Sunday, August 21, 2016

Addicted

In my job, nearly all of the clients with whom I work are struggling, or have struggled in the past, with addiction.  Though I've had my own bouts with it throughout my lifetime, I have often minimized my struggles as being somehow less than an "addiction" problem.  My two biggest Goliaths have always been smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol, both substances that are widely available and completely legal.  Most of my clients, on the other hand, doggedly battle against other foes.   Meth.  Heroine.  Cocaine.  You know, the "hard stuff." Until this last year I saw myself in a different boxing match than them, but what I've since discovered as I daily fight the urge to smoke, is that addiction is addiction and the struggle against one drug or habit is no less real than the other. Merriam Webster defines it as "a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)." Seems the heroine addict and nicotine addict aren't so different.  Both are addicted.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fervent - A Book Review



Fervent - A Book Review

Broken.  Disheveled.  Discouraged.  Barely clinging to hope.  Those are the words that encapsulate where I found myself as I picked up Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent.  I felt broken by the looming threat of marital dissolution.  Earlier in 2015, my husband and I separated and I found myself contemplating divorce as the year neared its cyclic close.  I looked in the mirror and I was emotionally and spiritually disheveled from the harsh beating inflicted by gusty winds of uncertainty and icy storms of confusion.  Discouragement over the future lurked along my horizon and I was barely clinging to hope. I sat alone in my small, one bedroom apartment and, through tears, opened the pages of one of the most life changing books I’ve read. Ever.

Immediately, I was incited against the dark forces that had held me captive for the last year.  Things about myself that I had forgotten began to resurface in my memories.  New words emerged.  Called.  Equipped.  Armed.  Empowered.  Only moments into the pages, a shift began to occur in my thinking and suddenly, I felt a surge of strength.  Of passion.  Of purpose.  Of anger.  How dare the enemy aim to rob me of not only my identity in Christ, but also all of those things for which Christ died on my behalf.  To hell with you, devil, became the new message ringing in my ears as I began to take captive every defeating and disheartening thought that had occupied my mind prior to opening the Spirit saturated pages of Shirer’s book.  As the words took root in my heart, I began to see that this was no ordinary volume.  It wasn’t written for the sweet child who prays innocently for a piece of candy after dinner.  Neither was it addressed to the prideful Pharisee type who offers up prayers of gratitude that he’s not like others.  It wasn’t even written to the one who already has a strong and faithful prayer life.  No, it was written to the worn out, desperate woman who’s on the edge of the seat of despair.  To the one who is about to give up.  To her who is considering quitting.  It was written to the defeated, the hopeless, and discouraged.  It was written to me.  So if that’s also you…if you’ve lost your fight, forgotten your position of victory, or feel your candle is about to burn out, allow me to recommend Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent. Reading it will leave you changed.  Hungry for victory. Angry over the enemy’s lies.  Fervent in prayer. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Just as I am

In the above scene, you hear four of my favorite words, and, I venture to say, four words that we all long to hear.  "Just as you are..."  Not, "after you do this," or "when you change this," but "just as you are."  In my meager 35 years of living, I've stumbled (literally) upon the profound truth that as human beings, one of our vital core needs is acceptance.  We desire to be who we are, as we are, but because of demands from parents as children, spouses or significant others in adulthood, teachers in school, or employers at work, we succumb to the temptation to remain hidden.  Crouched down in the shadow of interpersonal expectations, external demands, and the cultural climate of showiness, we are unknown to ourselves and to others. The curtain in front of the authentic self remains drawn until some crisis or distressing situation brings it center stage, curtains fully drawn back.  Plunged forth by heartache and cracks in life's foundation, one's true identify only surfaces when confronted by the anxiety of forever remaining the same. A new fear emerges - that of change.  Behind the various masks worn to appease the masses or small collection of friends, co-workers, and family, is a deeply complex, sometimes troubled, individual, with likes, dislikes, desires, aversions, and overall perceptions of the world around him.  The discovery of one's true self is seldom a journey of willingness and delight.  It's muddled with uncertainty and pebbled with difficulty.  Carl Rogers once described a patient's path in this way: "struggling to be himself, yet deathly afraid of being himself - striving to see his experience as it is, wanting to be that experience, and yet deeply fearful of the prospect..." Why go down that road when the less challenging course is settlement on the comforting planes of "I am who I am?"  Even God, in Exodus 3:14, said "I am who I am," so it seems a worthy example of imitation.  And it's true..I'm okay. Just as I am.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Redeemed

