It’s Okay to Not Be Okay…

 

If I asked you how you are today…

How would you answer?

Why is it that the moment we hear this question we tend to feel a responsibility for maintaining God’s image of goodness, mercy, and faithfulness? We can be sick, exhausted, about to explode from a panic attack, or have a houseful of sick kids. We may have just had a fight with family, exploded at the kids or learned our job was being phased out. Yet, the moment we hear those first words –

“how are…”

Our heart rate goes up and we seem to feel compelled to embrace a mask of perfection. Our real life pain, chaos, and struggles are pushed aside by our happy heart smile as we answer

“I’m good how about you?”

If you’re like me the guilt for lying settles in as quickly as that fake smile overtakes my face. I found myself lying so much, as I worked through many seasons of healing, that I was avoiding people and those awkward greetings, in an effort to not feel obligated to lie. To cope I created a new safe and honest answer that I can give in every situation.

“I’m ducky how about you”?

Those who know me understand “ducky” means I’m not okay and I don’t want talk about it, at least not in the moment. Those who don’t know me, typically respond as if I had answered I am great and move onto to other topics.

I feel validated because I didn’t lie or discount my struggle; which allows me to move beyond the awkward surface, into a deeper conversation.

And amazingly the kingdom does not implode because I admitted that I am not perfect. Christians sometimes act like God is thrown into a panic attack because our human reactions and weakness make him look bad. Trust me He is bigger than our humanity!

A more accurate portrayal is that God is pleased, because I didn’t feel compelled to lie to protect heart or my image of him. Even more, in our vulnerability, others have the opportunity to encounter God’s love, grace, mercy and compassion in a real and tangible way.

God becomes bigger when we are honest about our pain, failures, and trials; while his love and desire to step into broken lives becomes real, to those around us who are also hurting and watching to see if our God is big enough for their mess.

I have no idea where the belief that it’s not okay to admit you aren’t okay begun, but I do know it’s unbiblical and ridiculous! Something is wrong when we believe we need to lie to feel safe or protect our testimony.

The bible say’s we are to bear with one another; which means to struggle or endure through both the good and bad times together, supporting and growing with each other. Some seem to think bear with one another means to climb over, compete, or condemn, which is simply absurd and in no way a reflection of the life we are called to live.

What apart of bearing or struggling together is lived out when we lie about how we are or when we make someone else feel uncomfortable? How do we overcome with our testimony if we can’t admit we have one? Our testimonies are not limited to what God did when he saved us, they grow and evolve as we grow and learn.

My testimony is much fuller today, than it was the moment He saved me.

God created us to thrive in deep, transparent, loving relationships; which enable us to grow and experience safe. Relationships can only be safe and transparent if we are grounded in our understanding of godly love. Godly love places the best for others first, even when what is best is hard, not what we want or when what is best for another requires us to set our needs and agendas aside.

Understanding Godly love is so life changing I spent a year teaching what it is and is not. In the end we must each chose to embrace and risk stepping into God’s love or remain in the disemboweled and shallow world-view of love and relationship.

Our pretense accomplishes little beyond removing us from what our hearts need to grow and feel safe. At the same time, our pretense removes us from those who will grow and learn by watching us walk through our struggles and failures in a God honoring way.

There is wisdom in investing the effort to develop relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

While I know a lot of people, I am known by only a handful of trusted friends.

I would not answer a stranger or even an acquaintance with “I am feeling triggered and scared”, but I might answer by saying “I am really struggling right now or when that seems unsafe …

“I’m ducky how are you?” works great!

Feel free to borrow ducky or make up your own unique answer and definition.

Those in my inner circle get more information. Depending on the friend I might even go into details around what I am reacting to; so that they can help me ground and feel safe in the moment.

This is how relationship is created to work. We struggle, together while at the same time we carry and learn from each other.

Relationships are about learning to walk and live out life together, in a real and meaningful way, so that we learn and grow from and with each other. We are hardwired and created to exist, need and thrive in relationships.

In addition, when we chose the safety of pretense over the reality of transparency, we rob our loved ones of the opportunity to grow with us. I know this first hand. I have seen my friends grow in their capacity to handle hard times and in their ability to love, specifically because I allowed them to walk through the very real hell of ritual abuse with me.

