Am Found

Thrown down
Lost my crown

Body broken
Shame unspoken

Face in the dirt
Badly hurt

I’m wrong
I failed
Mercy, please
Grace unveiled

Foot of the cross
Feet of the Christ

Unworthy to touch
Owe too much

Can’t even stand
Quivering hand

Reach out for charity
Bittersweet disparity

Hard to swallow
Hard to follow

Honey for the healing
Grace feels like stealing

I stumbled
Am humbled

Belly on the ground
Forgiveness is found

And I stand on the power of Christ alone.

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good stuff

I wrote this for church several years ago. I still agree with the sentiment. And I’m better now.

In terms of serving other people, I do what I can, for whom I can. I try to respond to the call of need of those immediately around me. Not just those who attend my church. I try to pay attention. And I do it because I want to. Because it brings me joy.

And if it doesn’t? Working on it.

We can start there. That’s a good start to good stuff. If everyone did that? We’d have a better world.


Altruism /æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. a concern for the welfare of others without any benefit to one’s self.

AKA-doing good stuff for other people and you don’t get nothin’ for it.

Many cultures and religions prioritize this concept of altruism. It is certainly a key tenet of Christ’s teachings (the words that came out of Christ’s mouth), even if some Christians don’t follow.

Interestingly though, many people are skeptical of completely selfless service. True altruism can in no way satisfy the giver. It must be an act of sacrifice in which the giver receives nothing. Educated opinions differ as to whether pure altruism even exists.

I believe that we are created with an innate sense of concern for others. I do. We are built for doing good. We are, after all, made in the image of God. But as with all divine design, we can pervert, mangle, void and totally destroy God’s gift with our own skewed perspective. We’re not perfect.

PLUS! We are imprinted with tons of distorted viewpoints by the age of reason. We are taught to be cautious, self-protecting, guarded, skeptical, closed. Instead of running naked (emotionally!), open, arms stretched out to total strangers embracing each other in love. Get outta here, Hippie!

Your life should bring you J-O-Y!


I was taught, from a very young age, that one could live life in an extremely simple, specific way and espouse this value above all others, JOY.
It’s easy, your priorities will fall into these categories:
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

I learned this lesson early and for the most part, I have lived my life this way. Sometimes, the letters got jumbled along the way. And sometimes the letters were missing, altogether.

Even so, I have usually put others’ feelings and welfare above my own, but the reasons were borne of fear and selfishness. There was no J-O-Y in it. My thoughts were these:
If I don’t put God first, He will be angry with me and punish me.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, they won’t love me.
If I don’t put myself last, I am selfish and lazy.

I didn’t do good for goodness sake, I was wrapped in negative motivations. I was simply trying to avoid the bad. Over the past decade, however, I have tried to put others first out of an idealistic will, to take the selfishness out of serving, to do good for God. I wanted that desire to fill me up and bring me joy. That desire has landed me in an unexpected place. I am still struggling with the same negative motivations.

Whenever I am asked to do something, I complain, out loud or in my heart. I am still wrapped in fear. My thoughts have developed to these:
If I don’t put God first, I’m not truly a Christian.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, I do not love or I’m not truly a friend.
If I don’t put myself last, I have failed.

In the past few months, I have come crashing down. I have staked my value in service and it has failed. I have tried to do more, serve more, give more than ever before and it has not brought me any closer to God. My marriage is suffering, my child is neglected, my heart is grumbling and dark. When you get to the root of it, I am an incredibly broken, screwed-up failure. My strategies for life are just as twisted as someone who only looks out for number 1. I am fooled and tricked by my own misunderstanding. I wish I truly cared for people the way Christ did. I wish that I could wrap my arms around the whole hurting world. I wish that my actions reflected a pure love for God.

I’ve been trying to define altruism for myself or letting others define it for me when I should look to God’s definition for my life and look at myself through His eyes.


For several years, my husband and I served at our local church, we were on the drama team, served in children’s church, wrote stories, scripts, essays and lesson plans. We unloaded fireworks, made movies, cooked, cleaned, listened, directed and an endless list of tasks. And others did even more than we did.

