system when my trauma is triggered. there was more that came from it all, but it’s better left unpublished. suffice it to say, it was just good, as my appointments with her tend to be.

and i also want to say this: y’all, we’ve all experienced trauma in our lives, in some way. i am not some exception and mine is not unique; it just so happens that i only recently became aware of (what i didn’t know) were the effects of it (ie, being afraid of being hurt). also, i think i’m pretty clear when i’m talking about my relationships with former boyfriends but you can imagine that there might have also been trauma growing up in a co-dependent and addictive home. i do not blame anyone for my ‘trauma’, so this isn’t about forgiveness, resentment or anger. all of that i’ve worked through over the years. at this point, though, it’s about my triggers and my coping skills. the way that i cope when trauma is triggered in me is i start barking (like a chihuahua); i build walls (of cardboard and styrofoam). for example, a certain family member has often told me ‘you’re just so angry’, which has been really bothersome to me because i was obviously acting angry but didn’t feel like i was an angry person. i certainly haven’t wanted to be angry. so, karen and i identified on saturday that this was part of my coping mechanism - i start barking when i am triggered by someone or something associated with my trauma.

i don’t know why god is doing this work in me now but, if you’ll remember, it all started when i had just gotten past the first anniversary of my dad’s death. i was learning to breathe and walk again at that time. so it’s kind of like i’m learning now how to appropriately deal with life so i’m not triggered by what i might physiologically relate to as ‘trauma’.

does that make sense? i hope that it does. i also hope i haven’t made myself out to seem like a crazy person.

karen and i also talked about the father-god message i received from the lord a few weeks ago. more sweetness there.

and i told her about the fortress. she was blown away like i was. as we delved deeper, she pointed out that, even within the mighty fortress that is our god, we still build our own fortresses therein. this was poignant for me because, even as i have felt safe within the fortress

okay, i just realized how hokey i must sound to anyone who doesn’t have a mystical background or to anyone who’s just joining us; y’all, please come back tomorrow if this is too much for you. consider this a private journal entry as i process through my experience since writing yesterday’s post on friday. bottom line: we all come from different backgrounds and indoctrination, but in the end let’s just agree that it’s all about jesus, whether you can appreciate my cookiness or not, okay?

anyway, even as i have felt safe within the fortress, the image i have in my mind’s eye is of me hiding at the top of the tower. god is saying, ‘you’re safe! run and play and enjoy your kingdom!’ and i’m content to stay in the top of the tower and enjoy the view from the window.

yes, exactly. like rapunzel.

but we’re not meant to simply enjoy the view from the watchtower, are we? we’re meant to run barefoot through the grass of the kingdom promised us and explore and have adventure because we are safe in the kingdom that is god’s.

she said that god has blown a hole through my private fortress and so now it’s time to sift through the rubble. figure out what belongs to me, and what is actually a result of trauma in my life. and to allow  myself to explore the fortress, see what’s out there for me, to ask god what he is showing me or what he wants me to know. this each day following my visit to the well. so, that’s my assignment until my next appointment. good, no?

when i left, she said i was looked much lighter from when i came in.

and i was.

but my day only got better.

so. much. better.

took a little moment to see an old roommate, my precious friend boom-boom. she and her husband, clock-clock, have moved back to north carolina recently after she moved to south africa to marry him, followed by a stint teaching teachers in the uae. one of the most precious souls on the planet, that one is.

i had to cut our visit short because that morning plans started shaping up for a trip to nashville to see shawna and my friend lisa would be calling that afternoon to talk about it. so awesome. so exciting. no idea what god’s doing, just that i want to be a part of whatever it is. we’re leaving sunday, weather pending.

okay, but THEN.

i had sent a message to my friend rebecca that morning who has said, ‘let me know when you come to town so we can get together!’ i knew her husband for a few years before meeting her when they were out and about over a year ago. we have since connected over email; i think, initially, it was over a story i told here. but she is my new-old friend. LOVE that girl. love her, love her (my new) friends. she is an administrator for the worship center, which is a new…well, worship…center in durham, nc. i knew my friend marissa would be leading worship there that night and had never been so i planned on going that night.

what i had forgotten about was that there was a healing conference going on. we made plans to visit that afternoon, and at that point i had already missed most of the conference and only planned on attending the evening session, which is when the minister talked about…

(are you ready for this?)

TRAUMA.

{don’t you know how SET-UP BY GOD i was!?}

i don’t think her message would have resonated with me if i had not been discussing this with karen for the last two months. could i have gotten something out of it? absolutely. would it have been life-altering? probably not. i have never heard the message of the spirit of trauma, at least that i can remember. her main thrust was how trauma affects us physically, and she prayed for people to be healed and they were.

in the end, though, anyone who still needed or desired prayer could come up to the front.

i pretty much ran.

this part is sort of funny/sort of not: a very kind man came to pray for me and, y’all, i froze up. my arms were crossed, i couldn’t get anything out of my mouth. when he asked what i wanted to be prayed for, i paused before uttering ‘trauma’. and he prayed briefly for me but could sense my timidity -or whatever it was- and when we got done, he asked why my arms were crossed. at that point, i smiled and thanked him and said, ‘i am so sorry, and thank you so much, but my trauma is related to men and i just don’t think you’re the one-’ cutting me off, he said, ‘i know just the right person.’

and how!

y’all, the woman who prayed for me…over me…into me…i’m not even sure what to tell you about that. i’m wary of using the word ‘deliverance’ for some of you because i know the first thing that will pop into your head is my head spinning and green snotty vomit and levatating and mess like that. i was fully present, she was fully present, god was there…it wasn’t anything wild or crazy, so when i say ‘deliverance’ try not to think of anything scary. how’s this – i left there knowing i was set free. also knowing i still need to continue this process with karen, and alone. but there was a shift in my spirit that night related to that and then some other things she just felt led to pray, which were also spot-on. told me to be fearless and what that would look like (sooo needed to hear that) and spoke over my call to ministry (whatever that’s supposed to look like; so far, this is it, friends).