Jesus is the only one who is perfection. Every person struggles, fails, hurts, sins, and goes through seasons of insecurity, depression, doubt and the unknown.

Buying into the lie that acknowledging our humanity is wrong or weak pulls us out of the relationship we need and into a fake, unpredictable world.

Christians are not called or expected to be perfect, at least not by God!

We are however called to bear and endure with one another; which requires that we live transparently, walking in mercy, grace and an abundance of godly love.

If I had kept the people I trust out of my brutal reality I would have missed the experience of being loved, validated and protected. They would have missed gaining a deeper perspective and trust in God’s faithfulness and protection through big storms. Yes, it is wise to pick your close friends carefully; while allowing your trust to develop naturally, over time. However, neither is possible if everyone remains hidden behind their perfect masks.

And really who can live up to that perfect mask anyway?

I grew, in part, because I stopped pretending and, in a very real way, as I did my testimony pulled my friends into a deeper relationship with God and each other.

Had I stayed behind my “I am ok “mask none of these amazing gifts of healing and growing would be possible. Some healing, understanding and growth only come as we develop and step into deep, safe relationships and risk being known. The coolest part of removing that silly mask is watching others stumble into the undeniable reality of how big God really is!

It’s impossible to know me or hear my testimony without realizing that me being alive is a miracle. How others choose to process that is up to them, and no reflection on me. It is, however, a gift to watch the process and know that from such incomprehensible depths of loss and pain others see a miracle.

As Christians we don’t need to lie to protect ourselves or God’s image. God is not defined by our lives, but our lives should be defined by who we believe our God is!

Be bold, embrace and take back your humanity – it is okay to not be okay! God is magnified in our weakness and vulnerability.

You and I are NOT  always okay, but we are loved, worthy and wanted exactly as we are! You don’t need that creepy perfect mask. You can, instead, embrace real and begin enjoying the freedom God created and protects for you.

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Me and My Plans… Can Get Messy

By this time last year I had most of 2015 mapped out in my head. I felt confident in my direction and my personal goals, and settled with my ministry plan. My plans felt well thought out and reasonable, at least in my head and to my heart.

Did you catch all the I’s and mys?

My plans and goals were well intentioned, primarily other focused and consistent with the direction God had been speaking to my heart.

However, my plans were out of step with God’s plans, will for me, and timing for this season My plans took into consideration my comfort level and my beliefs around needing to perform or achieve in order to earn love and justify my place at the table.

By the time March came and I realized a second shoulder surgery was needed; my plans were already getting messy. I shuffled and re-shuffled and then modified my plans in an effort to stay on target with my goals. When I learned how significant the second surgery was if felt like someone has just dumped my plans on the floor. I didn’t take the news well and battled feeling like I was not holding up my end of the deal with friends and family!

I went to my Papa and cried out Papa please! You know what I want to get done I need your help.

Yes those were actually my words… I need your help!

I meant I needed his help fixing my plan. However, the more I prayed and said I need your help, the more my plans fell apart.

His plan, however, was beginning to become obvious, even to me. He answered my prayer by leading me into a place of helplessness. Instead of empowering me accomplish my goals I was losing my independence and ability to take care of me. It seemed my plan was going in reverse the more I prayed for help.

By early May I had to accept that if I could not care for myself it was, therefore, unrealistic to expect that I could build a ministry helping others. Scaling back was the easy part.

There were only a few ministry functions I maintained. I stopped writing, stepped back from many relationships and non essential commitments. I  started no new mentoring or advocate relationships.

The hard part was accepting I needed help and then allowing others to help me.

In some ways it was obvious I needed help. It’s hard to dress yourself with one arm in a sling to protect from the shoulder further damage. I am stubborn, so I tried doing everything myself. I got stuck in the attempt on more than one occasion. My efforts, at times, left me in precarious positions yelling for help. Today, when I am being foolishly stubborn, my closest friend only needs get my attention as she waves  her hands under her chin looking like a t-Rex stuck in a dress…

I know right way what she means.

I spent eight months struggling to maintain a level of control; which in my mind meant having a plan and being able to do – something, anything to earn my place.