In recent months, I've become conscious and deeply appreciative of my life's small victories.  I'm no longer concerned with widespread and total deliverance, though I still seek that as an ultimate goal. While I struggle against the tide of addiction to nicotine, for instance, I'm learning to relish in the seemingly insignificant decision to leave my cigarettes behind when I go somewhere. Or, when I know I've smoked less today than I did yesterday, I recognize that as a baby step towards quitting completely.  Today, I went to exercise instead of sitting on my patio with a good book and smoke. Although I enjoyed one upon my return, I'm cognizant of the very decision to initially delay it and I celebrate that. I've spent ample time beating myself up for having started again after quitting five years ago, but I'm discovering that this internal berating serves me not. It leaves me feeling defeated, condemned, guilty, and lacking in motivation to keep trying at all.  In response to such feelings, I've found that it's easy to settle into the idea that our circumstances are hopeless, but what this does more than anything else is let us off the hook.  We don't really want to change our behavior, and we haven't yet entered the stage of ambivalence, so we sink into a despondency that creates a disengagement to the battle. Why try? I'll never quit anyway. It's too hard.  I'm not strong enough. Sound familiar?  I've spoken these self-defeating words countless times in weeks passed as I've stood on the front lines of the war against my own temptations and addictions.  Interestingly, in my work, I often find myself guiding clients out of this dark pit and onto paths of self acceptance, onward movement, and ultimately positive inner growth.  Many of their experiences and struggles mirror my own, yet I find that the same compassion and generosity with which I counsel them, I frequently withhold from myself.  I'm working on that, and as I do, I'm discovering that our stories of heartache and pain and bad decisions are not stories of those things at all.  They are stories of redemption and we are the redeemed. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

All of Me

In the last few months, I've undergone a whirlwind of transformation.  Back in August, I moved out of my house.  Out of my marriage.  Out of the only life I've known for the last 10 years.  Separated from my husband by mutual lies and deception, brokenness and despair, I embarked on a journey marked with anguishing heartbreak, hard hearted rebellion, humble submission, and, ultimately, beautiful restoration.  My first step through this unknown and unfamiliar door, I began searching for a self who I didn't even know was there.  In the world of the human psyche, we all have what is known as a "lost self," a "false self," and a "disowned self," each one formed during the earliest stages of our existence.  Dr. Harville Hendrix defines the lost self as "those parts of your being that you had to repress because of the demands of society," the false self as "the facade that you erected in order to fill the void created by this repression and by a lack of adequate nurturing," and the disowned self as "the negative parts of your false self that met with disapproval and were therefore denied."  What I have since discovered in unearthing each aspect that comprises my whole self is the darkness of my own heart, my overwhelming propensity for sin, and the amazing grace of a loving Creator who knows about it all.   He truly loves me.  All of me.   

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It's Okay

For as long as I can remember, I've been terrified of making mistakes so to rectify the wrong thought patterns I've had towards them, I recently embarked on a journey of embracing them.  Ordinarily this would be healthy and beneficial, but what I've found myself doing goes beyond hugging my errors close and looking for growth opportunities within them; it seems I've been purposing to make them.  I didn't just decide that I would learn from them if I unknowingly made them; I deliberately and voluntarily put myself in situations where it was inevitable that I would make them.  The results? Sleepless nights and irritable bowel syndrome. Don't try this at home.
www.notable-quotes.com
I'm still working to find my elusive balance and I hope I connect with it soon because the stakes have gotten too high and the internal conflicts are nearly overpowering.  In the last few days especially, it has taken all of my energy just to maintain steady breathing.  In the wake of my latest and greatest misstep yet, I'm discovering the underlying reasons for my recent risky behavior.  It's not that I really want to do the wrong thing...I've simply been testing my Father to find out how He will respond.  Will He yell at me? Beat me down with His wrath? Call me names and send me packing down a path of guilt and shame? Even knowing the Bible as well as I do and after walking with Him for the last eight years, I honestly didn't know.  All of us develop an image or idea of God that is based on something or someone else in our life and until we get to know God for who He actually is, we perceive Him symbolically through the being of another.  Most of us formulate this symbol during childhood, but for others it comes later.  Whenever it arrives, the time will invariably follow when it must be dismantled and reconstructed based on the reality of His true nature.  Here's what I've learned so far:

1. He is not mad at me when I mess up
2. I'm going to make mistakes with or without trying to make them. No need for added effort.
3. When I do make a mistake, He responds with it's okay.  I love you and you are mine.  Call out to me and I will help you work through this. 
4. His response feels so odd. But I like it.  
5. It really is going to be okay. 

Next step...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Perfectly Imperfect

I am free from the bondage of "can" and "cannot"...I have now entered into a realm of "want" and "do not want".. which makes choosing my Father's will far more desirable than it ever was while shackled in the chains of rules and dogmatic thinking.  I understand fully that I don't have to select His plan.  After giving it a go on my own, I've discovered that I want to choose His plan. I am no longer bound by the rigidity of absolutes like "must" and "should," nor does the catastrophizing over mistakes of which I'm accustomed suit me any longer.  Slips and miscalculations will not end me; instead, they will add beautiful and candescent color to my journey's canvas and will serve to grow me.  I am liberated to enter into all of life's activities untamed, wildly curious, and completely free to be me.  Mishaps are not only welcome, they are encouraged because from them, I will learn more reasonably who I am and why I'm here.  So far, I know well only these things:

1. I am not perfect
2. That's okay. 

Next step...