RECOVERY

The Cold Hard Truth About Loving God

What it really looks like

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Loving God sounds easy, but don’t read this if you aren’t brave enough to face yourself.

I always considered loving God from a selfish point of view. I love Him because of all He gives me, for blessing me with life, for sending Jesus to die for my sins.

But to love Him just for being GOD is a lot more terrifying because it causes you to be morally just, but  not at all socially acceptable.

You have to be extraordinarily fierce to love God like you should. And you have to know who He really is.

Ephesians 3:14 calls God the Father from whom every family in Heaven and earth is named, and Matthew 23:9 says we have one Father, and He’s in Heaven.

In John 20:17 Jesus told Peter if he loved Him, “Feed My sheep.”

Sheep are prone to wander away, and to feed them, you must first recognize them, know them, seek them, and find them.  

Feeding His sheep means searching out the lost and the broken, patching them up with the word, and giving them hope in Jesus Christ. It also means feeding them if they need food. Giving to people who need it.

To love God as my Father, I also need to spend time with Him, and love His children.

Wait, what?

Love His children.

To do that, I must recognize that every human being on earth was uniquely designed by God. Even the ones who aren’t like me—the stinky ones, the toothless ones, the addicted ones, the different ones, the sick ones—all people have value and are loved equally by God.

This has never been more relevant than it is right now.

It’s impossible to ignore what’s going on in the world, and why would you want to? If you ignore one catastrophe, another will knock you off your feet.

Look at the opioid crisis. It may have gotten a little better, but we have a long way to go before we beat Big Pharma and heal our land of this sinister presence. Here’s a link to an article I wrote about why I will never be free of it.

If that particular drug addiction isn’t disturbing enough for you, do a little research on meth addiction. It’s also mentioned in the above article, and you can read a story here about a young mother who suffered from both mental illness and drug addiction. I wonder what it would’ve been like if her mother would’ve answered the call?

And I wonder if she’s alive today.

I work with a recovery group every week. It’s as healing as it is draining. If you think the addicted are limited to the homeless and mentally ill, you might be surprised to learn that Debbie who works at the insurance company down the road will trade her body for a hit of meth tonight and show up for work tomorrow morning.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

The human side of addiction is different than you think.

They aren’t all monsters. They’re your family.

It’s not in their control. It’s bigger than they are. They see the damage they’re causing and feel shame and humiliation. Still can’t stop.

They feel betrayed by everyone they love because they’re often left to deal with it on their own, mostly because of their own destructive choices. Doesn’t keep them from hurting.

They desperately seek small doses of approval and love and will give anything to anyone because they know what it’s like to do without. They’ll also steal anything from anyone because they know what it’s like to do without.

They still love their children.

It’s easy to love people who we think have their lives together, but once you find out they have real PROBLEMS, it gets a whole lot harder. The reason? Because then it might involve YOU. And you don’t want to get involved. We all like things easy, no confrontation, no conflict. Smooth sailing until we slide into home at the feet of Jesus.

Well that’s not how life works, Karen.

Real life isn’t always pretty. It’s hard, scary, unfair, and sometimes it’s downright gruesome. It can scar you up pretty bad and leave you with PTSD or something equally hard to talk about. Maybe you don’t know why that teenager has lines up and down her arms, but I do. I also know why she stays locked up in her room all the time. You can read my story about social anxiety here.

What the world needs is to know the truth in all its ugliness, but what we want is a prettied-up version of it, with only the parts we happen to agree with and make sure you leave out the rest.

No one wants to face it ALL, and I have to wonder if we’d be emotionally able to process it if we did take a cold hard look.

Nevertheless, I’m going to continue to get as close as I’m able and maybe get banned from ever writing anything anywhere ever again.

What happens when love turns to hate in the Christian heart?

It does, you know. You can deny it all you want to, until you go into the convenience store that’s owned by a person of the Islamic faith and while they’re ringing up your purchase you’re thinking that not only do they probably not use toilet paper, they also hate all Americans and wish you were dead.

But they won’t ever tell the preacher you bought that vodka and those blunts, so you’re going to keep going.