Sometimes old beliefs are hard to break free from, even beliefs based in trauma that keep us from what we need or want.

The messier my plans got the more I prayed and asked for help, until finally without even thinking about my words I asked him to show me his plan because mine was obviously not what he desired for me.

I stopped writing and barely stayed current on social media. Between pain medicine, muscle relaxers, another concussion and medicine for nerve pain even conversations with people I love were difficult.

2015 was NOT the year I planned. It was however the year God intended to help me develop some essential skills. 2015 was a messy year of unplanned and uncomfortable gifts.

My plan would have robbed me of growth and healing. God’s plan initially left me feeling out of control, afraid and helpless. His answer to my prayer for help started with me feeling out of control, scared and being, at times, literally helpless.

Had I remained in charge I would have gotten a lot done, but my accomplishments would hold little value, even to me. Undoubtedly, I may have also unintentionally hurt a few people, along the way.

Thankfully, in both my stubbornness and fear my heart remained surrendered, desiring God’s best above my plans. I therefore grew despite me!

I learned to let those I trust take care of me. I allowed myself to experienced their love for me, despite my inability to “do my part”. I learned not all relationships are equal; even more I learned its okay for people to fit into different places in my heart and practically speaking in my life.

I learned my plans are generally nice but often messy and seldom the best.

I learned to step back and was reminded of how important waiting for God’s timing is. I still need help with somethings, but now I don’t need to earn or prove anything to those who love me.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is the one I already knew. I now understand it with a new level of respect….

Outside of God’s plan and timing my life and my ministry can only end in a mess.

Yes I like approval.I like the feeling of knowing I accomplished something. I like knowing my words have challenged someone to step closer to God. I love to speak and teach about the deep truths and extravagant, limitless love that set me free. I am a preacher at heart.

However, more than all of those likes my heart absolutely needs and craves authentic, transparent and honest God honoring deep relationships.

Nevertheless, outside of God’s plan and timing, for my life, my efforts to fulfill these godly desires will never work or matter. I am learning to rest while I wait which means regardless of my circumstances I have peace.

I asked God to break through my heart so that his, love for me, becomes real to me. I am leaning Grace is deeper, richer and more complete than I will ever fathom.

A year later my life and ministry are not mapped out. I’m now mostly okay not having a plan.

2016 will be a year of continuing to surrender, as I grow in my understanding of grace, and Gods love for me. This will be a year of continuing to learn to allow the people I love and trust to love me back.

As for this ministry I resign!

Instead of me planning or striving to make things happen; which may be the predominate approach to ministry building these days, but isn’t Gods plan….

I am resting while I wait for clear direction. When I have his direction or words I will move, write or speak.

My job is not to plan, build or make things happen.

He has called us to love and follow him. Therefore my job is to grow in my ability to love and to follow which sometimes means stepping back and waiting for Him to move so we can follow.

Sometimes Healing is Easier When We Stay in the Storm

By now, you may have realized I can be a little stubborn!  I also have a strong independent side; which  has become more often than not a deficit.

Both patterns are tied to unhealthy and now largely untrue belief system. Both are also, in their pure surrendered form, part of the gifts God placed with in my heart.

Gifts He placed in my heart for good. Gifts He gave and intended I use to love and build up, not to self destruct, isolate or tear down others.

He placed these and other gifts with in me not “just” to survive, but to move into thriving and then into the kingdom work He created for me.

Earlier in the week I was doing some gardening. Gardening and creating a relaxing atmospheres are hobbies I enjoy. At the start of the day, I had my plan and list of things that needed to get done. I didn’t check the weather when I made my plan.

About half way through the day it started raining. It was a hot day and the rain was slow and steady. I actually like doing yard work in the rain, at least in slow steady rain. I draw the line at torrential down pours and thunder storms. Those storms provide an opportunity to play puddles, but that is object lesson, for another time.

There are benefits to gardening and working in a slow steady rain.

First, no one bothers me, which means I have gift of being left alone, for just a little while.  My ear-buds go in and the volume goes up as I settle into processing, quiet prayer, or just enjoy the rain and one of my favorite hobbies.

Second, there are some tasks that while messier are much easier in the rain.

