Sunday, April 4, 2021

What kind of New Life?

 Happy Easter. We say it so quickly, like the greeting, Hi, How are you? We don't expect anyone to really tell us how they are. We say it because, well, it's what we say when we see someone!

I think the same can be said of Easter and resurrection and Jesus in general. We've become accustomed to the accounts given to us, the message we are supposed to take from it, and therefore, Happy Easter!

I'd like to suggest something a little different today. When you think of Easter and resurrection, I'd like you to think of recovery. A specific recovery, from emotional and verbal abuse.

If you have suffered from these, you know the damage it does. Robin Stern, in his book, "The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life" includes some of the signs of gaslighting:

* No longer feeling like the person you used to be

*Being more anxious and less confident than you used to be

*Often wondering if you're being too sensitive

*Feeling like everything you do is wrong

*Apologizing often

*Having a sense that something's wrong, but being unable to identify what it is

*Feeling isolated from friends and family

*Finding it increasingly hard to make decisions

These are just some of the signs. I think the biggest consequence of gaslighting is a loss of confidence in self. When you leave the situation of abuse, you don't automatically and suddenly gain that back. 

That's where the Easter story comes in. Is Jesus just redeeming us from sin? Or are there other interpretations for his resurrection? Like healing from trauma?

Healing from trauma is a slow process. With confidence, it means learning to speak up when someone says something you don't agree with. It means believing your decision is the right one, without constant second-guessing. It means being able to say no and not give an explanation. It means being able to make a mistake, and not feel the world has ended or you are being judged. It means believing in yourself enough that outside criticism does not take it away.

Jesus shows us the way. Patience. Acceptance. Healing. His resurrection story is also a story of healing from the passion of abuse. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

I will Carry You


"Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will hear you; It is I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety." Isaiah 46:4

It is nice to remember that we will never be forgotten by God. We forget this so often it is God who has to remind us. We are like petulant children, wanting attention, wanting our own way. And God says, I hear you. Be patient. 

I once thought that with all the ways God blessed my life, I would never forget his generosity. And then another difficulty would happen, and I had to learn it all over again. And again. I came in time to accept that past trust does not breed present trust. We have to draw upon it each time. Like a car that needs to be filled with gas on occasion.

I find it comforting to remember that God is keeping us in mind. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Blessed are those who Hope

I decided to try to do my Lectio Divina on the daily readings. Today's readings are Jeremiah 7:5-10; Psalm 1; and Luke 16:19-31.

My way of doing Lectio is to circle the words that speak to me as I read. The following words are the words I circled in today's reading: seeks, heart, desert, change, trust, tree, fears not, fruit, understand, hope, delights, season, fade, chaff, kept, bosom, crossing and listen.

Seeking is a lifelong endeavor. It begins with the heart. In the beginning, we experience dryness and doubt, a sort of desert, which happens in any kind of change. With time and trust, we set roots down into our soul, like that of a tree. We learn to fear not when things don't go our way, and rejoice when we see fruit.

Understanding is not the goal; hope is, the ability to delight in what we have, as life is full of seasons, and it is hope that will sustain us even when we fade or feel like chaff.

Because God is kept in our bosom until we reach the crossing. We just need to listen to our heart to be reminded of these things. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Call to the Deep

I found in my spiritual journey that it was so easy for my spirituality to be "above ground" as it were. I followed the rules, I’d adhered to the doctrines, I submitted to authority. I believed that this was what I needed to do to be faithful, right?

But in my reading of the Gospels, Jesus had issues with this kind of "faithfulness" even to the point of calling those who promoted it as "whitewashed coffins with dead bones in them"(not a direct quote).

When I look back, I see how this faithfulness seemed to work in the beginning. I imagined myself becoming holy, acceptable to God, on my way to perfection.

Then I stumbled. Instead of sustaining me, it judged me, condemned me for struggling, accused me of unfaithfulness, and then dismissed me.

I felt abandoned by those I thought were supposed to support and encourage me. I found the quotes from scripture that I'd adhered to, such as "God will not give you more than you can carry" and "If you want God's will, you will always be happy" no longer feed my soul. In fact, they, too, felt accusatory.

And so, I had to dig deeper. It took time, as I was so wedded to the doctrine that was given to me that seeking my own truth seemed heretical. I kept searching. I had to. As I did, my search gradually revealed a different God, one who didn't send out trite sayings, or demand adherence to a doctrine that kept changing, or punished me because I was human and failed.

Instead, I found a God so big and broad and kind as to defy any human capacity to contain or understand or interpret.

I wonder about my former "faith" now. Was my problem not being able to deal with the unknown? Did I need a tidy God I could understand because my faith found ways to  humanize God? Maybe I liked the security of having doctrines that became my anchor, when God was asking me to swim freely. Maybe the trust I needed to face so many unknowns required me to go so deep that I left it for what seemed more secure. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve moved on from security. I walk the tightrope of trust, which accepts my humanness, my inability to read God's mind. I've replaced it with an openness to questioning, to unknowing, and to seeking.

That’s my faith story. What is yours?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

An Appointment with Myself

Many of my clients admit that making the decision to come to therapy is a hard one, often forced upon them when they realize they can no longer manage. I tell them, yes it is scary. 

Therapy is about meeting the true you. And sometimes that is scary. We fear we will hear that we are in the wrong, or we have some dysfunctional diagnosis, or we have acted badly, or any of the other fearful words.

What usually happens is, you find your true self, and that is actually liberating, empowering, and healing. The real you is not the one you imagine, the one you fear. The real you is the one who had somehow gotten confused by gas-lighting, or lost because she took care of everyone else, or filled with fear due to some past trauma. I help you find that person by first helping you feel safe, checking out all of your tools so that you are taking time for self-care, learning how to self-sooth, and working on reframing the negative messages that keep you from knowing your true self. I walk with you, but you do the hard work.

The work is demanding. The work is rewarding. And it is possible, as I see with clients who come through their dark times into a new, lighter, more balanced life.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Mistaking Action for Intentions

I crashed through the towering pines, heedless of the thickets. I didn't watch for snakes. I didn't even notice which direction I was headed. I was only aware of the pain in my soul, the repeated actions that made me feel I was expendable, the feeling of being overwhelmed by so many criticisms. As I rushed, tears came. I pushed on. "How can they?" I questioned. "How can they care so little? Treat me like I don't matter? How can they dismiss my concerns, tell me I fabricate things looking for attention. Who wants their attention when it is always critical?"

When I look back on those years of my life and see the struggles I endured, the pain I suffered at feeling uncared for or misunderstood or judged unkindly, I also see where I needed to grow. I see I sometimes took things personally, or had unrealistic expectations of others, even as I suffered because I was not trusted or valued or approved. 

I don't blame myself now for not seeing this clearly. I was very young at the time, and needed guidance on how to be emotionally mature. I needed someone to model for me how you step back and see the bigger picture. But that guidance was missing. I realize now, it was because the individuals themselves did not know how to be emotionally mature. Instead, they blamed it all on me. And so the cycle of abuse, the trauma and turmoil was perpetrated. 

I realize now how often we look at things personally, and mistake an individual's actions as their intentions. Emotional Maturity teaches us to step back, see the bigger picture, and realize my interpretation is only one interpretation. There are at least two interpretations to every interchange, mine and the intentions of the person acting. And there are many things affecting that situation. The person could have just gotten bad news, or suffering some mishap themselves, or just plain tired. It is not always me.

The ability to step back and see the bigger picture can change our lives. It can take the sting out of things said or done that sound disrespectful.

The bigger picture will help you see that we often mistake a person's actions because we add intentions to it. And the intentions we assign are our intentions, what we would mean if we had said or done such a thing. 

We help ourselves when we give ourselves time for calming after being upset. Then, when we have calmed ourselves, we need to step back and think of other interpretations of the words or actions.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

My Thoughts on Pain and Darkness

Embracing Darkness

I do not like darkness any more than anyone else. But I find that my concept of darkness has changed over the years. Like most, I too have felt anxious and confused when darkness came into my life in the form of doubts, insecurity, pain, suffering and loss. But in those periods without light or answers, I learned things I didn’t learn in the light. I came to realize that darkness can sometimes be a period of peace and quiet, a chance for inner growth and enlightenment. I used to fear darkness, and believe that when one truly loves God, one no longer experiences darkness. I no longer think that way.
A sermon by Abbot Paul mentions how the most important events in the history of Judeo/Christian religion happened in darkness: the creation of the world, the birth of Jesus, and the death of Jesus.
Think about it. I am sure you, too, can remember something good that came from the darkness of night: restful sleep, rejuvenation, growth. A child is in darkness for 9 months as it prepares to experience light and air. Seeds often need a dormancy period before they have the energy to sprout and grow. Darkness need not be a damaging event. 
I am working on looking at my periods of darkness as a symbol of times of wonder, of deeper trust, of risking. Perhaps darkness is our time of gestation, when we grow and nurture and prepare our soul for a new birth.
As much as I dislike darkness, I am working to remember the good things it brought me. I find I appreciate light and grace and growth more because of the journey through I had to learn to experienced, but had not seen before due to grief and loss. 

What kind of New Life?

 Happy Easter. We say it so quickly, like the greeting, Hi, How are you? We don't expect anyone to really tell us how they are. We say i...