We all want justice to be done, but who even knows what that is?

We have a media that lies to us on a daily basis, and I guess the side you’re on is determined by which set of lies you choose to believe.

Somebody knows how that virus got out, and whether it was manufactured or came from a bat that a human was crazy enough to eat, and if they haven’t been murdered already, you can bet it’s on the agenda.

Maybe it IS caused by something other than what we’ve been socially influenced to believe, and we’re all about to be led like sheep to the slaughter, but somebody better decide on a conspiracy theory and stick to it so we can fight. Otherwise we’re all going to die. Or maybe not. Who knows?

We want to believe the police are there to serve and protect, but how can it always be true if what we’ve seen with our own eyes tells us a different story?

No one who has the internet missed the knee on the neck. No one will ever forget that. And it was big.

Big enough that we can’t run from the truth anymore.

If you were raised in the South, there’s a ten out of ten chance you were raised in a home with at least one racist.

Maybe a non-violent, “just joking around, I have friends of every color” kind of racist, but still a racist.

If you’re as old as I am, you can probably remember a whole lot more than you tell about the separation of blacks and whites and how it really looked back then. You might even want to say we’ve come a long way since then, because up until recently, you probably believed it was true.

It’s time to step out of your bubble of denial.

And I’m not just talking to white people. I’ve been a recipient of the other end of racism. It also exists. The words “cultural appropriation” come to mind. If anyone ever read my articles, I’d get slammed for that one. Lucky for me, I pretty much go unread. It’s still true though.

Pretty much nothing has changed since the sixties if you’re talking about attitudes. Maybe some laws have changed influencing equality in the workplace and schools. But PEOPLE haven’t changed. And that’s what’s wrong.

It’s a HEART problem. It can’t be solved by changing a few laws.

I was in my late teens when I realized I’d been lied to all my life. That’s when I knew for certain skin color was not a determining factor in the value of a human being. I never embraced a racist point of view, but the culture I grew up in dictated my life.

I had black friends growing up and I honestly never understood why they lived on the other side of the tracks and couldn’t come over to play at my house. But I heard the disparaging comments about the color of their skin. I heard the “n” word.

I don’t blame my family. My father was a good man. He had black friends. After he died, several came to see me. They told me of ways Daddy had helped them, been there for them, fed them, clothed them.

It was those conversations that started the change in me.

Nothing made sense to me until I understood that it was culturally unacceptable for Daddy to acknowledge what his heart knew. We were all the same.

I mentioned that the truth isn’t pretty. It’s hard, and it’s ugly, and no one wants to face it. That doesn’t make it less TRUE. That’s how I grew up.  

We did that. We were that. To some extent, we still are that.

And white privilege. I’ve balked at that so many times. I’ve been one of the ones to say it doesn’t exist, because I’ve worked hard for every single thing I’ve ever gotten and my life sure hasn’t been easy.

But it’s not the same.

When you’re white, you have a certain expectation that things will go a certain way, and they usually do.

If you get stopped by a police officer, you can be reasonably certain you won’t get dragged out of the vehicle and thrown down into the street unless you’re running your mouth or threatening in some way.

It probably won’t happen because of the color of your skin.

When you’re black, you can’t have that same expectation.

You can also expect to be looked at first if there’s a crime committed, and you happen to be in the area. Your color is associated with poverty, violence, low education levels, reliance on the government, and with mouthy bad attitudes.

Did I get this information off a statistical study?

No. I didn’t have to. I’m white. I know the associations. I hate that it’s true, but it is.

And the truth is very ugly.

I would like to see our nation band together to change the truth. To fix the heart problem. To learn to love God by loving His children, the way that our parents (while saying the n word at home) taught us to sing that old song—“red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight….”

But no. I recently read that this old song is racist too.

Apparently the “red” and “yellow” are racist terms. To be fair, I don’t think they were back when I sang the song.

Back to where this started, we must love the unlovable, pick up the fallen, go for the weary, feed the hungry, nurse the sick, protect the helpless, nourish and teach the children. Like the other old song says, “Rescue the Perishing.”

The Bible says in Psalms 97:10 that to love God means to hate evil. All forms of racism is evil, even the hidden ones, including the thoughts going around in your head when you encounter someone different from you.

I know I can’t love God without serving Him by serving others, and without fighting for the rights of others who are weary of fighting for themselves. This battle for equality can’t be won unless we all stand together against the enemies of hate and prejudice.

Violence and hate isn’t the answer and never could be. The only answer is love.

I could quote a hundred things from Martin Luther King, Jr but two stand out. The first is:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

We might not know where this will end if we join forces as humans for a change, instead of fighting as blacks and whites. I have a pretty good idea of where it will end if we don’t, and it’s not good.

King also said:

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

And it is.

I can only love God by loving His children the way He does, or as close as a human can get to that. I can remember the stories of little girls who were forced to sit in the back of the classroom because they weren’t white, and couldn’t come over to my birthday party because they lived on the other side of the tracks.

I still know what it felt like for an old black man to press twenty five dollars in my hand with tears in his eyes and say, “Your Daddy bought me tires for my truck,” and everything that was out of balance in my head righted itself.

The outside isn’t the inside. The skin of a man doesn’t determine who he is.

Skin color, addiction, illness, education, level of crazy—none of these should be a factor in how I love and treat someone else. What matters is we are all God’s children, designed by Him, for a reason. We are all loved by Him.

To really love God just for being God, honor His greatest commandments, in Matthew 22:37-39. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love my neighbor—His children.

All of them.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

RECOVERY

The Child Revisited

A poem about life after childhood trauma.

young brother and sister looking out glass door
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Today I got a glimpse of me.

The me that I swore could not return.

I saw the part of myself that I said was dead and buried,

Killed off by the destruction that was my life.

And when I saw me, I knew who I was.

I recognized the part of me that has always been my strength.

Like a fool, I closed my life to that part of myself for many wasted years.

I said to let that person exist was to be weak

Because that part of me hurts and is angry.

For so long, I have fought against any reminders of that me.

But somehow, today, when I wasn’t looking, I found me.

I looked in my eyes and saw the hurt.

I looked in my heart and felt the pain.

I looked in my head and regained the memories.

Suddenly, I was back to a place I had never really left.

And in that glimpse of me, I knew I was going to be okay.

So, I said so long to the child I never really was, and never will be.

I touched the face of my strength when I let the hurt wash over me.

And I said hello to the child who will always be a part of me, who always was.

Fairy tale dreams don’t come true.

They can’t. With real life comes real hurt.

We build walls and we tear them down.

We deny everything, we doubt everything, we are no longer innocent—

But SOMEWHERE inside of us still LIVES THE CHILD.

RECOVERY

Slipping Off the Deep End

Social Isolationism can make you crazy.

man with ears and nose mask
Photo by michael schaffler on Unsplash

The world we live in is imperfect at best, and a cataclysmic train ride to hell at worst. Just when you think things are starting to go your way, something happens to bring your life crashing down around your feet in broken bits of whatever’s left when your expectation doesn’t match your outcome.

And if you want a fast track to crazy, just go into social isolation for a few months.

I’m not a social butterfly. I never have been, thank God. I love my own company and can go without other people for long periods of time. But not forever.

Humans aren’t designed to live their lives alone. We need connections.

When the normal is snatched away from you, the “new normal” takes its place. NOT the one everyone is predicting, but the real one. The crazy one.

At first everyone was content with taking care of things that needed to be taken care of. I did a little of that. Cleaned up some stuff, threw away some stuff, boxed up some stuff, gave away some stuff. I did home repairs. Cleaned out a shed. I burned a lot of things when we were able to (there was a burn ban in our state for a while).

I burned some things that didn’t need to be burned just because I like destroying things sometimes.

After a while, I ran out of things to do.

I ran out of things to write about to, or I couldn’t think of much. My mind seemed a bit blank.

A blank mind is a dangerous thing.

Granted, it could be said there’s a little insanity in each one of us. Some more than others. But when you take a person away from everything that is “normal” and into forced isolation, the potential for crazy dramatically increases.

