Tag Archives: Love

To love a girl who has lived through trauma

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A girl who has lived through trauma has lived through a situation where her body, her mind, her self was not her own. Where she felt disjointed, ripped from her self, safety, and sanity. It was a moment, an experience, a something where her trust was smashed, her worth was gone and all there was was pain.
A girl who has lived through trauma is the girl who was pushed into the deep end of the pool when she didn’t know how to swim, but somehow found her way to the ledge anyway. She walked through a forest fire and didn’t succumb to the smoke, but dealt with the burns and made it out in spite of the flames. She found herself in free fall but refused to break upon impact.

She survived. She did.

But the thing about trauma, is that even when it is over it never really goes away.

And sometimes trauma is loud. Sometimes it’s the monster banging at the windows and screaming gutturally and demonically inside of nightmares. It’s nails on a chalkboard and an earthquake that rattles everyone’s floors. It smashes everything in its wake and forces, no, demands that everyone acknowledge its terrible, terrible presence. She won’t have any choice but to sit with hands clapped over her ears making sounds that are barely human because she just wants everything to stop and it won’t.

But other times, trauma is quiet. It’s sneaky.

It’s the feeling that she is being watched or that she is walking down the street with the word ‘victim’ painted on her forehead in red and everyone is privy to her secrets. It’s the nagging fear that if she goes to sleep her dreams will be anything but restful. It’s the little whisper saying, “You will never be whole again,” that itches its way into the back of her mind and repeats over, and over, and over. And you won’t even see it because she convinces herself that she is the only one who knows that it is there.

It’s the feeling that she is a 100,000 piece puzzle of black and grey and everyone staring at the mess realizes that putting her back together is simply not worth the effort.

So when you love a girl who’s gone through trauma, you’re saying that you see the worth in helping her bandage the wounds. You’re saying that you see the worth someone else tried to bury. You’re saying you are not afraid of the bad days and you see the beauty in the good days. You’re saying that a lot of things may scare you, but trauma isn’t one of them.

When you love a girl who’s battled trauma, you’re really saying,

Love, let me help you heal because I believe you can.”

Loving girl who has managed to make it to the other side of a traumatic experience is like deciding to restore an abandoned house. She has the framework and the good bones, but you may need to spackle holes someone else left behind on the the walls. She has the the makings for beautiful, light-filled windows, but you’ll need to replace a few of the cracked panes with new glass. She has the door frame, she just needs a door.

She’ll make a lovely home one day, but there needs some care in order to make a space.

See, loving a girl with trauma in her history is not some choose your own adventure or some level in a game you need to beat. It takes time, it take patience. It’s not something you ‘win at’ it’s something you deal with day by day. It takes a level of commitment because reality is, loving her is not simple.
She is inherently complicated. She is stained with memories she wishes she did not have but that she will never be rid of. She is pieced together and the stitching may be tighter in some spots than others so you have to be careful to not unravel her with one careless tug.

But she is brave. And she is strong.

And when she realizes that you are choosing to love her, and not hurt her, she will love you back with the same kind of tenacity that it took to walk through fire.

And she will hold out her palm and show you the burn marks and instead of apologizing for bothering you with their appearance, she’ll trust you to hold her hand anyway. End link

What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously?

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What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously?

Imagine that. Imagine if the church was known more for reflecting Christ like that instead of reflecting hate or intolerance.

What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously? What if we really took the time, the patience, the sacrifices to know others intimately, the people that get looked over? What if we really stopped saying the Church was a family and lived like a family, a family that loved one another, where our needs are actually met, physically and emotionally?

The last few months, I have learned a lot about love. I have learned what it’s not. I have learned some of what it is. I have had a first hand taste at how hard it can be to choose to love when what you want to do is tell another the “truth in love”. But the truth is that love does not harm. Love does not seek it’s own. It does not care to be “right”. Love pursues. Love doesn’t give up. Love seeks what’s best for another. Love helps and holds on and hold hope.

Giving a cliche response in to another in”truth and love” can often be a cop out. Rather than sticking with someone through the hardship/pressure/challenge/suffering, we may choose the more comfortable route of a quick answer or prayer. But often, in the language of love, there is not an easy answer to hardship or suffering or even most sin. The tangles of sin are mixed between our choices and choices that were chosen OVER us. It’s not as easy as “choosing joy” or “stopping” sin. God is less interested in behavior modification as he is in character development. He said in 1 John, to abide in the light. He did not say, this is how you walk in the light. Switch the two and we have dogmatic Christianity.