On this day I planned to take back my shade garden form the encroaching army of poison ivy. In the rain when I pull at the vine, long strands with the roots come out almost effortlessly. Normally they come  in smaller sections, often without the roots and require significantly more effort.
The rain drives the mosquito’s and nats away; which when working in a shade garden is a wonderful relief.

Anything I plant, when it is raining like this, naturally has a better start. If I am moving or breaking up a plant into multiple sections the plant experiences less stress and is able to establish a new root system faster.

There are many advantages to working in this kind of rain – but it is always messy!

As I worked, on this day, I was processing through some painful new information. Information I  prayed, even begged, for years, to know but had accepted knowing, was likely not possible, at least not here.

Getting an answer and understanding my truth, on a deeper level, always brings growth , but like working in the rain – it’s also typically messy, painful or both.

This is the reality and paradox of healing!

In order to heal and grow we must be willing to know our truth, but knowing will rarely be what we expect or wanted. Knowing brings pain as we move through the process of understanding and accepting.

Healing, at times, feels  impossible, consuming, unending and overwhelming. Thankfully our feelings DO NOT define truth or reality.

Often our deepest healing and growth comes at the end of what feels like an unsurvivable messy season.

When we stop fighting and settle into the work, just like gardening, after the pruning, planting and the pulling out of the unhealthy roots – at the right time  new growth bursts into a beautiful display of our hearts and Jesus’s master workmanship.

While often irrational to our intellect, sometimes  processing and the growth that follows, is easier when we allow God to send a slow steady rain.

A rain that heals; while giving us the chance to step aside and take time to rest, as we process and accept what is often a painful truth or ugly part of our past. A past we did not chose and could not control!

A protective rain that causes most people to stay away, giving us the quiet we need; while alerting those we trust and feel safe with to draw closer.
As illogical as it sounds, the healing process is sometimes easier in the rain.

When we chose to fight, run or allow the rain to become an excuse; then when we do settle in and go back to the garden we find the soil harder, dry. cracked and often more difficult to work through.

You know Those Times, When You Want to Give Up, But Really You Don’t…

I would conservatively guess the words….

“I give up, I can’t do this… it’s too hard or I am not strong enough” have in one form or another fallen out of my mouth literally thousands of times over the past 20 years.

Most of the time I meant each syllable. My words and attitude was typically driven by either exhaustion, an onslaught of some new even darker memory, a new reality redefining truth or internal emotional conflict as I struggled to grasp deeper understanding.

I meant every word, in the heat of moment, consumed in desperation and devastation. When I looked at the normal standard– that unachievable “thing” which was often the standard set as my goal for wholeness (according to everyone, but me)

You know the point people say you have more or less finished your healing and are officially more over it than not!!

Striving to meet that “normalcy goal” left me deeper in despair – normal still seems impossible and undesirable!

Today I embrace my disdain and recognize I was not created for normal –no one is. God created us to live an extraordinary life– normal is a lame excuse of settling for someones second best, it’s mundane.

Twenty years later I am still stepping forward, still healing, and growing but honestly only because I am too stubborn to settle for normal, determined to know my truth, wise enough to go beyond limits established by others for me. When I could not fight for myself, I held on and fought for Jane and Brooklyn – in those moments they were by motivation.

I might be the only public Christian voice you have found, but you and I are not alone!
I know many sexual abuse, trafficking and ritual abuse survivors who never thought they would make it. People who like me have thrown in the towel thousands of times – only to pick it back up and find enough strength to take just one more baby step. We each found our motivation and whatever that thing that kept us pushing forward was, it became our strength to keep going.

You might NOT FEEL LIKE it now, but you CAN get through thisbut not alone. We need people who are bold enough to love regardless of anything in our past, regardless of how messy the healing gets.

For the first several years, I hated people and found trusting an act of insanity so I started with Jesus, because I had nothing left to lose.

I couldn’t step into the deeper pain, truths or understanding until I took the chance and let a few carefully picked people into my mess – people who had not experienced my pain and could give me a healthy prospective.

I sometimes still find liking or trusting people hard, at times, but Jesus has never failed me – my expectations have for sure disappointed me but He has not failed.

Don’t give up! You are not alone. You a member of elite and incredibly strong, creative group or wounded warriors and you don’t have to fight the entire battle at once.

We win and heal one baby step at a time.

Jesus is not afraid or ashamed of our past, our shame, or our secrets!

For the comfortable Christian this post likely requires a warning – so you’ve been warned, this post is real not comfortable or fake…

In the past, I acknowledged  how hard it once was to admit being molested. How the chasm between admitting molested and owing incest seemed like crossing the Grand Canyon. Those words and so many others had a deep impact because leaving me consumed in shame. Shame which was fed by lies of the predators who abused me!

Deception and manipulation are classic predatory tactics intended to shift responsibility, for the abuse, from the predator to the victim.

Sadly much of our society, to varying degrees, buys into and supports these manipulative head games. The reality is that as a society we are more comfortable, quietly directly or indirectly, blaming the abused instead of holding the abuser accountable.

More comfortable because acknowledging the reality and truth of evil will require a shift, away from our relative morality. back a truth based reality that understands something’s are never okay and accepts moral absolutes, as truth.

Now I talk about things like abortions, being forced to participate in the most sadistic and sickest types porn & prostitution, as well as, things like being forced to have sex with women and animals for only one reason

These remain uncomfortable topics for me. I expect topics like this always will be hard – but while they are uncomfortable I AM NOT ASHAMED!

I am not that brave. I do sometimes question my sanity in talking so openly about such brutally honest and hard topics…

But I have learned that if Jesus is unafraid to talk about hard or evil raw subjects Christians have no excuses for burying our head in the sand He sees me the same as everyone else, regardless of our life circumstances. In the eyes of God, we are all His children, he leaves the choice of stepping into that relationship to us, because love never forces, its will on another!

If God, who created all that is good, can handle talking about these things, AND he actually wants to walk us through our hard, raw, painful places then who am I to shy away from sharing the truth and reality of his healing?

He not only wants to talk about our pain with us but also to love us through and beyond it! He loves with a love that does not hurt, leave, reject, judge, ridicule, or react to our pain in any other way than with a broken heart as he weeps for and with us….

Yes it is uncomfortable for you to know, even basic details of my normal, it is also essential that you know.

Essential that your heart understands that evil is real, as real as the incomprehensible, unfailing, unshakable love of Jesus, in whom evil has no authority. It is this understanding that the broken find healing, strength and peace. It is this reality and truth that equips Christians to step into the darkest and messiest places, bringing the this same fearless love with them, to help those looking for a way out.

Everything good and bad I have done and all I endured can never be minimized. But, because of the extravagant, fearless, bold, patient, enduring and yes when necessary relentless love that Jesus has for each of us –  I am able to stand before God and man blameless, forgiven and restored.

…Not because I deserved forgiveness I don’t!  There is nothing special about me that earned his love, or forgiveness.

I was desperate enough to recognize that I had nothing to lose, in accepting and taking a chance, that Jesus is who he says.

As that truth became my reality I had nothing to loose, in daring to believe his promise and proclamation, that I am lovable, forgivable, and restorable. These promises are now the truth that causes my shame to fall away.

I am not ashamed simply because I know my life circumstances and lies of my perpetrators can only define me, if I chose to empower them.

I am not ashamed because I know firsthand that Jesus is magnitudes bigger than the darkest things I ever experienced!

And I know because of his love and forgiveness that this Jesus, who is so unlike the God they told me he was, loves me enough to somehow chose to forget all of my past and instead see’s me as who I am now and who I will be when I fully restored.

I am not ashamed because, while something’s are more uncomfortable to share, I know in those moments My Papa wraps me in his unbreakable love. I understand that instead of shocking him, He is pleased when I talk free fro shame about my past, through the filter of His love and forgiveness.

He is pleased, not in my discomfort, but rather in my willingness to offer a voice in the wilderness – a voice of hope and truth – that speaks you can do this, your are not alone!

God is not afraid, shocked, ashamed or embarrassed by the circumstances of your life!

Jesus’s knows every detail, of your life, and yet the desire of his heart is to heal and restore your wounds – not to judge or condemn you.. He is not ashamed or afraid of your pain or you past.

God loves us enough to even talk about things like dildos, rape, adultery or abortions, if that is what takes to restore your hope and show you how deeply he loves you!