24 December 2013

I find your lack of faith...disturbing

(Well, no, not really.  But it was too good of a quote to pass up :)).

Was talking with the SU last night.  Long story somewhat shorter, my mom gave me a new laptop about halfway through my Master's degree.  It is a 17-inch Dell with Windows 8.  I got a lot of use out of it for the applications I needed (thanks, Mom!)

The SU has been looking to start up his music again - an activity I heartily encourage.  His old laptop will no longer handle the requirements for the software he uses.  After thinking about it, I made him a present a month or so ago of my laptop and told him I believed in him and missed his music. He actually cried.

Since then, he has asked me/offered me about ten times if I want him to slick his old laptop and give it to me.  I have a laptop from previous and it works fine for me and I keep telling him no, that someday I want a tablet but that's a "someday" gift.  Last night he asked me AGAIN about the laptop and I got a little bit upset.  I told him giving my laptop to him was a gift with no strings and no requirement to somehow make it equal so he needed to accept it and stop trying to compartmentalize it in a way he could understand and be comfortable with.  Then I said that was also the problem he had with Jesus.  Jesus wants to give him a gift and Mike doesn't understand how he can be unconditionally loved so he keeps looking at Jesus' gifts through the Economy of The Spousal Unit and it keeps not making sense.

SU:  "There you go again, sounding like Jesus."
Me:  "Is that a bad thing?"
SU:  "No, but it's...unnerving."
Me:  "Why is it unnerving?"
SU:  "Because it keeps making me look at things I don't want to look at."

So there you have it, folks!  I am unnerving :).


17 December 2013

Hello again

Hello again...

First off, the extraordinarily good :


I am done with my Master's degree.  Done, done, done!  Final GPA is 3.9 and change.  (I'm the one on the left in the first row, BTW).  This is most of our Capstone group posing before we walked.  I now get to come home every night instead of having to go to class from 6pm-9pm two nights a week :).

There was some slight sadness in two areas.  One was my dad.  He died in 2007 the semester before I received my BS.  He had always wanted me to go back to school and was so excited that I had.  I missed him being there Saturday.

The other was my mom.  She made it out to the ceremony from SoCal but this will probably be the last trip she makes.  She was recently diagnosed with cortical atrophy which is a type of dementia.  Basically, her brain is shrinking and parts of it are dying.  I had noticed a definite change in her ability to use and retain language before (talking to her on the phone) but it was hard to see the physical changes that have taken over as well.  She has issues with balance and was very frail and easily fatigued.  She stares off into space because she forgets what she is saying.  I took her to Target at one point on Friday per her request.  As we were going down an aisle, she looked at me and asked, "Where are we?"  It was all I could do not to tear up and instead just remind her we were in Target to pick up the things she had asked for.  From what I can tell, she had a good weekend, though, and that is what was most important.

As far as the other thing that's been going on...still married.

I have spent a lot of time over this question and what it basically boils down to is that God is still telling me to stay.  I have had my moments of "Really?  I mean, really?" but that is the gist of it.  As I prayed and talked with God about it, He (as usual) dropped in some teaching moments.  He seems to really like using Brennan Manning's books for that.

I'm currently reading "The Importance of Being Foolish:  How to Think Like Jesus".  I had already had a lesson in Brennan's concept of "nowhere" equaling "now/here" - being present in the moment and not looking back to yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.  Taking that concept, I began asking God to help me with what I needed today.  Sometimes I had specific things I would ask for - the ability to love my husband, to not sit in class and assume he would be blind drunk when I got home and spend all class time stewing about it.  I'd ask for things for my husband for that day.  Sometimes I'd just say, 'Hey, I don't know what to ask for with this day.  You know what I need.  Can you  help me out here?"

Anyway, after the Appointment from Hell, the first thing God hit me with is "security" - specifically, where am I seeking my security?  Answer:  my security was becoming dependent on the SU's state of sobriety each day.  Can't do that.  My security has to come from God and nothing else.  He is the constant and replacing him with something else is only going to cause disappointment.  Manning talks about authentic faith and how it can't be separated from a readiness to act on God's word.  Basically if I have faith - honestly have active, present faith - I can't NOT do what God asks me to do when he asks me to do it.  In this case, stay married and love my husband.  Sure, I can say no because, after all, we have free will.  But then my faith is not active and authentic because I am not acting on God's word in the places and with the people he asks me to.  In all those situations, God MUST be my security.  Not the SU's sobriety, not whether he (and/or I) had a good day or not or anything else.  It has to be God.

In his book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller says "Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment.  Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition."  Yeah...and one I'm finding needs to be exercised daily...hourly...second by second sometimes.

The other thing God showed me was something that really caused me to start looking at the Spousal Unit in a different way.  Manning is talking about Jesus' compassion and he first brings up the story of the woman caught in adultery, pointing out that she was not given a list of things to complete, she wasn't asked to say she was sorry, et cetera.  Jesus simply told her to go and sin no more (and we don't even know if she did that!).

He follows that with a quote from Marc Oraison:  "To be loved is to be looked at in such a manner that the reality of recognition is disclosed" and then discusses Peter's betrayal of Jesus.  Where I stopped dead was where Manning points out that Jesus watches Peter doing this and quotes the verse that says after the third denial "the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:61).  Manning goes on to say:

"In that look, the reality of recognition is disclosed.  Peter knows that no one has ever loved him as Jesus does.  The man whom he has confessed as the Christ, the Son of the living God, looks into his eyes, sees the transparent terror there, watches him act out the dreadful drama of his security addiction, and loves him."  (emphasis mine)

I realized reading that how I have not been looking at my husband and recognizing him - the person Jesus sees.  I have been seeing an alcoholic who needs to be changed.  Who needs Jesus, sure, but more needs to be changed into what works for me.  That isn't right.  I have been concentrating on the behaviors I don't want and ignoring the person.  I have ignored my husband's "transparent terror" as he plays out his own addictions.  I have seen him as obstinant and selfish - not afraid.  Not damaged.  Not struggling with hurts and fears that go back decades.  I have wanted my husband back...but in a form that is pleasing to me and haven't really checked with God to say, hey, help me support what you want him to be.  Help me to see him and to let him know he is loved and accepted with all his faults and issues.

"To be compassionate is to understand the conflicts other people have created in themselves without getting caught up in their poignant drama; you realize your compassion will be most effective if you stay centered in loving acceptance." - Manning

I really kind of missed the acceptance part, I think.  To truly love my husband, I have to accept him for who he is NOW and not what I want him to be/think he should be.  He may never be what I think he should be or will be entirely comfortable with but that isn't really the point.  I need to learn to love him and accept him the same way Jesus did Peter so that the Spousal Unit can have a clearer view, a clearer way to Jesus.  Doesn't mean I'm not going to still have really bad days probably but that goes back to where I find my security.

C.S. Lewis was right.  Prayer changes me.




16 November 2013

What Is My Task?

I haven't written anything for quite a while.  Mostly because there wasn't a whole lot to write about.  The ups and downs of my current situation are pretty much status quo.  The SU is still drinking and I am still caught up in the whole thing of trying to figure out what to do.

I guess the reason I'm writing now is things kind of reached a boiling point this week.  There has been some scattered ugliness on both sides (is that like scattered showers?) and it came to a head.  For my part, I think I pretty much tramped over the line of honesty/grace into verbally going for the jugular.  It wasn't pretty and I'm not proud of it but there it is.  There goes that Mother Theresa medal! :P

We ended up in counseling with Master Chief on Friday and he suggested a trial separation.  His point (and it is a valid one) is that we have been dancing this dance for six months now and nothing has changed.  The SU was already very angry over something at work and said that if we did a trial separation, we probably wouldn't get back together.  His point is "deal with it or don't".  Mine is that I need *something* to hang on to so I know he's at least trying.  But then, if you don't even have the "wanna" to want to try, I guess that is right out.

Basically, Master Chief says it comes down to me.  I can either (a) choose to live the way we are and live without expectation or hope it will change or I can (b) pull the plug and walk away.  Separate.  Divorce.  The SU is not likely to change any time in the near future and that is...pretty much that.

Had to leave the office because I was crying so hard and I figure the people at stoplights were wondering exactly what my problem was.

I just...don't know what to do.  I've asked for prayer from those who know about the situation and that I trust to help seek God's desire and not just my own.  I'll be honest.  Part of me thinks that finally walking away would be okay.  In fact, it would be a relief.  Yes, it would be hard being on my own after so many years but I could do it.

On the other hand, I know we do still love each other.  After we got home and were kind of gingerly moving around each other in that polite/kind way you do when you have no clue what to say, I asked the SU if I could ask him a question to clarify and we didn't have to talk about the session at all.  He said yes, I asked, and he answered.  On the heels of that, he said "I do love you".  Later, we ate dinner and watched TV just like we always do.  He reached over and held my hand throughout.

That's not to say that it is only those two things that make me believe he does love me.  It's a bedrock thing.  We've been together headings towards 25 years and I do know that he does love me in the midst of his depression and his addiction.

But what do I do?  That's the question I've been asking God.  I know that the "me desires", the praying as a means to an end, and the...searching for a sign that *this* is the moment, the turnaround have firmly established roots again despite God telling me that the sign is not the point; rather, it is the One who gives the sign.  So I am trying to look at myself and see my actions through an objective lens.  Have I been acting as God wants me to...

And why do I have that song "Do I stay or do I go now?" in my head?

My reading for my quiet time this morning was from Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust.  In it is he talking about "nowhere" as in now/here.  To be present in the moment instead of dreaming about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow.  Basically, the task, the moment, is what deserves our undivided attention.  Be what you are actually doing at the present moment - be the SU's wife...be Jesus only in that moment.  Gah.  How do I NOT think about all the hurts I've suffered?  How do I NOT pray with an eye towards a tomorrow where the SU and I might be free from this disease? And how does the moment turn into enough?

What I'm praying for is clarity and direction.  If anyone reads this blog and wants to join in that prayer, it is appreciated.  If the call of my Abba is for me to learn to live with and love the SU for who he is in this moment, then I need the ability and the courage to do so.  If I am to leave, then I'm basically going to need to be hit over the head with it.  At this point, I feel the former is more the call than the latter but it is going to be a hard road to walk.  I cannot latch on to one thing as a sign or precursor of what is to come.  I will (and have been) disappointed every time.

There is a story that Manning relates about the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and the night he had someone named Jim over for dinner.  Nhat Hanh was preparing to wash the dishes before serving tea and dessert:

So they finished dinner and Nhat Hanh said he would wash the dishes before getting the tea.  Jim offered to do the dishes, while Nhat Hanh was preparing the tea, but Nhat Hanh said, "I am not sure you know how to wash dishes."  Jim laughed at him and said, "Of course I know how to wash dishes.  I've been doing it all my life."  "No," the monk said, "you would have been washing dishes in order to have your tea and dessert.  That is not the way to wash dishes.  You must wash dishes to wash dishes."

The task at hand and nothing more.  So what is my task?

21 September 2013

Change is good

There are days I read something during my study time that I just know is going to come back to me later.  Last week it was this from Henri Nouwen:

"But God's forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking.  It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life.  It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy and impractical.  It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments.  Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive."

Read it Wednesday and it showed up again on Saturday.  Saturday was supposed to be a date night for me and the SU.  It was to celebrate my new job and also a makeup for the Anniversary from Hell when he showed up totally drunk at the restaurant.  I specifically asked him to not make Saturday a repeat of AfH.

Well, it was a nice thought.  Long story short, he was pretty drunk by the time we were supposed to get ready to go.  I told him that I would try an evening with him but that I would walk home if he hit the behavior button.  I also told him that if he was not where he needed/wanted to be, then we could postpone and I would (oy vey!) not be angry.

At first, he was really angry and told me HE was going to go out to dinner and a movie even if I wouldn't join him.  He calmed down after a bit and admitted he wasn't as "sober as he would like to be" and he didn't want me walking home.  He went and laid down on the bed and I sat next to him for a little while before he said he wanted to sleep.  I said, okay, and then kissed him and told him I forgave him.  Which, dude, so NOT my response several months ago.  I didn't really even consciously consider it.  It just kinda...happened.

Of course, I sat in the living room and cried a little bit because it's another hurt in a series of hurts.  Yet I can't let that take over and rule me.  I have to keep going back to God for sustenance and the strength to keep loving him and keep trying.  When I went to bed, he woke up and apologized again.  I told him he'd already been forgiven.

The interesting thing that seems to have come out of this is that he is talking to me more about God than he has.  I've basically been witnessing to my husband on a regular basis.  We just had another conversation at 3 o'clock this morning when I got up and found him listening to a sermon on Jesus on the computer.  He told me he wants to be a "better man" for me.  When I asked what his definition of a "better man" is, he responded, "Less drinking.  More Jesus."  I thought that was good and told him that he has the ability to make that happen.

When we talk, we can talk for a while until he gets...angry.  Not at me, but at God and asks if we can stop for now.  When we talked this morning, I pointed out to him how I have changed over the past months and said that God can do the same for him.  He has to be able to accept acceptance, though, and let God love him as he is because he will never be what he thinks he should be.  And he also has to give over his desire for answers to God (the same way I have had to).  It was at that point he asked to stop the conversation so we went back to bed.

But he's talking to me...

"God loves in us what is not yet...since love is what helps us emerge from our darkness and draws us to the light.  And this is such a fine thing to do that God invites us to do the same." - Carlo Carretto

31 August 2013

Whose will is it anyway?

1 Peter 4:19:  So if you are suffering according to God's will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you."

The SU is gone for the entire Labor Day weekend.  He's visiting his father and learning what his dad wants of him as executor of his will.  I'm here at home and, honestly, kind of enjoying the time alone.

Had an individual session with our therapist, K, yesterday.  Although he and I have made the decision that I don't need to see him regularly since I've made my choices about my marriage and am now working on living them, I can still see him when I feel I need to, and I've been feeling like I need a bit of a tune-up to make sure I'm still reacting and acting as I should.

The one thing I really hate is that he can always make me cry.  I give K crap about it and I'm sure that's partially a deflecting mechanism on my part since I don't like to cry in front of people (not that I haven't, you understand, I just don't like to).  He says I cry because I need to - because I need to grieve and I need the catharsis.  He says I need to grieve the things that are gone - the SU the way he was, what our marriage is not and may not ever be, my aloneness versus having a partner, and so on.  I've cried over parts of these things but I've never grieved them as deaths and he says that's what I need to do.

What started it was when we talked about (again) how, even though I am married, I am functionally alone in a lot of important ways because my spouse is selfish and self-centered in his own dysfunctionalism and alcoholism.  He asked if I would stay alone if the SU dies.  I told him that, yes, I would for quite a long time if not forever.  K had a couple of responses to that:

- it would be difficult/a new experience for me to be with someone new who treats me like a priority whereas right now I am not being treated as such.

- and the one that started the tears going was K's understanding of the whole dichotomy that exists between the husband I knew and the one I have now.  I said (and K agrees) that the SU has been a very important part of my life, a hero in many respects.  He taught me a lot about functional versus dysfunctional behavior early in our marriage when my only previous examples had been my parents (oh boy!).  He prayed and waited for me for ten years to get my act together and come back to God.  He has been instrumental in my job search, cheering me on, looking at job descriptions that I forward him and saying things like, "No, don't apply for this one.  It's beneath you and your abilities."  He has supported my slog towards my Master's degree (December 14!  Yay!).  All that is now mixed with someone whose main characteristics now include selfishness and emotional abandonment.  BUT there is still that other side of the SU and the loss of that would be devastating - even more so because the person in question is choosing his own destruction.

I told K how I hate watching alcohol carve itself into my husband and he likened it to watching the progression of a terminal illness.  Cue total and complete waterworks because, yeah, that's it in a nutshell.  I see more and more physical issues that tell me the SU's body is not able to deal with what he's handing it.  I see more and more life draining away each day and watching that is probably the worst experience of my life.