If  you want to do the work of God, pay attention to people. Notice them. Especially the people nobody else notices. -John Ortberg

This is love:

Isaiah 1:17:

Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

And this one:

1 Peter 4:8

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings. – Henry David Thoreau

We give meaning to love. We have one word to convey a whole host of meanings. The language that our friendship speaks is not just through word, but through what those words AND actions AND body language communicate. Love is far more than a word.

“If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.” -Dalai lama

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.- Amy Carmichael

Love your neighbor. Do good to those who harm you. Reconcile. Restore. Build. Create. Dwell. Sacrifice. Offer. Forgive. Sustain. Nourish. Invite. Welcome. Host. Heal. Bind up. Be.

Be.

Be with.

Be near.

Be alongside.

It’s how Jesus loved his neighbors. It’s what he offers to us, Himself. It’s all we have to offer one another.

“Real progress in the Christian life is not gauged by our knowledge of scripture, our church attendance, time in prayer, or even our witnessing (although it isn’t less than these things) Maturity in the Christian life is measured by only one test: how much closer to his character have we become? the result of the Spirit’s work is more not more activity. No, the results of his work are in in our quality of life, they are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”-Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

31 Days of Writing: Love

 

The power of being WITH someone can alter a life.

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The power of being WITH someone can alter a life.

Love is a hurricane in a blue sky
I didn’t see it coming, never knew why
All the laughter and the dreams
All the memories in between
Washed away in a steady stream

I always thought home was just a far dream; some wonderful concept that no one really lived up to. But I dreamed. And dreamed. And dreamed. Most nights, as a youth, I’d lay in bed and wonder what it was like to be cared about. I would imagine someone sitting by my bed at night holding me, hugging me. I would imagine what the words, “I love you” meant coming from someone who loved me. I’d imagine I was warm and cozy and that my blankets smelled of fabric softener. Anything that would allow me to escape my living nightmare for just a few hours of sweet sleep and peace in my dream world. And as I became a young adult, I stopped dreaming. I stopped hoping.

Love is a hunger, a famine in your soul
I thought I planted beauty but it would never grow
Now I’m on my hands and knees
Trying to gather up my dreams
Trying to hold on to anything

As a young adult, this world, this hollow pain and sadness grew. I mustered all the Christian perseverance in me that I could. I became good at smiling in public and weeping in private. I felt a difference in me, in my life. I looked at the Church and felt something about me was different then most others. I carried a sadness, an ache, a deep need and longing. And I pleaded for years for God to help fill this. Slowly, my ministry, my relationships, the little nook of the world I had created started to unravel. I was grasping for hope and I didn’t know it.

We could shake our fists
In times like this
When we don’t understand
Or we could just hold hands

You and me, me and you
Where you go, I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you
‘Til your heart finds a home
I won’t let you feel alone
I’m with you, I’m with you

I sought help. A dear woman came along side me. For the first time in my life, someone stood near me and wouldn’t leave. She was there to see it through. You see, she’s one of the mightiest people I know. She loves fiercely and often gently. She sees. She hopes. Oh and she prays. On some of the hardest nights of my struggling to find words, to fight the terror that came with memories, the emotional strongholds, the physical flash backs, she sat next to me, she held my hand, she held my heart. She was my Ruth. She was not giving up on me. She wouldn’t let me go.

You do your best to build a higher wall
To keep love safe from every wrecking ball
When the dust is cleared we will
See the house that love rebuilt
Guarding beauty that lives here still

And I fought her at times, I fought her will. I fought her love. I doubted and questioned. I pushed her away, or at least I tried. My walls were high. The cost of letting another in was even higher. But she stayed. She slowly did the work of loving me, of taking bricks down gently, one at a time. She encouraged me in ways I would never have dreamed of, in ways that someone who really KNOWS you is able to. This was not easy for either of us and it was costly. It took sacrifice. It took bravery. It took love. I never knew such a love existed.

Some nights we’d lay in bed and just hold hands because life was painful. She wept for the pain that this life can hold and do to another. She expressed anger. She gave my a right to feel, to feel whatever I did, without a need to keep a wall, no matter how seemingly “ungodly” my feels appeared. She stayed by my side. Dinners, outings, holidays, birthdays, family days, everyday things, church events. She stood near me, often literally. The power of being WITH someone can alter a life. It did mine.

Who can say I’m left with nothing?
When I have all of you, all of you, yeah
In the way you’ve always loved me
I remember He does too

About a year ago, I drove by her old house. She had moved a couple weeks prior out of state. And I missed her terribly. I missed her whole family, a part of my family. It was a place I drew chalk pictures on the sidewalk with her kids. A home I spent countless dinners, lunches, and weekend afternoons at. I discovered new foods in her home. I discovered a new way of life. Her home was small, but it was warm. And I went back that day, just because I missed her.

