Archive for the ‘Religion/Faith’ Category

I guess forgiveness is just in the air. I just couldn’t let it go. I called my dad today to tell him our family had experienced enough broken relationships and that I wanted the pain to stop. I indicated that in spite of how distant our relationship has been since, well, forever, I wanted to do whatever it takes to reach something more akin to friendship. My dad is going senile, so I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying. However, he knew I was reaching out to him, and I believe he appreciated it. He said he would try to call me back but if I didn’t hear from him I should call him back. He’s very forgetful like that.

Why, you ask, would I bother, given his age and present state of mind? The reason is this: My faith calls me to forgive those who hurt me, even when it’s difficult. So I decided to let everything go. Does he remember what he did to me? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has reached into my soul and urged me to restore a broken relationship in His name, and I obeyed His prompting.

I didn’t do anything wrong to make my dad’s and my relationship go sour. After all, I was only a small child when the abuse started. However, as an adult, I have not reached out to seek healing in our relationship. I forgave him long ago, yes, but I never let on to my dad that I had done so, so our relationship never blossomed.

I am thankful to God that He has nurtured and held me these last several weeks and that he spoke to me so clearly through the words of my minister last Saturday. Hear it yourself by going to http://middletownchristian.org/audio.asp, pressing the Month radio button, selecting November 2007 from the dropdown list, and then selecting David Emery – [November 25,2007]  Kingdom Now! – Radical Change. You won’t regret it!


Read Full Post »

In the last couple of days, I’ve learned a very important lesson. I’ve learned that God doesn’t have to be finished with you in order to use you.

For the longest time, I couldn’t bear to study the bible, get involved in fellowship groups, or even serve at my church because I was feeling so guilty about the sins in my life. How could I, a divorced woman, possibly open myself up to God and, even more, bring other people to God when I wasn’t “finished” yet. Isn’t that hypocritical?

The answer is a resounding NO! One of the wonderful things about being a Christian and being involved in a local house of worship is that EVERYONE is welcome to come and to serve and to lead. In fact, God wants you to come when you’re sinning because He can help you overcome those sins and lead a healthier, more productive life.

As I’ve mentioned before, I felt called by God to serve the homeless for many years, but I ignored that call because I was feeling so self-absorbed in my own depression. I knew in my head that it would help me feel better if I helped others, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At one point, I thought about serving in the area of children’s Christian education. But I looked at the people around me, assumed they were perfect little robot Christians, and couldn’t bear the thought of being “found out” that I wasn’t perfect. So I didn’t serve. The result: I continued to feel depressed about my life and my marriage, and both of these things began to fall apart.

Soon after I was divorced, I spoke to someone at my church about wanting to get involved in a singles’ ministry. However, when my friend asked me to serve and help start that ministry, I freaked out completely. Again, the thoughts raced through my mind: How could I–who had so obviously let God down–possibly help other Christian singles? Likewise, I was asked to help out with the church newsletter, but I just ran away. In fact, I completely left the church, stating publicly–and believing it was true–that I was doing so because my daughter didn’t like the church we were attending. In my heart, I knew this wasn’t true, but I couldn’t face my own frailty.

Fortunately, I came to realize that God wants me the way I am today (and the way I was yesterday too), and He welcomes me with open arms to serve Him regardless of how I’ve sinned in the past. He’ll even want me when I sin again, which I most certainly will do. I am thankful for this newfound knowledge, because it frees me to be ME. It invites me to do what God calls me to do despite my imperfections. A few of my special friends have made this knowledge clear to me, even when I battled against them and ran away from them. They never let me go, and they forgave me. They also assured me that God forgives me too, if I will only ask Him.

And so I say to Him today, “Thank you for letting me serve You. Will you please forgive me?” And I pray that I will welcome and absorb His forgiveness to bring even greater healing.

Read Full Post »

I feel a compelling need to say some things on here, and I am sure that what I say will come as a shock to some. But I have changed and grown in many ways since my recent hospitalization, and I feel I must say them. Bear with me.