i even saw evidence of the change on sunday. my mood was different, my temprament more relaxed around certain folks. i had no defenses and no {styrofoam} walls. i didn’t have my bark ready. i didn’t react the same way to anything or anyone who might have previously been a trigger for me. i didn’t spend the day anxious that i was going to haphazardly step on toes while deliberately trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. i was able to enjoy myself; i was nice, i was pleasant. i literally felt free. weight lifted.

i went through a deliverance and healing program about 15 years ago and then went through the same one again a few years later (it was the ‘thing to do’ at the time, in both cases). the second time i went through it, i knew i had been set free from the things i carried into it, but i was keenly aware that i would then have to learn what to do with the hole that was left where the trouble had once been.

so it is now. i know i am free from any spirit of trauma (there she goes again, that whacko, with her cooky spirit-talk) but i need to continue doing the work of learning how to live apart from it. it has literally been a lifetime -from the womb- of a life spent in fear and and either experiencing trauma or learning how to cope with it. i know that change has come but i still need help learning how to manage the change so i recognize my triggers quicker and don’t react in fear with my former tools for coping.

and i still need to go this alone. that is, without a partner. (for now.)

so, do you see what i mean when i said that i didn’t know how to properly respond yesterday? i hope you’ll forgive me for keeping quiet. i knew all of your hearts were good and you said exactly what i needed to hear when i wrote it.

but then saturday happened.

and i am free.

did this trigger anything in you (other than ‘this girl is a freak’)?

perhaps you are aware of your own triggers and trauma?

what is your story about deliverance and healing?

what’s your favorite ice cream?

 

 

where the heart is.

‘home’ is the thread that tied up my weekend so i was already planning on writing about the subject for today’s post.

but then this morning, rain pouring outside on this fall day, i created a ‘lucy kaplansky‘ radio station on pandora and ‘this is home’ was the first song to play.

when i got in my car to run errands for work, blake shelton and miranda lambert were singing ‘home’ on the radio.

as i continued listening to pandora, i was aware that ‘home’ seems to be a recurring theme in folk-ish music.

so, i’m sort of thinking i was sort of right in thinking that today’s post ought to be about ‘home’. what do you think?

a few years ago, i was struck with the onset of the ebola virus. (do you remember that? when everyone got it? and you just threw up for days and days? there are few things i enjoy less than vomiting. like eating glass. or poking my eyeballs out with a fork.) it was christmas eve and my sister and i had made our traditional spaghetti dinner at the Big House for my dad and his best friend’s family. and the crackhead.

anyway.

later that night, i woke up sick and spent christmas day running between my couch and the ceramic throne. alone. i drove to my mom’s the next day. (that part of the virus lasted only 24 hours and then, about two weeks later, THE DEVIL MANIFESTED IN MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM FOR TEN DAYS.)

i decided then that i never wanted to wake up on christmas morning again and be anywhere my mom was not. in our home growing up, we would start listening to christmas music in july. by labor day, we had watched ‘white christmas‘ only about 76 times since the fourth of july. our house was already decorated for christmas by thanksgiving, which was only our deadline because uncle lindy & aunt trillis didn’t start selling christmas trees at amity church until then but you best believe that that is the only reason we didn’t have our tree up by the first day of school. the day after thanksgiving, my sisters and i would play hide and seek for about 2 1/2 hours while my mom and dad looked for The Perfect Tree, which they always managed to find year after year. my mom has frequented and knows well every christmas shoppe along the eastern seaboard.

christmas is one of my favorite things about my mom. she is home to me on christmas morning. my mom is christmas.

this weekend, my sister and i took hanners to tweetsie railroad in the mountains with a childhood friend and her little girl. we drove up to our hometown of chapel hill to spend-the-night with them on friday before leaving on saturday morning. upon crossing over from i-540 to i-40, i suddenly had more energy and sat up straighter in my seat. it felt to both of us like we had crossed the threshold toward home.

hg, and therefore i, woke up at 5:44 the next morning. when i realized i couldn’t convince her that, in fact, it would be a sunny day but, in the meantime, it was still dark outside and ‘everyone in the whole world is still sweeping‘, we decided we would love our friends well and went to get breakfast for everyone from across town. on the way back to our friends’ house, i rode down the street where we grew up to show hannah grace the house where ‘mommy & kk & aunt mah-yan’ lived when we were her age (which, incidentally, is on sale now for the very low, low price of a gajillion dollars which evidently means it was sitting on an artesian well we apparently didn’t know about. that or they renovated. whatever.)

i have ridden through that neighborhood a hundred times since we moved out over 10 years ago. i have long since grieved that loss. but that house is very much home to me; also, the Big House.

and i guess those places are still home to me because they are the location of my memories (the ones i still have, anyway – i have forgotten so much as i have gotten older!) it’s where i associate my grandparents and christmases and taking prom pictures and creating barbie villages in the creek and double dare obstacle courses and making forts and haunted houses in the playroom and where our cats and dogs are buried and where i accidentally put the car in reverse and almost drove into the creek when i was three and where i learned to ride my bike and play the piano and my dad cooking out on the front porch and my mom truly making our house every bit a home for us and all our friends.

when the girls and i journeyed up to the mountains on bad brakes on saturday morning, i with my cowboy boots on, it was definitely fall. it reminded of how each fall when we were little, we would go to tweetsie railroad and then stay at the swiss chalet in little switzerland where sarah hope thought clouds were really ghosts coming in on our veranda and into our room to get us. this is probably my favorite vacation spot of my childhood memories. and even though we didn’t make it as far as little switzerland this trip, i don’t think tweetsie railroad will be an adventure soon forgotten by hannah grace, either. we had The Best Time Ever. (sh said she thinks hg loved it more than disneyworld…which one is forced to wonder if it’s not because her Favorite Aunt was there this time. just saying.)