I crept up the stairs to her old home and looked around her yard, for any reminder that she used to live there, for something to grasp, some memory that it all happened, that it mattered. As if this location held some power.

I looked in the window and saw everything empty. Nothing. I gasped, a little shocked. Shocked that this was just a house. And I learned that day, home isn’t so much about a location, a physical house. Home is a people. A people who get you, who know you and still want you. Home is the place you’re welcomed back into without needing a welcome. Home is a people that hold your heart when you’ve forgotten it somewhere along the pain of life. Home is a people who fill a house.

She gave everything she had to me. What was once used to harm me, doesn’t harm me anymore. Love covered that, revealed it, and is healing it. The love of God through her sacrifices, through her love. I know what it means to have a home. To be loved.

She gave me shelter for my wounds and she stood and held me many times when I was too weak, to shattered to hold my own heart.

Even though Jesus had the 99 sheep, He still would go back to find the one that was struggling. That one is worth much. Each one is worth much. Sometimes the cost of bringing one back is heavy. Oh but people are worth it. So worth it.

Love is rebuilding a home in me. What was once used to hurt, is now being used to heal. She saw beauty in me and called it out. Now I know what a home is.

31 Days of Writing: Home

And maybe the older we get, what we know is far less important than knowing who we are.

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If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

Over the weekend I was at a baby shower for a friend I’ve known since I was 14 years old. We went through our awkward teenage years together (one of us is still a bit awkward), drank frozen cokes and ice coffees in blizzards, ate our hearts fill of pizza bites, learned to cook together, babysat together, had movie marathons together. We went on day trips, argued in card games, and even cheated off one another a time or two in high school. We served alongside one another in college, stayed up late dreaming of being missionaries together. I was the friend that rolled my eyes when she died her hair pink, then black, and and wanted plugs in her ears (the Emo phase). She was the Emo looking 17 year old girl that gave me her bible.. the same bible that eventually lead me to understand who Jesus was, and two of my biological family members as well.

It’s a warm, special feeling to have known someone for a chunk of time. This friend of mine married into another family I have known almost as long. And at the baby shower, I was on my way out when her mother-in-law grabbed hold of me and embraced me. It was the kind of embrace that communicate, “let’s sit and catch up”. So we did.

Mother-in-Law has never shied away from the realities of her struggles before Jesus and as a Christian. I have always respected that about her. Life’s hard. She knows it and feels it too. And in the course of our conversations I said, “I’m starting to care less about what I know, and care more about knowing who I am.” And she looked at me straight in the eye, grabbed my hand and said, “That’s wisdom Syndal.”

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

So here’s where I am at. Here’s what I am learning. I never shy away from sharing what I am learning and not learning. Theology and philosophies and knowing the answers could only take me so far. And I know they turned people away from me. And probably away from Jesus.  So I have been starting to care less about what I know and more about who I am.  Because I must first know how to love myself through Jesus before I can love my neighbor as myself in Jesus. And if I do not love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Maybe the way I love isn’t efficient. I don’t think I will win any awards. I am not doing anything spectacular. But I show up for people. I have enough margin in my life and schedule for others. I make my time my most valued resource, the thing I give the most. I don’t speak to an audience of 1,000 or 100, or even 10. Maybe I get together with 1-2 women a week, mentor a student or two. I cook dinner for my housemates, write a few letters to people I know could use some encouragement.

Maybe the way I love seems too fluid, too unstructured. Maybe it is. But I’m not sure. I just know this was not who I was a few years ago and I am confident I am more like Jesus now. And I am so thankful for this learning process. I’ve had to unlearn a lot, and in the process I am learning more about who I am, and as I know more of who I am, I am far more able to love others as I would myself, in ways that might actually bring about restoration and healing, for me and them.

And maybe the older we get, what we know is far less important than knowing who we are.

FMF:Learn

My people, they aren’t extraordinary

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I know we aren’t supposed to choose favorite people.. or at last I’ve been told. But I do. My favorites aren’t usually well known or popular. Even my most favorite kids I’ve ever worked with had some pretty intense struggles and behaviors- and you guys I wanted to adopt them (and still do) and maybe I will. Some of my most favorite people in the Bible aren’t the ones who you’d think. They aren’t the Ruth’s or Deborah’s or even Priscilla. My favorites tend to be Naomi, and Lot’s wife, and even Jezebel.

