Tag Archives: Safe

A Raging River…

>>>>> Yes, this post is incredibly long…what do you expect when it’s been so long since I posted. Don’t click away. Bear with me, read it until the end. Please. <<<<<

2017 Raging River

The past few days have been quite overwhelming. Change is inevitable yet so often, difficult to accept. Loss is painful, excruciating. This sums it up…

Life.

Let’s say you’re on a journey. We each have a different path. Some have flowers and butterflies early on and some have briars and thorns. Maybe some have briars and thorns the whole way. Let’s say the briars and thorns are the hurt, pain, and trauma that stings, cuts, and scrapes like the briars. Then you make it to a river. It’s fierce. It’s scary. You know to get to the path on the other side, free from the briars and thorns, you’ve got to cross the raging waters. And let’s say therapy is the stones laid out before you. You just have to take the step. You make it to the first one, catch your balance, plan out your next step and prepare to move forward. Some stones may be slippery. You may twist your ankle. It’s not an easy crossing but you press on. You step to the next stone, getting closer and closer to the other side.

The let’s say grief gets in the way. Grief over loss, losing the stones. It stops you in your tracks. There aren’t anymore stones laid out for you to step across. All you see is raging waters. You feel the sting of cold water splashing against your scraped and scratched up legs. You feel lost and alone. You wonder if there is hope…but as you glance back at the stones you’ve crossed, you’re reminded there is hope. You found it a few stones back.

Where do you go from there?

Your journey halts. You’re stuck on that stone for who knows how long while the water crashes around you. It’s overwhelming. It’s painful. It’s scary. You beg for more stones. You cry out for stones from the deepest part of your heart. But the stones are gone. How do you get across. How do you reach the other side without drowning?

You know it will happen…you just don’t know how. You know it won’t be with those stones and that is where grief has settled in. Maybe you’ll fall a few times. Maybe you’ll get soaked but you’ve made it far enough to know the river won’t take you.

Where is your path leading you? Are you headed through flowers and butterflies or are you tangled in the briars? Are you safe on a stone or treading water just to breathe? Or have you crossed the river and reached the other side, with soft green grass, the shade and protection of a giant weeping willow tree, a cool, gentle breeze, and a place to rest, where you can look back and see just how far you’ve come?

I wrote that sometime last night. Words usually come easy for me but the ability to accurately explain my feelings, well, not so much. This seemed clear enough to create a visual of what I’ve been feeling.

Why all this? I do want to offer an explanation. I owe that to myself.

Abandonment.
Abuse.
The insecurity of home.
The lack of support, love, and nurturing.
A childhood lost.
A girl growing in a world alone, a world that has mostly been cruel.

If your own mother and father don’t love you, why would anyone else?

That is a question I’ve asked over and over again. A parent’s role in a child’s life involves love, nurturing, protection, direction, guidance, support, and so much more. Those are things that can’t be replaced by another person. It’s an ugly fact.

I’ve bounced from house to house, never really feeling home.

Abuse.
Foster care.
Grandparents.
Homeless.

I’ve been in and out of therapy since around age 11. At 15, I wanted nothing to do with the therapist the courts ordered me to see. I was stone cold hard. My walls were so high, no one could touch me. It was great. And it was lonely.

At 19, after losing the one person I knew without a doubt loved me, my Papa, a part of me died with him. He was the only person that had given me a reason to live all those years. He was the one person who taught me what real love looked like, how to be kind and respectful, and how to love others unconditionally.

At that point, life became careless. I was a firefighter. Back then, female firefighters were rare. I loved that. I loved being the tough girl. I loved the idea that I could step into a burning house, with flames all around me and knowing they couldn’t touch me. I embraced the idea that I would gladly give my life in order to save someone else. In fact, I wanted to.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

And today, twenty years later, I can say there have been many times that I ached to find home. Not a home this world can offer, but an eternal home where there is no more pain and suffering.

Admittedly, I’ve attempted to take my own life. Several times. And yet, here I am. I look around and see raging waters. But I also see the path continues. I’ve learned that somehow, I’ll find a way.

So, where I am today is in the midst of grief. They say being able to feel is a part of healing. Well, I must have done a lot of healing in the past few years because I’m definitely feeling this. It’s heavy. It feels like I’m choking. It feels like there are rocks in my lungs. It feels like I’m covered by a blanket waiting to be smothered. It’s incredible pain. I’ve never known pain like this because I was never able to feel like this.

Over the past four years, I have been seeing a therapist. She’s the last of a long list of attempts to break through my walls…and she did. No one else had been able to do that. Not because they couldn’t but because I couldn’t let them. I couldn’t trust. I could talk about my past and all the wrongs but I couldn’t feel. No one could knock down the walls that kept me safe from the pain of the world around me.

Kara did. I don’t know how she did. She says I did the work.

Therapy is an odd thing. My opinion of it has changed frequently and probably will continue to change. In many ways, it’s amazing. You have the opportunity to share anything without judgment. Without anger. Without being punished. Now, don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t come easy. It takes a long time to learn that it’s a relationship where it’s safe enough to trust. A LONG TIME! (for me anyway)

But when you find that person, the one who can really see you, the one who lets you know it’s okay to breathe, the one that reminds you, you’re not alone, the one that bears ALL your secrets, the one that has loved you in spite of all you’ve been, done, and are…when you find that one, it means the world to you.

Kara isn’t perfect. She’s not some magical creature with a wand that wipes away all the wrong of the world. Nope, she’s pretty normal. She’s just a regular human being who struggles like the rest of us but we clicked. She taught me to trust. That was something I’d never been able to do.

She taught me…

to trust – that taking the chance can be worth it.
to believe – to believe I am strong, worthy, lovable, wanted.
to seek hope – that even in the darkest moments, hope is there.
to love – to love myself, to see my worth, to know myself.
to dream – to imagine where I would be when I made it to the other side.
to embrace – to seek truth and embrace it.
to grow – that I didn’t have to be afraid of who I would become.
to change – to bring truth in to erase all the lies I’d believed.
to feel – that it would hurt like hell but it would be so worth it.

And that’s where I am. I am feeling. I am grieving. When my Papa died, back in 1997, I cried off and on for three days and didn’t speak to anyone. I felt dead inside. That was about all I could feel. I wanted to die with him. I was numb. I was lost. I was alone. I wasn’t able to grieve because I had no idea how to really feel anything other than empty.

Grief sucks! Plain and simple – it absolutely hurts like hell. Losing someone who has meant the world to you, by death or by the end of a relationship is incredibly hard.

Two days ago, Kara told me she’s leaving her position in a private counseling setting and heading into the school system. It’s what is best for her and her family. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one she had to make, none the less. I care greatly for her and want the best for her and her family…I just wish I could be a part of her best.

I was/am devastated. DEVASTATED.

This woman, the one who knocked down my walls, helped me learn to breathe, taught me to find hope, and to press on, to fight death and find life…she’s leaving me. And all I can think of is I knew this would happen. Everyone leaves.

A father who never cared enough to even meet his daughter.
A mother who chose the man who sexually abused me for years, rather than her own daughter.
Teachers who cared but couldn’t realistically move on to the next grade with you, every year.
Lawyers, advocates, foster parents, friends, houses, family, etc.
A grandma, who much like myself, bounced between emotions, never really being able to express unconditional love, but rather love based solely on conditions, and fits of rage and anger.
A Papa who meant the world to a little girl who had no one else, who had the hands of strength, the heart full of love and compassion, a presence of the only thing safe in the world.

Whether by death or by walking away, the people that have mattered most, who have cared most, who were supposed to love, protect, encourage, support, etc. – they all leave.

And that’s where I’m at.
Kara is leaving.

I know it’s not the same. I know she truly cared. She’s dedicated four years of her own life and time to helping me. She’s put in countless hours of watching me stumble over words, back track on progress, question everything she’s said, argue or debate her truths vs. my truths, and lately, she’s watched me cry.

For years, pretty much all my life, crying wasn’t an option. Crying wasn’t safe. Crying made things worse. Crying meant something was wrong. Crying meant you weren’t strong enough.

But Kara taught me it was okay to cry.
She taught me I was safe with her and it was safe to cry with her.

She never took advantage of my vulnerability and what I viewed as a weakness. She viewed it as strength. Progress, she would say.

I can’t tell you the exact day when I first cried with Kara. I can tell you it wasn’t that long ago. It’s only been within maybe the last year that I really felt like I was stepping across the stones that created a path to somewhere better. And she was walking with me. Holding my hand. Offering hugs, when I was able to ask.

You may wonder, why is it a loss? It’s not like she died and is gone forever.