First, let me explain something about myself. After much introspection over these last several weeks, I’ve realized the extent to which I did not form my own opinions about many things–even very important matters in my own life. This became painfully obvious in the past week when I listened to the strong–and varied–opinions of a few people who mean a lot to me. This was a difficult week for me, as was evident from my last post. But it turns out that I needed to hear these strong opinions in order to realize how I had failed to decide how I feel about things. (The social worker in the hospital referred to people like me as “lost children.” I’m sure you can check on Wikipedia for an apt description of this personality type.)

Here’s a little of what happened this past week: I got a very upsetting email from one of my best friends, and my family–in their efforts to protect me–began to express in earnest their poor opinion of this friend. I, too, became livid and wrote vociferously of all of the horrid things I wanted to do to this person to get my revenge. My anger was definitely justified, and I never intended to actually do any of the things about which I’d fantacized. Now, hold that thought for a minute.

Only a few of us celebrated Thanksgiving together, because, as I mentioned in my last post, my family has been in a feud since I was first admitted to the hospital because I asked that my sister not be told of my admission. The result has been that my family reached an impasse, and I wasn’t sure if we’d ever reconcile. At Thanksgiving, we all spoke bitterly about my friend and about my sister. I want to emphasize the WE: I was an active participant in these discussions.  And then I realized how entirely empty I felt… about my friend, about my sister, about all the broken relationships I’ve experienced or witnessed in my immediate family… and I just felt sad.

On Saturday, my daughter and I went to my church with a friend of mine. The minister preached a sermon entitled “Radical Change.” In it, he talked about how we as Christians need to stop fighting in order to get people to believe what we believe and instead begin loving each other unconditionally because of our faith. Sermons don’t always “speak” to me, but this one spoke directly to my heart. I realized I had to speak out.

Rewind to the lost child I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Here I am, this person who couldn’t form an opinion for the life of her, and now opinions were flowing out of me. One: I–and no one else in my family–know my friend, and I know he is a person of good character who has made mistakes just as the rest of us have. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t my friend, and it doesn’t mean that I have to blow him off completely. So I wrote to him and told him how the email affected me, and I told him that I disagree with the opinions of my family members and will continue to value our friendship.

Two: my sister lives out her faith very differently from how I do. She, too, has done things to hurt me very deeply. However, as a Christian, I am called to respond to her differently than I did. So I called her up, told her I was through fighting, and said I would do whatever it takes to keep our families together.

Three: Since my arrival in the hospital, I have felt this constant nagging to call my ex-husband and apologize to him for giving up. So tonight I did it. I told him that I know we had many seemingly insurmountable problems but that when he began to change, I told him he was too late and I continued to hold onto my anger. I had no agenda in telling him this, except to seek his forgiveness. I have witnessed the transformation of a horrible marriage of a friend of mine, so I know that God could have done miraculous things for my marriage too, if I had listened to God and lived out my faith appropriately. (Caution: I do not take full responsibility for my failed marriage… only full responsibility for my portion of the failure.)

Four: I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my daughter telling her that I’ve done her a disservice in the way I’ve fought with my sister and in my decision to give up on my relationship with her daddy, and I asked her to forgive me too. I told her I feel great remorse for having given up like I did. I told her that when she grows up and decides to get married, it is for life, regardless of how hard it is. I told her what I did was a mistake, and that as a Christian it is important to keep your promises.

I am sure what I’ve said is shocking, especially to my family. But I cannot stand the thought of losing one more person in my life because of stubbornness and unwillingness to sacrifice myself for the good of my family/relationships–I feel this way BECAUSE I am a Christian. No, forgiveness and sacrifice are not concepts that are exclusive to christianity, but in MY life, I learned these things through my Christian faith… a faith I saw demonstrated by some of my best friends.

Thank you, my family and best friends, for all of the support you’ve shown me since September 21. I am eternally grateful.

