Laugh or Cry?

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I had to laugh. There was no getting around it. Living with my helplessness had become the hugest laughing matter I could conceive. Not that I had become a superstar. I still had times when the imagined zits on my face, plump nose, and head full of cowlicks made me feel like an idiot merely suitable to take out trash and sweep the basement floor. But deep in my heart I heard an almost silent, unexplained and nonsensical chuckle. Do I laugh or cry?

I’m sure you will agree with me when I say life is not always clear-cut? Some days the black clouds hover over our rooftops and we look up to see nothing but trouble. We pull down the blinds, go back to bed, and cover our heads, escaping the darkness.

“God, I can’t take anymore!”– and that’s the end of my prayer, as if I was running low on strength, dependent on the crumbs at the bottom of my barrel.

After the short prayer I do some self-talk: “YOU can do it. YOU can make it through this painful mess.”

Oh my! Thunder. Lightning. My electricity is out. No lights. I plop my body on the couch, hoping to be comforted by the overstuffed pillows that have served my tired soul for years. INSTEAD, tears of anger and fear flood my eyes, fall down my cheeks, and dry on their own. I hear something at my window, get up and look. It’s a hurt bird. I can’t touch it. I would make it worse for the little one. It has to depend on God–like me.

I cry out, “God, please help me– and my little friend. We can’t make it on our own. Please.”

The little bird suddenly takes off, and I smile, and I laugh, and I cry tears of thanksgiving.

“I love you, my child. Tell me where you hurt,” God whispers in my heart.

“God, please forgive me for not coming to You when I fell on my face.”

He filled me with His comfort and strength. Then God stood me on my feet and directed my steps, one at a time, with His feet in my shoes, too.

 

“Hope fills the afflicted soul with such inward joy and consolation, that it can laugh while tears are in the eye, sigh and sing all in a breath; it is called ‘The rejoicing of hope’” by William Gurnall (1617 – October 12, 1679), an English author and clergyman born at King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Unrest In Our Skin

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Sometimes I hate writing from the gut. There are enough topical stresses to cope with on a daily basis. However, being real (the theme of this blog) also exposes “unrest in our skin”–or under-the-skin discomforts. So I press on in unwrapping before you some  common and invisible scrapes and bruises that have tormented me (and maybe you). But I promise to not stop there, as that would be like giving you a cup without coffee. Pretty mean.  So I will fill your cup with a special brew of comforts, energizers, and a sidecar of directives for deliverance from oppression.

Today I will describe to you my (and maybe your) enemies and the elements of truth that will make them flee.

Discomfort with the past. Edgy about the present. Worried about the future. I can identify with the person in the photo, looking back, feeling perhaps troubled, and overflowing with pain. How about you? If the person in the above photo, looking back while bracing herself in her present circumstances and anxious about tomorrow remind you of yourself,  you may be interested in reading this article. However, if you are comfortable with your past, calm about your current life (maybe feeling confident in your older chronological age), and not fearful of your future, I welcome you to take a few minutes to read this post and possibly share your encouragement and advice for deliverance from unrest in the skin with others.

As an individual, I have often confronted painful attacks of unrest in my skin, deep and deadly, charged with cyclonic winds driven to unravel the most held-together strands in my soul. Reflecting upon these sharp and heavy attacks, I’ve discovered three properties in my storms (perhaps one or more of these will help you tap into something eating you), three types of damages to my heart (your heart may have been hurt in a like way, leading you to consider if you want to reduce or remove the harmful effects) , and three effective rescue aids that calmed the winds and dried up the rain, leaving me with peace and strength (maybe they will help you. Maybe not).

FIRST, I would like to share with you properties in my storm that have moved me into unrest. This section of the article is the most stressful for me to deal with because it involves undressing myself in front of you, my valued readers. I have to remove my costumes and masks to show you who I have been.

My soul has been whipped by the wind (My faith has been tossed around by negative circumstances), drenched by the rain (My hope has been dampened by the downpour of unpredictable, yet well-meaning situations), and burned by the hot sun (My sense of being loved and loving have been fried to a burning crisp). In sum, my faith, hope, and love have been attacked by the enemy–permitted by God for a season.

SECOND, I’ve discovered three types of damages done to my heart, resulting from the hateful treatment of the wind to my faith, rain to my hope, and sun to love in my life.