another one of sarah hope’s childhood bff’s lives there in the area, so she met us in blowing rock yesterday for lunch. there’s something about old friendships that continue into one’s adulthood – you just know each other, there are no pretenses, no false ‘heeeey! how arrrre yooouuu!?‘s’. you don’t have to spend too much time catching up because, even if you don’t talk all the time, you know their grandma recently died and you can’t believe how big their children have gotten even as they themselves look exactly the same as they did in the third grade and whatever happened to so-and-so? you just know each other. you get one another. you are home for each other.

we went into a shop in blowing rock four a few times and it was very much…us. artsy, ecclectic, homemade, grassroots but still very fine. the door stayed open, there was a sweet autumn breeze, colorful leaves the backdrop outside the windows, folk music was playing, the girls were free to play on the floor while we tried on. i felt so alive in that little space (and, no, sadly i didn’t buy anything). we agreed that this little store located in the resort town where we were visiting felt like our home. our hometown, that is.

when we got back to chapel hill on sunday night, we met molly and john who had come home on a whirlwind trip. we met them at the carrboro music festival to hear one of our hometown celebrity bands play (which, incidentally, john co-founded with another native son with whom i went to preschool turned high school crush – see? home.) we ran into people we hadn’t seen since high school and it was like we had seen them just yesterday. hugs were exchanged, kisses on kids’ heads, we danced in the rain and were free because we were at home…in that place, with those we love most who know us best.

it is always that way when i visit our cute little town.

simply…home.

we didn’t even care how late we got back, we were just so happy and our hearts were so full to be in the place that raised us alongside those with whom we were raised. it just felt right and it felt good. we were just. so. happy.

do i want to end up back in my hometown? oh, man. yes, very much so. at some point. i have no idea when that will happen. for now, with the exception of john & molly, my immediate family (and then some) is within a 30-mile radius. home.

and i have to confess that i have to fight hard for my creative, gypsy spirit to stay inspired here in my ‘new’ town (‘new’=going on three years). but i am so, SO thankful for this place because it has given me the best community i have ever had ever, particularly with my wednesday night bible/book study girls. there is not one thing in this world i would trade for the friends i have made and the community i have found here, and there is a whole lot to be said for that even when found in a not-so-stimulating environment.

home for me is also among The Favorites – each of us with different backgrounds and beliefs, but who know and get and adore each other and who can make me laugh harder than anyone i know. home is the stage where i found my place and discovered my voice with these girls fifteen years ago.

{home is when or where i can sink back in love like a big, comfy couch and transcend time and space and just…be there. with you.}

because i guess the truth is, i am at home wherever i am if i am comfortable in my own skin and resting in god, resting with you. when i trust the lord and his heart for me and don’t try to run too far ahead of him or too fast.

when i can just be still and feel my feelings and listen and am surrounded by folks i love whom i know love me, i am home.

for me, home is both the people and the place, the dwelling and the indwellers. the place where my heart is free and my spirit soars.

and where there is lots

and lots

of laughter.

and really good music.

and, always,

dancing in the rain.

where or what is home for you? who dwells there with you?

technicolor life.

by now you may have done the math and figured out that summer of 2004-november of 2006 does not amount to a very long drinking career. and you would be right. except for the part that alcoholism is a progressive disease and, while there were long breaks in between college and my drinking days later, it only got worse. never better. i knew at the time that if i didn’t get sober then that i would end up in rehab in 25 years at best. with all due respect to my dad, and for as much as i love and miss him, i did not want to end up like him. it breaks my heart to say that his disease consumed his life. i would be lying to you if i did not tell you that there have been days when i wonder if i came in too early, especially in the beginning. as in, ‘surely i could go a few more years…?’ but it would just be too risky. while i had my wits about me, i knew i was given the opportunity to make that decision. i was one of the lucky ones.

that said, like every other alcoholic in your life, whether they have two years or 25, we all only have today by the grace of god. i know that i have to be vigilant about my sobriety, that if i do not stay on top of my spiritual life then i run the risk of becoming too confident that i am somehow capable of staying sober by my own efforts. i am not so naive to think that, on any given day, i could very easily end up back ‘out there’ like so many other friends i have seen come in and out of the program.

{it didn’t take me long to realize that my drinking was only a symptom of my greater issues. i dare say drinking wasn’t actually my problem. anger was. bitterness and resentment and depression were. i used alcohol -and anything else in the moment that felt good (ie, spending money, sex with strangers, etc.)- to escape my life.}

about 17 days or so after i got sober, my sweet friend matt came to visit from florida. we made these plans before i got sober and, lord bless him, i was a crazy person when he came to visit. he was here for a week and eventually we were hardly speaking to each other. but we had planned on going on a hiking trip before he left and on that hike, the world seemed like it was in technicolor. like i was suddenly seeing color for the first time. it was beautiful.

i remember my first cry as a sober person. i sat alone in my car in my driveway and wasn’t sure if i was going to make it. but i remember that cry feeling SO good and being SO cleansing.

i made a lot of mistakes as a newly sober person. like many of us, i thought i was the exception to the suggestion that we should wait a year to date someone and found love after 60 days. he was a former crackhead who had additionally spent over half of his life in and out of aa. my parents were so proud.

i had a wonderful sponsor when i first got sober, and then a wonderful second sponsor when my first one moved. both had incredible programs (which is aa-speak for ‘i admired their sobriety’). i learned so much from them. neither judged me or was bossy; they simply helped me navigate life as a sober person and made suggestions as i went along.

