empowerment

Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

Worthy; Recovering from Emotional Abuse, December 31, 2013

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Even as I typed the title of this post, I hesitated on the word abuse. It’s almost 7 years since my first marriage ended, and I’m just now accepting the truth in all its fullness.

Although friends over the years have urged me to write about my past experiences in my first marriage, I have done so minimally, for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to be seen as a victim. I don’t want to purge my closet onto an unsuspecting public. And, I’ve wanted my past to be, well, my past. But, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, I have felt a stirring in my spirit over the last few months urging me to share something from this carefully tucked away part of my life. If God has put this on my heart for you, please, be touched, be blessed, and be safe.Β Before I even begin, I want to urge anyone who might be reading this while feeling endangered to GET UP and GET OUT to a safe place. You and your children, if you have children, deserve to live in peace.

Now, most stories start at the beginning of something. But, the moment that has been coming to my mind for several weeks is from somewhere close to the middle of my story, so that is where I will begin.

My husband and I had been married for a few years, maybe 3 or 4. I had lost a lot of weight (like over 100 pounds) and was quite active, but it wasn’t enough for him. Nothing seemed to ever be enough.

We had purchased our first pair of trail bikes. They were budget 18-speed bikes and heavy, very heavy. Mine was too big for my height, and my toes couldn’t touch the ground while I was seated, causing me to lean and hop off my seat whenever I came to a stop so I could get my footing.

One day, we loaded up our bikes and drove to a park on the far western side of town to try out the trails. It was a very hot and humid mid-western summer’s day. The park was large, with a sprawling trail. We headed south and looped back after a few miles to explore the north when we came upon a steep hill with a sharp left turn that looked like it had just been covered with fresh gravel. I switched gears and stood to pedal up the grade. My tire hit some loose stones in the turn, and my bike started to slip. I tried to catch myself, but my knee hit the ground before my feet.

It took a few seconds for me to feel the pain. At first, when I looked down at my bare legs, it just seemed like I had roughed them up a bit. Then, the pain quickly turned to a searing burn as the blood began to pour. I had basically skinned myself in a patch as big as my hand. My left knee was raw and bleeding down my leg into my sock. I was speechless and looked to my husband for help. He never got off his bike.

Instead, he laughed at me and accused me of wiping out on purpose to get out of my workout for the day. I remember him saying that adults don’t just fall off their bikes. Of course, even professionals in the Tour de France have wipe outs, but there was no point in bringing that up.

Then, he told me he was going to finish his ride and for me to have fun getting myself and my bike back to the car. As a coup de gras, he unclipped his water bottle, held it up, and shook it. His bike had come equipped with a bottle holder, and mine had not. For a moment, I thought he was giving his bottle to me, but he was just taunting me. He told me he was leaving me there and taking our only water with him. In his mind, he seemed to be punishing me and making my “plan” to sabotage our ride backfire.

As I stood there, bleeding and in pain, with at least a mile between me, my bike, and my car, I remember feeling stunned. There was a feeling of did he really just do that? Yes, dearest, he did.

I stood up my bike, took off my helmet and hung it over my handlebars and began limping up the hill, knee pulsating in a painful fury. I was in so much pain, but I’m not sure which hurt worse, my injured leg, or my injured spirit. I think that both were in a bit of shock.

Now, I’d like to step back for a moment and address something that I know some of you are thinking right now. Some of you are saying, “What a jerk! I hope she just takes the car and leaves him there!” That’s not what I did. And, it’s not because I’m weak or stupid. I am a strong-willed person with a genius level I.Q., and I can tell you why I didn’t leave. I didn’t realize I was being abused. What?? Yes, that’s right. In my mind, abuse was defined as physical abuse – beatings, and repetitive behaviors. My husband wasn’t abusive. He could just be a jerk sometimes. It wasn’t the same thing, was it? Of course it was, but for some reason I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that my husband, who could be so kind and good so much of the time, was an abuser. I told myself that he just had bad days.

You’ve heard the old adage that describes how to boil a frog? If you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog into tepid water and slowly heat it over time, it will not realize it is in danger. Right now, that’s the best way I know how to describe an abusive relationship.

So, back to the park. With every step, my knee burned and pumped out a fresh crimson stream. I got some sympathetic looks from the few people I passed, and I’m pretty sure I scared a little girl into wearing her Hello Kitty knee pads, and I finally, finally made it back to the car. Nothing in my first aid kit would cover the wound, and I had no water to clean it off with. I hobbled around the empty parking lot hoping to spy a nearby water fountain or a bathroom, but no luck. There was a gas station about another mile away, but I didn’t think I could make it. I sat in the car, waiting and wondering, applying pressure to my knee with the last of some take-out napkins I had found in the glove box.