The wind has brought me to my knees before God, begging for protection and direction. The gusts have blown off many of my roof’s shingles and the sense of safety I once had has been destroyed. I feel like a puppet, with no arms and no legs, suspended from the endless sky. Trauma!

The rain has also laid me prostrate before my invisible, yet living God, crying out for a life jacket to save me from the drowning flood that’s quickly filling my nostrils and leaving me gasping and gagging. Even my best friends stand back and watch a disaster in the making.  Crisis!

The hot scorching sun throws my face to the ground. I plead for God to transform this burning ball to a dissipating yellow in the horizon. I’m helpless.

Trauma, Crisis, and Helplessness: Unrest in my skin.

THIRD, the experience of unrest in my skin and three effective rescue aids in the treatment of trauma, crisis, and helplessness? There remain an enormous volume of so-called solutions to our problems. Some just work better than others. Quick fixes are just that–laugh-out-loud–quick fixes, and who wants them. They look so inviting and they taste so good, but these quick fixes have a short lifespan and aren’t very faithful. They’re involved for their benefit alone.

I’m going to jump out of my little self-made boat and walk on water, like Jesus teaches me, and share with you what He has taught me about living above my circumstances. For simplicity, I’ve broken the principles God has revealed to me into three parts, as previously mentioned:

(1) Living through my trauma, to me, means to look to God for answers and deliverance. This is not only my opinion, but my conviction. Sometimes in my life God has performed divine intervention, while other times He has sent a person, or a God-orchestrated circumstance. There are times that He permits the pain for a time purposed by Him. The scripture I recall is:  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33).

(2) Living through my crisis, to me, means to  hold on to God, draw close to Him, and don’t pull away from Him. I’ve read the following Biblical words tons of time and they never grow old. I always need to hear them in my heart: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:11-13)

(3) Living through my helplessness, to me, means to accept my human condition as TOTALLY hopeless without God.  The following verses make me examine myself, for sure: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.  ” (I Cor 3:18-20).

This article, “Unrest in my Skin,” has defined my personal unrest in my skin, described the results of my turmoil, and addressed treatments I have found helpful in my life. I look forward to hearing from you and learning from you, my dear readers.

Crippled for Life Or Primed for Victory?

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The picture above of a person sitting in a wheelchair could be me–or you. Even if you are not wheelchair-dependent for your mobility, you use some type of “device” to get around in the world:  your family name as a forefront identity, a nice looking body that says “I’m desirable,” a motorized turquoise wheelchair with an inaudible ocean spray message whispering”I’m a mermaid at heart.” Anything can be used to identify who we are–or to distract us (and others) from seeing who we really are. Sometimes these selections speak clearly of the real you and the real me, while other times they chip away at our God-given power as children of His, making the enemy of our souls (the enemy can live in the life of anyone who lets him in) shout “YES!” in the midst of our stumbling.

God has blessed me with knowing lots of people from around the world. I talk with people daily: hangout buddies, writer friends, business associates, etc. Being a member of and having led workshops for the International Women’s Writing Guild, I’ve been honored to meet an enormous volume of writers from around the globe. Active in multiple online authors and writers forums, out-and-about almost daily, and being active in my church have connected me with many people. Three specific individuals come to mind this evening. Oddly, all three shared with me that they have lived in silent desperation for years and see no way out. Are they all three women? No. So if you are a gentleman reader, read on, my friend.

These three hurting people live in “emotional” prison with invisible bars. T’ll call them Person A, Person B, and Person C. They each wear different “covers” to deflect the pain from digging deeper in their guts and attempt to camouflage the “crime.”

I knew a woman (Person A) born with a physical handicap (I’m not talking about me, but I will tell you when I am). She never wore lipstick. She wanted to wear it for years, but her mother said, “No!” and “You won’t look right in lipstick.” Her mother also made other decisions for her daughter and the daughter has average intelligence. She just couldn’t walk and take care of her physical needs. A step farther, her mother also told the daughter how much money she could spend from her check. I ill stop here. It just makes me burn inside to think about what her life was like. A point here, even people who claim they love us, like the beloved mother and caregiver (a real security to have, like chocolate tainted with poison), can be used as an enemy of our souls to hurt us, taking advantage of a vulnerable area in our lives to gain control. .