Read Full Post »

Thanksgiving this year is seeming very depressing. My daughter–who’s celebrating her 12th birthday on Thanksgiving Day–will spending the day with her Daddy; and my sister and her family decided not to come to dinner because there’s been a break between her family and the rest of our extended family. This year, there will be only four us dining together. I’d just assume to go to a restaurant and pretend the day doesn’t even exist, but I think my Mom feels strongly about celebrating despite the circumstances.

I thought I would be kind by letting my ex-husband have our daughter for the day. I figured that she would be happier with him and his extended family since she’d have other kids to play with. I’m glad to help make her day better, but the thought of being away from her leaves me feeling really sad. My brother, knowing how difficult it is for me to be alone these days, graciously invited me to spend the night at his place so I have some company. For that, I’m very thankful.

Here’s the story surrounding my sister and our families: When I went in the hospital in September, I asked my Mom and brothers not to tell my sister. I did so because she has frequently said that if I only called out to Jesus, I wouldn’t have the mental problems that I have. She once even tried to convince me to go to an exorcist. He was arrested for tying up a woman in his home, but that didn’t seem to bother her. Needless to say, I didn’t want the stress of having my faith called into question while I was in the hospital. After about five days, my family told my sister about my hospitalization, and she came to visit me. That was a mistake. My Mom kept trying to get me to set some boundaries with my sister, but I wasn’t strong enough. So my sister proceeded to trample all over me. I didn’t invite her to come again. After I got out of the hospital, she sent me a letter saying her silence wasn’t indicative that she was angry, because she wasn’t. I thought everything was going to be okay.

However, a few weeks later, my sister-in-law, my Mom, and me met my sister for a “therapy” session at a church in Goshen. This was another disaster. My sister told me she didn’t want me to be with her children because I chose to talk to them about things she was opposed to whenever we were away from her. Her example: At a football game we went to in September, “all you talked about was boys.” I was shocked. I mean, don’t most teenagers like to talk about boys? After this meeting, I uninvited her youngest daughter from my daughter’s birthday party because I didn’t want to risk my daughter’s friends talking about things my sister would find inappropriate. Some people thought I should have given her the option of letting her daughter go, but I couldn’t bear to be subjected to her criticism. I just couldn’t take it from her anymore. Apparently, I really hurt my sister. Her husband called my Mom and ranted about how angry he was with me. Is my family screwed up, or what? Now, in order to see my daughter–even though she won’t let me see hers–my sister has arranged with my ex-husband to spend the day with her on his time. I guess I shouldn’t have expected him to support me by not permitting that. Don’t get me wrong–I want my daughter to interact with her cousins. But I resent her going around me to get to my daughter. I am very sad.

Read Full Post »

For the first time in many weeks, I’ve experienced clarity. After weeks battling severe depression, I reached a place of thanksgiving for the life I have, for my family, for my friends, and for honesty.

As a patient in a local mental hospital, I’ve listened to countless stories of suffering and despair. My fellow patients recounted years of abuse at the hands of their parents and spouses, the sting of betrayal by best friends, the agony of addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the oddity of relying on the pain of “cutting” to bring comfort and healing. Time and time again, I was reminded by staff of how brave we all were simply because we were there. At first, this admonition seemed ill-founded, even silly. I mean, we were in-patients (and later out-patients) in a psych ward. We were crying out loud in pain, visibly shaking with anxiety. But after conversations with family and close friends, I know that what the social workers and doctors said was true. We are brave.

I am thankful for my life just as it is today because of this bravery. While there are life circumstances that I long to be different with all of my heart, I am thankful that I can express my deepest feelings to my family and friends without fear of reprisal. Based on some of the comments I’ve received on this blog over the years, I know my candor has enabled others to work through their suffering, and my forthright words have touched readers in ways I couldn’t have predicted. What’s more, I wrote a comment on another blog about some of the challenges I feel in following God’s will in my life. Apparently, my comments inspired my fellow blogger’s family to look at their own faith journey with new eyes. Clearly, my bravery is healing for me and for others.