But. Our salvation. We were just as much in need of salvation on the last day of our time there as our first.

Salvation. It’s not a game. You try to put points up on that board, but somehow it never measures up to Jesus’ sacrifice, does it? I need to stop keeping score. Jesus zeros the board every single day. And that’s always in our favor. How many times do I screw up in a day? Let’s just say, I keep the statisticians busy.

Salvation is not about earning points on our way to heaven. It’s about letting heaven come down to take over the game, our will and desire: our heart, mind, body and soul. When we do that, the definition for altruism will simply read:
/æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. see God.

By His Wounds

Jesus is the Physician that came to heal the sick,
Not the well.

Jesus is the Lover that came to embrace the hateful/hated,
Not the pretenders.

Jesus is the Savior that came to rescue the sinners,
Not the saints.

Jesus is the Redeemer that came to raise the dead.
To sound the alarm and resurrect the lost.

He left the 99
To find the 1.

Get found.


Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Amen.

Rich with Lovers

Katharine Clifton (played by Kristin Scott Thomas, from The English Patient):
My darling. I’m waiting for you. How long is the day in the dark? Or a week? The fire is gone, and I’m horribly cold. I really should drag myself outside but then there’d be the sun. I’m afraid I waste the light on the paintings, not writing these words. We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in-like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I’m writing in the darkness.


Rich with lovers. I love that line. It is so full in one’s mouth and mind. It plays on the tongue and exercises all manner of lip movement and physical speech. I hope you have tried to say it. Out loud. You pretend kiss when forming the word rich. And the word with. It is a line for all time.

Rich with lovers. I think we all die rich with lovers. You may have only known your husband or wife, intimately. But we have all fashion of lovers. My family loves me. My friends love me. Strangers love me. And we love many. Sexually or not.

I have never been closer to another human being as I have been to my husband. I am so thankful for that. He knows everything about me and still loves me unconditionally. Even when he’s mad at me. He may not admit it. Or realize it. But if pressed, he loves me still. That–is nothing short of a miracle and nothing to take for granted.

My husband with all his faults and flaws is the most generous, kind and passionate lover I have ever known. And I have had my share. But I would trade my share for this one love. I count myself lucky to have found the one person who could fulfill my every desire and do it so well. He is smart, funny and oh-so lavish in his physical love for me. Some might look at my husband and wonder what I see in him, but he is a world-class lover. He’s Italian. Whatta ya gonna do? You can’t fight city hall.

I say all this, not to boast, but to demonstrate. Even with a rich, lavish love life? A love life beyond earthly compare? It cannot come close to my growing addiction to Christ.

If my love life with my husband was compared to the Earth-to-Moon distance (I love you to the moon and back), then my relationship with Christ would be the distance from the Earth to the Sun (Son). I love my husband with everything I have. And I truly believe after 17 years of marriage, he loves me the same way. But it doesn’t even touch how Christ and God feel for me. Not even my relationship with my daughter can come close to how God feels for me.

The Bible compares our relationship to Christ as a marriage and sometimes our relationship to God as parent and child. And those are wonderful examples of how He loves. But I don’t think we can perceive with our small minds how big God’s love is.

I hear people often scoff. (Scofften? LOL) Why would God create the universe, as vast as it is, for just our world? Why would a great God in heaven care about me? Why would God create man and play this simulation of Love?

Quite simply, God is love.

Not that He simply loves, but that He is the Love-being. We are built in His image. He is relationship. We are love as well. Love is not just a word or an act. It is a continuous chosen action, verb, noun, state of mind. Sacrifice.

He built us for love. To have relationship and fellowship with Him. We do life with the intention of being loved. We are born with a burning desire to be seen, to be loved, to be lavished. I see it in my daughter. I see her burning desire to be noticed and praised. But she has never known a day without love. We have heaped praise and love on her head and she still yearns to be known so intimately. She raises her voice, speaking her opinions into existence and wants so much to be heard. I pray that she learns at some point, God is listening. And if we listen back? He will reveal such profound love and understanding. If we can just quiet our minds enough to know, we are being loved so completely. So lavishly. So richly. So permanently.

The question in my mind is this: if God did create the universe and we do not acknowledge him in this, how can he feel loved? Even God wants praise for all that He has given, created, sacrificed. And he deserves it. What has Man ever done to compare with what God has done? Aren’t we born wanting praise?

I have chased all forms of pleasure my entire life. Food, love, sex, comfort, pain-relief. And it does not satisfy. It does not sustain. It does not last. In a moment, the satisfying fullness of achievement is lost in the pulses of light from the universe. No fullness lasts when relying on worldly things. But when I achieve some level of understanding or testament of love, or ability to withstand temptation, or fulfillment of biblical beatitude, it lasts. It is a taste rich with loving. A meal that brings wholeness, fullness.

All of my life’s true happiness and peace has come from obedience. Understanding and accepting those gifts that are set aside just for me. We must embrace what we are given, not envy what we can never have.

Fantastic

My family and I just went on vacation to Florida. On our way back to KC, we decided to stop at Fantastic Caverns, near Springfield, MO. I took many photos in the caves, beautiful colors and high contrast. I was pretty snap-happy. I was surprised that I could get any images though, honestly, because the light was so low. Thankfully, my digital Nikon knows more about photography than I do. 🙂 Sure, there’s light in the cave from well-placed, man-made spots, but it’s still a cave.

I only know the most fundamental aspects of manual photography. The camera still focuses for me, but I can set the aperture and speed myself. I’m still working on knowing the different settings, but I do several test shots until I see what I like. It’s like poking around in the dark until hitting on something. Like being in a cave. Hopefully, I don’t fall into a hole.

Coming out of the cave, my camera didn’t adjust because I had set it manually and I snapped this photo.

overexposed.jpg

Obviously, overexposed.

If you look closely, you can see the water pouring off the edge and streaming down. It had just rained heavily the day before and the vegetation above the cave entrance was drenched and dripping. Once we came out of that dark square, we had to adjust. We were immediately baptized by the unexpected downpour and blinking to accommodate the new conditions. It was a fast change from dark to light. And it took a minute to get your bearings.

Such is life, no?

The women who first explored the cave (yes, women) were said to have only a candle in a can. It probably only illuminated a few feet in front of them. THAT is scary. They were surely brave ladies. They could have fallen into a deep hole and been fatally injured in the matter of a few steps.

When we were in the cave, the ride was bumpy, dark and at times frightening. You had to keep your head down or lose it on a stalactite. We stopped at the edge of a sinkhole that looked like the mouth to hell. Everyone stood and rushed to our side of the trailer and I felt as if I might go tumbling over the side. I was very nervous and I simply faced forward and breathed, mouthing the words to my husband, “I don’t like this.” I have anxiety about heights and open spaces. I almost-spoke my fear to him mainly so he wouldn’t encourage me to look around and gawk at the gaping hole threatening to swallow our entire caravan. So he knew, at least, “I’m freaking out!”

I patiently focused on myself, not others around me, and I made it through. I focused on the things I could control. And I made it through. I looked forward. To making it through.

Sometimes, when you can’t handle life, all you can do is care for yourself. And breathe. You can’t worry about anyone else. You can’t change anyone else. You can’t make others sit down. You can’t save anyone if you all go tumbling over. You can only save yourself.

You can’t make the driver go faster. You can’t make the driver go at all if she wishes to park you on the edge of hell. You have to control yourself, focus on what you have been given dominion over and pray that it will be over soon. Pray that the driver will stop talking after she’s made her point and quickly drive you to safety. She knows the way, she’s been down here before. Just hold on. Focus on what’s right in front of you.

This picture (above) sucks. It is a terrible failure of my manual photography skills. You can’t see the lush green of the hanging branches above. You can’t see the beautiful drops of light that spilled over our heads and sparkled in the cool morning sunshine. But, it is a beautiful captured reflection of the human condition of adjustment and transformation.

We don’t just start being good after seeing the light. It takes a minute. So grace is important for the cave dweller. Soon we will see the world in the way it was intended. We will emerge with new eyes. And some days, we may still long for the darkness of our old world. It’s beautiful mystery, silence and danger. But no one is meant to live in a cave. We are meant to live out in the light.

I know.

I don’t like living inside of my cave of anxiety and fear. It hurts everyone around me. But living above ground with normal people sucks. Triggers abound. I’m used to anxiety and fear, I can live with those. I know what to expect. But that means living alone because no one else can stand the darkness.

So, I choose light. Because living in darkness, while quiet and predictable, is a pretty miserable half-existence not intended for human habitation.

 

 

Last Day for Free Stuff!

Remember, free download of my book ENDS today! Thanks. 🙂

Crafty Beaver

My book, Present Tense, is available on Amazon tomorrow for free. February 9-13! Normally $2.99. Check it out. It’s a quick read; probably finish in one go. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anytime. It’s a vignette-style memoir with a glance at PTSD and how it starts. It does not answer the question of recovery, but it gives an emotional starting place.

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Present Tense

My book, Present Tense, is available on Amazon tomorrow for free. February 9-13! Normally $2.99. Check it out. It’s a quick read; probably finish in one go. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anytime. It’s a vignette-style memoir with a glance at PTSD and how it starts. It does not answer the question of recovery, but it gives an emotional starting place.

Prayer-Practice-Patience-Painting-PTL!

I went with my friend and our two daughters to a suburban wine-and-paint night at Pinot’s Palette. I was a nervous wreck. Why? Because I skipped the wine part! That’s why. Bad idea. LOL

I am a former art student who failed at getting her graphic design degree from a two-year college. I am one credit away from completing my degree and I could never find a job in my field. I didn’t have time to go to a four-year university and continue my back-to-school-in-my-thirties-midlife-crisis. So, as with many other things, I gave up.

Health issues became a concern four years ago and pursuing very challenging coursework with no actual high-paying job at the end seemed less important than just getting healthy. I tried to find work on my own for freelance, but that was super difficult and competitive. I did a few things for friends, but the work dried up quickly. You have to do a lot of free stuff to get jobs. I volunteered for one year at a local magazine to try and gain experience. I got a few perks with my gig, but ultimately, it didn’t help land anything real.

Thank God for my husband. He’s supported me through this whole mess. Failed schooling, no job, no insurance, bankruptcy from medical and credit card debt, health trouble. He’s my hero. (BTW, we are working on our marriage and have made significant progress. Woot! Thanks for prayers and support.)

To my credit, I’ve had odd jobs here and there. I was even an acting coach at one point. A job that I absolutely loved. But I was not asked back in the fall. Too many teachers: not enough students, most likely. But who knows? Maybe I was a radical failure and they were too shy to tell me? Maybe parents complained. I have no idea. I just know, I wasn’t on the schedule last fall. Wish I would have known that before I made class plans. Thank you, Administration!

Anyway. My whole point is this. I love art. I have been involved in some art form from a very young age. Illustration was my first love. How did I learn? From tracing my brother’s sketches that he doodled and discarded. You can call it cheating. I call it, learning. What better way to promote muscle memory than to trace a drawing over and over and over until you learn the way the lines should go? I don’t call it cheating. Drawing’s hard!

Also, I started acting when I was 17. LOVED IT! Still doing it when I can. And you know what, I’m pretty darn good at it. Just ask me. But because I was overweight, I started writing for myself. No parts for fat ladies. Well, not enough parts to go around.

Through acting, I started writing. And through writing, I started blogging. Cool. I’m very artistic, crafty, love to create. So when I’m challenged with a painting class in Suburbia I freak out. Naturally.

No, not naturally. Because, I have never taken a painting class other than the class I took to learn color theory. My professor required acrylics and painting on some projects and I sucked at it. Like hard-core sucked wind on painting. But to be fair, painting with acrylics is like trying to forge a Picasso with crayons. To me, anyway. So, why would painting come naturally to me and why would I freak out over it?

I guess with nearly an art degree and stamping my foot about being an artist, I kinda think…that other people think–I should be automatically good at any art project. But I’m not. So, hence the freaking.

My daughter is the same way. She has a genius IQ and everything comes naturally to her. Most things. And when they don’t? She freaks out. Totally normal for a genius, BTW. Even if she’s never done it before, learned it before or even seen it before, she has anxiety about failing. Something I unintentionally birthed to her. BTW, I’m NOT a genius. 😉 Anxiety is the one thing I regret having given her. I did it subconsciously, over years. And I hate myself some days for having willed her my neurosis. Monkey see, monkey do.

But. We’re here. The best I can do is help her, and myself, through this hairy forest of feels. Here’s a great online resource we found to help us. PTSD and anxiety tools! Try it!!!  Better than anything I’ve ever heard about, read about or paid $70 an hour for a therapist to recommend. (We’ve both been to a therapist and they verified that I have PTSD and she has anxiety. Duh.)

But last night, we were both feeling anxious. We wanted so much to go, enjoy, relax, have fun, create and totally CRUSH our paintings. We’re super competitive. Not with each other, but with other people. We want to be the best at what we think we’re the best at. And things started out rough.

Lilli is only 13 and is still developing skills in everything. Hand-eye coordination. Thinking. Feeling. Talking. LOL Her frontal lobe is not done growing and neither is her body. She’s advanced, but not done. Obvs! So when her body or hand can’t catch up to her imagination, she gets frustrated. Although, she’s never lived inside a box. She’s always made her own way and blazed trails. That’s her genius showing. So, last night, she felt hemmed in by trying to imitate another’s painting. It wasn’t going like she wanted it to.

Thank God, it was break time. We all had to let our backgrounds dry. She was upset with her moon and how it turned out. Remember, trying to blend acrylics is HARD! This is not oil or watercolor. Dries super fast. She kept wanting to mess with it and I recommended letting it dry, so she could fix it. She got frustrated. Mucho. She was quiet for a moment and then I noticed.

She was slumped. Tired and defeated. On the verge of tears. The opposite of the intention for our gals night. I asked, “Is there anything I can do?”

Through soft, pale lips and big, watery eyes. “No. I’m praying. For patience.”

Oh! My heart jumped! My oh-so nervous heart jumped in a swell of pride and thankfulness. A heart-shaped fist pump of delight it was!

She’s praying! Thank God!

We’ve been trying to practice anxiety-reduction techniques and this was the most awesomest thing she could have done! And I should have been reminding her, but she remembered on her own! I forgot and she remembered! YAY, friggin’ YAY! I failed, but she figured it out!

And just minutes after our break, Lilli started dancing in her seat to the overhead music. Swiping heavy paint across the canvas and painting to the beat of her own drum. She didn’t follow the directions and she enjoyed every minute. (They said at the beginning, “Don’t have to follow. Do whatever you want! Make whatever you like.” And she did!)

Way to go, Lil! What an awesome demonstration of God’s power and glory. Answered prayer and rejoicing! Recovery and relaxation. Thank you, God! For my amazing child, all the things she teaches me and the bountiful gifts of your Holy Spirit! Thank you for moving last night in our tense, tiny tangle.

The picture looks like a stormy sea of feelings and expression, but God was on top of those waves and in our boat!

I don’t have a tree this year.

I don’t think I had a tree last year either. It was damaged by a burst water pipe above our storage unit. The year before that? I had half-a-tree. Just put up the top as a mini tree. So what?

I tend to reject any commercialization of Christmas. It’s not that I’m a Scrooge. Quite the opposite. We watched Disney’s A Christmas Carol last night and I was moved to tears when Ebenezer donates a very large sum to the charity collector. When he said, “I am obliged to you…bless you.” I just lost it.