How did this criminal control hurt my friend? Answer: she told me, “I love momma and know she does her best. So what more can I do. I’ve got to love her. Right?” The truth she later admitted to me was that she knew her mother felt better about her own power when she exercised power over her.  My friend didn’t believe she would ever have the right and the power to live any life, except one crippled for life.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

Person B worked almost around the clock. Their spouse was thrilled at all of the money brought in, enjoying spending like there was no tomorrow. The spouse didn’t care about the other person’s decline in health from over-work. All they cared about was being married to a money machine. The appearance of success was all that mattered. Person B actually gave all they had, including their life, to render unto the spouse what-so-ever they desired. Yes, Person B was crippled for life, which led to suicide.

A Tragedy.

Person C is me. Many years ago I was engaged in a relationship that called for my attention twenty-four hours a day. I thought I was to help this person be a success. So I extended myself beyond a full-time job to a full-time job, plus assisting this individual, plus having another part-time job to help them. One day I got sick at my work, as my blood pressure went down to 80–something over 50–something. That’s what the doctor told me, and that I was physically exhausted. She also strongly advised me to stay home and rest for a couple of days. As I turned to roll out of the office the doctor asked me, “Why do you work so much? You must work in a good paying position. So what’s going on with you? Why are you killing yourself?” Then she smiled, put her arm around me, and said, “Mary, you struggle everyday of your life. Why not let them take responsibility for their things and struggle, too? You know, they’re no better than you, dear,” and she gave me one last smile with acknowledgement before my departure.

I’ll never forget those words of advice. If I had kept at that pace I would have worn out my helper apron and lived crippled for life, but I stopped taking up the slack in the other person’s life. I remained connected and helped when I could, but stopped killing myself.

I recently read some material on emotional abuse from Focus on the Family at  http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/abuse_and_addiction/understanding_emotional_abuse.aspx  If you struggle with mental abuse or knows someone who does, please forward them this link.

In summary from the suggested link, emotionally crippling conditions may include some of the following: attempts to be isolated from others, withholding financial resources, contemptuous looks, excessive critical comments, and monitoring their whereabouts and activities.

We all own devices: some visible, some invisible. So if you’re an able-bodied person, you are still living on the same plane of fragility as us folks with what I laugh and call a “disability.” The question for me–and to you–is what device(s) do you and I scoot around in life with? Don’t worry, no one can invade your thoughts. It’s safe to be transparent with yourself.

Crippled for life or primed for victory?

It’s Safe: You Can Come Out Now

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It’s been too many days and too many years. You’ve held back your tears with laughter and smiles. I tried to tell you that enough is enough, to come out of your closet and lean on me. But you hid your pain deep within and stayed in your dark closet–alone.

Today I learned that you died. We had just talked, but not really. You forced your pain to remain inside–and I guess I did some of that, too. Odd conversations?! Our sentences seemed to have subjects without predicates.

This month I knew a few people who died in different ways. But you chose to take your life.

You’re gone now and I’m still in shock.

I can remember us talking on the phone and laughing. We even talked some deep stuff. But you’re gone now and I’m sad and angry and almost in disbelief.

A closet must have been a very lonely home. I wish you had come out.

Hours have passed and I must turn in. As I roll my wheelchair back to the bedroom, I whisper, “My friend, you will be missed by me.”

As I lay down I think about my friend in sentences without predicates.  A dark closet. Unknowns.

But I’m Tired and Scared

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The  quote grabbed me and shook me. It took my breath. The words “fought, fell, and rose again” got up in my throat, dug in their claws, and refused to leave. The message reminded me of the turmoil that had been boiling through my gut for, what seemed to be, forever. Grappling with decisions to make, desperate to run away with a dark brown paper bag over my head to conceal my real identity was my only aspiration. Digging my heels in the dirt, getting some momentum, and plunging full speed ahead? This was not exactly my version of what I wanted to do. It had been a real ordeal thinking through possible strategies to choose the right one for moving from A to B. All of the strategies had potholes capable of slowing down progress and, if I fell on my face, being laughed at. So what was the problem? Numerous ones.

Just to name a few:

(1) Do I expand my horizon and move to Brooklyn, New York, where I would attend a university with a full scholarship or checkout   a Maryland college less than an hour drive from my hometown?

(2) Do I break up with a longterm boyfriend (who I suspect is selling drugs) or trust his denial as truth?

(3) Do I enter the Miss Wheelchair Maryland contest (lots of fun, but lots of stress) and possibly win (requiring a one year commitment to travel and do guest speaking, lectures, etc.), which would mean going on to the American pageant held in Ohio?