But it is a loss. That’s where the ugly part of therapy comes in…

Kara always said the therapist/client relationship is like no other. It’s complicated. There are ethics and boundaries she has to adhere to for my own good, but they are incredibly difficult to accept and understand. You’d think just the fact you’ve spent so much time with one another, that would be enough, but it’s not. Ethics, boundaries and the design of the therapeutic relationship don’t leave a door open for anything when the relationship ends. It most definitely is a loss. It’s a death.

And that’s what I am grieving.

I am grieving the loss of the person who knows me better than anyone else in this world.
The person who has taught me what safe love looks like, what love really means.
Who has given up much of her own life in order to save mine.
The person I pray for and want the best for, yet ache to be a part of her best.
Like with my Papa, I am grieving the person who showed me I mattered, that I was loved, that I was wanted.

I have an amazing husband. He’s caring, patient (very, very patient), gentle, and understanding. For the most part, I’ve shut him out of my therapy life and my healing journey, mostly because I’m stubborn, and partly as some lame attempt to protect him from my own heavy baggage. It was safest for me to view the time I had with Kara, in her office, as the one place, the one person I could actually let see the real me. I treasured that time. I cherished it. And I learned over time that I didn’t have to carry it all with me when I wasn’t there. She was safe enough that I could leave it all with her and actually live life in the in between. There’s so much comfort in that.

I have three beautiful, smart, amazing kids. I adore them. They are great kids just like my husband is great. They are my biggest fans, my biggest source of support, and they are honest enough to be brutal when I wear something wacky!

As much as I love them, it’s not the same. Theirs is a relationship where they depend on me. They receive unconditional love and support from me and in return, they love me back. They look to me for comfort, protection, guidance, and so on. They need me. They come to me for hugs or to fix everything.

That’s what I’m missing. That’s what I’ve lost. There is no one on this earth that can fill that role. There is no one who has known me forever, who calls me theirs, who has done and would do anything for me, who has wiped away tears, picked me up when I fell, held my hand through the hard times, and taught me what a mother’s love is supposed to look like. Kara did that for me.

And honestly, I am so truly blessed. My home…my family…I have found in my church. It took me years to get to that point to but I believe all that time, God was preparing me, teaching me, growing me. And He’s given, and He’s taken away. I’d like to put in a direct request that He stop taking away but it seems when He takes away, He helps me find many other things/people to keep me moving forward.

I have some amazing people in my life. There are women who have walked this journey with me, who have been my allies, my support, my stones along side Kara. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve kept me accountable (sheesh!). They’ve guided me and taught me. And painfully, when I look at them, I see what wonderful mother’s they are to their children, how they pray constantly for them, how they love them with such a deep, genuine love. And I see how they have that with their own mothers, how they have those people that have always known them, always cared, and always called them theirs. I realize there is no perfect family. I realize it’s a really messed up world and every family has its issues. Still, it’s hard to be loved by these amazing ladies and know I will still never matter that much…so much that I would be first in their lives, that I would be right in line with their other children, that they have watched grow from the tiniest fingers and toes, picked up from falls, held when they were sick, ached with every ounce of their body when their children were hurting. That’s what I grieve. Even Kara couldn’t offer that.

But here I am.

The river might be raging but I can still see the other side. I’m determined to someday sit beneath that giant weeping willow tree, feel the warm sun bearing down on my face, the gentleness of the soft green grass below me, and the freedom to breathe.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

But for a moment, let me grieve. This is healing, right?

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A home is not enough…

HomeIsNotEnough

“Home is where the heart is”  Pliney, the Elder

“There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.”  Rosalyn Carter

“There is something permanent, and something extremely profound, in owning a home.”  Kenny Guinn

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”  Gaston Bachelard

There is an overwhelming abundance of quotes about how wonderful home is, how perfect and pretty, how home is family.  You could probably even rattle off ten home quotes of your own.  Is your home enough?

As a little girl, there was a fear of being at home.  Home is where I was hurt.  Home held a lifetime of memories of pain and abuse.  Home was unsafe, scary.  As a teenager, I lived with my grandparents in the basement of their home.  I had many memories of fun and happiness there, but the darkness of my life followed me there.  I dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts, self injury, drinking, etc.  My grandfather died in that home and one year later, my grandmother kicked me out of the home.  She passed away just a few months later.  I was homeless.  Taken in by friends, I found the security of a roof over my head, but in my heart, I had no idea what real security felt like.  I felt alone.  Abandoned.  Scared.  I ended up renting a tiny trailer and living on my own, in constant fear.  People joked about the fact that at any given time, that tiny tin box could be found lit up like a motel.

At twenty-two, my soon to be husband and I purchased and signed on our first home, just a month before our marriage.  It was a dream come true.  It was a cute, yet modest, three bedroom ranch.  For me, it represented a new start, protection, and a security that time and time again throughout my childhood, had been taken away from me.  It was a symbol of our love together, a family, a new life, one I so desperately needed.

Two years later, we found ourselves in over our heads with, a toddler, unable to pay all the bills due to me having left my full time career as a firefighter and settling for mediocre pay as a dialysis technician and suffering with a horribly dark depression.  We said goodbye to our sweet little home and moved into a church parsonage that we would rent for about six years.  The house was bigger so space wise, we had more than we needed.  It was nice enough, but it was never ours.  While there, depression continued to rob me of my joy, but much happiness came along with the addition of our second child after years of struggling with infertility.  At the end of that six years, the church we rented from was getting a new pastor and with that, we were given a month to find a new home.  We were in panic mode again.  We moved from our 2200 square foot rental home into a 900 square foot apartment, with two children.  The dog had to find a new home as well.

Fast forward about three years, more struggles with depression from a past that continues to haunt me and infertility along with just life in general.  The arrival of our third child in our tiny, two bedroom apartment, created a necessity for change.  Once again, we were faced with finding something else.  We rented a small three bedroom home outside of town.  At this point, or perhaps in the tight quarters of our tiny apartment, my perspective began to change.  I saw this cramped little place as a source of comfort and joy.  While my heart longed for a place of our own, we shared many wonderful times together, celebrating being a family.  That outlook started me on a new journey, one where I was able to really believe in this God I had cried out to and I began put my trust in Him.  Through this time, He taught me that I was somebody, that the house or the car (you can read about the car here) didn’t make the person, that He could use me no matter where I was or what circumstances I was faced with.  He filled me with a desire to grow closer to Him, soaking in His word, preparing me – for greater works?  Maybe.  For more storms?  Certainly.  What I gained from that time was irreplaceable.  I found my security in Him.

Through our experiences of losing homes and moving, my own insecurities grew.  I longed for a real home, one of our own.  I was envious of all the people who seemed so secure in homes of their own, with their seemingly perfect lives.  I ached to feel the stability of a home being ours, being forever.  I prayed.

In November, 2011, we made the move.  We had finally gotten to a point where we were able to buy our own home and signed the paperwork the week of Thanksgiving.  We were so excited about this new start.  Twelve years into our marriage, we were finally going to have the stability and security I had been waiting for.

Eight short months later, that security was once again shaken when our home was broken into.  I wrote about that here.  I spent the next months unable to sleep at night, afraid they would return, filled with many emotions and turmoil, nightmares resurfaced, but trusting that God would watch over us.  And He did.

Today, I can tell you, our security continues to be shattered in ways we could never have imagined.  Owning our home, making it ours, trying to live it with God at the center, and praying, has not made our lives pain free.  We have faced more hard times in the past couple years and many of them have been issues in our own home.  Some days, it’s all I can do just to breathe.  But through all of that, somehow, there is peace.  Where does that peace come from?  That peace comes from believing that God has something beautiful planned out of this darkness, that through all these trials, He is working on me, growing me and teaching me, that even in the midst of these storms, He’s never left me alone and He will not abandon me.  He is my fortress, my shield, my protector and my security.  Having a home is not enough.  An alarm system doesn’t necessarily prevent people from coming in.  Walls can’t comfort you in the middle of night when you’re faced with nightmares.  A roof doesn’t shelter you from the storms of life.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

What I have learned through a lifetime of being moved around, feeling unsafe in every home, losing any security I may have had in a home, is that a home is nothing without the security of Christ.  He is my security.  Each home had it’s own share of blessings but also chaos, difficulties, hurt and pain, some with loss and abuse.  Each home may have had moments of love and joy, but evil and worry still seeped through the cracks in the walls.  My security came when I allowed God in.  He didn’t take away the struggles.  He didn’t make our home suddenly perfect.  In fact, I can’t imagine things being more difficult than where we are in this moment, but my security is not in my home.  It is not in my circumstances.  It’s in trusting that He is with me through the struggle, that He will use the darkness and ugliness of my life, for something greater than I could ever imagine.  My security is in Him.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Psalm 5:11

Where is your security?  Is it in your spouse?  Your children?  Your education?  Your job?  Your home?

All of those things will fail you, disappoint you, break you.  Only He can give you a true sense of security, if you let Him!

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1