That led to something I don't ever really admit to out loud - that sometimes I think it would be easier if the SU just...did it fast instead of this slow, passive suicide.  I do not want him to die by any stretch of the imagination.  As I've written about, my absolute hope is for restoration and life for him but, sometimes, the thought that all this would be over is there.  K gets it.  He likened it to someone with cancer.  You know they are in pain and you want them to live, want them to get better, but at the same time, you want them (and yourself) to be free from pain as well.  I told him it feels like I am an unwilling witness to an execution.  I am made to watch.  It is not my choice.  And it hurts.  So much.  Nouwen said that anyone who enters into any degree of discipleship with Christ not only doesn't avoid the world's pain but penetrates into its center and I feel like I'm there.

I have now spent parts of last night and this morning being all teary and crying (thanks, K!).  This morning out on the patio, I spent some time with God and looked back over the past few days of my journaling.  There were two verses I wrote down - 1 John 5:14-15 and Mark 11:24.  When I went to look at the commentary, what it stressed was that there are two things that need to be a part of prayer: (a) ask in faith and (b) always add a particular qualifying statement which is "nevertheless, thy will be done".  This is because prayer is petition and asking for God's will is to submit both myself and my requests, wants, hopes, dreams, et cetera to God.  It doesn't mean I shouldn't bring all that to God but it does mean that I need to pray for them to be answered according to his will and not mine.

Brennan Manning, the author of The Ragamuffin Gospel (and also an alcoholic) points out that "compassion becomes a tad easier if you are conscientious in taking your own inventory rather than someone else's."

As I read back over the verses and commentary last night, I found myself wondering if, in all my prayers for the SU, I had remembered to turn them over to God and ask that his will be done versus what I wanted to see happen and...I'm not sure.  Did I submit or did I just give God a laundry list in the nicest, most respectful way?  I certainly believe God wants to see the SU restored and full of true life and that those are good things to pray for.  But if I just toss them out there and do not submit myself and what I want to God's will, I don't think I will be open to how God may go about that because I haven't given up how I want the story to end.  Just because I'm reasonably sure what I'm praying is what he would want also doesn't mean it's going to go according to my plan - and I might miss something he's doing if I stick to my plan and don't give it up to be part of his.  And what appears to be my part in it are the thoughts and actions God keeps leading me back to:  Be obedient.  Be faithful.  Love.  Love furiously.  Be Jesus.  Don't miss now.

AA's Big Book says, "This was our course.  We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.  Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too.  We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, piety and patience that we would a cheerfully grant a sick friend.  When a person offended, we said to ourselves, 'This is a sick man.  How can I be helpful to him?  God, save me from being angry.  Thy will be done'."


26 August 2013

WWTCHD?

He was sober when I got home late Saturday afternoon.  He did drink Saturday night but it was more...mellow.  Not just pounding it down.

The "fun" came Sunday morning.  I was digging in our office closet where I keep my extra purses.  The SU was in the shower.  When I finally found the one I wanted, I yanked on it and an empty vodka bottle came tumbling out with it.  I swear it was like there was suddenly a caption over my head and it read, "So, what are you going to do?"

My thoughts rewound to the woman caught in sin.  Specifically, the part where Jesus did not require her to say she was sorry and wouldn't do it again or make her come up with some kind of promise or list of things she would do to atone.  He just forgave her.

So I threw the bottle in the trash, didn't say a word, and went to church with my husband.

24 August 2013

Moving Beyond Fear, Part 2

"Jesus was not the least bit confident that He would be spared suffering.  He knew that suffering was necessary.  What He was confident of was vindication.  Our hope, our acceptance of the invitation to the banquet is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering.  Rather, it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering." - Manning

And here we are again back at the fish-slapping dance :).  Like a lot of people, I am enamored of the quick fix, the miracle cure, because then I will not have to endure suffering.  Part of the anger at the Spousal Unit is because he is making me suffer with his alcoholism.  The whole cloth of "It's not fair!" is there to wrap myself up in and I can grumble to God while feeling safe, snug and warm any time I want.

But...was it fair for Jesus to go to the cross and suffer incredible pain and humiliation for the sins of all including those like me who weren't even born yet?  No.  But he did and he did it in love, obedience and faith.  Who am I to think my circumstances are so special that I shouldn't have to suffer or I shouldn't experience pain.  If anyone understands pain and grief, it is Abba.

It is the ugly part of me that feels "righteous" anger at the SU for taking me on this unpleasant journey along with him.  I don't want to be here because it hurts and there is that weird undercurrent to Christianity that says God should be happyfuntimes!  He suffered so we didn't have to, right?  Um, no.  Romans talks about suffering as does 2 Corinthians.  We are to find our comfort in Christ.  Romans 3:3-5 says we glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance which leads to character which leads to hope.  And that hope "does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

But, holy cow, are there days I'm really tired of character growth :).

Manning says that, in Jesus, "freedom from fear empowers us to let go of the desire to appear good, so that we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are".  God's love is outrageous and he wants us to behave in that same, outrageous way towards others.  With the SU, it means I must give up my fear and love him in that manner even in the midst of his alcoholism.  I need to make that commitment and act as Jesus did with the woman caught in sin.  He didn't ask for her to apologize or give him a list of behaviors that truly showed she had repented and would continue to do so in the future.  He just forgave her.  That's...one heck of a standard to try and meet.

"What is the story of my priesthood?  It is the story of an unfaithful person through whom God continues to work!"

I'm not going to be perfect.  I'm not going to hit the bar every time.  But if I live my life in the belief of the hope, confidence and love found in Jesus rather than because I just "believe", the fear will depart and I will have Jesus as my companion in this. Better trade. Way better trade.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning wrote a chapter called "The Second Call".  In it, he talks about how a lot of Christians from between thirty to sixty are experiencing a call from Jesus to go on a journey that is a serious look at the nature/quality of our faith and is a summons to a deeper and more mature commitment:

"And the Lord is now calling me a second time, affirming me, enabling me, challenging me all the way into fullness of faith, hope, and love in the power of his Holy Spirit.  Ignorant, weak, sinful person that I am, with easy rationalizations for my sinful behavior, I am being told anew in the unmistakable language of love, 'I am with you.  I am for you.  I am in you.  I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself'."

I had to stop and think at that last sentence.  There is such a freedom in that - especially when you've grown up with a performance orientation outlook.  God already knows there are times I am going to fail.  He just wants me to get back up on the horse, to come after him and ask him - implore him - to continue to develop perseverance and character in me.  He wants me to push past my self-made barriers and come to him knowing I've failed or knowing I've tried to do it on my own and ask him to continue to change me and work through me so my fear can be replaced by the things of God instead of the rags of my own works or my own timidity.

I am limited.  He is not.

Today is a hard day.  I've left the house not knowing what I will find when I get back.  I may find the SU sober, relatively sober, or completely passed out.  He will not offer or promise anything in that area - he says he's broken too many promises already.  My choice is to stay home because of fear of what might happen or go ahead and go out like I'd been planning.  Both Nouwen and Manning point out in the story of the prodigal son that we are called to be the father in the story, who welcomed his son home.  Period.  I need to welcome the Spousal Unit exactly as he is, where he is if I am to keep being Jesus to him.

"Faithfulness requires the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, and the readiness to risk failure throughout our lives."

Leaving fear for faithfulness is hard.  I am tired.  My feelings are all about me and how I don't want to live in this place.  Yet I know I am called to love and trust in Jesus - not my feelings.  It's a constant struggle - more since God has shown me places where I still fear and where I still try to control what is happening.  My prayer is that I will continue to keep fighting to give up that control.

Am I ready to risk everything - even that the SU may never choose sobriety?  I can't honestly answer yes yet.  I would like to.  I have written in my journal about wanting to be reckless and fling myself off the metaphorical cliff but it is hard to risk when there is no visible reward.  But if there was, then I guess it wouldn't be risk. ( Today's "duh!" moment brought to you by The Cyber Hermit :)).  So I've been praying for peace today.  First it was the peace to walk about the door with no assurance as to what I'll find when I return.  Now it is peace to go through my day without fear and to love my husband no matter what and to find joy in my circumstances.