If I chose to cancel the A-to-B goal, what alternatives remained? Would I be settling for life less than the best. Do you know what I mean?

“I’m tired and scared,” is the reason (excuse) I often nurtured in my heart, procrastinating and dodging the goals I really wanted to go for. But did that explanation justify turning my back on what I honestly believed I felt called to do?

In my head I often tightened my fists and banged them on the table a hundred times, sobbing until there were no tears left, angry for letting myself and God down. Sadly, I often forgot that the kingdom of God was within me. Why did I forget? How could I have acted as if God was not here? As if He was not in me?

Several years ago, I was so tired and so scared. It was cold outside. The road was dangerous. A good friend had told me I was crazy for rolling down Northern Parkway, on the corner of McClain Blvd, to catch a bus in a snow storm. Yes, I was unrealistic–and I can still be. But don’t fence me in! I was compelled to go.

I ran into a friend. She tried to persuade me to turn around and go back home. But her “warning” fell on deaf ears. Yes, I was and still have the potential to be a stubborn person.

I rolled on the wheelchair lift of the the Baltimore City Bus, and away I went. After reaching my bus stop destination, I rolled a few blocks, choosing places on the street without snow, and finally arrived at her house.

“Oh, hi! Come in,” Jean yelled from the kitchen. Her voice trembled. I sensed fear.

“Where’s Sharon?” I asked. Sharon was the person I really came to see.

“She can’t come downstairs right now,” Mike (Jean’s husband) answered as he entered the kitchen. He ruled the roost in their house, and always did everything possible to rule anyone crossing his path.

“Mike, Sharon is expecting me,” I said in a calm, but definite tone.

“Don’t matter to me!” Mike responded. A cocky guy.

I rolled from the kitchen to the stairway in the living room and yelled, “Sharon, I’m here! You doing alright?” Sharon had no legs, but she possessed strong arms. To get around she hobbled on her nubs. I loved Sharon. She was intellectually classified as retarded, but don’t believe it for a minute, she was smart as a whip in the things that mattered most.

“Mary?!” She looked into my eyes. A reflection of relief was in her voice.

“Where’s your wheelchair, Sharon?” Somehow I was getting her out of there. I knew in my heart she was just hanging in with them for a season. I could tell. No one told me, but I sensed it deep in my gut.

“It’s behind the stairs.”

Mike must have heard our dialog and walked over to me, pushed his big body against my motorized wheelchair, and blurted out in my face, “She’s not going anywhere!”

Suddenly Mike was called to go outdoors to look at a car his friend was trying to sell to him. I knew I had to call the police NOW!

“Jean, can I use your phone a second?”

“Sure, Mary!” Jean looked scared.

I called 911, told them my friend was being held hostage, and they came. I had been to visit Sharon a few other times and realized her predicament, but did nothing. I was tired and scared and I failed to help Sharon. But this time was different. God blessed my courage to not listen to others, but to press forward to follow through with my conviction and help Sharon. Oh, Mike gave all of us, including the police, a hard time, but it didn’t matter–and I had to smile.

Making decisions and following through to complete the mission may not win us a popularity contest. It could be a dangerous decision that makes us tired and scared, but rising with courage brings valued achievements, including deliverance from the clutch of an evil man.

Are you convinced by God to do something? Tired and scared? Let your weary distress and fear go. Pray. Lean on God.  Move forward. Set yourself free–and maybe a friend.

God is the Potter. We are the clay.

Sincerity of Heart

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The easiest thing to say is “I love you.” It’s such a common expression, read on billboards, labeled on key chains, and yelled across parking lots to passersby. But what does it mean? Why is it written? What’s the purpose of yelling it across the parking lot?

At times I get sick of seeing the word in multiple print forms, and hearing the love word paraded in audio format can be wearing. But there are exceptions. Those times the love word comes with a sincerity of heart are treasured and unequaled.

The photo above leaped in my face.The beauty and transparency I saw in the two people’s faces penetrated my soul with an unusual warm glow. Their interaction reminded me of what I’ve experienced when I sat quiet with God, who–to me– is a person: trust, safety, openness, vulnerability, a highest of esteem.

Sincerity of heart:Freedom from deceit. A true gift from God. And you don’t need two good working arms and legs to engage in this gift.  All you need are two lives willing to unwrap themselves for each other.