My Personal Do-It-Yourself Catastrophe

I am about to make a grand confession: I love to sit and watch do it yourself catastrophe kind of shows. I can’t help myself – and I am pretty sure watching them has prevented me from my own disasters in home improvement. I often sit and wonder at the messes that are made of homes by men and women who have no idea how to swing a hammer or how to handle a drill. Still, they have an unimaginable courage. So, they start all these home projects that are far beyond their abilities with such good intentions. From “my wife wanted me to redo the kitchen” to “I got the idea from my friend,” most seem to have an inability to honestly assess their construction skills. And maybe their confidence comes from videos – you know, we live in the day of Youtube and home improvement shows. Who knows? Perhaps they believe they can learn anything from some ten minute “how to.”

A few days ago, during the wee hours of the morning that I have blocked off to sit at the feet of Jesus, this guy who walks beside me flipped on the tv and some show about a do-it-yourself mess was on – and my quiet time became a train wreck. I became captivated by the man who had basically made a disaster of everything, just as expected. Not to mention, he was taking forever. And so, his wife decided to call in the experts. The expert doesn’t do all the work. No. Instead, he wisely comes alongside the amateur explaining everything he did wrong. Then, he patiently teaches the homeowner how to swing the hammer, how to frame up that wall, how to run that saw, how to plumb up the walls, how to fix this or that. And in the end, something beautiful is created as they work side by side.

In those wee hours of the morning, through a tv show about home disasters, I saw my life. How many times have I seen something that needed fixed in myself, in someone else, in life, and tried to fix it on my own? How many times have I thought that I knew what I was doing when I didn’t have a clue? I would jot down a verse, hand it to a friend, and expect those words would fix her heartache. Or I would see one of my kids struggling and instead of pointing them to Jesus, I would try to take his trouble away. Or, I would tell him what to do – and of course, I had to be right, I was the mother. Or when the first doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able to have children, instead of running to Jesus, I ran to a “better” specialist until I had seen six in all. The only thing that changed was the name and face of the stoic doctor staring back at me and saying, “You can’t have children.”

Oh, some of the most destructive work I have done is in trying to rebuild my husband. I have often tried to repair the man I married – you know, to make him better. I tried to get him to take college courses when we were first married. Tried to get him to find a better job throughout our marriage. Tried to get him to wear the clothes I bought so he would fit the image I had in my head. I tried to block schedule his days at one point in our young married life to include all the activities I thought he needed to participate in. And let’s face it, all I was conveying to him is that he wasn’t good enough and I was. It was a lie then and is just as much of a lie now.

And three years ago, I tried to fix something major in myself without the One who called me His child. As a firm believer in Christ, I turned by back on the healing power of Jesus and tried to force my healing. In those deepest darkest moments when I did not know how to handle the pain, instead of waiting for the One who could fix it all to shine His light in the darkness, I sought relief from the end of a needle. One of the hardest things to accept is that I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I did not care. I was too tired and hurting too badly to wait for God to bring the relief that I know He would never withhold from His child. Instead of waiting for God to show me how to walk in the darkness, waiting for Him to shine His light, I tried to find (or was it to make?) my own light. Foolishness. I know. Jesus says that He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. (See John 14:16).

I couldn’t make my own light…shoot, I couldn’t even be my own light. Jesus is THE LIGHT. I needed Him in my darkness, but I grew tired of waiting. We have one of those old fluorescent lights in the kitchen, the kind that flickers and wanes sometimes before it comes on. That light I often grow impatient with and I try all kinds of things to make it turn on in my time, before it has sufficiently warmed up. I flip the switch on rapidly, run my hand along the bulb, gently tap it, and anything else my impatient self tells me might have some effect. Now, I am not saying that Jesus needs to warm up or that he is weak like that, but my point is, nothing I do makes that light come on until it is fully ready. And that is so much like Jesus, nothing I do will be light apart from Him. I can’t make my own light. I can’t be my own light…and I can’t make Jesus shine His light into my darkness without inviting Him and waiting expectantly for Him to rescue me in His time.

I can make all kinds of excuses for why I failed to wait for Jesus, the Expert Craftsman, but they don’t matter. What really matters is that my failure ruined really good things in my life. Like those do-it-yourself catastrophes in the home, I had created a mess that I was incapable of fixing on my own. I needed to return to the Expert Craftsman, follow Him quietly and submit to His teaching.

Jesus did step into my darkness. He did not leave me in the mess that I made. Instead, just like the expert steps into the do-it-yourself mess and walks the homeowner through the process of fixing his house, God sent Jesus to step into my mess. He walks through the mess with me and little by little, is redeeming all my mistakes, replacing the lies and the darkness with His truth and light. That thought that I was never good enough that I have battled my entire life? Jesus took it, tore it down brick by brick and rebuilt it with the Truth that in Him, I am holy, righteous, redeemed, made fully acceptable. He is my good enough. That lie that I was somehow guilty for the childhood abuse that I withstood? He kicked that lie down, and rebuilt it with the truth that I was innocent. He is the One who decides whether or not I am guilty. He marks me innocent. That false belief that my use of drugs as a follower of Jesus was beyond His grace, He spoke through His Word of Truth and caused to crumble. He replaced it with the Truth that He has covered even the sins I willing commit when I am walking with Him.

What about you? Are there any areas in your life that you have tried to fix yourself, without Jesus? Are you ready to surrender to the Master Craftsman Jesus and invite Him to tear down the broken walls you have tried to build on your own? Are you willing to let Him establish you in truth? If so, I encourage you to join Bible study group, join a 12 step recovery group that supports your faith, find a godly friend who is willing to walk with you through the difficulty and speak Truth. Pray. Seek God.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (New American Standard Bible)

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 38:23 (New American Standard Bible)

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The Sober Life

Six hundred and seventy-four days ago, I took my last hit. That hit is so much more important than the first one. The first one just sort of happened. I don’t think anyone says, “Hey, you know what I am going to do today? I am going to go get high and then in a week or two, hope that I am an addict.” No. Addiction doesn’t happen like that.

For me, it was carbon monoxide seeping into a house, silent, but deadly. I was in pain and the doctor prescribed painkillers. I took them as prescribed the first day or two, but quickly discovered that they helped me sleep. What was an extra painkiller if it meant that I could sleep after six months of night terrors and flashbacks? So, in gratitude, I began swallowing an extra painkiller at night to bring sleep.

Oh, but those painkillers soon proved themselves invaluable in my fight against the flashbacks of being abused … and who would dare tell me not to take them? I was in emotional and physical pain as I relived the many assaults on my body. And swallowing one or two extra pills during the day, what was that really going to hurt? In fact, those little pills actually seemed to help me function.

But just like that, I was hooked. The pills weren’t enough to get me the relief that I needed, so I reached for my old friend vodka whom I hadn’t visited in more than two decades. Truthfully, I would have preferred the burn of whiskey, but vodka is quiet, harder for others to detect. I knew this from past experience. And so, I mixed it with whatever I happened to be drinking. The pseudo-peace that the mixture of painkillers and alcohol delivered I mistakenly thought was a blessing.

When I dumped the pills and alcohol, the withdrawal began within twenty-four hours. And I went back to the pharmacy with a story of having spilled the painkillers down the drain. The pharmacist refilled the prescription for the last time. That is when my life became something out of control, unexpected, so far from what I ever wanted from my suburban, Christian life. I began to venture out to find my hit.

Eventually, my supplier told me he wasn’t going to sell my favored drug anymore, but he would give me a few free hits of something so much better. I knew what I was doing was wrong, so wrong, but I was so desperate not to feel, not to remember, that I let him slide the needle in that first time. And it was so good and so awful. The poison made me so sick and yet, desperate for more at the same time. The guilt and shame of using such awful drugs were all-consuming and required an extra hit to silence. Too easily, poison had captured my heart.

Even now, just remembering it, I want the needle – and yet, I hate the poison. It is awful and controlling, destroying all that is right and good – a thief that steals and lies. The terrible thing is that I knew that the drugs were lying to me, but I didn’t care. The peace the poison delivered was temporary and left me more desperate than the memories of abuse.

The first time I spoke it, I was whispering it to my therapist after months of therapy. Her quiet, sad smile and tear-filled brown eyes were accompanied by the words, “I know. I have been waiting for you to trust me enough to tell me. No one lives through the hell you have been through without something. Most women are dead by your age or so strung out on drugs they are selling themselves on the streets. You are one of the lucky ones.”

Today, as I celebrate sobriety, someone out there is still fighting to find the strength to make it through the withdrawal, detox, whatever you want to call it. It isn’t easy. But here is the good news: it is possible and you are worth the fight. No matter what led you to addiction, the God who made you loves you and sent His Son Jesus to set you free from every chain that binds.

If today is day one for you, HOORAY! You have chosen a path that is hard, but oh so worth it. Learning to walk in sobriety is a process that takes time. The very hardest part is the first couple of weeks as your body learns to function without a hit. Could I just encourage you, wherever you are on your journey, to reach out for help? Find a support group that will help you with accountability, will help you learn to walk in the freedom that God created you for.

If you are struggling with life issues, mental illness or in an abusive relationship, reach out for help. If you go to a church where you trust the pastor, reach out to him. I encourage you to find a good therapist, one who understands drug addictions, trauma, and mental illness – and how they are all connected. If you are in active addiction, find a place to go through detox. Don’t try to go it alone! Stepping out of addiction is so crazy hard and you are so brave to take the necessary steps. By God’s grace and with His help, YOU CAN DO THIS!!

For me, having people support me on my journey to wholeness has been so key. I am involved in a 12 step program that has not only helped me overcome my addictions, but has also helped me find healing in Jesus for the harm that was done to me. I have been involved in intense therapy for the trauma that I lived through. My therapist is a Christian who uses Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and other trauma based models of treatment to help me process the abuse I went through.

I wrote this poem a while ago, mostly because I wanted a hit so badly that I did not think I would make it through another hour without one. I was reminding myself of how hard I fought for sobriety, how hard the withdrawal was. Breaking free from slavery isn’t pretty. The Red Sea did not part for me and I did not walk into sobriety on dry land – it involved a lot of sweat, blood, tears and vomit. But the good news is, I still made it to the other side and so can you!! And let me tell you, my life of sobriety is so much better than my life of addiction!

Easy, peasy, she says good-bye
to the prick of the needle, that good high,
confident sobriety will prove worthwhile
so begins day one with hope and a smile.
 
Shivering,  shaking,  body so aching
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
she wonders if her life is worth this s***
day two has begun but will she survive
to learn, to grow, have something  to give?
 
Sweating and steaming, body screaming,
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
how fully did she to sobriety commit?
Day three has begun, but so much worse,
so far beyond the prior day’s curse
 
Nauseous, aching, head must be breaking
one hit…just one…would stop all this shaking.
She confesses her sin, begs some for prayer,
explains she needs heroin more than the air.
Day four she survives, but’s feeling deprived.
 
Heart racing and shaking, her whole world is quaking
wishing and waiting, pleading and praying
for her world to cease spinning, stop swaying.
There is a chance that she might be surviving
hope begins whispering to her on day five.
 
Waking and quiet, body near still
perhaps she’s summitted withdrawal’s hill?
A shiver, a shake, not quite a quake,
she is surviving that ache
without a fix, she realizes day six.
 
Constant  the battle and craving  wear on
praying for the good day to dawn
that puts an end to this consuming  desire
to have the needle quench the dark burning fire.

How Will You Respond?

IMG_20190102_102321-e1546442880137.jpgSome time ago, an invitation to a wedding, beautifully embellished, arrived in the mail. Running my fingers over the shiny raised print with tears leaking, I whispered, “Where has the time gone?” Within the envelope was a smaller stamped envelope with a card that politely stated, “The bride and groom request the honor of your response.”  

This invitation brought the reminder of an invitation written long ago, not on aged parchment with elegant ink, not to be a guest at someone else’s wedding. This invitation came through the womb of a virgin girl named Mary. He was born a babe and laid in a manger. He grew in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52), lived the perfect life for the world. His invitation to us is not merely asking us to be guests at His wedding, but to be His bride. He grew to carry our failures and griefs to the cross, willingly holding out His hands and feet to receive the imprint of love.

Nail scars and the spilling of blood for you and for me is how God wrote the invitation to be his Son’s bride so many centuries ago. His love is one that overcomes our failures and shortcomings, our sins. Jesus’s death was not the final word. Three days after He was laid in the tomb, Jesus rose again – He defeated death and sin for the world. And yet, He carries those scars as a reminder and promise to love us in our every failure and every success, through every heartache and every joy.  

Just as I filled out the elegant response card to the wedding and slipped it in an envelope to confirm my attendance, Jesus is asking you to respond to His invitation. He is inviting you to not only attend His wedding, but to be His bride. When you accept Jesus’s invitation, He washes you and makes you clean of all your failures, sins, and stumblings.  He carries the weight of your guilt and shame to the cross and sets you free. He makes you white as snow and promises to never leave you. The debt you owe for your sins has been fully paid by the Groom who longs for you to be His bride. (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23) 

Jesus is waiting for you at the alter, to take you in His arms and call you His beloved, to carry you through every heartache and to be with you through every joy. Once you call His name, no matter what the future has, joys or sorrows, victories or defeats, He promises to always be with you. How will you respond? 

“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’; and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved; for in the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:9-11

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

New Year Blessings

A blessing, a prayer, a New Year’s toast:
May you learn to no longer be defined
by names and chains that used to bind.
May last year’s hurts and broken bits
find comfort and healing as God permits,
May you experience the peace and joy of the Savior
through each moment, whether success or failure.
May each step you take into God’s light
grow deeper love, understanding and insight.
May every day of this New Year be blessed
with the love of family and friends in abundance.

written in response to prompt #228 at poeticbloomings

Happy New Year, friends!

The Anguish of Addiction

“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NAS Bible)

Two days from a new year and it seems the same old me just won’t die. I thought by now God would have won all the battles, settled all the pain, and enabled me to forget the past. He hasn’t, but I still know that He is good. He loves me and He has been gracious! He has healed so much of my past and put to death so many of the ghosts that once haunted me. Most days I don’t crave poison.

Even so, I still get stuck sometimes … I have been sober 663 days and my body still craves the biggest mistake that I have ever made. And some days, days like today, are SO hard that the tears of hopelessness burn my eyes. Permitting them to fall causes just as much shame as the craving. They would require an explanation to the family and a confession of how awful the battle is in this moment. Thankfully, the battle is dead in me most days – just days like today, I struggle to think straight.

Some days, the body remembers what it was like to shoot poison and it wants it. I usually know what triggers it, but not this time. This time it came like an unexpected punch in the gut and jolted me from sleep. I woke in the darkest hours of the night, my body begging the poison that promises forgetfulness, promises peace and life, but delivers darkness and death. I cried out to this God who loves me to help me. I cried out to those who have braved this storm with me, but in shame, withdrew my plea. In the end, I woke the man who walks this broken road with me. He held me while my body rebelled against sobriety. I laid there after he fell back to sleep, filled with self-hatred, regretting having fallen into this addiction.

I didn’t sleep until after 7 this morning, and then only for an hour. The tired from lack of sleep adds to the hopelessness of the craving. I have tried to take every thought captive, to speak truth to my heart, no matter what my body has been telling me.

God is good. He has carried me this far. He is not suddenly going to fail me or abandon me.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5, NAS Bible)

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NAS Bible)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9, NAS Bible)

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NAS Bible)

And the good news for today, if you are struggling like I am, is that He is still good! He is not going to turn His back on you or deny you. He loves you so much and is willing to go into the miry pit of whatever struggle you are facing to walk with you. You can not escape Him! How do I know? Because He tells us that repeatedly in His Word. Try reading Psalm 139 (especially verses 7-12) and notice how far His presence extends. There is absolutely nowhere you can go to run away or hide from Him! Nowhere!

Oh, Lord God, thank you that Your lovingkindness is everlasting. Thank You, that in the midst of our battles, we can know that you are faithful! Heavenly Father, when our bodies, minds or emotions are crying out for lies, sins, or poison that lead to death, I am asking, according to the words of Your Son, Jesus, to sanctify us in truth. Please, Father, wash our aching hearts in the truth of your word. Strengthen us through the promise of your presence and grant us the courage and strength that come from knowing you are with us…you will never leave nor forsake us. Thank You that in a world that is constantly changing, You are sure and Your ways are right! Help us each to walk in Your truth. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Never Home Alone

Sitting and watching Home Alone last night with my family, my youngest whispers, “Hey, Mom, you should write a devotional about this. Ya’ know, how God never leaves us behind.” And I smile thankful that this kid knows the very character of the God who came for him.

Home Alone, the movie about a child whose family travels to Paris without him, unintentionally forgetting him, seems almost magical. The boy does all kinds of amazing things he was forbidden by his parents. He delights in breaking the rules, almost seems to thrive in being independent of those who have grown him. In the end, however, he just wants the love of his family that has accidentally left him behind. 

We pause the movie and begin talking about the God who never forgets us, never forsakes us.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my  hands; your walls are continuously before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16, NASB) This is our God!  

Two days before Christmas, as we watch a movie about a child left behind, God reminds us that we are His children.  He will never forget us or leave us behind – His hands are the proof that we will never be forgotten or forsaken – never. Oh, as we celebrate the babe that was born and laid in a manger, may our hearts be afire with who that babe is – The Messiah, the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth, the Life. On his hands, my name (and your name) is inscribed in His heart.  My name – your name – was written with nails on the palms of his hands, a memorial in flesh to never be forgotten. 

“for He Himself has said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13:5b-6 NASB

This Christmas, as family and friends gather around the table to break bread and exchange tinsel wrapped packages, may our hearts be filled with the Gift that came as the Babe laid in a manger, and enables us to confidently say He will never leave us nor forsake us. 

May your Christmas be filled with the joy that comes only from the Presence of Jesus. 

To Whom Shall I Go?

Spinning the little Jesus ring around my right ring finger, my thoughts were of denial. Opening the window, I removed the ring from my finger and told Jesus that maybe, just maybe, I had been through enough. Maybe I needed to just walk away. As I prepared to send the ring sailing out the car window as a symbol of stepping away form my faith, my heart asked one last question – made one last statement: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69 ESV) And I knew that apart from the Lord, I had no hope. That without Jesus, I had no life or joy. HE is my everything, not children. 

And slowly, purposefully, I slipped the ring back on my finger, tears streaming and hope filling my heart. My resolve to follow Jesus and surrender the desire for children to him again steadied my aching heart.  As my husband drove the car, he took my hand and whispered, “I love you.” 

The weekend had been hard. We were at a marriage retreat when a close friend whispered her secret, “I’m pregnant again. And you know, I don’t even want it. What in the world do we need another one for? I am already so overwhelmed.” I know she didn’t mean any harm. She was just expressing her fears and concerns. She had no idea how heartbreaking it would be for a woman who desperately wanted children and couldn’t have them to hear. 

And then, the other woman announced she was expecting during a small group meeting. “I’m pregnant again. It’s what my husband wanted. I see no purpose in more.” Oh, another heartache. I, who had been denied the ability to have children, wanted so badly to be able to announce that God was doing something exciting.  Instead, two women who didn’t want children were blessed. 

My heart ached and my first response was to fall at the feet of Jesus. My husband and I  skipped the next session of the marriage retreat to sit together in our room, hearts aching and tears streaming. We prayed and spent time with Jesus together, but the pain still sliced our hearts. 

It was in that pain and grief that I spun the ring around my finger and wondered if walking with Jesus was worth it. That pain led me to an open car window and the desire to throw my Jesus ring out, along with my faith. But it was also in those moments of grief and sorrow that I discovered that the real blessing isn’t a child to be held in my arms, but that I have a Father who holds me in His. I have a Heavenly Father who is life and joy and whose love is sufficient, even in the hard things. He is a Comforter to sorrows and He is my stability during difficult times. 

You may wonder what happened to that Jesus ring. It was lost several years later, when a chubby fisted toddler that God had allowed me to birth (what an incredible gift!!) threw it out the car window while we were driving, but the Savior it represented holds true today. He has built my faith through the hard things and He has held me through the things that meant to destroy me.  

I am so thankful for that day when the words of Scripture coursed through my heart at my weakest moment. I am so grateful that He called me back to the truth when I forgot – there is no one else to turn to in the difficult, heart breaking days. Just only, always Jesus.

As you walk through the trials and difficulties of life, may you find that Jesus is enough, that God is present in your pain and that in Him is life. May He give you the faith to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69, ESV)

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (NASB)