abuse

Holding My Truth Close (for now)

I know, it’s been a while. It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything other than a few journal pages here and there. Life has brought about so many changes this past year – getting settled in Louisville, finding a church that serves a diverse population and seeks to live pure love in our community, seeing relationships damaged and smoothed over but still seeking healing, working in a job that almost crushed my soul, finding a job that is a good fit and feeds my soul, building new friendships and finding ‘my people’, having friendships strained and tested as we move toward different world views in this ever-changing political climate, realizing that as much as I want to be loving and open I am really scared and selfish, watching tragedy hit my small circle and having our lives turned upside down.

These are all important topics, worthy of writing and sharing. Love, abuse, betrayal, forgiveness, social justice, racism, truth, lies, spirituality, boundaries, passion, purpose, friendship, reconciliation, depression, suicide, mourning, healing, joy, service, and community. Valuable lessons learned, our hearts have grown and we will never be the same. But I can’t write about any of that. Not yet, anyhow. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write my truth, the truth that is blossoming in my heart through the lessons I have learned with family, friends, fellow lovers of Christ, my community, and those with whom my broken heart is grieving. But to share these stories, to share MY story, is complicated. To share my truth involves sharing other people’s truths as well, for they are all connected. And I haven’t quite figured out how to share my truth without betraying another’s truth. So until I figure out how to navigate those waters, I have decided to write about something else. 

To enter back into the world of writing, and in many ways, the world in general, I am going to write about my Next Big Adventure. This life in Louisville has offered us some new opportunities, and consequently I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. A three-week trip around the world – one week in Paris, one week in southern Germany, and one week in India. And I want to share it with you. It’s going to be a whirlwind trip, but I will try to write as I have time. Come with me – Adventure is out there!

 

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He Rescues and Restores Us From a Hopeless Place

Time after time, he rescued me from hopelessness: abuse, infertility, broken marriage, prodigal child, loss of community, broken relationships, unfulfilled dreams
God answered and came to my rescue when I didn’t even know to cry out.

Part of finding your dream/passion/calling is to look at where you have been and what you have learned. In my last post I talked about a process called Creating a Life Plan from Donald Miller’s Storyline. The assignment was to list your ‘major life turns’ – those events that changed your life from that point on. So yesterday on the plane from Boston to Baltimore (a short flight), I began listing those events, and then labeling them positive or negative, and weighing them with a number from 1-10. On the videos for the curriculum, Miller state that if you are forty years old you would likely have about 15 events. He also confesses on the training video that he is 42 and has 37 events, while Shauna Neiquist, the other participant in the video, has 8. I identified twenty-seven.

First, I listed each event, with a short description. I then labeled the event as a positive or negative turn, and gave it a number from 1 to 10. Then, on the next leg of my flight from Baltimore to Louisville, I placed each event on the timelime of my life.

+ Positive turns

_____I_________I______I__>>>>>

– Negative turns

 

I had to do this a couple of times, because I hadn’t written the events chronologically, I just wrote about them as they came to mind. To simplify it for me, I made a timeline for each decade of my life, then transfered them onto one major timeline. It just helped me to organize things better.

As I started plotting the events onto my final timeline, something became very apparent.

For most negative turns, there was a redemptive positive turn. When events in my childhood caused shame or brokeness, there was a person who showed love or gave me value. When our marriage fell apart, we found a great counselor and were able to confide in friends that became like family. When times were tough with my oldest son, it strengthened our marriage because if forced us to really communicate and become a team. When broken friendships and family relationships ravaged my soul, I found healing with skilled counselors and healthy relationships. There are countless examples like this, and I had not seen the thread of rescue and restoration until I plotted these events on my timeline.

The last part of this module is to reflect on your timeline and see if you can identify a life theme. Here is what I wrote in my notes:

Whenever there was a low, or a time of hurt and pain, or a great loss, there was also a great RESCUE. A source of help, redemption, healing, restoration. During times of trouble, God provided a way out.

Restoration

Rescue

Hope from despair, hopelessness

Time after time, God rescued me from a hopeless place: abuse, infertility, broken marriage, lost and wandering child, loss of community, broken relationships, unfulfilled dreams

God answered and came to my rescue when I didn’t even know to call out.

I think I found my life theme for this season of my life:

He rescues and restores us from a hopeless place

As part of Dare to Dream: Finding Your Dream (Again), I am completing Donald Miller’s Storyline process of Creating a Life Plan. (this is meant to be done over a month’s time, but I am doing it in four days so that I can complete it before the Storyline Conference) Note: I have been through this process before. It would not be a good thing to rush through it your first time. 

The Next Step (in Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering)

What would the world be missing if you did not tell your beautiful story?

This is part two of exploring the importance attaching meaning to our suffering. In Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering – the Most Important Step, I described a process that I went through in leadership training in which we looked at the significant events and experiences in our lives, positive and negative, and then thought about the lessons which learned from these events. We shared our stories with one another, and learned there is power in sharing your story.

The last part of the exercise was the most important. We were asked to look again at the quilt that represented the story of our lives . We were then given more squares of all colors. Drawing from the story of our lives, we were asked to take the lessons we learned from each event and circumstance, whether we considered it positive or negative. We considered those lessons and what they might mean in the overall purpose for our lives. We took those last quilt squares and brainstormed what interests, projects, careers, or ministries might be born from the story of our lives so far. We were asked to fill up the last few rows of the quilt.

Some examples from my quilt:

  • I suffered multiple miscarriages early in our marriage. That gave me a heart for women who have had miscarriages and are dealing with infertility. In general, it also gave me a heart for people who are hurting. This translated into working with our support group for moms at church and eventually into my job as a hospice nurse.
  • We had some serious struggles early in our marriage and came very close to divorcing. As a result, we have shared our story numerous times in public and in private, so that couples going through difficult times would know they are not alone, and also to help them have hope that marriages can be healed even when it seems like things are hopeless.
  • My younger sister died in a car accident when I was newly married. She was 19 years old, four years younger than myself. As an adult, I missed having a sister to share my life with, to be an aunt to my children. I think that this made me much more purposeful in my friendships with other women, and I gathered a circle of women friends who were like sisters. Once again, this loss of life also prepared me for becoming a hospice nurse.
  • Maybe you experienced some sort of abuse as a child. That experience might move you to learn how to be a better parent and do things differently. Or you may be the person who can easily pick out hurting kids, and you make it a point come alongside them to provide encouragement and a safe place. You may choose a career such as nursing, counseling, or social work, to help others who have been abused to find hope and healing.

Those are just a few examples of how reframing those negative events helps to give those moments or seasons of suffering meaning and purpose. This does not mean denying the pain or hurt that resulted from negative events or circumstances. It simply involves searching out a reason for the suffering and gleaning any lessons that might be learned. Redeeming our suffering by attaching meaning to it is a crucial step in finding your dream (again).

It becomes increasingly clear that events and circumstances in our lives are connected, even though it might not be obvious at first. This exercise helps to put all of the pieces together to tell the story of our lives – where you have been and, more importantly, where you are going.

What would the world be missing if you did not tell your beautiful story?

Ali Eminov "Girls of Sudam" The Quilted Conscience Project

Ali Eminov “Girls of Sudam” The Quilted Conscience Project

 

Excuse Me, I Think I’ve Lost My Passion

It seems as if everyone around us is living their dream or pursuing their passion. It’s everywhere, and with the prevalence of social media, even more so. The pressure to live interesting lives, have thrilling adventures, and at the  ‘have it all together’ is tremendous. In just one our, I have seen the following on my Facebook and Instagram feeds:  many of my friends are writing for the #write31days challenge; three of my acquaintances just published their first magazine articles; two friends are writing their first book; one friend posted an amazing graphic that she designed herself; another friend is starting a health and fitness program for young kids; and yet another is photographing Yosemite. I could go on and on, but I don’t have to. You can see it yourself in your own corner of the world.

sea-beach-holiday-vacation

happy familymountain climbing

 

But what if our dream, our passion, is dead? Or numb? Or hidden away so deep, we can’t even figure out how to find it? One dear reader, responding to the questions “What gives your life meaning? What are you passionate about?” responded, “How weird is it that I have no earthly idea?”

Oh, dear reader.  It is not so weird. I think these questions can elude us at many times in our lives. Particularly if you have set aside your own dreams for a season. A student finishing school. A mom with three kids under age four. An executive working 60-80 hours a week to build a career. A caregiver who has spent years caring for a loved one. One who has gone through great loss due to death of a loved one or a divorce and has to find a new normal. A woman in her fifties whose children are in their twenties and have left home. A victim or verbal or physical abuse who was made to feel that they were nothing and their feelings or dreams didn’t matter.

Maybe we have become too busy to dream. Maybe we have set our passions aside for a time to tend to more urgent needs. Maybe we have damaged so much by life crisis or hurtful relationships that we have shut down, including that part of our hearts that feels passion and dreams big dreams. If we are numb to feeling passion, sometimes it might take a while for our hearts to wake up again.

It’s time to get out your notebook again and do some writing. If you haven’t been writing the answers to these questions, I challenge you to try it. There is something about not only thinking about each question, but actually writing down each answer. Seeing it in black and white, going through the physical motions of typing out the answers, or  better yet, taking pen to paper – it reaches a different part of our brain, and adds another dimension to our processing.

paper pen

Today’s journaling questions:

What prevents you from dreaming, or finding your passion?

What is your current life station, and does that help or hinder you in finding your dream?

What negative relationships or life experiences keep you from finding your passion or your dream?

What takes up most of your time – work, children, school?

What might be distractions from pursuing finding your dream or passion? work, television, internet?