Thoughts creep in. Suspicious, paranoid thoughts.

You have nothing else to do anyway, so may as well entertain those thoughts for a while. Maybe check into them, see if you can validate them in some way. Maybe by using social media, the devil’s playground.

Sleep is an odd thing as well. If you aren’t parented by your job on when to sleep and when to get up, there’s no reason for a regular schedule. You can even do your cyber stalking in the middle of the night if you want to.

You’d be surprised how fast the crazy sets in.

Psychology Today calls solitary confinement torture. It leads to all kinds of symptoms, including anxiety and paranoia. It may seem extreme to compare our bout of social isolationism to solitary confinement, but I don’t think it is. It would be especially daunting to someone who already has issues with trauma, loss, and anxiety.

You know, people like me.

Being socially isolated causes loneliness and depression also. We’re able to get out more now, and that’s a huge relief, but there are some people who are never able to get out much.

A large percentage of our population are shut ins. We have the elderly, and the mentally and physically disabled. People in hospitals, hospice, and nursing homes.

Maybe your mother, father, or grandparents.

People who are too poor to afford to go anywhere.

Going a little crazy for a bit has helped me see things from more than one perspective, and I’m grateful for it.

I see that I need to reach out to people more and stop doing without people for long periods of time, even when I’m not forced to.

I also reached out to my ex-husband and asked for his forgiveness. Not because I crashed and burned our relationship. That was him. It was more because I could see the other side of the fence, and how he had to live with me choosing to give my attention to all kinds of things, and not realizing he needed more from me.

I kind of see why his thoughts went all haywire. When you feel isolated, you’ll do stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily do.  

Good comes from everything if you know where to look.

Even slipping off the deep end.  

RECOVERY

Flies and Fishhooks

Focus Matters

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

For some reason, the flies are unbearable this year, and I think it’s because the pipe running into the sewer has a leak, and human waste is trickling onto the ground in the backyard. I feel like a little kid from a third world country, swatting at flies that are too lazy or full to even be intimidated enough to fly away.

An overwhelming dampness hangs in the air and settles on my skin. Typical for the South. When they go on about the South rising again, they don’t bring up the stench of human sweat and the clinging humidity-drenched clothes weighing us down, keeping our energy levels too low for us to do more than talk the talk.

We can’t rise up. We can just sit here and pound the letters of our keyboards into oblivion as we set the world straight with a few well-chosen words.

Another day in the pre-summer self-isolationism that’s been forced upon us, against our wills and for our own good.

It’s a strange newness, with approximately half of everyone you run across wearing a mask while the other half looks on with disdain, and vice versa.

We’re such judgmental folks. Of course, each of us has an opinion on what’s best, and the likelihood that all of us are wrong is very high.

When things are tragic, terrifying, or ugly, we can’t stop looking at them. It’s just human nature.

I knew this kid when I was in elementary school.

Billy was fishing with his brother—he couldn’t have been very old—maybe six or seven and maybe even younger. Somehow one of their fishhooks got embedded in Billy’s eye. It didn’t end up pretty. The eye, I mean.

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

Growing up, any time I saw Billy, my gaze was immediately drawn to that bad eye. I didn’t mean to look. I just couldn’t help it. I could barely take in what he was saying for staring at his eye.

I missed being a real friend to him because my focus was on the wrong thing.

I got lost in how he looked and not who he was.

I’ll never know how amazing things might’ve turned out if I’d have looked past the surface.

It’s odd how you remember things like that.

I’m thinking the world we’re existing in right now has a lot in common with that story. Terrible things have happened. It’s hard to draw our gaze away.

We can’t help but stare at all the bad because it’s right here in our faces. It’s human nature to dwell on the tragedy, rather than search for the triumph.

Not only that, but it’s easy to get lost in looking for someone to blame for things being the way they are. And someone does need to be held accountable. Justice needs to prevail in a lot of situations. No argument with that truth.

I’m just saying that it’s real easy to get overwhelmed if you keep staring at all the things that are wrong. If you do that, you won’t ever have what you really need in life, especially when it comes to relationships. The things that are on the outside can look really bad, and if we focus on them, we’re going to miss the opportunity to have the kind of world we need to live in.

If we’d take our focus off the way things look, and put it instead on who God is, we might find out how amazing things can really be.

RECOVERY

Divorce Stole My Ability to Write

And left a list of things I no longer have.

brick wall with the words "the end"
Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash

The stress of divorce and not knowing how I’ll pay my bills has taken away my voice. Or in this case, my words. My mind draws a blank when usually I can’t get to the laptop fast enough to get it all down before my thoughts are replaced by new ones.

All I can think about now is what I don’t have.

  1. The first thing I don’t have is security.  

Honestly, security is just an illusion we buy into anyway.  We’re never as safe as we think we are. I was married to the one man on earth who I thought would never cheat on me. I felt completely safe in that knowledge. Then I found irrefutable proof he was seeing someone else.  

He works away so I’m sure there have been countless others. He’s obviously very good at hiding things. The proof was gone a couple of seconds after I discovered it.

Unfortunately for him, I’m pretty quick with my screenshot abilities, so his denial of the truth meant nothing to me.

The security I thought I had was a joke. My castle was built of sand and could’ve crumbled at any time. I just didn’t know it.

2. The next thing I don’t have is money.

Not enough, anyway. When I booted him, I booted the one who has made most of the money in our household. I have a good job, but my earning potential is about a quarter of his. I have benefits he doesn’t have, like good insurance, retirement, holiday pay, and weekends off. I just don’t have a paycheck that meets the needs of the household.

3. I don’t have the luxury of knowing what to call my husband.

We’re at the awkward stage between married and not married.  What is that? I don’t know. So, when I talk about him (and I do, a lot), I have to say his name when I’d rather not. He’s not a real person to me anymore. He’s the guy who betrayed my trust and broke my heart. Since I won’t call him the things he deserves to be called, and I can’t call him my ex, I find myself stumbling over any mention of…him.

4. I don’t have protection.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter how old you are. When you become single, you become prey. My social media has blown up with friend requests from men who immediately jump in my inbox trying to “get to know me.” Please. Dude. I’m not even divorced yet, and, oh yeah. I don’t care. Go away.

5. I don’t have basic respect.

He’s dating her in our small town in front of everyone and it’s like a huge slap in my face. I have the choice of pretending not to be aware of it or to not care that he’s flaunting it.  I’m not sure I do care for caring’s sake. It’s embarrassing for me the way his narcissism drives him to do something that lowdown and dirty. He obviously wants me and everyone else to know he traded me for her. And he traded way down, God forgive me for saying so.

The least he could have done is picked someone BETTER than me.

6. I don’t have my family—not all of it.

My step kids aren’t going to keep coming to see me, and I love them like my own. It’s going to be awkward for them, and I hate that. It’s not fair that they should bear the brunt of their father’s bad decisions.

I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they find out who he’s with now. That’s not going to go well.  As a matter of fact, it’s going to go extremely badly.

Out of all the things I don’t have now, I’ll miss my stepchildren the most.

Divorce is cruel. I never would’ve chosen to go this route if I could’ve done anything else. Cheating is a deal breaker. I didn’t sign up for that.

I’m sure a lot more things will occur to me as I get my thoughts back. A break-up leaves you stunned and disbelieving, grappling for a way to build a new life out of the fragments of the old one.

The betrayal hurt, but I’ve survived much worse. Now it’s time to regroup and get on my feet again. My life isn’t going to be what I thought it was. My plan is to make it better, despite what he did. His moral failure didn’t destroy me. I’ll pray it doesn’t destroy him either.

Even though divorce is taking some things from me, it is also proving to be a blessing in some ways.

woman stepping off a small cliff in freedom
Photo by Drew Colins on Unsplash
  • I have the chance to start over.

All those dreams he kept trying to crush can be pursued even more now! I don’t have to be anything but who I am. I can reach as high as I want to and not worry about threatening someone else’s identity in any way.

  • I have freedom.  

