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


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


"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


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.