i did my fourth and fifth steps when i was six months sober. on the fourth step, you ‘make a searching and fearless moral inventory’ of one’s self. one suggested way of doing this is to make a list of our sexual history, resentments and then what my part was in every case. the fifth step is when you tell god and someone else everything on those lists. uh…yeh. i decided to do my fifth step with karen because she knew everything else about me, including when i was leaving out the details that would be found on those lists. she would never say this -well, perhaps she would- but in a way i kind of felt like i owed it to her out of respect for our relationship and in order for us to move forward in a completely honest setting. i was told that i would likely be bitchy while i was making that list, that it would take some time to make it, and that i would know when i was finished. i was, it did and i did.

after three weeks of working on my list, i took it to karen on a saturday morning and i spent 3 1/2 hours telling her everything that was on it. i knew she wouldn’t judge me but you might understand that my legs were like jello as i walked up the steps to her office. see, all of these things…i knew that if only god ever knew them, that if i could keep everything secret, then i could pretend like they never really happened. i was once told that my feeling like i was in trouble all the time was a result of carrying around all my secrets.

she just listened to every detail and asked questions if anything needed clarity but was mostly silent. and when i was finished, we prayed and thanked god for shining his light on those dark places. and when i opened my eyes, the light in the room had shifted and i felt a breeze on my back. i knew immediately it was because i was no longer shouldering the weight of the world. and in that moment, i knew i was free. i’m sure i could remember some of the things on those lists if i tried but, for the most part, that list is not even a memory. because that’s how it is with god. and i will tell you this: i never -not once- ever confessed anything as a christian to another christian in church.

{my friend brennan manning says that church should look more like an aa meeting, which i tend to agree. just broken people who know they need god.}

my first year of sobriety, my church was our clubhouse. my congregation, the 7 am group. in aa, everyone has their own higher power. but jesus, after bringing me there, stayed with me there. and that’s where he showed me himself, in the faces of the broken and down-and-outers where there few masks and there was support and encouragement available to whomever needed it. (and we all needed it.) jesus looks different to me through my experience of aa than who i learned him to be in conventional church. he is nicer and kinder and stronger and more forgiving than i understood him to be. and he loves. oh, how he loves.

there are times when once-in-a-while i recognize myself as a ‘dry drunk’. as in, i may not be drinking but i may as well be because i blame and point fingers and feel sorry for myself. (and, by the way, this is neither a pretty or a good thing.) so i do whatever is necessary to take care of myself. i call a friend or go to a meeting or i help someone else. i usually drive if i anticipate the potential need to remove myself from an uncomfortable or toxic situation. i don’t hang out in bars anymore because, really, what would be the point? i can do it, i have done it. but i get bored easily, which is a dangerous place for a sober person to be, especially in a bar. i know my tools and resources that empower and help me. but those tools don’t do me any good sitting on a shelf. i have to be pro-active.

that’s probably one of the biggest gifts sobriety has given me: the desire to be an active participant in my life instead of a spectator watching life happen around me. i no longer feel sorry myself and recognize that i have good, better and best choices that may or may not make a difference in my life or anyone else’s – the point is: they are my choices to make.

another priceless gift i’ve been given is that i really feel my feelings now. on a normal level, i mean. i don’t run, escape or hide from my emotions. and they don’t look crazy, dramatic or extreme. for example, i really love crying. i mean, i don’t, actually (especially because i have such an ugly cry-face). but what i mean is, i love feeling my tears. i love feeling my feelings.

my relationships have also changed since getting sober, most notably with my family. i’m calmer and…well, nicer. my mom recently told me that she appreciates how i use the tools i’ve been given in aa and in counseling to approach life situations. in general, especially in the last year, i’ve just become less about myself. i mean, in my blog, i can really only talk about myself, you know? but i mean, in my day-to-day life, i have become less important. not unimportant, just less so. i am provided for, taken care of, clothed, fed and loved. god really does take care of me, i don’t have to worry with myself. i have learned that the quality of my life is measured in how i treat people and if i love them well.

there are few adages i’ve picked up in aa that i am aware of on a daily basis. one is ‘would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?’ i mean, really? is making my point really that important if it means you and i are going to end up fighting or i might hurt someone’s feelings? i’ve also learned that, just because i think it, doesn’t mean that you need to hear it or that you need to hear it from me. i heard a seasoned person say once, ‘there aren’t bumps in the road. this is the road.’ life happens. i also heard someone say, ‘i didn’t know what i didn’t know before i knew it’, which i’ve found only makes sense to someone whose been through something similar to getting sober.

another is, ‘it’s not my business what other people think of me.’ woh. grab hold of that one if you can. life-changing.

in most meetings, we will open and close with the lord’s prayer and/or the serenity prayer:

god, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change

the courage to change the things i can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

{accepting things beyond my control, no matter how big or how small, has been huge for me. life is made easier when i go with the flow.}

about two years ago, when i was coming up on my second anniversary, i asked a woman who had been in the program for many years, ‘at what point do you stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?’ she said it was around the three-year mark. my dad died right before that time, which also had something to do with no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop, but i would say that has continued to be true in the last year even so. i’m no longer nervous or afraid of something bad happening (mostly because the worst thing i ever dreamed of happening did).

this is all just a part of my experience in living life as a sober person. it really is a daily process. do i still think about drinking? sometimes. do i walk into a party and immediately assess what everyone is drinking? yep. do i take an inventory of the alcohol in my mom or my sisters’ homes? definitely. but i will tell you that there is not. one. thing. i can think of that would be reason enough for me to ever start drinking again. i wake up every day thanking god that, with his help, i am happy, joyous and free just as the program promises i will be.

one

day

at a

time.



not so fun.

here’s the thing: while yesterday’s post was somewhat humorous for me to write, and i really do believe that time in my life was nothing short of fairly innocent experimentation, i always drank alcoholically.