Since September 21, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have the family God gave me. My mother never left my bedside at the emergency room, and she visited me nearly every night of my 18-day hospital stay. My oldest brother flew in from California to support my mother and me during that critical first week, and then he and his wife talked to me at least once a day for the duration of my stay. My “birthday brother” (the one with whom I share a birthday) visited me regularly and implored me to tell him something–anything–he could bring to me that would bring me comfort. Each of these people reminded me daily that they loved me and couldn’t imagine life without me. Their kindness baffled me, but it kept me going.

I told my friends the truth about what brought me to the hospital, and they didn’t gasp in horror at my frailty or shun me because of my inability to “deal.” Rather, they prayed for me, comforted me, reassured me. I am so lucky to have such friends.

Honesty has been my friend through this difficult time. For several months, I had encased myself in a wall of deception, pushing my feelings down so far that I couldn’t even identify them. I needed the 63-face feeling chart the nurse in the out-patient program gave me in order to find a name for the emotions stirring within me. While at first I was afraid to share my story, I found that when I did, lots of people were helpful; others were thankful for my insight. I realized that by sharing my storing, I was healing myself and others.

I am still afraid in many ways: I’m afraid about moving back home; I’m afraid about going back to a job that I find unfulfilling; I’m afraid I won’t find love again. But another part of me feels beautiful for the first time in my life and is confident of who I am and what I have to offer.

Read Full Post »

My father is suffering from dementia, but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s discussed his declining memory with his doctor, and he’s certainly demonstrated it with all of his children. Some people begin to get beligerant in their old age, effectively shunning those who may have been able to help them. My father isn’t like that. He’s been beligerant his whole life, so we’re used to it. None of us wants to take care of him, but we all recognize that we must. And so we do.

After suffering a childhood of emotional and borderline-sexual abuse by my father, I have never been alone with him. Never. And yet somehow, apparently without thinking, I offered to take him to a psychiatrist to see about getting him on an antidepressant or mood stabilizer, depending on what the doctor says. I’m the logical person to take on this job, since I have manic-depression and have experience dealing with the psychiatric healthcare system. So I suggested that he go, and I volunteered to be the person to take him. It wasn’t until my brother told me how shocked my sister was at my offer that it occurred to me: I have to be alone with him–and in a car at that.

A couple of things have run through my mind when I’ve thought about how I’ll handle the car ride. Shamefully, I admit that I thought about bringing my daughter with me, thinking just maybe she’d inhibit him from yelling at me, patting my thigh, trying to kiss me on the lips, and, well, you get the picture. A friend suggested I load up the front seat with junk, and tell him to just hitch a ride in the back. Neither of these options is acceptable to me. One isn’t fair to my daughter–she doesn’t need to be a buffer between my father and me; the other isn’t fair to my father–he isn’t a cab passenger.

Why the heck I even care about what is fair to my father is this: I am modeling caring behavior for my daughter. She’ll see that despite my feelings about my father (it’s obvious to her we’re not close), I can still reach out to him and help protect him from himself and, ultimately, the nursing staff who will one day care for him.  Going on a psychotropic drug may help him find some joy in his life. It may also take the edge off his beligerance and, therefore, make him a better patient–which translates to a better-cared-for patient.

Sappy, but it reminds me of Jesus telling his followers to “turn the other cheek” when someone wrongs them. I just hope my father doesn’t slap the other one as well.

Read Full Post »

I saw the title and was immediately… scared to view the movie. “Jesus Camp,” it’s called, and I’m sure many of you know all about it. I had heard of this film about an evangelical body of children who are being “taught” to be warriors for Jesus, but I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it yet. I saw it tonight through tear-filled eyes and worry-torn face.

Early on in the movie, a woman stabs me right in the gut. “God didn’t give me children to send them out to be raised in the public schools,” she says. “Why–if I can teach my kids as well as the public schools can–why would I send my children to public school?” (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »