05 June 2015

typing myself off a ledge....

I write for therapy. When I am stressed, angry, happy, melancholy or all of the above, my first desire is to write something down.  I'm sitting here, eating a delicious salad and writing whatever comes to my pointed little head.  Grammar perfectionists, you may want to medicate yourselves before continuing.  When I am feeling this way, my mind and fingers aren't always in sync and I don't give a rip.  Don't say I didn't give you fair warning.

I have a lot of stress going on in my life and most of it is not going on the internet. I can't quite understand why folks put their dirty laundry and drunken blunders on the internet. Probably because I am not drunk. Maybe it makes more sense then?   Everything you do makes seems like a fabulous idea when you're drunk, right? I digress, back to what I am writing about.

So, here I am with lots of stress, most of which is none of your danged business.  I am going to begin with the phone call I received just before going to pick up veggies from my CSA at their new location, a farmer's market in the downtown area of my rural Kentucky community. Mind you, I chose this new CSA because of the farmer's market. I was looking forward to finding out who the other upside down hippies were and what a hillbilly-upside-down-hippie looked like.

My youngest called and I could tell she was crying, scared and something horrible was happening. Her apartment was on fire.  She lives in a four-plex and all four homes were burning. She was terrified. Her cat of 14 years was too frightened to come to her and was hiding in the house. The firefighters wouldn't let them look for the cat.  My kids and I are first class, Grade-A, government inspected animal lovers. I welled up with tears.  I knew my kidlet and her kidlet were OK and I knew for that to continue their animals had to be OK.  I listened to her some 2400 miles away and felt helpless as she was having the worst day of her life.  To make matters worse, the fire started some 30 minutes before help was called.  Neighbors, with whom she'd had trouble before, were responsible for my sentimental sweetheart watching her life go up in smoke. Life is always unfair but does it have to also be that hard?  To hate the people you live near is bad enough but to have them burn down your home because they are stupid? That's too much. We talked all we could and I hung up knowing the bad part had only just begun for her.

I've lost everything I own once. The disaster that took my memory anchors was a flood. After the disaster, you get to do the clean-up part. You try to salvage something and it's painful. You are adrift and disoriented.  You realize you're chasing ghosts, but you have to try. How will you live knowing your great-grandfather's bookcase was in there and might have survived, but you didn't care to see? Each time you hope for some little piece of memory to be OK and it's not. It's a yo-yo ride from hell.  I realize I am reliving every painful moment of loss while also feeling helpless about what my kid is going through. I also am painfully aware that the balance is changing.  I am closer to the age where my kids  are becoming my heroes and able to do anything. I haven't quite lost all of my superpowers, but I can't fix this for  her either.

With all these emotions roiling I got into my car and went to pick up some organic lettuce, chard and sugar snap peas.  I would be meeting the man who owns the farm I purchase from for the first time and I would see what the farmer's market contained.  I parked and managed to hobble up to the market which is set up in front of the new courthouse. There were booths set up with an inside and outside circle around the interactive fountain in the middle. Interactive meaning kids are meant to play in it and there were children of various ages having the time of their lives.  There were dogs on leashes with the kids and they were having the time of their lives.  There were adults milling around. There were things to look at, touch and taste.   I felt like I couldn't see or speak or appreciate anything.  I most assuredly have PTSD. I can't deny it. I also can't want it.

What I haven't mentioned in this story is that the flood that took my memory anchors occurred while I was working in public safety.  I was helping to rescue other people from the flood while my life was being made a shamble. A childhood from hell and a career in public safety have left me with about a thousand memories I would rather not have. My memories trigger anxiety when I least expect them too and yet always when it is decidedly inconvenient.  As a biblical counselor, I know what I need to do. I need to apply truth to truth.

The truth is that really bad things have happened to me. Also true is my belief that God is absolutely sovereign in all things. Even really bad things. I walked through the market using my other memory anchors, memorized Scripture. Verses that assure me that all things work together for good.  I remind myself that the two most oft given commands in Scripture are "fear not" and "remember". You don't have to be in a war to have PTSD, You don't have to have the most traumatic occurrences. I didn't have the worst childhood I know of, but it was the worst childhood I have ever had.  As I felt the anxiety rise, I reached internally for my anchors; the Anchor of my soul.  I begged Jesus to give me something else to focus on and just as I  had completed the walk around the small circle, He did.  I had reached the stand owned by my farm. It was time to introduce myself to the owner.