To hear Scrooge say those kind words, those generous words, those humble words, I just can’t even…

I reject the commercialization of Christmas because it’s disgusting to me. I don’t shop on Black Friday. I don’t buy presents. I don’t like trees and lights and ornaments. Well, I do, but I don’t like what they have come to represent. Who doesn’t like shiny, colorful blinking lights? But I could go to Vegas on Christmas and be satisfied. I don’t think Jesus had a beautifully adorned pine tree in the manger. That’s a northern European tradition. I guess I just don’t get it. Why don’t we decorate a palm tree instead?

To say pine needles, lights, presents and all that glitters represents the spirit of Christmas or Jesus’ spirit is kind of offensive to me. Maybe I am a Scrooge to begrudge? A Bescroodger? Idk. But I can’t help throw up in my mouth a little when I see posts of trees and presents and tidings of joy espousing the love and spirit of Christmas. Sorry. And yes, I fully acknowledge this may be an attack on Christmas. It might be an attack on your very heart. Maybe I feel all the things I feel about Xmas because of my past. Okay. But. Attacking Christmas as we know it? Is that a bad thing? I mean, my biggest worry about Christmas is not what cup I am going to purchase at Starbuck’s.

What I feel deep down in my heart? I feel that we should all be walking the streets, trying to find the most in need, the loneliest, the hungriest souls on the planet who need a small bit of care. That would be the true spirit of Christmas. Not safely snug in our homes, exchanging elaborate gifts with people who need nothing. And I know, children want the magic of Christmas, the wonder of the holiday, but what are we teaching them with these empty traditions? Not what Christ was about. I can tell you that. Not the real wonder and awe of Christ.

I am recovering from surgery, so I don’t think I could wander the streets today, but honestly, I don’t know that I would have the courage or comfort to wander them at full health. But my heart wants to. I know it’s right, but I’ve never started this tradition for myself. We have moved away from gift-giving and tree-pimping. Thank God! But we haven’t made it out of the house yet. Hopefully, next year! What an amazing Christmas it would be to help people who were just like Mary and Joseph? Amazing.

This year, I am remembering the sacrifice Mary and Joseph made. And the sacrifice that Jesus made for all time. Merry Christmas to all. Not just those who can afford it. Sorry to personally ruin Xmas for anyone. I mean, have your fun and gifts and stuff. Just don’t forget others who are in need. That’s Jesus’ spirit. Tiny Tim was the smallest of all and needed the most. Don’t let Tiny Tim fall. (Shameless, I know.) God bless us, Everyone.

WLS D-day!

Today is the day. In mere hours I will be undergoing weight loss surgery. I chose the gastric bypass based on the amount of weight I have to lose and upon recommendation from my surgeon.

I have researched this topic of weight loss, surgery, health and proper diet for over 11 years. I know this is the right choice for me and I have many people supporting me. I know it’s not right for some. I know that because it wasn’t right for me 11 years ago. I had to do some stuff first.

11 years ago I walked into the same weight loss surgery clinic I’m at now. Same doctor. I didn’t even meet him though because when I went in for my first consultation? They weighed me and told me, “You need to lose 55 lbs. before we can operate.” Gah.

This affected me so deeply I wrote a play about it called FAT. It even has a line about losing 55 lbs. to get weight loss surgery which seems totally ironic. Lose weight to get surgery to lose weight? Huh??!

I needed to write that play. (I won an award for it.) Start a journey. Start writing. Write a book. Start a blog. Be confronted. Face heart failure. Face life or death decisions. Face cancer. Face addiction. If I had the surgery 10 years ago? I would have failed! And I’d be right back here anyway.

I walked into the weight loss surgery clinic 11 years later, just this past August, at the same weight from 2005. I’d gone up and down and up, but I landed in the same exact place. Ironic!

I’m just finally glad to be here. Getting help. Moving forward. Losing weight once and for all. Please say a prayer for me right now or just send some positive thoughts my way.

I really do look at this as a rebirth, born again. Salvation. I’ve been baptized twice in the church. I always felt maybe it didn’t take? 🙂 I thought maybe 3rd time’s the charm? Why not? THIS is number 3. This is my baptism. By surgery. And I’ll stand up, wave my arms and thank God for my second, third, five-hundredth chance at life.

Wish me luck. No. Wish me a better life.