Maybe because they aren’t big, or well known. They aren’t very prized or cherished or admonished. Maybe because we don’t know, we really do not know what their lives were really like, what lead them to the decisions they made, how things could have been different for them or even how THEY would have explained their choices. Maybe they think much more like me, perceive this challenging and difficult world similarly as I. Maybe life was really difficult, people hurt them, others left. Maybe they grieved horrifically in ways that few others could even try to imagine, let alone relate to. Because that’s how I feel, and it’s not too hard for me to imagine they could have, too.

So my favorite people, they aren’t extraordinary. They have no super strength emotions or vitality. The are very defeat-able, have big deficits, and ache for things beyond their control of obtaining. One of my most favorite people was my grandmother.

Her name was Shirley. I owe any normalcy of a childhood to this dear woman. From giving us normal, regular meals, to movies and beach/pool days and toys, she sacrificed so my sisters and I could have some semblance of what our peers had. And not just in physical ways, but emotionally. She’s the only woman I can recall hugging me. She kissed me goodnight during out sleepovers and walked us to bed. That was a foreign concept to me. She let us pick out special things and asked us questions, like if we liked a specific food or movie, what we learned in school, how sports or art were going.

My grandmother smelled of musty sweet perfume and red lipstick. She loved velour and elastic waste pants, but man was she classy for an older women! Her skin was soft and she loved elephants. She had amazing stories of her childhood and family, of life during war and poverty, of being the oldest of 5 kids and of caretaking for her mother in her mother’s last years of life. Grandma Shirley was kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and sacrificial. She loved her friends as family and her family all the same. I loved to watch her relationships, the ease with which she connected with others. And she loved to talk on the phone (I did not get that trait).

My grandmother is the only person who ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She used to say she believed I could be whatever I wanted. When I was really good in the artistic arena, she always complimented, same with sports and music. She never pushed me, but just believed in me, believed I was more the sum of my situation (which was difficult to say the least). As I was older as a teenager and no longer was able to live with my parents, she’d drive to wherever I was living to pick me up at least two weekends out of the month. She’s always end our time together with some “spending money”, and baked goods for whichever family I was staying with. Even those families came to love Grandma Shirley. She always showed up when she said she would. She loved to see me.

She cared well for her friends. Her friends loved  me. I often stopped to visit them in her apartment complex before entering my grandmother’s home. At her funeral, dozens of her friends hugged me and wepted. I told each of them stories that my grandmother had shared with me about them or our stories all together. I reminded them how important they were to her and how grateful I was that she had such wonderful friends. My grandmother was social like me, but also introverted too. She loved people deeply and individually and with all that her heart was able to.

When my grandmother passed away, I was immediately ushered into some kind of care taking role for others. I was even asked to give the eulogy and officiate the ceremony (the perks of being the only family member in ministry). It wasn’t until a couple years later that things died down enough in the relative drama front to feel like I longed for her, grieved her. She was my favorite. I know I was her favorite too. She began to follow Jesus a few years before she died. I celebrated a lot that Easter.

It’s been a couple more years since then. I celebrate her birthday each year. She always celebrated me in whatever way she could. So each year on her birthday, I head somewhere and I buy two cupcakes. I pick out a birthday card and I write her a letter. And then I eat both our cupcakes. Because I know she’d be happy I did. And my heart stays soft in it’s grief, even when I can’t remember what she looked like. And each Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the stroke that eventually killed her, rolls by I remember that holiday that I found her-the precious couple weeks I took the 50 minute drive out to her hospital daily to feed her and read her a Francine River’s novel nightly, and I bake her brownies and mail them to someone I know could use a little package surprise. Because that’s what she did for me. And I honor her memory and role in my life in such a way. And I write her another letter. Because words mattered to both of us.

Five Minute Friday: Favorite

Half Year Reads Review

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If you’ve known me even in the slightest way, you know I love to watch things grow. I like to be a part of the process. Whether it’s planting a seasonal garden or starting a new facet of ministry, cultivating is ingrained in me, an intense desire and need to work diligently to understand, to know, to grow, and to do my very smallest part to encourage things while they grow.

In 2014 I had to nearly halt one of the ways I grow the most, from reading. It was hard and painful. I felt a bit envious and jealous at times because I was physically unable to read much, while others seemed to do it with endless ease. It was as if I was disconnected from one of the prominent ways God speaks to me and from a place that once brought me much joy. My eyes were injured from a condition that had developed that year and I had some severe temporary vision loss, but also some minor permanent loss.

And my eyes didn’t focus often. I lived nearly an entire year not knowing that one of the major issues was that my eyes were not able to focus, so I was taking in far too much light and exposure and details (like words or small objects on the floor) were often blurred. My eyes were dilated too much. A few weeks ago I had a minor procedure that helped to correct some of this. And alas! I can read better.