After about 15 minutes, a car pulled up next to me. In the front seat were two women, and in the back were 2 or 3 children. I got out of the car, ready to ask if they were familiar with the park and happened to know where I could get some water. As I walked around my car to greet them, they saw my knee. As luck would have it, they were bothΒ ER trauma nurses who had never been to this particular park, but just pulled in on a whim. They whipped out fresh bottled water and a professional emergency kit and proceeded to care for me in the kindest of ways. They cleaned my wound, applied an anti-bacterial, and dressed it with a large Teflon non-stick bandage. Then, they gave me the whole box so I wouldn’t have to stop at the store on the way home. Then, they left. None of them set a single toe on the grass. To this day, I consider them my special angels.

A short time later, my husband returned, looking a little sheepish, but not apologetic. He drove us home and set me up on the couch with some pillows and an ice pack, but never spoke of his actions.

Friends, I cannot tell you why this was laid upon my heart to share with you. I fought against it for weeks because I could not see the purpose in sharing it. But, if you are reading this, and it has helped you in any way, then I am glad. Perhaps, if nothing else, my experience will help someone else take a fresh look at their own situation, and gain some encouragement to step toward freedom and peace.

The Journey, November 20, 2013

So, have you ever had one of those days when you just felt icky? You look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t just feel like you have a double chin – you feel like you have a double face?? Yeah, me too.

Just last week, the day before my weigh-in, I felt that way. I almost didn’t weigh. I thought, maybe I’ll put it off a week. Besides, it won’t help my self-esteem if I’ve gained, right? Then I thought, no, be true to yourself. If I had gained weight, then I at least needed to face the truth and deal with it. Take my medicine like a big girl, so to speak.

While I was walking downstairs at work, heading toward the scale several of us use to track our weight, I kept thinking things like, “Well, I’ll do better from now on.” “Hopefully, I won’t have gained more than 1 or 2 pounds.” Or, my favorite, “I sure hope nobody notices my second face.” You think I’m kidding, don’t you? LOL

I stepped on the scale, expecting the ceiling to open up above me, and the scale to explode, ejecting me up and out. Usually, I look away from the number display, waiting a few seconds for it to settle before I face the truth. This time, I figured, go big or go home. So, I stood there, watching the LCD digits go back and forth, bravely awaiting my fate. Finally, they stopped. The number I saw took my breath away. I had met and EXCEEDED my 10 pound goal! Yes, friends, I’ve lost 11 pounds!!

I walked back to my office with a spring in my step, and stretching maybe a centimeter or two taller. I was so proud of myself! Then, since it’s a bit of a walk to the opposite wing of the building, I had a little time to think. I had almost chosen not to face the truth. I had almost chosen to hide. Again. If I hadn’t weighed, I would have accepted the idea that I had gained weight (and possibly had a double face), that I had let myself down and failed. I might have let myself become trapped in disillusion and decided to give up. But, I took a chance on the truth, and I’m so glad that I did.

Is there something holding you back from facing the truth? You know, if you’ve ever watched the old G.I. Joe series, you’ll be familiar with the saying, “Knowing is half the battle.” Friends, it’s so true.

If you can face the truth of your situation, no matter what that might be, you will have power in your life and over your life. When you make decisions from a vantage point of veritas, your north will always be true, and you will reach your destination.

The Journey, November 5

Well, it has taken a little while, but I am now down 8 pounds, and hoping to hit that first 10 pound goal by sometime next week πŸ™‚ In the long run, I have many more 10 pound goals to go, but I am going to celebrate this one and not worry just yet about the next one. Afterall, there is (or should be) joy in the journey, right?
I have struggled a bit this week with enjoying where I am, not only with my weight, but in other areas of my life, as well. I have had to remind myself more than once that there is beauty, value, and worth in my life, in me, in the here and now. Of course, there are things that never fail in bringing a smile to my face, like my wonderful son and his effervescent personality. Or a beautiful sky. Or chocolate. ;p But, I think that there is something in all of us that wants to be seen, to be known, to be recognized as a precious, unique being. We desire affirmation.
For too many years, and even now at times, I looked to others for validation. Of course, this is normal to a degree. But, there is a difference between seeking the approval of others in your life and seeking permission and empowerment from them. We can trust some people with our power, but not all, and we are never meant to relinquish it. It was given to us to wield in love each in our own way.
Our power is made up of many things – the sum of our experiences, our strengths and our weaknesses, our gifts and talents, our motivations and passions. It is unique to each of us. Custom-fitted to our path in life by God to perfectly equip us for the long road before us.
It can be easy sometimes to forget who you are, who you are meant to be. It’s easy to blind yourself to your giftings and worth, to deny the fire that burns within. But, my friends, when we choose to do that (and yes, dears, it is a choice), we live a lie. We are commanded to walk in truth, yet we are so easily misled into thinking it’s okay to be false to ourselves. We are meant for so much more.
When I was a senior in high school, I had to select a personal motto for the yearbook. I chose, “To thine own self be true,” from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. I stumbled away from that many times. But, the words served as sort of a North Star over the years. I may have felt lost over and over again, but knowing that there was something more, somewhere, gave me hope that I would find the high road once more.
So, wherever you are on your journey, whether you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, a new career, or a brighter outlook on life, remember that there is a better way, a higher way. And, every journey walked in truth will be a positive experience in the end. Hang in there, put one foot in front of the other, and soldier on.

We are Fargo

By now, most of us have heard of the Wicked Witch of North Dakota. https://twitter.com/mlucerobertson/status/395934324588949504

She is a woman who has taken it upon herself to judge her fellow “villagers” in the Fargo, Moorehead, and West Fargo triad. Evidently, she feels parents are not doing a good enough job of taking their children’s health in hand and has decided to take matters into her own hands, thoughtfully choosing Halloween to make her stand. How considerate of her.

Without going down the road of the origins of the holiday or arguing who should celebrate what, let’s look at contemporary reality. For all practical purposes, our western Halloween observances are centered on children. We encourage them to enjoy their imaginations on this night over all other nights of the year. We tell them that, on this night, you can be anything you want to be. Superheroes, doctors, astronauts, robots, faeries. On this night, preschoolers toddle down the street, holding the hand of a loved one while wondering at the lights and decorations. They practice saying thank you to the friendly neighbors who smile and give them Tootsie Rolls. Older children spray imaginary spider webs while saving the world one grimacing jack-o-lantern at a time. The grandma next door admires a princess’ tiara and everyone hits the house on the corner because they give out “the good stuff.” Do I even need to pull out my The Great Pumpkin wildcard?

Unfortunately, for some children, thanks to the WWoND, the dream will be cut short because, instead of the candy their “slimmer” friends receive, they will be handed a slip of paper. The friendly pumpkin on the corner will serve as a temporary distraction from the cruel message it precedes. Some younger children might not be able to read the words, and some might not understand. But others will. Say, the ones 6 or 7 years old and up. The words will say something like, “You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.” But the message…ah, now, that will say something much, much more.

To the child who receives such a letter, the message will be many things. Things like, “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve to have the same fun tonight as your friends.” “You’re not good enough.” You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re not athletic enough.” “You don’t live up to my expectations.”
Labeling. Judgement. Cruelty. Injury. Harm. Brokenness. Legacy.

Some of these children and their families may have the ability to laugh it off. And, I say, more power to you. But, for some of the children who will receive such a note, on a holiday that is supposed to lay all children equal, the effects can be devastating, lasting far into their lifetimes.

For several years, there have been increasing reports in the media of children and young adults who have taken their lives due to being overwhelmed by bullying, cyber-bullying, and general harassment over their physique. Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short. These little souls had swords of words driven into them by people who were thoughtless and cruel. Those acts crushed their self esteem and tore their hearts asunder, and somewhere on a table in a house on a street in North Dakota, a woman has a stack of paper daggers aimed at the hearts of the children of her city.

I do not know her name. I don’t know her address. I don’t know her. But, I have felt the pain she is willing to throw at the innocents of Fargo, and there is one point that we agree on. It does take a village. It takes a village made up of a nation that is willing to stand up for its children. To protect them from cruelty. To protect their innocence. To protect their dreams and their futures by pouring so much love and encouragement into them that the harsh words of a stranger fall feebly to the ground and blow away with the wind.

And so, to the children of Fargo, and their parents, I stand with you. If you knock on a door or ring a doorbell and find yourself face to face with the WWoND, and she hands you a piece of paper, be strong and know this. She is secretly more afraid of you than you are of her, all bullies are.

How to believe in yourself when you just, don’t…

So, that’s kind of a trick title. It implies that I have an answer to offer, right? Sorry. I don’t really have an answer, but I do have sort of a direction to point you in to help you find your own answer.

First, if we seek an answer, we must have a question. So, what’s your question? My question has changed over the years, but it usually sounded something like, “Why am I even here? Will I ever be good enough? Will anyone ever like me? What’s wrong with me? When am I going to have the future I want? What can I do to make my life better?” Do any of those sound familiar to you? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, for most of you, those queries are quite familiar.

Now, let me tell you about a dear friend who accidentally changed my way of thinking with one sentence. My friend, a cool fusion of funk and sophistication, is a gorgeous girl of Asian descent who rocks the art of modern class. (If you’re reading this Down Under, you know who you are πŸ™‚ We were chatting one day over lunch and she chirped out, “I’ve never had problems with self-confidence.” Everything in me went stock still when I heard those words. I was so blown away by her comment that I almost forgot I had food in my mouth. I had NEVER heard someone say that. Correction, I had never heard a FEMALE say that. From that moment on, my friend became a curiosity and an object of personal study. I didn’t understand how she could say something like that. How could a grown woman live through her childhood, teen years, young adulthood and into a marriage and NOT HAVE LOW SELF ESTEEM? Honestly, the idea boggles my mind still.

But, what if that’s the way it’s supposed to be? What if every girl is supposed to be self assured? What if she’s supposed to believe in herself? What if there is some sweet, beautiful balance between confidence and self-contempt that we are meant to strike? Wouldn’t that be, well, wonderful?

So maybe some people (like my friend) never doubt themselves. Maybe they’re born that way, or maybe they’ve had so much love poured into them that the thought to despise themselves never entered their mind.

I had love poured into me as a child, too. Unfortunately, my environment punched a lot of holes into my little person, and I didn’t have a high capacity for retention. But, I do believe that we are meant to believe in each other, and to need someone to believe in us, to have someone to believe in. We borrow confidence like a shared resource, pouring in and pouring out.

Accept the positive that others pour in. Seek out sources of love and kindness. Be a willing vessel, be a healthy vessel – patch the holes so that, one day, you can pour out, too. There is an endless supply of love that flows from our Heavenly Father. He shares it with us. He DESIRES to share it with us, to refresh us and bring us joy and strength. So, when you meet those shiny people who are so full of love they spill over onto you? Let them. Let God nurture and heal you through them.

We’re not all like my friend, but we can be πŸ™‚ I think the most amazing thing is knowing it’s out there. It’s free. It’s waiting for us. We just have to open our eyes and our hearts, and step into the flow.

The Journey, October 25th

So, I have now lost 7 1/2 pounds! If I can just replicate these results say, 10 more times, I’ll be close to my goal :0) Seriously, though, I am so happy to have surpassed that dreaded 5 pound wall. It feels good to be a winner!

Have you ever noticed how, when you set out to accomplish something, the emotions in the process run through a cycle? It reminds me of the classic cycle of grief. Now, of course I’m not trying to liken weight-loss to something as devastating and painful as losing a loved one. I’ve been there, as have most of you, and we know that that is a cruel beast unto itself. But, when we lose weight, we are letting go of something.

We like to say that we’re losing weight to be healthy, and we act excited. But, many times, the trigger for losing weight is negative, at least it is in our minds. We feel bad about how we look. We feel guilty for not being more energetic with our kids. We feel ashamed when we compare ourselves with others. We feel we’ve been irresponsible when we get a bad health diagnosis. We can even feel invisible and ridiculous for trying to lose weight when it seems so difficult or even impossible to accomplish.

We have to fight an uphill battle not only against outside forces (like doughnut Friday at the office or lonely nights with Ben & Jerry), but against our inner voice as well. And we grieve. We grieve the past. We grieve a little part of us that seems to have been lost. We grieve our bad habits.

Even so, we have hope. We must have hope somewhere deep inside, or we wouldn’t try in the first place, right? Before starting this weight loss journey, I was very upset with myself. I felt I had let myself down, and perhaps even those who love me because I was not living up to my full potential. When you are overweight, you say no more than you say yes for a million different reasons, and you try to tell yourself this is reality – deal with it. But, when I decided (again) to lose weight, I started to feel excited. I wasn’t really dreaming of being a size 4 again, but instead was looking forward to wearing the next size down jeans that have been in my closet for 2 years. That sounded like something I could do.

The first few weeks were a bit of a struggle. I fought against my old ways. When something upset me, I couldn’t run for chocolate. (Well, not every time anyway πŸ™‚ ) For some reason, this time I powered through. I didn’t give up. I allowed myself to feel the emotions instead of drugging them down with sugar and denial. I found myself living in the moment more. I found myself being real more. And you know what? I like it!

Years ago, I heard a message by T.D. Jakes. He was talking about accomplishing goals, and he said the key to accomplishing a goal was having discipline, desire, and delight. Back when I was beginning as a runner (something I hope to pick back up one day), I thought of that message. I found myself disliking the discipline in the beginning, but as I progressed, I found myself desiring that time on the road. And, as I made it a habit to run 3-5 miles a day, I took delight in it. I used the time to pray, to meditate, and enjoy the mythical “runner’s high.”

I think this formula can be applied to anything in life that we want to turn into a habit, like living a healthy lifestyle. The discipline hurts at first. We strain and struggle against so much – emotions, apathy, environment. Then, we have a taste of success, like breaking through the 5 pound wall. This creates a desire for more. And, one day we wake up to realize that we are taking delight in our new lifestyle.

Be encouraged, friends. Losing weight is truly a journey, and our emotions will make for interesting scenery and pit stops along the way. But, just remember to get back on the road and keep moving. You’ve got this!