"I don't recognize you from last year!" he said, reaching his hand out to shake mine.  "I'm Ford."  Oh, perfect...or should I say prefect! For those of you who know me, you know that my mind immediately went to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Now I was hoping not to giggle or say something stupid. That's not when the magic happened though. The real magic happened the moment he took my hand and felt the calluses on Ford's hand. My prayer was answered in that quick moment and my mind immediately fixated on the comfort I took shaking this young man's hand. Good, honest, hardworking hands and a genuine smile to offer in appreciation of my purchasing his organic foods.

On my drive home, I didn't think about fires or floods or horrible experiences. I prayed for Ford. I hoped his kids and his wife appreciated the roughness of his hands and would always remember how hard Ford worked to get them. I prayed that his farm would thrive and that he and his family were believers.  And just to prove I am not always good, I wondered if he had a towel handy.

Why this story? Because I started to stress out again about the fire and I made myself remember how God brought me back into His truth yesterday.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

05 May 2015

So much to say..... A fools lament

So much to say and no one to listen.  No one to pull the weeds out of the random thoughts taking root in my head.  Somewhere in there is a garden of good ideas and fossils of righteousness embedded in the sedimentary consequences of sin. 

Today is difficult. Yesterday broke me. Tomorrow may bring something different. Maybe.  Maybe not.  I won't know until I get there. I won't get there if I quit today. 

Helpless opining. Unable to choose wisely in my own affairs; rock-solid certain I know what you should do. Arrogance sprinkled on wisdom. I am a jerk . 

A riptide of anxiety to pull me under or a measure of hope to hold me fast.  Which will it be? A taproot of bitterness or joy? 


Ephesians 5:15-17English Standard Version (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

21 April 2015

Remnants

Today I am struggling with the remnants of my past. All the anxieties that resurfaced during the last year or so haven't been vanquished. The thing I want to do most in the world is hide.

This is when I turn to the Psalms and focus especially on Psalm 139.

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.7  Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?8  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"12  even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.15  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!18  If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! 21  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
ESV

20 April 2015

Common Denominator

It has been nearly a year and a half since I have written a blog post. Time may fly when you're having fun, but it also whizzes by when you're out of control.  Perhaps because being out of control masquerades as fun? Trust me, it's not.

I almost don't know where and how to begin blogging again. I enjoy writing and the mere act of letting my fingers sort out words helps me identify what's really going on inside.  One of the dangers of living alone is not having other folks daily reflecting back to me who I am and not who I pretend to be.  I need people rubbing up next to me to help me recognize the rough spots. It takes others showing me my inconsistencies and irritating the snot out of  me to help me acknowledge my besetting sins. It's therapeutic and the way God has designed it for all of us.

During the last year or so my life has imploded on several fronts. I may have looked OK from the outside but on the inside I was certifiable.  I have had blowouts with friends and family.  My home is a wreck. My finances are a wreck. My health is a wreck.  I'd like someone to blame for all this but alas, the common denominator is me. Sinful, selfish, comfort-seeking me.

Before I continue I need to own up to a couple of things. Firstly, I am giving my opinion. My opinion and a ten-spot will buy us coffee at Starbucks and little  else. I am not advocating you, dear reader, do anything about what you read. Agree, disagree, think about it, dismiss it, whatever you do, do it knowing it's your choice. Your choice, your responsibility.

Speaking of responsibilities, my second point is to say I am doing my best to take responsibility for my choices. I didn't wake up one morning and decide to ruin a year or more of my life. There were a series of choices and decisions that alone seemed harmless enough but clustered together were, for lack of a better description, horrific. One of my favorite lines from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, goes like this: "There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said --no, But somehow we missed it."  Simply put, I had my chance to say, "No!" and I missed it.  

Tell me, what do you do when you've come to a sudden stop and find yourself mired in your own sinful mistakes and presumptions? There's not much you can do but throw yourself at His feet and beg for mercy. That's where I find myself as I sit and write. I am a beggar of mercy.  I should have started here first.

What series of bad choices did I make? I can't remember each one in detail, but the one that has had the greatest impact on me was deciding to do whatever it took to be pain-free.  I experience relentless physical pain.  Every single day is different but a contest nonetheless. I fight with my body for what I can do versus what I want to do.  I haven't been comfortable with my body for years. Don't feel sorry for me. That's not why I am writing this. Many people experience worse pain than I do and most of them do it with more grace. I let it get the best of me.

 Someone in the 1920s said, "It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe."  Chronic pain is a grain of sand that will wear out your soul if you let it. My pain affects my sleeping, my sitting, walking, standing, and eating. I negotiate my life around my pain. When people at church want to stop me and talk to me, I am in agony. If I have to wait in a checkout line, I fear I will collapse in pain. Every single thing I do is a negotiation with my hostile body.  When my rheumatologist recommended a drug that has helped some people manage chronic pain, especially lower back pain, I was ripe for the wrong decision. The drug he recommended was Cymbalta. Despite my reservations regarding SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI  (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) medications, I said yes.

For the first couple of weeks, the drug worked remarkably well.  As my body began to tolerate the medication, the pain came back.  My medication levels were increased, the pain sort of went away and then came back with a vengeance. And so the cycle began. Like an addict chasing their high, I began chasing the feeling of being at least semi-comfortable if I couldn't be pain-free.  My behavior began to change in little ways at first.  I can read it in my previous posts and journals. Contrition over sin turned to maudlin excesses and self-pity. My emotions bounced back and forth like Newton's cradle. What few filters I do have were knocked loose. I said what I wanted when I wanted and without a thought to the recipients well-being.

Next, every area in my life that causes me anxiety became more pronounced.  A childhood fear of mail reappeared. Since that fear was borne out of my feeling abandoned by my mother, my fear of abandonment escalated.  I was a mess. I began to doubt my ability to negotiate the ins and outs of daily life. One day as I prepared to go to see my family doctor it occurred to me to ask her about the drug the rheumatologist had me on. It didn't seem to be working and there was in my mind a correlation between my mental instability and when I began taking the drug.  To my relief she quietly told me that she'd rather not have me taking that drug because it's "a complicated medicine."  We devised a plan to back off Cymbalta slowly. I left her office hoping I would be back to normal in a few days. I had no idea that there is a recognized syndrome called "Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome."  Lucky me, let the agony begin!

It took less than 48 hours for me to start hearing and feeling what I can only describe as electrified Velcro being ripped apart at the base of my skull. The sound was deafening and the sensation flowed like ripples down my spine. Moving my head in any direction instigated the event. It was torturous and lasted a couple of months. Concurrently I had major mood swings and insomnia. My emotions bounced right out of Newton's Cradle and tried their best to do an interpretive dance describing chaos theory. The Velcro sensation would rouse me from sleep like a cattle prod. Involuntary muscle twitches that had begun when I started the meds increased as I was coming off of them. Add feeling like my muscles contained an old Jiffy Pop stovetop popcorn maker cooking in them. I was beyond a hot mess.

The thing that is amazing to me is how in God's economy, nothing is wasted. I wouldn't volunteer for this experience again, but I am so glad I have been through it.  The entire time I was in Cymbalta withdrawal I had a prescription bottle full of pills. I knew all I had to do was take one pill and the electric Velcro/Jiffy Pop hell I was in would cease. One little pill. Sure I would probably be crazy but my sanity seemed a small price to pay to stop what was going on with my body.  For the first time, I could more than empathize with someone fighting addiction. I am not saying you have to have been an addict to counsel someone who is but I am saying really understanding the desperation of "just one more little pill" has given me more mercy for folks who find themselves in the throes of withdrawal and addiction.

I have never believed in the chemical imbalance theory as the reason for depression and other mental  health issues. If you listen to the ads for the drugs the pharmaceutical companies have on television, they don't either.  To cover their assets they add the disclaimer: "We don't know what causes depression, but we think it's a chemical imbalance."  There is a reason they qualify that assertion.  I am not anti-medication, not at all.  I am certainly not advocating anyone stop taking medications currently being prescribed to them by their physician.

As a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have hope and resources I neglected to tap into when I made my mad dash to what I thought would be pain-free living.  Had a doctor prescribed Cymbalta for depression, I would have declined. I know what depression feels like. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. My soul has cowered in dark places while being chained to hopelessness and beaten with despair. It was physical pain that I thought my faith couldn't manage.  It was the desire to be able to travel and do fun things that got me to compromise my position on SSRI/SNRI medications.
Wherever you draw your line in the sand your flesh is willing to take up the challenge before you even know you're in a battle.

And so I begin again, I am overwhelmed with the damage I have done. Good thing I serve the God of the Universe. He hasn't been taken by surprise. I have not extended myself beyond his grace.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are  I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  



05 December 2014

Sigh. Sanctification.

Sometimes the world gets the best of me and by that I don't mean the world wins.  I mean the things I like best about myself are offered to the world while the church gets the plastic me; the retouched by extreme holiness and grace me, the "other" me.  What I can't work out is why.

Am I concerned about what the church thinks about me? Do I fine tune the facade in an effort to fit in? Perhaps it's just the opposite. Perhaps I show you the parts of me that I am willing to discard, the parts that if they are damaged won't bother me. You know, like scratch paper for you church people to doodle on while keeping the good stuff pristine for myself.

I am not all that safe. Maybe I am protecting you? You're not all that safe. Perhaps I am afraid of you?  Or maybe... just maybe the things I like best about myself have no business in the church?

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Sigh.  Sanctification.

30 September 2014

Crumbling Rosemarie

I am nothing if not a broken woman. I sit here at my computer wondering where the tipping point was. I am more than off balance, I am smashed to bits. Somewhere back there I should have emphatically said, "No" or its opposite, depending on the situation. Whichever case it was, I missed it. Completely.  There is nothing left to do but take the red pill.


Reality.  How did reality ever become so convoluted? It can be so difficult to work out what is true and what is perceived as true. They are not the same thing. Perception is not reality- it just behaves that way.  Multiple views of the same landscape render different results. I thought I was standing up for myself for the first time in years, sure wish I had remembered to serve that with some grace and humility.

I am leading a group of women through the book of Philippians aided by a workbook entitled, "Joy! A Bible  Study on Philippians," by Keri Folmar.  If you're not up to being humbled, I wouldn't really recommend the book. If your idea of encouragement is being told how wonderful you are, I'd leave it alone too. I am sorely convicted. How can you read Philippians and not be? Paul  calls us to humility and obedience.  Humility goes against my prideful arrogance.  I guess that's the point though, right?

That's all I have for now.


22 August 2014

Worldview vs View of the World- Topic: Ferguson

Facebook is a community unlike any other. I have friends I have never met. Friends I love not just because we are siblings in Christ, but because I have come to know them from their posts and subsequent our conversations.  Saiko and Sharon Woods (and their children) are an example. We've never met in person but they are welcome at my door anytime. I consider them friends and family in Christ.

One of the wonders of having friends you've never met in person is the way it expands your view of the world. I have friends all over this globe that live in different political climes, under different laws and with different perspectives.  As believers in Christ it is perfectly acceptable to have a different view of the world as long as we share the same biblical worldview. There is a very distinct difference between the two and too often that difference gets lost when my view of the world looks so different from theirs.

Back to my friend, Saiko, he has a program on Blog Talk Radio titled His Word His Way. He has tackled a myriad of issues,  no subject is off limits. He has even invited me on this program to discuss my passion: Biblical Counseling.  Saiko and I don't always agree, but we always have the bond of Christ and work through our differing opinions from a biblical worldview.

This would probably be a good time to tell you that Saiko is a young(er) black preacher living in Texas and I am an older white woman who was born in Oakland, California, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where I worked in Law Enforcement and then Student Development at a Christian University before retiring and relocating to rural Kentucky. We have, by virtue of our life experiences, different views of the world. Saiko often tags me on Facebook to see what my reaction to a particular topic might be. We discuss our view of the world within the context of our biblical worldview.  I enjoy these exchanges tremendously. The Bible says we are like iron sharpening iron.  Iron sharpens iron because of friction, and both objects are changed in the encounter.

Saiko recently tagged me on Facebook for an opinion on a song done by Bizzle.  Yes, you saw that correctly. This woman, approaching 60 much sooner than she would like to admit, has had her view of the world expanded to include Christian hip hop. I actually enjoy most.... ok, some of it, but I digress. I am sorry I wasn't around when Saiko posted the link because it was the subject of his show on His Word His Way. Saiko posed this question:  "'Same Team,' Different Lanes? Or Just Going the Wrong Way?" He has been asking questions in his FB posts about what has been occurring in Ferguson, Missouri.  If you're reading this post, I cannot believe you are unfamiliar with the events in Ferguson but if so, please do an internet search on your own. I am afraid if I provide you with a link, you will think I selected one that fits my view of the world.

In these United States, some people are of the opinion that any time a black person encounters a white cop they are in danger of losing their lives. This danger is exponentially greater if you are a black man- especially a young black man.  It is a racially motivated encounter. If this encounter concludes in arrest or, God forbid, death and/or grave injury, the officer is a racist and should be punished by the law.  These people are also of the thought that the problem goes deeper. If any white person has a conflict with a black person, especially a black man, the conflict is racially motivated- no matter how the conflict ends.

In these United States, some people are of the opinion if a black person encounters a white cop and they are detained, shot, injured, or mortally wounded,  they got what the deserved. This opinion is amplified if the person encountered is a black man- especially a young black man.  They were up to no good. They shouldn't have broken the law.  These same people often extend this opinion to any white person in conflict with a black person and for any reason. Especially black men and more specifically,  young black men.

These two groups of people tend to hold their particular opinions over the same incident.  They cannot both be right.  Something cannot be true and untrue at the same time. Opinions aren't necessarily facts. They can be, but they do not have to be. So we have two diverse groups with contradictory opinions. This results in  incongruity or conflict.  Enter the media. The media only makes money if you give them your attention. To get your attention they are willing to make even small conflicts look large. When there is a genuinely large conflict that results in tragedy, it is received as manna.  They media knows they have our attention and they will do anything to keep it. Their manna is salt poured in our open wounds. We react in pain and they receive more attention. The cycle continues until we are too exhausted to care or another tragedy occurs.

How are we, believers, brothers and sisters in the family of God, supposed to react when this cycle of tragedy erupts?  With a biblical world view; measuring our thoughts, attitudes and emotions to make certain they line up with the Word of God.  We are not to react on the basis of our view of the world.  Our feelings are of no value in the search for the truth. Feelings lie.  Jonah felt perfectly fine in the hold of a ship going in the opposite direction from what Almighty God had told him to go.  "Nineveh?  I hate Nineveh and all those mongrel Ninevites. You want me to go to Nineveh?? I am on the next ship to Tarshish." Never forget that Jonah felt fine about getting on that ship and sailing in the opposite direction.  He was so at peace with his decision he went and took a nap. He slept through the storm that had the others on the boat afraid for their lives. The events in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent outcry and debate among believers is proof positive that most of us will first react from our view of the world and not a biblical world view. And so, my brothers and sisters, we must repent.  We are not only sinning against each other, we are sinning against Almighty God.

And for my sweet siblings of color. I know you are frustrated. I am frustrated too. It breaks my heart to have this tension in the body of Christ. I may not know what it is like to be black  anymore than you understand what it is like to be white. I don't think we need to focus on that. Our focus should be on the sovereignty of God. Nothing else.

 I do not know if  "Big Mike"  was shot and killed in cold blood. I don't know if he was a thug who died as a result of his choice to go after a cop's gun.  I don't know anything except that he was shot dead and it was a white cop who pulled the trigger. One young man sent to his judgement, the other has to live knowing he took a life, justified or not. No matter the outcome of the investigation there will be those who are displeased. What happens then? More riots? More death?

My black brethren, I know that you want to see equality in treatment for the black communities in America.  I do too. Perhaps I will write another post about what I see as an obstacle for achieving that goal. Bizzle's song has made me do a lot of thinking and soul searching.  It's something that is really on my heart.  As for the shooting in Ferguson. I don't have enough facts to glean the truth.   However, I do know that whatever the truth is absolutely nothing happened that was not the will of Almighty God. He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45B)


Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.