what i mean is, there was never a time i drank ever that it wasn’t for the purpose of getting drunk. in order to escape, i realize now. i could go for days and weeks -during that particular span of time, i could go for years- without drinking at all. but i would binge when i drank. as in, i would drink a whole lot for several months at a time and then just stop all together. (most women are bingers, by the way.)

the thing is, i never even liked the way alcohol tasted, though i certainly acquired the taste for it. so the stronger the drink, the quicker the drunk. and the drunker i got, the more i couldn’t taste the alcohol, anyway, so BRING IT ON.

i’ve told you before that i fell into one of two of the deepest points of my depression when i moved home from new york in 2004. i reconnected with some friends, two sisters, i had started getting close to shortly before i moved to new york and we would go out frequently, i’d say, starting that summer. we had our favorite bar in raleigh and we would have our most spiritual and deep conversations there on ‘bloody mary sundays’ (which also included martinis). ‘bloody mary sundays’ would be followed by live music later that night and then again on wednesday nights and, of course, everyone knows that the weekend really begins on thursday. so, basically, i may or may not have been drinking only on monday and/or tuesday nights. anything with vodka in it would have been my drink of choice. and lemon drops! ooo…we looooved lemon drop shots! and big, tall jaegerbombs. this still remains one of my funnest times in life.

have i told you that this is the also the time that i was working for my dad, who was also an active alcoholic? and living next door to him? on the same property where we worked? we were each other’s best enablers. not because we drank together -no, couldn’t do that; couldn’t let on to him that i had a problem- but because what was he going to do? fire me?

i started seeing karen that fall. after addressing the spiritual abuse issues and getting me out of that church, she would ask me to go for 30 days without drinking so we could address certain other issues. i, of course, told her i could and would and then i didn’t. conveniently, i lived in chapel hill and karen was in raleigh, which is also where the sisters and our favorite bar held residence. after my very difficult and painful sessions with karen, i would swing by and get the girls and we would head into town where we would drink and i could decompress. somehow, when i was set free from that church, i realized it was up to me to figure out where my own boundaries fell and how far my freedom extended, which included making up for the wild partying days that i missed in college.

if i’m going to be this open with you, then i may as well go on and lay it out there for you, albeit hesitantly and with a knot in my stomach: it was during this time that i gave up my virginity. the thing that i had held sacred for all of my life was gone in a one-night stand shortly after my 27th birthday. literally, i remember thinking (which means i wasn’t thinking because i was drunk), ‘eff it’ and woke up the next morning devastated that i had been so callous. see, when an alcoholic drinks, we give away our power of choice. sadly, it took away my power of choice time and again after that night. there were many mornings i woke up with a stranger in my bed and other times when i had no idea where i had left my car the night before. in certain settings, this puts me in good company. this is not uncommon for anyone in aa. but, really…this grieves my heart.

our nights of going out carried on for about a year before one of the sisters, who is still one of my best friends in the world, moved back north. around this time, i joined a well-known philanthropic group of ladies and made fast and quick friends with my orientation group. we called ourselves the chapel hill social club. i still love these girls with all my heart. we loooved wine and i knew i could drink some before i would go out to dinner with them and then safely drink two glasses of wine in order to get home ‘safely’. i often said to them, ‘you are the only people i give permission to ever do an intervention if ever one needs to be done.’ WHO SAYS THAT TO THEIR FRIENDS!?

p.s. chapel hill is the town where i grew up and where i was currently living. because i was so important there, i had previously gone out in raleigh so that no one would see me out in chapel hill and tell my family. which is why, when i made friends with these girls, i felt very mature only drinking wine but i still had to manage to get home and not end up in the police blotter the next day. (i’m kidding about being important. the truth is, even though it’s a college town, chapel hill proper is very small and everyone knew each other, including siblings and parents, back when there was only one high school.)

you see, i had always known i had a problem. i knew my drinking looked different from theirs and most everyone else i knew. they could drink half a glass and not feel sad not to finish it. it didn’t make them feel sorry to see other people leave the

last

sip

of wine

in their glass.

{i drank because i was uncomfortable in my own skin. i drank because i didn’t feel like i fit in. i thought i was a little bit socially awkward and when i drank, i was suddenly comfortable and confident and i could flirt and turn on the charm. (it helped to be cute and confident when i was poor and couldn’t afford my own habit. :)i drank because i wanted to escape my life and the issues i was covering in my therapy. i wanted out. does this sound familiar to you at all?}

my bottom started to hit summer of 2006. one of the girls in the chsc was getting married in the mountains, so the rest of us went up for it together. that was such a fun weekend. however, it was not so fun on sunday morning when i had to do a walk of shame from the groomsman’s cabin down the hill to my hotel in my dress from the night before.

and it was not so fun the morning after my next birthday party hearing my mom say in a quiet and desperate voice i had never heard before and haven’t heard since after i asked her to get in bed with me, ‘i never want to see you drink like that again.’

it was not so fun when, that fall, i went on a personal retreat to prepare to speak at a women’s retreat the next weekend and i spent an entire night not preparing for anything at all, only looking for the corkscrew i just knew i packed.

it happens quickly, bottoming out. the thing is, it just takes what it takes for all of us. (and by ‘all of us’, i mean fellow alcoholics.) we all have our own story. some folks hit what normies would consider a bottom…and then their bottom just keeps getting further and further because they don’t realize they’ve already hit it (which means it’s not really their bottom, i don’t guess.)

for some of us, it takes one final bad night at a wedding with an open bar to realize that we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and to hear the voice of our heart, say so tenderly, ‘it’s okay! i love you! now let’s just take care of this before it gets any worse.’

i’m going to take a break from this story tomorrow…since, you know, all the christians will be in church and all ;)…but i’ll finish it (finally!) on monday.

if you’re waking up now, or just getting in, from one of those nights, then i want to again offer you hope. there is help.

thanks for listening.

love you guys.

xo

made from scratch.

when i was telling you about my spiritual abuse experience a few weeks ago, jana bishop found me with the help of a little tool we like to call ‘tagsurfer’. who knew that the god of spiritual abuse overcomers is also the god of wordpress? :) turns out, we escaped affiliated churches. ahem.
{it also turns out that by speaking out about her experience, she has affected change.}
we have become fast friends, though virtually, and i am so, so happy that she agreed to do a guest spot on my blog today.
it is my honor to introduce to you, my friend, jana bishop
Have you ever sat in church and heard the best sermon…EVER?  Or turned on the radio and cried because the song is saying exactly what you are feeling?

What about reading the Bible and stumbling across a verse that reached so far into your soul…you knew God was speaking directly to YOU?

I’ve had those moments.  The simple times in which God met me in an unexpected way. The times in which I wasn’t really looking for Him…but He showed up despite my lack of pursuit.

I feel like that right now…in this season of life.  He keeps showing up and wooing me.  If we were in High School…He would be walking me to class and carrying my books right about now.  I feel a little shy in His presence…but I keep walking with Him. Simply because I know I love Him. Deep in my heart…I love Him.

But, can I tell you something? I can’t help but wonder why.  Why would God be concerned with me? I’m a bit unstable right now, in all honesty. I mean, if anyone was going to represent Christ to a hurting generation…it’s probably not me. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around Faith and God. After years of studying, searching and then searching some more…I eventually got very hurt in the church. And very hurt by the people leading me.  So, in an effort to make sense of what happened, I gave up.

In a sense…I’ve started from SCRATCH.

And it’s scary. But, more than anything…it’s freeing.  I’m a youth pastor’s wife and all I can tell people now is that I love Jesus. I don’t have a degree or any real theological background.  All of that got thrown out with the dirty, mucky bath water of my past.  My foundation in Jesus is firm…but it’s bare, humble and simple. I’m rebuilding…I’m questioning and for the first time in my life I’m loving it…because it’s okay.

Matthew 25:40I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

I read this verse the other day and it dawned on me…I am the least of these.  That’s why He’s concerned with me. The teachings Christ gave to man are straight from His heart.  After spending years serving an abusive church and pastors…my husband and I finally resigned.  We limped away from their presence, hurt and confused.   And in the midst of that season…we felt like we didn’t matter anymore.  To the people who once called us family…our time with them amounted to very little.  In the grand scheme of things…we were not a very significant blip on their radar.

But Christ.

Christ made sure we knew that we mattered to Him. So, He sent people along our path to encourage us…to help us stand while the foundation of our faith was shaken to the core.  He made sure that we knew…He understood. His heartbeat is for those that matter the least to men…because we matter the most to Him.

“Unto the Least of These…” He is calling the underdog.  And for the first time ever…I’m glad I fall into that category.  My relationship with Him is being made from scratch. No fluff or extra ingredients.  It’s just me getting to know my Savior.  With nothing else standing in the way of His relentless pursuit for my love.

Have you ever had to start from scratch?

Jana Bishop is 30 years old and feels like an official adult now that she is a mom.  She and her husband are youth pastors in beautiful Southern California.  She blogs to keep her sanity and to help others who have been hurt by weirdos in the church.

an actual problem.

today i have been sober for 1400 days. or 46 months and a day. or 3 years, 10 months + 1 day. perhaps someone you know and love is currently or has battled in the past with the disease of alcoholism. i’m sorry. it sucks. i grew up in it, i was it – it sucks for you and it sucks for the alcoholic in your life. the disease makes us selfish. we drink because we are angry and/or depressed; in short, we drink because we want to escape something. we may only be bingers; some may be living under a bridge. as the big book says, it’s a cunning, baffling and powerful disease that affects the whole family and i’m just sorry if you’re going through it. there is help, there is hope.

i am going to try and veer away from telling you about the disease of alcoholism itself and simply want to offer you experience, strength & hope through my own story, as we say in aa. i also don’t want to talk about my experience as an adult child of an alcoholic because, like any good acoa, i still want to protect my dad, even though -and perhaps especially because- i don’t have him anymore. sadly, his disease compromised the rest of his health and, therefore, i would venture to say the disease of alcoholism was mostly responsible for his death when it comes right down to it. i do not judge him for this, even though it would be easy to if i didn’t have an understanding of the disease. instead, it makes me mad at the disease for robbing him, and me, of his life. i inherited his disease. we are fellow members of the same club.

here is my story:

i woke up on a cot in a hotel room on sunday, november 5, 2006, still wearing my dress from the night before, covered in my own vomit. my friend laura and her husband chris, who truly are saints of god because i could have ended up anywhere or with anyone and would not have known it, brought me up to their room after our friends heba and ed’s wedding the night before. an open bar at her wedding was the best gift anyone could have ever given me.

when i woke up, still drunk and hungover, laura helped me into the shower. she hadn’t slept very much because she wanted to make sure i was still breathing, that i hadn’t choked on my vomit. she told me later she just thought it was ‘one of those nights’ for me that everyone has once in a while. she didn’t realize i had an actual problem. she didn’t know that, while this was among the worst of ‘one of those nights’ for me, i was prone to drinking too much and often and that i was actually strategic about how many times a month i would go out with which friends so that no one really knew i had an actual problem. she certainly hadn’t set out to do an intervention, but that’s exactly what was about to happen.

laura stood outside the shower and lovingly told me story after story about what an ass i had made of myself the night before. i have no memory after a certain point because i blacked out. {‘black-outs’ aren’t the same as ‘passing out’. you are still ‘awake’, so to speak, in a black-out but it is likely you have no control over yourself and will have no memory of your actions later. there are otherwise good people in jail, for example, for killing people during a black-out.} by the way, that ‘certain point’? the last thing i remember was talking to my friend kelly’s husband seth while we were eating -i think- either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken biscuits and the reason i can’t recall is because i passed out in the middle of our conversation. i don’t remember very much before that and definitely not one thing after that. the next sort of ‘memory’ i have of the evening was watching myself (i know, weird) throw up everywhere in the hotel lobby in front of the bride, the groom and all of their guests. and then that’s all i can tell you about that.

as laura was filling in the blanks, i could only cry. in fact, i sat down in the shower and sobbed. i had huge dark bruises up and down one side of my body and a big scratch across the opposite side of my face and have no idea how i achieved either, except that laura said they had to carry me out and because i kept falling over. i. was. miserable. – literally, i felt miserable. but i was miserable inside, too. just…unhappy. and i knew i really did have an actual problem. i repented to jesus like i had done the morning after every other drunken night, and then i heard so sweetly in my spirit…

mary kathryn, it’s okay! i LOVE you! let’s just get a hold of this before it gets worse.

if i had never known the tenderness of my sweet jesus before that moment, i knew it then. he was not condemning or even upset with me. at all. he did not judge me or give me the silent treatment. he simply loved me. i didn’t feel his disappointment in me; instead, i knew his delight over me. and that night i responded.

{an aside: this is sort of funny. not really, but sort of. so, the wedding had been out-of-town, about an hour away from where we all lived. i drove home that morning and i really don’t think i realized then that i was still a little bit drunk. (please, please don’t judge me for this. i know there is no excuse for this. i did this often; i was very selfish.) i called every alcoholic i could think of, save for members of my immediately family. i called brennan manning’s office and at home and left messages for him at both, bawling my eyes out the entire time. (i got an email the next day from his assistant who said she could not understand a word of what i said, she just knew something was really wrong.) i called friends who knew and loved me and left messages everywhere i could, weeping and wanting to talk about my ‘problem’. god bless those sweet people.}

i walked into my first aa meeting that night. i will always remember big ed*, a santa claus of a man, being out in front of the clubhouse as if he was waiting there just for me. (really, he was just out there smoking with everyone else.)

it was a speaker meeting and, even though i was a little familiar with the program due to my experience with my dad, i really thought the speaker and the leader of the meeting were professionals. (‘professional drunks‘, i can hear them say.) i would, of course, come to find out that they were drunks just like me and might have been there a few months or a few years before me, but together we all only had that day by the grace of god.

i cried through the entire meeting. and then proceeded to cry at every meeting after that for the next month, maybe longer. i was definitely, definitely a newcomer. and i was definitely, definitely in the right place. i felt relieved and overwhelmed, but i knew i was safe and that i never had to drink again.

after i took my first (and only) white chip at the end of that meeting, a sweet friend, who i would learn later had only gotten sober a few days earlier, told me it had been suggested to him to do a ’90 in 90′. i had no idea what that meant but i agreed (it means 90 meetings in 90 days). the women swarmed over me that night, each one saying ‘get a sponsor…here’s my phone number…here’s a list of meetings…’ i felt like i was in a psychedelic, slow-motion swirl of love, from these people who did not know me but they definitely knew me.

i went to bed that night both exhausted and relieved and had the best night’s sleep i had had in a really long time. and for the first time in a long time, i had hope.

tomorrow, i’ll tell you what it was like before i got sober and then later this week, what my life is like now.

in the meantime, if you think you might have a problem with alcohol or another addiction, there is help available. you are not alone.

*names have been changed to protect anonymity.

best life now.

in 15 days i’ll be 33.

THIRTY-THREE!

ugh. thirty-three.

uh-thu-irty.

uh-thu-ree.

33.

i know what you’re thinking.

‘you’re so young! a baaaa-byyyy!’

i’m right, aren’t i? some of you are thinking that, aren’t you?

here’s the thing.

perhaps i’m young to some of you; i’m certainly older than many of you. my parents had already been married for ten years and had all three of their babies by the time they were my age (well, and, really, by the time they were 29, but who’s really counting? seriously. stop counting.) bottom line: i’m not getting any younger. i’m young to, say, my 88-year old granddad whose still kicking it. but i’m not young to the 12-year old receptionist with whom i spend my days at work. (seriously, she can’t believe anyone could ever be this old. oh, just you wait, sister…)

my best days are still ahead of me. i believe that. after making a complete mess of my twenties, i threw my arms wide open and gave thirty a big hug and said ‘come on in!’. not sad ONE BIT to turn thirty. or even thirty-one. or even thirty-two, for that matter.

but 33…?

wasn’t that how old jesus was when he died?

crap.

there’s still so much left to do!

one thing i’m noticing about myself as i…ahem…grow old gracefully is that my passion for life and my drive for the important have only become more imperative.

i want to live…fearlessly.

with reckless abandon.

i want my relationships…to matter.

i want my time to count.

i want to live so selflessly that it goes completely unnoticed.

i want to give all of myself to everyone i would be of value.

i want to take care of my temple so that i have a long and full life.

i want god to increase my capacity to love

and to make use of all the gifts he’s given me

and see all of his children and creation through his eyes

and with his heart

and to soak up and observe and drink in this world and this LIFE that he has created for us to enjoy.

heart and eyes and arms wide open.

i don’t want to spend the rest of my days worrying about the mundane, being afraid of tomorrow, withholding from others, giving in to tiredness and not sucking up all of my life that i can. because it’s

just

not

worth

it.

if all of my days are in his hands…

and he knows the plans that he has for me…

if he will instruct me and teach me in the way i should go…

if he will not leave or forsake me…

and he will guard my heart and mind…

and he will listen when i call on him…

and if he protects me from harm…

and my wealth & prosperity are in him

just like he promises…

then, do tell, what in the WORLD do i have to worry about!?

why wouldn’t i want to commit to living as if i really believed this is all true?

see, the older i get, the more i realize

it’s just not about me.

it is

all

about

HIM.

love god, love others, and enjoy life. that’s my job. my only job.

and the great thing about it is…HE is all about US!

{so don’t be afraid, little flock. for it gives your father great happiness to give you the kingdom. -luke 12:32 (nlt)}

do you get what i’m saying? it’s all for us! and we don’t have to worry about anything! not one thing!

we don’t have any reason or excuse not to enjoy it all!

i don’t want to not get this. and i don’t want to miss it.

and i don’t want you to miss it, either.

will you be brave enough to do life this way with me?

(please? it’s way more fun to do it together.)

{haven’t i commanded you? strength! courage! don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. god, your god, is with you every step you take. -joshua 1:8 (msg)}

it’s a sunny day!

one thing that b l o w s me away about my sweet niece is that she has

so.

much .

P E R S O N A L I T Y!

she comes by it honestly (hello, have you met my family?) but what boggles me is that she had personality before she was old enough for any of us to give it to her! she is seriously the cutest thing everrr. not to mention, she is hiiilarious.

and she’s only two-and-a-half!

i may or may not fall asleep next to her every a few nights a week. there’s just something about snuggling with someone so cuddly! and cute! and sweet!

we have no idea who taught this to her, but she has started going to bed at night and waking up in the morning saying, ‘it’s a SUNny DAaay!’

even on days when it’s raining! (i think. wait. we haven’t had many rainy days here lately. huh. well, let’s just pretend for the sake of the message.)

and, seriously, it changes me. oh, what that child has done for our family! (no pressure or anything, hg. just keep doing what you’re doing.)

and i wonder…

what if that were the message in my heart every night and every morning?

what one person or phrase (or two or ten) has changed the way you approach your day for the better?

{and, really. let’s just be honest here. have you ever seen a cuter child than my hanners? just be honest. you haven’t, have you? (it’s okay, i won’t tell anyone.)}

from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the lord is to be praised. (psalm 113:3)

no fear lives here?

you’ve heard me talk about karen, my therapist, as the singlemost person god has used in my life. also on my Top Ten List of People Who Have Influenced Me Most: my theatre director from college, kenny gannon.

particularly when i feel afraid, i can hear him emphatically yell, ‘do it afraid!’ or ‘walk right up to the cannon’s mouth!’

last october, The Thing I’ve Feared Most in this World happened when my dad died suddenly.

as a result, one gift i’ve been given through his death has been a freedom from fear (for the most part). and i’m reminded of john 4:18, which says in the niv,

there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.

for all the water that was under the bridge between us, the love between us now is unfiltered and unconditional and pure. my dad’s and my relationship is now perfect in his death, which leads me to a deeper understanding of the cross. when god’s love is truly perfected in me, i don’t have to be -i won’t be- afraid of him.

you don’t have to be afraid of him.

because his love is perfect.

and he is not out to punish us.

i walked through, and continue to walk through, the worst, most painful thing i was ever afraid i would have to walk through in my entire life. ever.

now that that’s happened, there’s not much else for me to be afraid of. i made it.

 i am making it.

some days i still get afraid. of a lot of things. mostly things that haven’t happened.

but, when it comes down to it, i realize there really is nothing i have to be afraid of anymore.

the worst is over.

i no longer wait for the other shoe to drop.

i don’t have to be afraid anymore.

fear can’t be my secret excuse that holds me back anymore. and if i find that it is holding me back, then i have to wonder if the deeper issue for me is that i need to go to jesus again and let him perfect his love in me. the love that says, ‘do no be afraid, mary kathryn. i’m with you.’

and in those moments when my fear is shouting louder than the still, small voice, i have to, like kenny said, do it afraid (even if i don’t have my lines memorized).

have you walked up to the cannon’s mouth lately?

do you need to?

the lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (deuteronomy 31:8)

 

life abundant.

So often, when people talk about da debil, they reference his description found in John 10:10:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.

In my own life, I think my temptation has been to wonder what’s next and ask “Isn’t there more?” I allow myself to not be satisfied with my life and become robbed of the richness of the relationships that are around me and the fullness that is my life as it is. I feel like the Lord’s been slowly unpacking the second part of that verse for me lately, which is:

My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (nlt)

Or you may have heard it said this way:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (esv)

The message I have received recently about this verse is simple:

the abundant life isn’t coming down the road.

It’s not coming to me in the future.

It’s not meant to be one day achieved.

The abundant life we’re promised is now.

I realize that in ‘waiting’ for the abundant life to happen, I am missing out on the abundance that is my day-to-day life right now. By focusing on things that may or may not be in my future, I am ignoring how full my life is already. By choosing to see my life as is as rich and satisfying, I can be fully present to those who are around me and, therefore, live into the abundance and therefore make it even more satisfying.

THE REASON JESUS CAME is so we could have an abundant and rich and full and satisfying life. He says so.

My life becomes even fuller when I am an active participant in my life. Otherwise, by waiting for my abundant life to happen, I am merely a spectator to my life instead of a player on my own team. In joining my own team, I get dirty and am exhilirated and rewarded and perhaps even kicked and I get to have FUN!

It means I am responsible for the life God has given me now.

We don’t get another one except in the hereafter.

This is it.

There are no do-overs.

Do you understand what I’m saying? This message is so, so simple yet can be so easily be missed.

We have to -we GET to- choose to recognize that our abundant life is now lest we miss out on it all together.

In so doing, our lives only become more rich and more satisfying.

But if we are only waiting for the abundant life to come to us, then we miss out all together.

The abundant and rich and satisfying life we are meant to have,

for better or worse,

is the one we have

right

now.

Are you living in the abundance of your life today?

What would it cost you to accept life as rich and satisfying just as it is?

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