Let you know how it goes :)



21 August 2013

Moving Beyond Fear, part 1

You know, it's funny.  You pray to God about something and you know intellectually that, yes, he will answer that prayer.  Occasionally, however, getting that answer is like getting slapped in the face with a fish (Monty Python tm).



My readings and such have kind of revolved around fear - how it interferes and what should be in our lives in place of it.  I've been asking God to reveal to me where I still have fear and he definitely slapped me upside the head with it (my God is a tactile God :)).

I am afraid of many things but chief among them is failure.  That means failure of works done by my hands (no one else to blame), failure of things I have taken on that I should not have (but they are my responsibility now).  I have fear that the Spousal Unit will drink a huge amount today.  I have fear of his drinking problem, period.  That one continues to stick around like kudzu.  I have fear he will never stop drinking or that he will be unable to repair his relationships.  And, sometimes, my fear is that I will be left alone in all of this.

The first question God pointed out is to determine if I am living by Christ or by the law.  Am I looking to the one who cast out fear or to the law that gives pre-packaged responses of what I "should" do and how I "should" feel and forget the freedom I have in Jesus in whose love there is no room for fear (1 John 4:18).  To do that, though, I have to let go of "what if" and just plain "if" because they do nothing except create scenarios for my fear to reside in when Jesus should be my safe place in the midst of this crazy world.  He is the only experience truly worthy of being called "life" (Manning) and since he has already set me free, I should choose to remain free through living by faith (Galatians 5:1 and 3:11).

The other thing He pointed out was how I have never really considered the fact that Jesus might be proud of me, that I might make him smile or...happy.  What a concept.  But if he does delight in us, then why not?  If David danced for joy, then why not his descendant?  If I can feel joy, then why not the One who created me?  Strange concepts to someone who grew up in a very performance-oriented environment to think someone just loves you because they love you...

The next day's reading brought up 2 Cor 5:7 which says that I am to walk by faith and not by sight.  This has been a constant theme for me with the SU's alcoholism.  I pray a lot about remembering the fact that I am on God's timeline and not mine and that God has specifically told me not to try and create a resolution for the Spousal Unit - that if I keep looking for when he is going to act, I will miss it.  In thinking on that, I realized some of my responses to the SU about his drinking are very much responses based in fear.  Not that some of my responses and requests aren't reasonable but I do things like try to keep him around me because than I can be "assured" he isn't drinking.  In retrospect, that's kinda funny because, seriously, he's snuck alcohol into the house and drank.  He's drank copious amounts with me in the next room or right in front of me.  By trying to control where he is or what he does, I am not trusting God, my Abba, in this instance.  I am trying to influence my surroundings for what really only amounts to a momentary victory in the battle with his alcoholism.  And, really, what kind of victory except Pyrrhic?  It's all just an illusion meant to make me comfortable.

All this is really coming down to the same question God keeps putting in front of me:  do I love God enough to trust him and quit trying to offer him my attempts to be in control?  ('Cause I'm sure he's thinking, "Hey, nice thought.  But I keep telling you I've got this one.  Don't make me get out the fish again.").

"Faith means you want God and want to want nothing else." - Manning

That means (to me) that I have to want God and what God wants.  God wants the Spousal Unit to be sober but he doesn't necessarily want me sticking my nose in with my plans because my plans are full of "I want".  I ask God a lot to give me direction to work within his plan and not try to graft on my own.  Sometimes I think I need to remember that God's part for me in this may just be to sit down, shut up, and keep trying to be Jesus to my husband.

"Do I hear His word spoken to my heart, 'Shalom, be at peace, I understand'." - Manning

Sadly, no.  Not all the time.  What I have to move past is my acceptance of his understanding to the point I am comfortable with it, past the point of my feeling that if God truly understood, then the SU wouldn't still be drinking.  That, though, is my fallacy, my wrong thought, and my error.  In this, I unfortunately at times tend to echo Job when God asked Job where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth or if he's ever ordered the morning into being, et cetera.  My plans are as ashes.  They are a false sense of security that crumbles as soon as the vodka bottle comes out.  The God of the universe knows ever so much more than I do and sees ever so much more than I see.

So I'm now asking the God that has revealed these strongholds to tear them down, turn them to dust and to replace them with his wants and remember that I am not in control.  Security is in God and not my feeble machinations.  He is doing a work.  I know it.  I see bits and pieces of it.  I need to stop being impatient for the whole, bend my knee and submit to him.

It's all still very much a work in progress.

16 August 2013

Honesty

"The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith."

"Honesty simply asks if we are open, willing, and able to acknowledge this truth [that we are all rescued like Matthew the tax collector].  Honesty brings an end to pretense through a candid acknowledgement of our fragile humanity.  It is always unpleasant, and usually painful, and that is why I am not very good at it.  But to stand in the truth before God and one another has a unique reward.  It is the reward which a sense of reality always brings.  I know something extremely precious.  I am in touch with myself as I am."

                                                             --Brennan Manning

The first quote really seems to resonate with me but I can see it combined with the second one.  Honesty is essential to community and to an accurate perception of who I am in Christ - saved through grace and given everything by Christ Jesus - even my ability to write these words and know they are true.

Being honest means I cannot hide even though I want to.  Brennan is right in that I suck at it.  I would - and I think others would too - rather hide the unpleasant bits and assure each other falsely that everything is fine.  What does that do?  Allow me to wallow in my own misery and deny myself the support of my community.

We don't want people knowing our "stuff" and sometimes with good cause.   We've cautiously shared  something and been met with a Pharisaical blast in return.  Bonhoeffer wrote, "Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone in our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners."

All of us.  Not a one of us would have escaped judgment on our own.  And that is where the first quote comes back in.  Do I treat the Spousal Unit, my co-workers, my friends, et cetera as an outpouring of my faith?  Sad to say, no always.  Why not?  Because I don't want to.  Not liking someone or gossiping about someone's troubles is a way for me to feel better about mine - especially if I haven't shared them.  In that moment, as Manning says, there is a choice between being Jesus and being Caiaphas and I have chosen the latter.  I have chosen religion versus remembering that I am just as broken and live under the gospel of grace by grace.  "Authentic faith leads us to treat others with unconditional seriousness and to a loving reverence for the mystery of the human personality."

"Honesty before God requires the most fundamental risk of faith we can take: the risk that God is good, that God does love us unconditionally.  It is in taking this risk that we rediscover our dignity.  To bring that truth to ourselves, just as we are, to God, just as God is, is the most dignified thing we can do in this life." - Gerald May

God already knows what I try to hide from him or from others.  To be unflinchingly honest before God is to rediscover not just my dignity but who I am in him - someone who, through nothing she did, has been given an incredible gift: someone who understands my brokenness, my problems, my fears down to the molecular level and says, "My child, I love you.  Period.  I have given you a gospel of hurting people, of ones trapped in sin, of people disillusioned and depressed, all of whom had their lives changed when they were honest with Me."

05 August 2013

FNS: Give me a pilot!

Last night's episode was the one where they decide who gets a pilot.  Watching the contestants try to articulate their concepts was interesting.  Out of the four, only Damaris really offered a cooking show that would instruct someone.  Russell and Rodney both wanted a travel show where they went somewhere to see a particular dish and then put their own spin on it.  Stacey was somewhere in the middle but her proposal read something like Tyler Florence's old Food 911.  

Tuschman and Fogelson also said something that made me raise an eyebrow: that it's much easier to craft a show around a personality than vice versa.  That tells me that they may already have shows in mind and are just looking for someone to slot in rather than really letting the winner make the kind of show they have been told to be thinking about all through this "competition".

So, Bob, let's go to the tape:


Stacey - I pretty much knew she was gone when she decided to be "emotional" before she made her pitch.  She has not been able to connect with the judging panel all season and they did call it: she came across as sad more than anything else.  I don't think she figured out that what she was essentially saying was that she viewed the people she would be "helping" by modernizing their dishes were people in need of rescue from some emotional precipice.  No, the food may need help but this is not "Dr. Stacey" and you are not a food therapist.  Part of being a person in the public eye is being able to read a room and respond to the atmosphere and emotions there and Stacey consistently failed at that.

Also, I couldn't find a picture but I thought the grouping and clothing choices for last night screamed that the Food Network stylist had been given free rein with the contestants.  They are all wearing some variation of black and white (with Russell, Damaris and Rodney) standing right next to each other.  Stacey has a black and white skirt on but a bright pink top.  I swear, why not put a name tag on her that reads "Ensign Redshirt" because that's what she was - the poor, unnamed schlub in the red shirt who beamed down with the others to Planet Pitch Meeting and was turned into a cube.  At least she wasn't crumbled into dust :).


On to the next contestant...



Russell - I still like him and think he has come a long way.  He's not quite a student of the William Shatner School of Public Speaking any more and came across as very engaging and enthusiastic last night when making his pilot.  For me, the problem is that it's yet another travel show.  I know the Food Network has become largely about entertainment more than cooking over the past few years but I get very tired of travel shows - largely because there isn't much actual cooking involved.  Shows like Unwrapped have at least been slightly interesting because you learn how they are making the product that you're familiar with and that is informative and entertaining.  Shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Douches...um, Drives, I mean are just somebody driving around and sticking huge bites of food in their maw while mumbling catchphrases through full mouths.  

However, Russell did make something so that puts him ahead of the pack of travel shows for me.  What still niggles at me is it didn't appear to be anything I could make at home.  I don't exactly have a cannister of liquid nitrogen in my pantry.  I would want to see if he could cook things that did not involve "help" from items that he might have access to but I do not.  I would have loved to see an explanation of how to make ice cream without (a) liquid nitrogen or (b) an ice cream maker.  Still, he is personable and knowledgeable so I'd at least give his show a try to see if there was something I could learn from it.


Rodney - GAH.  When he walked into the restaurant and saw Fieri, my first thought was that the level of douche in the room had risen exponentially.  You've heard of the blind leading the blind.  This was the douche leading the bag.

His entire pilot grated on me.  First, they want me to believe some tired shtick that he's been "challenged" by the chef or whoever to make their signature dish in a pie.  It's been done before.  The show was called Throwdown, and while Bobby Flay is not my favorite FN personality, he at least demonstrated he has cooking chops by trying to make many different dishes.  I'm supposed to believe that Rodney is a pie expert when he has made, what, ONE, pie that people liked over three months?  And now he's going to make everything into a pie?  Moo goo gai pan?  Tomato soup?  Coq au vin?  No.

His entire pilot was incredibly frenetic and LOUD - not to mention laced with liberal uses of "sick", "sucker" and every other slang word that Rodney can't seem to make a sentence without using.  And all he did was slavishly copy Greenspan's recipe and offered no cooking notes at all other than Tallegio cheese is apparently stinky and pie dough should feel like a baby's butt when you slap it.  Yeah...that's helpful.  I could barely watch the 3-5 minutes of his pilot without wanting to curl up into a fetal position with a Merriam-Webster's.  I could not watch even one episode of "Pie Style".  That being said, this is the Food Network where entertainment trumps actual cooking.


Damaris - I liked her pilot from its conception to its execution.  Her sense of humor was on full display last night from her comment to the network execs that she has "caught and released" several men by using Southern food to calling for a medic after Guy kept slapping her hand while hollering "Money!". (And, okay, I liked the pseudo-Lynrd Skynrd theme song they used for her).

Plus, she actually was TEACHING something.  She worked in some tips, she related to her guest (actor), and she made food that wasn't a slavish copy or looked like it required ingredients or assistance that I don't have and cannot readily acquire.  It was a far cry from Rodney mumble-yelling at Eric Greenspan.  She didn't seem forced or trying on a persona.  She was just cooking - which is probably why she won't win (full disclosure:  I don't trust FN to not jack the results even though they say "American decides").  Instructional cooking shows - those that are left - have been largely shuffled over to the Cooking Channel and people like Sara Moulton aren't really even on the air any more unless it's a PBS channel somewhere.  

So my vote is for Damaris.  However, I would be very surprised if she is named the winner - happy, but suprised.  I hope she at least gets a show on the Cooking Channel if she doesn't win because I would watch it.  I would be pretty happy for Russell and would check his show at as well but I have this horrible feeling that Rodney is going to win.  If so, I think I'm going to hang black crepe on my TV during the time slot for his show.

Say no to Pie Style :P.


02 August 2013

The Word of the Day

Faith.

My reading and study this morning had a lot about faith which is something I've been praying about and asking God to work on - mainly being chained to *my* perception of how He is working related to the SU's alcoholism and my unbelief that crops up when the SU exhibits, well, standard drunken behavior instead of moving forward how *I* think he should move forward or what *I* think should be happening.

Basically, I've been trying to lose the "I".  I want to believe as Galatians: because of what I have heard from God and not because of law which, in this case, would be the works I deem appropriate.

So, right after praying about that, the SU tells me he's going to stay home today because he "doesn't want to play anymore today".  That's generally code for "I'm going to stay home and drink myself blind."

Me to God:  "So...I guess we're not wasting any time working on this, huh?"

Abba, help me lose the shackles constructed by my point of view on things and have faith that what you have told me is true.

29 July 2013

Really, Food Network? Really?

Let's face it:  Reality TV in no way actually constitutes "reality".  The first season of any new reality show is generally the most honest, I think, but, as time goes on, you can see the "types" begin to creep in...the manufactured drama, the camera cuts edited in to support the storyline(s) the producers want to tell, et cetera.

I like "The Next Food Network Star" because there is at least some talent involved - at least initially.  As more seasons have come and gone, food and food knowledge has been left largely behind in place of "personalities" and contestants made up of people with acting resumes and multiple reality TV appearances.  While there is a need to find a mix of the ability to cook, the ability to teach, and the ability not to stare into a camera like a deer in the headlights, this season's crop of contestants - minus a few - have pretty much sounded the death knell of my interest in this show.  To go over everyone would take too long so I'm just going to highlight the few who have (a) made an impression or (b) made me roll my eyes so hard that I have been able to map the back of my skull:


Nikki Dinki - I liked Nikki.   She had an interesting POV that is rarely ever given any support by the Food Network.  IOW, the vegetarians never make it to the end.  I do agree with Alton that her ability to cook outstripped her overall food knowledge but that is something I think they could have worked with.  Heck, give her to Alton for a month or two!  He'll make sure she knows her stuff.

She also had good camera presence.  She looked very natural in the field assignment for the donut place and she can *ahem* speak coherently unlike some other contestants.  She's personable and doesn't beat you over the head with shtick.  Her plating for Sunday night's challenge was definitely a misstep (hello, ocean of rice!) and I can see where she was not able to consistently display the food "authority" the judges kept claiming they were looking for.  But I do think those are things that can be fixed and she could work on.

I would have watched her show.  Vegetables are food and Food Network sorely neglects them other than a quick nod to them as a side dish.  I would have liked to see much more of her.



Rodney Henry - He claims a point of view called "Pie Style" or, as he mumbles it, "Pah Stl".  When asked what pie style is, he can formulate neither an informative nor comprehensive answer.  Apparently, it's a "way of life".  Really?  For who?  Aging hipsters who stole Vince Vaughn's Swingers-era shtick and refuse to give it back?  Everything he makes is a pie.  Everything.  They already have a show like this where the guy makes everything into a sandwich and I don't watch it.  Why would I want to watch a guy try to cram everything into a pie shell?

He cannot talk coherently about food unless you allow him liberal use of the words "super", "awesome", "cool", "delicious".  He does not explain what he does or why he does it and he mumbles like a failed Demosthenes.  Alton and company keep talking about food authority and I see none in him.  For a guy who claims to be a pie expert, IIRC, only ONE of his pies has even been judged to be edible by the judges (as in they would want to eat more of it).

Last night's episode was just appalling.  In his remake of chicken cacciatore, he forced it into a pie crust and then deep-fried it.  While an interesting idea, what the camera showed was a total abomination - burst crust, filling spilling out, and (as Alton commented upon eating it) raw dough.  Yet he moves on based on his "star power" despite the fact all appearances point to the fact that he can't cook or talk about cooking in anything resembling a coherent manner.

*sigh*  All hail the second coming of Guy Fieri.  Can someone please hide this guy's guitar?



Damaris Phillips - She's a culinary instructor with a Southern POV.  While Food Network is currently doing the Southern thing to death (The Shed?  Honestly...), I think she is very warm and friendly on camera once she stops being nervous.  She has largely dropped the shoulder shimmy and other things that were showing how uncomfortable she was and has grown on camera.  I think she explains well and I've wanted to try several of the things she's made on the show.

While she may come across as a little exaggerated sometime, she has a much quieter (and more welcome) presence than many of Food Network's previous Southern hosts for me.  Paula Deen became an absolute caricature by the end and the Neelys were annoying right from the start with the stir-and-slap-and-tickle show.

In a way, Damaris reminds me of Sunny Anderson and Aarti Sequiera - not overly loud, not bent on being a big personality, but someone who loves both cooking and eating food and wants to share that and her knowledge with others.  I'd watch her show.



Connie "Lovely" Jackson - I'm not sure what her point of view was because she was so obsessed with herself.  She also broke the first rule of nicknames as explained by Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory when he was trying to suggest the nickname of "Rocket Man" for himself to the astronauts:  You cannot give yourself a nickname.  Nicknames must be given to you.  When you try to give yourself a nickname, it generally backfires:



It was interesting watching her each week during the judging.  She would plaster a smile on her face and try to come across as incredibly gracious when the judges were critiquing her, but the moment they started saying anything negative about her presentation or her food, you could just see the smile come right off her face and be replaced by a rather unLovely look.

I also could never get a handle on her POV.  Everything was "glamorous" or "party" or some kind of amped-up version of food.  But what was she cooking?  What was her background?  What styles of cooking was she employing?  French?  Asian?  Contemporary?  Meat and potatoes?  Roadkill?  All I ever really got was that Lovely's idea of a show was that it would be all about Lovely.  Anything else - including food - would be secondary.


Stacey Poon-Kinney - Her theme is vintage kitchen or taking classic dishes and giving them a modern twist.  I'm not sure exactly how the maple bacon cheesecake fit into that but I digress...

I do agree with the judges that there is something not quite genuine about her.  While she is polished and can present well to camera, I find myself sort of mentally skimming what she says - watching the performance more than listening to what she is talking about.  In a way, she's another Giada DeLaurentiis for me.  I like a fair amount of Giada's food but I find her show(s) to be more of an exercise of "look at me and my glamorous lifestyle".  I tend to tune out Giada's descriptions (since there are only so many times that you can describe things as lemony or minty), check the title of the dish she is making and then go to Food Network's web site to read the recipe and see if I want to make it.  I can see myself doing the same thing with Stacey.  I would look at the titles of her shows on the web site and then go find the recipe I want - but not watch her show.  To me, she lacks the ability to...well, make fun of herself the way Damaris can, to laugh at herself and realize that not everything has to come across like a beauty pageant competition.  She can let the cracks show.


Russell Jackson - He seems to go between being a "culinary revoluntionary" and "culinary sins".  I'm not sure exactly what that entails but I find him interesting.  When he first started the show, my immediate thought was total trainwreck.  The stammering, the blank looks into the camera...I figured he'd be gone in the first few weeks.  Surprisingly, though, he hung on and has greatly improved.  You can still hear him pausing slightly when he talks on camera but he's coming across as more coherent and thoughtful and with a greater knowledge of food than I originally thought he had.

I really liked his dish in last night's challenge.  He updated a tired, stuffed chicken dish but kept the flavors and kept the ingredients largely the same to appeal to both old and new customers.  It looked good and it sounded delicious.  Plus, he was able to articulate why he felt he should be on Food Network and do so in a manner that was engaging and pointed to his culinary expertise.

Will he do well under the pressure of trying to complete X number of shows under a strict timeline?  That remains to be seen.  He's getting better under pressure but he still has a way to go.  I'm hoping he doesn't blow it when they present to the network in next week's episode 'cause he's one of the few I'm rooting for.  I like his personality.  I like him much better on camera now that he's starting to get the hang of it and I think his food has gotten better as he's gone along and learned to relax a little; not so much "Underground Chef!" as knowledgeable and talented chef.

So, to recap:

Would have watched - Nikki
Would watch - Damaris, Russell
Would not watch - Stacey, Lovely
Would throw my TV out the window - Rodney

27 July 2013

The Word of the Day

Perseverance.

The Spousal Unit and I are still struggling with his drinking.  There have been two times where I just wanted to leave.  As P!nk says, "I think I've had enough of this/Want back my ignorance and bliss".  However, both times God has shown me that this is not an option for me - at least not the way I want to use it.  Both times I have been so emotionally overwhelmed and sick of it all - sick of feeling like the only one trying - that leaving would be simply to get away from the immediate problem and that is not the solution.

C.S. Lewis has that famous quote about how prayer changes him, not God; that he prays because he is helpless; that he prays because he can't NOT pray.  I think I may be starting to understand what he means.  Looking back through the six months of my current journal, I can see a change in the entries. Early entries are complaining about the SU, asking why, why do I have to do deal with this, why can't he just get his freaking act together and change...why, why, why?  The thing I have learned about God is he doesn't always answer your "why" or, if He does, he may do it in a way you don't expect.  My later entries have more...compassion, I guess you could call it.  While I am still frustrated and angry in some of them, God has tempered them and interspersed them with study and Scripture and prayers I've written down.

Beth Moore says that "Christ's ultimate goal in any work He assigns us is to reveal Himself, either through or to us".  I don't know how much/if He's been revealing himself through me but I do know He has been revealing Himself to me.  There has been hardly a day that has gone by where I haven't had something in my study time stand out to me whether it is simply something to comfort or something I need to learn and incorporate.

Earlier this month, God gave me a pretty detailed word.  One of the strongest parts of it was the reminder that He is the one in charge and it is His timing, His timeline that we are working in.  I need to submit to that and understand that submission is strength.  It lets me be empty enough to be filled with Him.  It is hard to let him take over because I want to be in control just as much as the next person.  But I'm not.  I can't be.  I cannot make the Spousal Unit stop drinking.  I cannot make him confront the issues he needs to in order to heal and leave the past behind.  I can only call daily on my Abba and trust in Him.  He is the one who will change my unbelief, my fear.  If I confess those to Him, I will be amazed at the things he does.  Even if I cannot perceive what He is doing, Jesus is about his Father's work.  I can't wait to "see" him act.  I have to act in faith that He is working even though I can't point to anything tangible as the signpost of "Look!  Here's the turning point!"

A week or two ago, He gave me Isaiah 43:19:  "See!  I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland".  Last Sunday, the SU and I were in church and he went and asked for prayer for the first time in a long time, admitting to the people praying for him that he has a major drinking problem.  In my linear, dim view, part of me grabbed on to that as "See?  There's the sign" forgetting that the sign is not nearly as important as the One who gives the sign.

That is what makes today suck.  Hard.  He has essentially been drinking since 4 o'clock this morning and is now at home passed out/asleep while I'm sitting in a coffee shop and writing this because it is difficult to be around him when he is like this.  I was sitting on our little apartment patio at about 6:30 to try and have some quiet time and talking to God about how I was trying to remember that I am to follow His will and be content in Him - not that I can't talk to Him about my sorrow and anger but I need to trust in His sovereignty in this situation (and apparently for my spelling of that word!).

I opened up the study book I am reading and this paragraph leaped out at me:  "Beloved, have you forgotten something He told you?  Christ, our Lord, is faithful to his promises.  If you're not presently 'seeing' Him at work in your situation, do not live as if He's lifeless and you're hopeless. Believe Him and expect Him to reveal his resurrection power to you!"

I am truly blessed and thankful my Abba took the time to sit down with me this morning and specifically speak to me exactly where I am.

Nouwen writes that "prayer requires we stand in God's presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing".  Naked and vulnerable are freakin' scary states to be in!  But God gives us an amazing promise that if we do this, we will find all our strength, hope, courage and confidence in Him.  God has not given me a timeline nor will he, probably.  What He has told me to do is to keep being obedient to Him, to take the things he's taught me and put them into practice day after day after day and stop looking for the quick solution.  I need to trust Him and that He has the whole picture in mind.  What He does will be beyond my imagining.

Came home.  Made nachos for the Spousal Unit.  I am not hopeless.

18 July 2013

Yes



Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by


Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves em both
We’re all cast-aways in need of rope
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I’ve seen


Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin’ that line back home


So much more to life than we’ve been told
It’s full of beauty that wil unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
Wash away all the things you’ve done
Forgiveness alright


Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by


Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul
And I’ve got no place left go
‘Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin’ on


Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I’m free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I’ll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levees and my bluffs
Let the flood wash me


And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
‘Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the Son of God is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we’re the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon


Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

10 June 2013

Some thoughts re: God and intimacy...


Moore: "Sometimes perhaps He is most obvious in aloneness and in darkness. He is with us to embrace, to hold so close we can hear His heart beat."

Nouwen: "Prayer is the way to let the life-giving Spirit of God penetrate all the corners of my being."

Me: Intimacy is hard. Although I know God already knows everything about me, I like to pretend that he doesn't. It's easier for me that way.

But his intimacy is not invasive or destructive. It doesn't demand. It waits for me-always on offer. Never failing.

My God is a generous God.

23 May 2013

Decisions, decisions

As always when I don't blog regularly, there is a lot that has happened in the meantime so let's just consider I said that and move on :).

As far as school, I passed the Spring semester with all A's and will be starting my two Summer classes next week.  This is the home stretch - two classes this summer and my Capstone this Fall and I will be DONE with this Master's degree.  I'm alternating between "Woohoo!" and "Oh crap, the semester's starting again!".  (My glass is never half-empty or half-full.  It's both :)).

I have also been inducted into two national honor societies and, in a total surprise to which Sara was a witness, was named Student of the Year for my program.  Color me absolutely boggled. 


I have also continued with some of my goals - working on my Master's without killing myself.  Managed to take most weekends off to spend with the Spousal Unit or at home.  We did move to a lovely new apartment that I will post pictures of.  I have also found some Bible-study type books and have been digging into those...which in turn is sending me into the dreaded character growth territory.

I also changed my ringtone to Fat-Bottomed Girls but that's neither here or nor there.  Just hilarious to see people look around when my phone rings :).

Before I get into the rest of this, I want to say these are my thoughts about my own personal marital situation and I'm not advocating a one-size-fits-all mentality.  Everyone needs to seek out God's answers for their own situation.  So (deep breath), here we go:

Our therapist says that the SU and I have reached a crossroads.  In his words, "at the risk of talking myself out of a job", it's time to make a choice.  That choice is either separate or decide that I am okay/resigned to living with what the SU will give me for now and not count on anything changing (although in the therapist's POV, he believes there is potential for change for the better).  In the words of Mutant Enemy:  "Grrrr.  Argh."

This has been and continues to be an incredibly difficult path to walk.  I am very lucky to have a core group of women who have been praying for me and offering counsel or just a shoulder to cry on 'cause, believe you me, I've been doing some crying (and I am someone who hates to cry).  After our session last week, I was pretty darn sure that separation was the next step until I got up the next morning at 5:30 and read Henri Nouwen's Turning My Mourning into Dancing for about two hours before the SU woke up.

One of Nouwen's points about experiencing solitude is that it should be time when you dare to stand alone before God and so, for me, any type of separation should be for that (if that is the route I take) and not just because I want to get away from the SU.  If God is to be at the center of my marriage, I cannot just put him aside for the sake of my own mental and emotional comfort.  To love someone is to be open to suffering (per Nouwen) and there is a need to trust that the risk to love someone is worth it.

Something Nouwen also talked about was how Jesus related to people for *their* sake and not his.  His focus was not on satisfaction but responding to someone's real, deep need.  Over these months of counseling with the SU, I have discovered very deep, unmet needs in my husband that make me grieve; things I had not really known or really thought about beyond the few times he mentioned them.  Do I think there are things he needs to get kicked in the pants on?  Oh,  yes.  But some of those kicked-in-the-pants behaviors are outward expressions of things he has never dealt with or maybe ever been able to deal with.  How can I not at least feel compassion towards those places in my husband that are so wounded?

To do that, though, to stay and wait for God's timing versus my own, versus my own desires and expectations involves a big leap of faith.  I want the fairy tale.  I want the grand gesture and the passionate attempts to change.  But I may not get anything like that and I may not get anything even close to it for a long time.  I may very well be asking for things in a language the SU does not speak. 

"But our lives are renewed every time we trust more.  We take a leap of faith and trust only to see the next layer of possibility" (Nouwen, p. 53).  If I am to trust God, I cannot expect to know the whole plan nor can I expect to use *my* definitions as the end result.  If I take the leap of faith, I can only trust that God will see it and respond.  What is the next layer of possibility?  I don't know.  It may be better communication.  It may be the SU believing more that I love him and I do not have a list of pluses and minuses that I keep tallied up in my head which in turn releases him from some of his bondage.  It may be me learning how to love in the midst of my own discomfort.  It doesn't mean I can't want to know the outcome but it does mean that I don't necessarily know what it will look like nor should I put a label on it because the label immediately brings it back to ME and I start trying to bend things to what I feel the result should be rather than letting God work as he will.  If I try to hard to create the result, I lose my trust.  If I lose trust, I lose hope.

I don't want to do that. 

I need to look beyond my own expectations.  Is the SU where I want him to be?  No.  But God knows where he is.

God also knows where I am.  In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son , Nouwen talks about Rembrandt's painting of when the prodigal son returns home and he talks about having felt like both sons in the picture.  His words concerning the elder son struck me:

"I came to see how I had lived a quite dutiful life...had always been obedient to my parents, my teachers, my bishops and my God.  I had never run away from home, never wasted my time and money on sensual pursuits, and had never gotten lost in 'debauchery and drunkenness'.  For my entire life, I had been quite responsible, traditional, and homebound.  But with all of that, I may, in fact, have been just as lost as the younger son.  I suddenly saw myself in a completely new way.  I saw my jealousy, my anger, my touchiness, doggedness and sullenness, and most of all, my subtle self-righteousness.  I saw how much of a complainer I was and how much of my thinking and feeling was riddled with resentment...I was the elder son for sure, but just as lost as his younger brother, even though I had stayed 'home' all my life" (Nouwen, p. 20).

He then goes on to talk about a friend of his with whom he shared his view of himself as the eldest son several months later.  His friend said to him, "Whether you are the younger son or the elder son, you  have to realized that you are called to become the father" (Nouwen, p. 22).

If I was to leave the SU now, I am pretty sure no one would fault me.  They would say I have done everything I can reasonably be expected to do.  But is that definition of "reasonable" accurate?  Have I given myself and everything involved with this situation up to God including how I think it should go or does part of me sit in subtle judgment of the SU because he does not conform to expectations, because he does not seem to quickly and obediently respond to the good counsel and advice he has been given over and over by many who care for him?

That's not to say I can't be tired or need to vent or seek counsel.  Trying to live in faith doesn't mean I am superhuman or that it all becomes easy.  Trust me, my inner child is having a tantrum over this.  "But I don't wanna!!"  But two words keep coming back at me:  all in.  They were words I used when the SU asked me why I wasn't mad at God over what happened to our shop. I told him then that the things we lost were just stuff and I had to decide if the stuff was more important or if I was all in for God.  Our pastor used those words in last week's sermon as well.  "All in" means I can't hold back, can't choose what to experience and have to give. up.

That scares the pants off me.  "Waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be."

Am I called to wait?

"...marriage is foremost a vocation.  Two people are called together to fulfill a mission that God has given them.  Marriage is a spiritual reality.  That is to say, a man and a woman come together for life, not just because they experience deep love for each other, but because they believe that God loves each of them with an infinite love and has called them to each other to be living witnesses of that love.  To love is to embody God's infinite love in a faithful communion with another human being" (Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit).

God -

Help me to hear you and your desire for not just myself but my marriage.  Help me to give up my expectations, my desires, my wants, for yours.  Give me strength when I need it but also help me to be weak and rely upon you as well.  Help me love when I feel I cannot or do not want to, to remember that the Spousal Unit is just as much yours as I am.  Give me your heart for him.

