Scars Ripped Open

I’ve wanted to write. ¬†I’ve wanted to lower my pail into the cool, refreshing well of ideas and pull it up gloating in it’s abundance; but I must confess, I thought my well was dry. ¬†Then, out of desperation, hope came. ¬†Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t going deep enough. ¬†I lengthened the rope on my pail and lowered it again, deeper, and deeper, still. ¬†I heard the echoing splash as my pail hit water; felt the tug of the rope in my hands as the weight of water filled its emptiness. ¬†My heart felt it’s fullness. ¬†I pulled, marveling at the heaviness of its contents. ¬†The weight was almost more than I could struggle to pull up. ¬†Finally, I reached for the wet, dripping bucket and looked at the surface of water contained there. ¬†The ripples soothed themselves within contained walls and granted me my reflection on its surface. ¬†I look away, shamed. ¬†I know what I must write.

As I sat amongst a group of friends, the subject of forgiveness was raised. ¬†Quietly, I listened as these voices around me shared their experiences, their beliefs. ¬†“What do you do‚Ķhow do you forgive‚Ķwhen the same person hurts you over and over?” ¬†I saw tears in the eyes of some. ¬†The question itself had brought back painful memories. ¬†That was all it took for that same hurt to enter the heart of the injured. ¬†Quivering voices spoke their truths and struggles with forgiveness. ¬†I sat in my chair as if alone and kept my lips tightly sealed. ¬†My mind, though, betrayed me and let my past hurts bubble up. ¬†I constricted my throat and choked those feelings down. ¬†I wasn’t ready to share.

I believe this: ¬†that when you are deeply and tragically hurt by someone you love that it is like a physical wound. ¬†You look down at this gaping slash in your quivering flesh and it fills you with shock. ¬†Surely, you don’t see what you think you see. ¬†It just isn’t possible that someone who claims to love you could do what they just did to you. ¬†When the shock wears off, ¬†you practice some self-care. ¬†You apply whatever salve you can find: ¬†God, food, movies, books, sleep, and then, you carefully protect your wound. ¬†It helps some if the offender seems truly sorry. ¬†It is like an antibiotic that keeps the ragged flesh from festering. ¬†Finally, after time has passed, the wound closes and heals, leaving a ugly scar on your once perfect skin.

Now, let’s look at what happens when that same offense is repeated; the same offense‚Ķthe same offender. ¬†They take their finger and rip open your scar. ¬†They know exactly where to poke. ¬†They know exactly how to hurt you. ¬†The pain is magnified. ¬†The flesh that you thought was healed was somehow, more vulnerable‚Ķlike an “X” that marked the spot. ¬†Shock again hits you with its blow. How could this be happening again? ¬†How could you have ever trusted this person? ¬†Why did you let them near?

You retract to heal. ¬†This time, you seal the gash up tight with stitches. ¬†You cover it with bandages. ¬†The words “I’m sorry” ¬†don’t ring as true. ¬†Sometimes, you learn to keep your distance. ¬†You run. ¬†You find some little corner and build up your wall of defense. ¬†You stock up the things you need and prepare for the worst.

I’ve thought this to myself; I’ve prayed this: how can I ever forgive, truly forgive, if I can’t forget? ¬†It is not only the offender who can rip open my wounds. ¬†A word, a phrase, a story, a flash-back‚Ķthese are simple, innocent things that can turn what was once healed into angry, infected cuts in my being. ¬†Peace can not come when you can’t forgive.

It is easy to become filled with righteous indignation. ¬†Your own pain can blind you to the hurts you inflict on others. ¬†Bitterness is an evil companion. ¬†“Evil company corrupts good habits.” ¬†I Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) ¬†You can find yourself blaming the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. ¬†The armor can be thick. ¬†It may protect you, but it is very heavy. ¬†Try to picture a joyous person frolicking through a glorious field of wildflowers with a full set of armor on. ¬†There is something comical about that vision. ¬†We must be free and unencumbered to be truly happy.

Now, to what really fills my soul with shame…

Picture Jesus, our Lord. ¬†He is covered with severed flesh. ¬†Each wound caused by my sin. ¬†Look at Him. ¬†Remembering my own pain, is it possible to imagine how many times I’ve inflicted my Sweet Jesus with hurt? ¬†How many times have I ripped open those gashes again and again by committing the same sin over and over? ¬†How many times have I gotten down on these knees and begged Him to forgive me?