So here’s to reading some good books the last few weeks and to ending this first half of the year with a few good books under my belt and in my heart (and the ones that I’m half way through…):

Beyond books, articles and blog posts have been especially meaningful to me.

It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

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Father’s Day is coming. It’s a harder one for more people than I think we understand. We celebrate fathers, but Father’s Day is also tempered with pain. Joy and pain, they often seem to go together. We have David and Bathsheba and Absolom and Tamar. I bet there’s far more Tamar’s in our church pews than we are aware of. Abuse, abandonment, neglect, coldness, shame in places where warmth, light, solidarity, and compassion were needed by fathers.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”- Brene Brown

The last few weeks have been filled with making choices that bring much fear. I have had appointments, visits, and engaged in conversations that flat out near terrified me. I’ve looked at systemic issues in my heart, made life altering decisions, and took steps to love, which riddled me with fear to points of being sick to my stomach. Just this morning, at an appointment a doctor asked me about a piece of my story, a painful hard piece, and I was reminded that fear can be good. It can protect us. It protected me. We SHOULD be afraid of some things. We OUGHT to have some fear in our lives, but sometimes fear gets distorted. Sometimes fear is misused. And too often, we carry the pain of that fear into our lives where it enmeshes into circumstances and relationships and inflicts pain and harm.

This morning I thought about Father’s Day and my step-father. He loved me, I think, in some way. But he did not really know how to love appropriately or well. He was hurting. He hurt so much that I can imagine he lived in a constant state of pain and agony. I do not know what caused him to be so calloused, so cold and angry that he would injure others, but he did. He had a history of rage and assault.

He abused many women. He abused many drugs. He created a small community of people who were terrified of him and his domineering authority over them. His crimes were horrendous. He was to be feared.

I want to care about this suffering world more than I care about my rights. It is my hearts cry that those outside of the Christian subculture that we’ve created might be able to ask, “Even me?” and be welcomed with, “of course you.”

And somewhere along the line all the avenues my step-father managed to cope with his rage caught up with him and he became ill. For 2 years he layed in a hospital bed, paralyzed on quadruple bypass. A couple weeks before Father’s Day I happened to have to spend the night in our van at the hospital overnight while my mother visited him for the night. I had not seen him at all since he first entered the hospital. No one ask if I wanted to see him. They just assumed it was clearly not a good idea. This was a fluke and I was not happy about having to spend the night at the hospital against my wishes. Mother didn’t have time to drop me off beforehand.

I used to see it in his eyes, the switch. Mostly he was cold, but sometimes the rage would be there. And those days and nights and weeks were the hardest. And every once in a while I’d see the sadness. And I hurt for my step-father in a very deep place inside of my little child heart. My little child heart knew his sadness as my own. In the midst of much chaos, neglect, and abuse, God created a gentle and compassionate heart inside of me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was closing the van door. Walking into the hospital. I crept into the waiting room. No one was around. I turned the corner counting the room numbers. My heart was pounding. I was dizzy. I was afraid and fear gripped me, but I was also curious. I hardly knew what to expect. I glanced around his hospital room quickly to make sure no one was in there. I stepped into what I thought was an empty room, but as I got closer, there he was, my step-father, in his bed. Emaciated. Dozens of tubes coming out of him.

He looked at me, shocked. He couldn’t speak. He physically was unable. He couldn’t move. He was dying. And I looked into his eyes, such sadness. And I saw it, the lone tear fell from his eye as he looked at me.

Fear dissolved and my small teenage self filled with something I can only call the fullness of compassion. I whispered, “I forgive you. I’m okay. God loves me. He sees you. He loves you too. He wants you. He always has.”

And friends, his tears rolled down his sunken and bruised cheeks. I stood for a few more moments and walked back to the van, never to see my step-father again. You see, Jesus had gripped my heart a few weeks previously and a whole new world of faith existed for me, a world of  hope and possibility in a place that was once dead. I was more alive than I knew possible. And if we are only good news to each other, what good will that do for the Kingdom and our world? There’s real, living people in need of hope in their darkest and most painful moments.

Love conquers death. Love restores fear to it’s rightful place. Love corrects wrong, brings justice.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love conquerors a multitude of sin. Love never fails. Fathers may fail. Families may hurt us. The weight of life and living may fall very hard upon our tattering souls. But God, he takes the things that are little and weak, he takes the pieces of our fear filled lives that “ought not to have been that way”, and he breaths courage into them, life into them. He heals. He creates places where those outside can now enter in, as equals. And the lamb can rest with the lion.

Check it out:

FMF: Fear & TestimonyTuesday