Thank you for my husband.  Thank you for the love he has given me and the joy he has brought me.  Help me to remember those times when all I want to do is point out how 'bad' he is and be superior in that.  Let me live in your timeline and not mine and to remember this prayer in the midst of the moment when I most want to lash out.

Help me change from the elder son into the father. 

I want to be all in.

Amen

28 March 2013

Things Change

Don't it make you cry
Something so clear as love
Could become so vague
Don't it make you cry
Something so clear as joy
Could fade into grey
and it don't matter what we do
and it don't matter what we say
Without surrender we will never find our way

Disengage and leave the ground
Setting my sights on the great beyond
Silence is the loudest sound

- Ed Kowalczyk

14 March 2013

Back in the saddle again

Didn't realize it  had been so long since I'd written anything.  I'd written lots of posts in my head but until they perfect that head-to-blog transfer, I guess I'm kinda out of luck...

I haven't kept up with posting twice a month to Project 365 so I'll have to see if I can do better with that.  I do think I've made progress in having a life along with finishing my Master's.  I don't spend nearly as many Saturdays at the coffee shop as I was last semester.  It's been kind of nice to wake up on Saturdays and just be able to sip coffee, play some Fishdom and leisurely get ready to start my day.

I am also now in maintenance on the diet and have been for about a month.  I've lost about 4 more pounds because I am getting back to pre-diet, pre-injury levels of exercise.  I am still being careful about my spine but I am able to do more and have less pain overall (and be able to walk upright) so I'm cautiously testing where my new limits are.

The SU continues his battle.  We agreed he would go on Antabuse and he asked me to give him the pills every day so I would be sure he took them.  He made a comment about how he would probably test it at some point and I told him I reserved the right to point and mock if it made him vomit his organs out his nose.  Well, he first achieved 30 days sobriety, then decided to test the drug and it was rather frightening.

I did not point and mock.  I'm not going to go all into the details but there was one point I thought he had died in front of me and another point when he was responsive that I thought he must be having a stroke.  When I went to grab my phone to call 911, he told me what he'd done.  I started crying and he kept telling me he was sorry.  When he could finally get up and went into the bedroom, I followed to grab my pillow and spend the night on the couch as is general procedure (that or a hotel) when this happens. 

I was sitting out there and flipping through Ephesians on my phone (book we're studying in church) and came across part of Chapter 3 (14-19) and felt I was supposed to pray those for the SU so I did.  Then God told me to go into the bedroom and tell him I loved him - that my love was firm.  That brought about the "Really, God?" conversation He and I have on occasion. 

But I did what He asked and hauled my carcass off the couch to go in and talk to the SU.  I am glad I did.  I have seen changes in him as he's prayed consistently and worked on his sobriety for the past month and those changes were apparent and helped to keep my heart soft.  There seemed to be some genuine sorry and repentance in his apology and I got the impression he was relieved I came back to talk with him.  I also shared with him how scared he'd made me and my anger is not necessarily at *him* but rather the foolhardy and dangerous risks he takes with his life and health - that he is better than he tells himself he is and has value to many people.  He told me the next day that he's learned some things:  he actually prefers sobriety to drinking, he can do 30 days and more, and Antabuse is nothing to mess with (no kidding on the last one!).  He also said we deserve better and he wants to work to give it to us.

So we are back in the beginnings of sobriety and at Step One again.  I'm okay with it.  I love my husband.  He can do this.

06 February 2013

Low

Very difficult time in counseling yesterday.  It is hard to hear how dead my husband feels inside.  It is hard for me to express how I am feeling and wish for some type of sign that he actually gets it, that it makes an impact.

He biffed the landing Friday and Saturday nights this past week and that, combined with the topics we discussed in counseling, are just leaving me emotionally raw.  I'm at one of those stages where hope is low.  I spent most of my day today in my office trying not to think about it because I started to cry every time I did think about all that is going on.

I know I have to keep pressing forward.  I have to continue to fight and hang on to God for me, my husband, and our marriage.  But not tonight.

Cry tonight.  Regroup tomorrow.

02 February 2013

Project 365, Week 5

A few of my pictures this week are food-oriented since I am starting to eat again and still testing out new and different stuff that I've never eaten before or was convinced I didn't like (cauliflower!  I like cauliflower!  AAAAACKKKKK!!!)



Celeriac (celery root) salad with red onions, shredded romaine, arugula and a lemon juice/olive oil dressing.  Celeriac - knobby looking thing kind of like a deformed jicama.  Not bad. Definitely needs something to dress it up.  It is the tofu of the vegetable world.


For the past two weeks, I have been able to add protein to my lunch.  Meat!  The Spousal Unit deemed this "quite the salad".  Two cups of veg, basil, mint, cilantro and six ounces of flat iron steak!  Ah, chewing.  How I have missed thee.


In regards to a particular co-worker...



My oldest granddaughter, Rylie, wearing the ballerina princess outfit we got her for Christmas.  Her expression is exactly the one her mom would have at that age.


Breakfast!  I am now in Phase 3 which means I get to eat breakfast again.  It's a specific type of breakfast with a certain amount of carbs or calories in the protein, grain, dairy and fruit categories that I need to hit every morning.  I have to eat it all at one sitting.  If I can't finish it, I need to throw the rest away.  Today's breakfast was four egg whites, one apple, four ounces quinoa with one Splenda and 8 oz almond milk.  Couldn't finish it all and had to throw some of the apple away.

So there you have it.  I hope those of you that are watching the Superbowl for the games or commercials have a good time :).



21 January 2013

Mixed Bag

It's been kind of a good/bad thing here at the Cyber Hermit household lately.

The semester started which is not all bad.  Now that Academic Advising has changed buildings, we don't get nearly as many students coming into our office and asking where the fourth floor is :).  My night class seems to be okay so far.  It's a professor I've had before so I know what to expect in terms of certain things.  I'm only worried about who is going to be in my group for the group project.  At this point in the program, I know the majority of the people and there are some who are definitely in the DO NOT WANT category.  Not yet sure how the independent study is going to go.  I meet with the instructor for the first time tomorrow.

The Spousal Unit continues to be up and down.  He saw our counselor by himself last week and it appears to have been a good appointment - I try not to ask too much about individual appointments or his other meetings since he says he feels "interrogated" - but he has yet to sit down and talk with me re: his homework.  That, however, is on him and I am most assuredly not his mommy.

On the better side, he has asked me to pray with him both morning and night which is something that had gone by the wayside a while back.  It's not necessarily long or involved but we both get on our knees and spend some time praying to God, employing that ol' thanksgiving, prayer and supplication thing.

And God totally got us a new apartment which we will move into in April (the week my final paper is due for my night class!).  Our current place said that since our lease expires March 31st and we will be here 2.5 weeks past that, they wanted to charge us $1900 for the privilege!  We currently have them talked down to somewhere in the $1500 range but...wow.  Their reasoning is this 97% occupany figure they like to tout as to how their 30-year-old apartments are in such high demand (remember, these are the apartments where I came home to find the entire back of the apartment torn off because it was *rotten* underneath).  Our response was the 97% may be true, but how long do these people stay?  In our little four-plex, where we have been for three years, we are the residents with the most longevity.  We are on our third set of neighbors in *each* of the three apartments around us during that time.  Still, God has a new place for us and I've been praying that He will have his hand on everything - including all the money needed to move in and out of both places (and hiring movers!).

In *really* good news, I am finally at my goal weight:


This means I move out of Phase 1 and into Phase 2.  Protein at lunch!  The grilled turkey patty nearly made me incandescent with joy :).  I will spend two weeks in this phase and then move into Phase 3, P3 being the Return of Breakfast.

The only thing I have to watch out for is my mindset.  I know I can get wrapped around the axle over weight and a number like *that*.  Just because I'm changing up what I eat and we're getting my pancreas back into the act does not mean that I am going to balloon up like Violet Beauregard. Away with you, unrealistic expectations!

So there is good, bad and in-between.  I am working on continuing to pray on my own and keep in mind that quote about prayer changing me.  I am still trying to find something that I can study, and let go of what I cannot control. 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves