Friday, June 23, 2017

Two Year Anniversary

This weekend marks the two years to the day that a man living behind my apartment broke in to my bedroom while I slept and woke me up by laying on top of me with a blade next to my face. He reeked of booze and cigarettes, sweat and dirt. He had climbed up the outside of my house, onto my roof, and through my bathroom window. He wound through my apartment and into my bedroom. He knew which rooms connected where because he'd been watching me. 

I don't remember his name now, or how many years he was sentenced. I do remember feeling like I'd been ripped in half, a raw piece of meat. My whole life i'd been so good at pushing through hard situations, burying them down deep, and avoiding thinking about them at all costs. That event, though....I'd experienced nothing like it. I had no choice but to freeze in my tracks and collapse. I couldn't forge through or function. Weeks later I went into the grocery and bought milk by myself; easy decision-making, but if you know anyone who's experienced trauma this was hard. I felt like my brain was constantly over-stimulated. I followed my mom around the house because I didn't know what to do with myself. I was awake for 2 hours and slept for 3. I didn't sleep some nights. To make matters worse, I never went back to my apartment. I was staying at my mom's house with all of my stuff, my whole life, in disarray, as if to tangibly model the havoc wreaked inside me. At times I wished I could break my legs and arms so people could see how crippled I felt. On the outside I was a perfectly healthy woman. I felt like I was making up my problems at times because I wasn't physically impaired. I WAS, though; through my trauma my brain had rewired itself to act through my "fight or flight" center instead of using logic and reasoning. I couldn't do the basic tasks of life that I prided myself on. 

This was the single most terrible experience I've been through, but I wouldn't take it back. This brought me to my knees and humbled me. Because I couldn't function, I had no choice but to rely on people, to ask for help, to STOP and face my feelings and trauma. I couldn't avoid it or pack it away like I'd done for the previous 25 years. 

I didn't go to church for a while. Other, previously-manageable issues were now anxiety attack inducing. God showed me that he cares for me. He brought me people to help me even though I hated Him. I felt betrayed. I believed that God could do ANYTHING. So why didn't he lock my window, or make that man decide to go home inside of climbing into my bed? God sent me people to tend tangibly to my needs. They gave me company, lotion, chocolate, tea, notes, verses. They talked about it with me or didn't. 

It took about this long for me to feel "normal" again. I started a new school year just 2 months after the attack. I was in counseling and still dealing with court proceedings. I barely made it through my days. God gave me a career I love and passion for my kids to keep me busy and distracted when I needed it. 

Almost two years after that incident, I was feeling like a healed and powerful woman, no longer the lost and broken victim. I was out downtown in Fort Wayne after a friend's wedding. I got split up from my friends. While trying to find them, walking alone downtown, a stranger, a man about my age, saw me alone and took advantage of the situation. Another nightmare. He finally ran away when my friends spotted me. 

It sounds crazy, but I'm thankful for my experience 2 years ago. I'm not the same person I was on June 22, 2015 and THANK GOODNESS. I was lost and uncertain, weak and struggling. That trauma slapped me in the face and split me down the middle. It strained me and stretched me until I thought I must be far past breaking. But, like an arrow in its bow, the harder its pulled back, the harder and stronger and straighter and more powerfully it flies forward. I have more empathy for people. I understand trauma, depression, anxiety, and PTSD like I didn't before. I seek first to understand. I've learned to live in the present, because sometimes the present is all I can handle. I've learned the value of connection, because Jesus gives me people so I can FEEL his connection when my heart is hard. I've learned to be open even when I feel scared, because I feel the most loved when I let others see the rotten mess inside of me. 

I still have scars. I have complicated emotions today. I feel shadows of my former feelings like whisps of smoke filling my head, lead weights sitting on my heart, acid dripping in my stomach. I know I'm safe, logically, but I've been checking over my shoulder, wearing more layers in the summer heat, and double-locking my doors and security system. 

I have new legal proceedings ahead of me for this latest assault. I feel different this time, dealing with the same physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual effects. But something is different this time; me. I'm no longer that weak and lost girl. I'm a wiser, stronger woman. I am a pruned and trained warrior. I am powerful, because I don't have to be powerful while God is behind me to do that for me. 

I can face this day. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Faithfulness and Justice

"For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love." - Psalm 33: 3-5

God hates injustice and God loves me. He is angry and broken for what I've endured at the hands of others; the self-serving, the liars, the cheaters, the immature, the users, the pretenders, the ignorant. God is broken because I AM BROKEN.

I grip my burdens tightly. They are anger, brokenness, regret, jealousy, wounds, hatred, weariness, sadness, longing... I am afraid that if I let go, my hurt will be forgotten and I'll be left alone, expected to carry on in the status quo while those responsible don't suffer any consequences. I squeeze the knife tightly in my fist as proof that someone(s) used it to cut me. I squeeze and blood comes out, my skin doesn't heal. My heart pumps blood out of my body through it. It feels good to make the blood come out so maybe they'll notice and nobody will forget about me. (I have to matter because look at what I'm carrying!)

But where's the person who came at me with the knife in the first place?
     Off somewhere, with no evidence of the weapon.
     Off somewhere, with no evidence of the wounds they inflicted.
     Off somewhere, with no consequences.
     Off somewhere, seen as...good.

                              Nobody remembers me.

If I drop the knife, the proof, will my hurt be forgotten? Will I be forgotten, because I'm not important enough for injustices against me to be remembered or bothered with?

                              Nobody but him.

"Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll - are they not in your record?" (Psalm 56:8) 

(My pain is not forgotten by God, who brings justice to my enemies because he is broken FOR ME.)

This burden I carry is heavy.

When someone(s) devalued me, I devalued myself to match.
Because I thought little of myself, I didn't notice when someone(s) thought little of me.
When someone(s) showed me through actions that I wasn't worth the effort it took to have self-control, I believed that that was probably fine, and I was worth that much effort anyway.

This burden I carry is heavy. He is JEALOUS for me. He is ANGRY for me.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to him belong. I am weak, but he is strong. 

He is strong. He can carry my burdens, so I don't have to, because He. Can. Handle. It. Because the earth is full of his unfailing love.

"Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. 

What can mere mortals do to me? 

All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life. Because of their wickedness do not let them escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down." (Psalm 56:1-7)

"Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll - are they not in your record?" (Psalm 56:8)

(My pain is not forgotten by God, who brings justice to my enemies because he is broken FOR ME.)

God knows the INJUSTICES done against me and he is FAITHFUL to me. He is broken and bloody BECAUSE I am broken and bloody. My heart weeps at his faithful love for me. He knows...and he will not leave me. He will not forget me. He will be just. I am heard; I can let go of the knife, the proof that I'm bleeding, that is still hurting me. Blood dripping and draining from my body and energy from my heart, because he is my record keeper.

"Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll - are they not in your record?" (Psalm 56:8)

He will bring my enemies to justice in his perfect and faithful way.

"Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. 

What can man do to me?

I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you.  [(RESPONSE)] For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life."
-Psalm 56: 1-13

You have restored me from the darkness that ate me up, that cut my skin, that bruised my heart.

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
-1 John 5-7

Because he remembers, I can rest. He will take a stand for me and I am not forgotten. He remembers ME, his precious and treasured daughter.

I drop my burden in the dark and rest in the light.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

1, 1, 6

I am not weak. I am light and connected. My true north points to integrity and authenticity.

2016 is my year of new. Have you ever noticed the same number in different places, on different days, but it keeps popping up in front of you? For me, that number is 1:16. 

It was the time I was born. At least, it's the time recorded on my birth certificate. I notice it on the clock at what feels like an alarmingly high rate. It was the room number for my student teaching assignment. The address of my current house, the one we prayed for because I NEEDED to change apartments after a traumatic event and it seemingly fell into our laps, contains these digits, just jumbled.

All this to say, the digits 1, 1, and 6 seem to be a marker of important things for me. If you're into that sort of thing.

The year is now 2016. In January, 2016 (1/16), I completed my Inspired Baptiste Teacher Training. It was a seriously life-changing experience. It came at a time in my life that I NEEDED to tackle myself and my issues head on. And, in fact, I was in such a low and desperate place that I couldn't avoid these issues like I'd been able to do in the past (or thought I'd been able to avoid). I had always set high goals for myself. I lived in a world of my own creation full of wishing for things but believing I was too weak to obtain them, of "shoulds" and comparison and never being "enough" (Says who? I created a whole world in my head where I wasn't _____ -enough for the situation in front of me. It felt like I was wrapped up in strings of my own condemning monologue, spun by years of insecurity and self-fulfilled doubt. I wanted connection with others, but these little threads crept in, telling me I was awkward, boring, didn't look good in my clothes, was unwanted, or whatever, until I'd built up a wall between myself and the people with whom I desperately wanted to connect. Then I guilted myself for not trying hard "enough" to be a better (fill in the blank). I was suffocating myself with the lies I'd created and replayed.

The 200-hour yoga teacher training process changed my life. I learned lessons about myself and the world that have dramatically changed who I understand myself to be. I feel steady and grounded in myself in a way I never have in my previous 25 years of life. I NEEDED, desperately, to be okay after the events of June I clung to my yoga teacher training and came out in a brand new place in life, more on-fire and steadier than ever. During one of our last sessions, we had time to think about ourselves for this year and in the next 5 years. As I scribbled out my passions, my responsibilities, things that I want to steer my life, I noticed that they were mostly things I've been scribbling down for a while. And I didn't like that. Then I noticed the date I was writing: January 2016. 1/16. And something clicked. 

Why do terrible things happen? Why does God allow them into our world? I had a tidy response to this question before I could speak from a traumatized brain, heart, and body. God allows bad things into the world to show how desperately we need Him. He allows suffering because those people learn to handle it and have the choice to glorify Him through that pain. God allows the lows so we can experience the exhilarating highs of his love. 

But now I was mad. I was not myself. I was lost. The God whom I trusted as all-powerful had protected me in some ways, but not the ways that I thought mattered. It took me the duration of my yoga teacher training (and then some) to fully heal from this anger. Honestly, at this point I feel thankful for being broken down into thousands of jaggedy pieces, because that earth-shattering put me in a place where I NEEDED to be glued back up...and I've been reshaped and reinforced into the person I know God created me to be. 

So here I am, in 2016, a new being. I am light and connected because I've said out loud that I am light and connected. Enough with wishing, and "shoulds", and guilt for not doing "enough".

I am trying it (all) light and easy. This brings me connection: to my own heart and mind, to the world around me and being present to the beauty and ugliness and lessons existing in it, to people (this one was always hardest for me), to community, to God. I am hearing my gut (and trusting it) for the first time in my life.

I NEEDED to radically change how I was living, and so I did. I am this way because I say I am. Things are easy because I say they're easy. I am strong because I say I'm strong. There's no wishing or list-making or building up of expectations until I just decide to turn off the stream of suffocating knot-making and go watch Netflix. 

I am light and connected, and I am living my life differently, starting with 1/16.