What if Jesus were like me? ¬†What if those nail-scarred hands turned me away each time I came to Him for forgiveness? ¬†What if He remembered every blow I’d dealt Him instead of looking down on me in Love, embracing me, kissing the top of my dirty head before sending me out to try again.

I’m not worthy of this love. ¬†My reflection shows it to me every day. ¬†How can I not see that every other man, woman, and child is just like me? ¬†“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)

In the words of Jesus: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. ¬†But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” ¬†Mark 11:25-26 (NKJV)

In the words of my husband, James: ¬†“That’s in the past. ¬†Every time you go back there, you know you’re going to run in to¬†something!”

Don’t dwell. ¬†Keep busy. ¬†Move on. ¬†Throw off your armor and go pick some wildflowers!

I’ll try to do the same.

The Handoff

I used to run. ¬†Not this attempt I call “running”, now. ¬†Real running. ¬†Real racing. ¬†Legs pumping, goal reaching, side-stitching powering forward. ¬†Definitely not the fastest. ¬†Certainly not the best, but I loved it.

There were fears I faced: not winning, not pleasing Coach Felty (whom I wanted to please like a father), not doing my best.  The thing I feared more than these was the handoff; that part of the relay when it was your turn to hand the baton over to your team-mate.  What if I dropped it?  What if we lost precious seconds because of me?

We all have a handoff moment in our earthbound journey whether we run, or not.  There comes a time when we pass what we know, what we learned, what we feel to those whose turn it is to carry on the race.

I remember when my father was on his last stretch of the track. ¬†I spent hours with him, caring for him, watching over him. ¬†He sat in a chair at the table, unable to find comfort, afraid to lie down. ¬†He wanted a cigarette in his hand and a piping hot cup of coffee in front of him to sip on. ¬†It was never hot enough and the cigarette was rarely puffed on. ¬†The weight of his sickness didn’t allow him to enjoy even these vices that used to bring him pleasure. ¬†I wanted him in these moments to speak to me. ¬†As I sang hymns to him in the dark, I waited for his words to me. ¬†They never came. ¬†He¬†did¬†teach me to play a domino game called Moon. ¬†To my shame, I can’t remember how to play it. ¬†I don’t know why it was ever important to him to teach me.

This thought came to me in the middle of the night, while I should have been sleeping. ¬†It nagged at me until I got up and dealt with it. ¬†I think we didn’t have a handoff moment. ¬†I think Daddy was more like someone in the crowd, cheering or a teammate, running along-side me to encourage me to do better. ¬†Daddy was a dream-chaser like me. ¬†He taught me that I could learn to do anything I wanted by reading a book or finding someone to instruct me. ¬†He taught me this by example. ¬†He also taught me to love God. ¬†I saw his struggles with being a christian. ¬†I know he wasn’t perfect. ¬†No one is, certainly not someone who loves life as much as Daddy did. ¬†There is always that fence waiting to be climbed, torn down, or simply sat on.

Being the control freak that I am, I want to take charge of my handoff moment.  I want to tell my children now, while I am full of life and not distracted by pain or death some things that I need them to know.

  1.  I love you.  I love you all and I love you all the same.  I know children think that is something parents just say, really having a favorite, but this is my truth.  From the time I knew you were in my womb, I was thrilled.  When they placed you in my arms, they placed part of my heart right there were I could touch and care for it.
  2. I know I made mistakes. ¬†I’m sorry. ¬†I’m also sorry that you will make mistakes with your own children. ¬†It is part of what makes us one of God’s creatures. ¬†I hope that you know that even so, I never wanted to do anything, say anything to hurt you.
  3. If you don’t learn anything else from me, I hope you learn this: God loves you. ¬†Yes. ¬†You will screw up and make a mess of things from time to time. ¬†It is never too late to turn to your Maker and ask for forgiveness. ¬†He is never further away than a prayer, a earnest cry.
  4. I tried to keep your ancestors alive for you through the stories I told.  You may have tired of hearing them, but I hope you will remember.  I hope that you will carry them forward like a treasured heirloom.  Keep them and pass them down.

This is your baton. ¬†Hold tight to it while you run your race. ¬†Don’t forget to release it when it is time. ¬†Your children are standing there, panting with excitement, waiting for their turn. ¬†Their “track” may not be as easy as yours was. ¬†The world is a scary place. ¬†I don’t envy the environment they are being released to. ¬†Let them see that you will meet them where they are and that you will be there when it counts. I see you, standing there waiting for me. ¬†There are not any hands that I would want to pass my baton on to, more. God blessed me with three beautiful souls. ¬†I know you will run faster than me. ¬†That is why God put you where you are. ¬†A good coach always puts the fastest runner last. Now,¬†go!

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

To others that may read this, other than my own children, I hope you take some thought about passing your own baton. ¬†Maybe there is someone’s forgiveness you need to ask. ¬†Maybe there is someone to whom you held a great love, but never told them. ¬†Maybe you know a soul that doesn’t know Jesus and your heart aches with the Spirit’s urging to speak to them, to share the story of your Savior.

Not long ago, my mother told me that she, like me, had waited for some word or instruction from my father. ¬†She honored his request to be cared for and to die at home. ¬†This was at great cost to her. ¬†In the 1980’s, hospice came about once a week. ¬†My father’s cancer was quick in its work and my father suffered much because there was no one there who was qualified to monitor his pain medicine. ¬†He was never put on morphine. ¬†His pain was excruciating and Momma did the best she could. ¬†They spent all their final time together. ¬†She never got the words she craved.

After his passing, she searched the house, going through books and papers, drawers, everywhere she thought he might have hidden a last letter to her.  It was never found.  It was never written.

I believe flowers are better appreciated by the living than by the dead.  All the money we spend on funeral flowers to ease our own suffering could have just as easily be spent on flowers that they could have enjoyed.  Imagine your loved one receiving a beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers with a note written in your own hand.  See, in your minds eye, them smile as they read your words, as they press their nose in to the soft, velvety petals knowing that they are loved.

We have the power to spread so much joy.  I pray that we will all take the time to honor that gift while God lets us hold it.  How do we best honor it?  By giving it away.

“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”¬†Acts 20:35 (NKJV)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”¬†Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)

A Letter of Faith

My last blog post was dark. ¬†It came from a very dark place. ¬†My heart has been covered in a black mourning cloth‚Ķmourning things that happen‚Ķlife‚Ķthings that can’t be changed.

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to a wonderful man.  He loves me even with all my flaws.  He remembers me as I was and occasionally, gets to see a glimpse of that girl.

That girl loved God.  He was the guiding force for her whole life.  She was known for her faith.

What I said about my heart being dried up, not able to give‚Ķwell, that was true. ¬†I’ve pushed everyone away, just a bit. ¬†When I felt vulnerable, I did something to get distance. ¬†I had become one of those bitter women no one wants to be around. ¬†I tried to hide her. ¬†I put on my smile, one of my gifts from that girl I was. ¬†I said, “I’m fine.” ¬†I was the queen of FINE.

My prayer time was short and to the point; full of pleas for help and daily forgiveness. ¬†I knew I wasn’t in a graced state of mind. ¬†I didn’t fully engage in my worship. ¬†It was too hard. ¬†True worship requires openness. ¬†Concentrating on God’s Holy Word was difficult. ¬†The Holy Spirit had a constant battle on His hands.

Susan Ashton sang a song called, *”Grand Canyon”. ¬†In it she sings, “I know that I’m a long way from where I need to be when there’s a grand canyon between You and me‚Ķ” ¬†That’s what it feels like when you shut yourself off.

*written by Wayne Kirkpatrick

I’m confessing this, to whoever reads it. ¬†I want forgiveness. ¬†I woke up this morning physically sick from the bitter gall I’ve been swallowing. ¬†I want that girl back!

Thanks and praise and eternal gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the gifts of forgiveness and redemption.

I realize this is not a story, poem, or word of wisdom. ¬†This is me. ¬†This is my life. ¬†This is my letter of faith to you. ¬†If any wisdom can be gained from it, I hope it will be that you keep your heart open. ¬†The heart, the soul, is a thing to be used. ¬†Like silver, it becomes more beautiful the more it is worn or handled. ¬†Don’t let yourself tarnish from the inside out. ¬†It will eventually show.

Outside it is raining…a dark, dreary day.  Inside my heart, there is sunshine.  I am so blessed.  Every day, every moment, every loved one is a gift.  I pray that I will never slip into that dark place, again.