If I want to stay up all night writing, I can do it without making any explanations to another person. I can go wherever I want to go for however long I want to be there and not be worried someone is going to question my every movement (irony, given the fact he was the one cheating). I answer to myself, which is great because I’m fully capable and have always been a responsible person. I didn’t get married to have a parent or be under anyone’s control.

  • I have self-respect.

Not staying in a relationship where I was not being respected and where he was being unfaithful was the best decision I could’ve made for my life. I can look at myself in the mirror and know I’ve done the right thing. I can be an example to other people who may be watching to see how I’ll react.

Knowing I didn’t choose the pseudo-security a more financially beneficial position afforded me makes me hold my head a little higher even while I hunt for change in the bottom of my purse. It is way better to be broke and have self-respect than to be financially well off without it.

  • I have “me” back.

Out of all the things this break-up has given me, this one is the best. He didn’t break me. The parts of me that were hidden for a long time came bursting forth in a single moment of clarity, when I realized I didn’t need another person to validate me.

God has always taken care of me. I struggled for years thinking I had to take care of myself or grasp the security I found in a bad relationship.

All I really had to do was surrender the outcome.

I can’t control the universe. I didn’t make him cheat and couldn’t have prevented it. It was his fault, not mine. It’s true I don’t have some things because of it, and I’m struggling for words right now. They’ll come back. They always do.

In the meantime, I’m going to kick back and rest, thinking of all the things I’ve gained.

grief, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Live Your Life or Plan Your Death

About depression and a pet cricket named Elvis

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

When I was a kid, I had a pet cricket named Elvis.

Mama said you can’t really have a cricket for a pet. The truth is, I never saw him once, but Elvis sang to me every night, so I reckon he decided to keep me instead of the other way around.

On a normal summer, a cricket chirping in your bedroom would be downright annoying and might even make you want to jump off a bridge if you couldn’t figure out where he was, so you could step on his head. I’m sorry to say I’ve stomped on quite a few crickets in my life, plus a whole lot of other bugs I won’t name here, for fear of offending some bug-loving, revenge-taking, article-reading slight acquaintance of mine.

I tend to hang with a different kind of crowd, but I know you need to watch what you say and do sometimes.

The deep end is a whole lot closer for some people than it is for others, if you know what I mean.

The summer Elvis sang to me was a different kind of summer than most. Mama’d run that old ceiling fan, swearing the whole time that she hated it. It was how we kept cool though. Never bothered me. I liked the noise of it.

When the fan was on, the curtains in my room would billow inward and create a little tent on my bed. I liked to sit in it, and it was from there that I ran a library for the neighborhood kids. I had plenty of books, and I figured it might do some of them at least a little bit of good if they’d read one or two of them. It sure couldn’t do them any harm.

If I didn’t have my little library, I doubt I’d have talked to another kid all summer long. I rarely stepped out of my room.

Most of my waking moments were consumed with writing poems about killing myself and trying to build a new nose out of orthodontic wax. I hated my nose.

I was never sure where the jokes started, but they started in my own family.  My nose got made fun of a lot. Mama said I had “Daddy’s nose,” and the boys would all snicker because I guess Daddy’s nose was supposed to be obnoxiously big or something. It looked like a regular nose to me, but I fell in with the jokes because I knew I was supposed to. I compared my nose to one of my brother’s and we always argued about whose was the biggest.

It’s all I could see when I looked in the mirror.

A nose without a face, just sort of floating there. The one time I experimented with acid, I looked in the mirror and my green bulbous nose was pulsating and growing. I never touched the stuff again.

My nose isn’t the reason I was preoccupied with planning my own death though. I’m not sure why I was sad. I just was. I think I was born that way. It’s taken me a lifetime and unimaginable grief to find joy. Nothing in this world makes any sense. I don’t expect it’s supposed to.

After Samuel died, I was caught up in fantasies about dying again.

Samuel was my baby boy. He died when an intrauterine blood transfusion failed due to doctor error. The grief was unbearable. I stopped writing poetry after that. Occasionally, one comes to me, but not often. Some spaces can’t be filled with words.

I remember sitting on the tractor with Johnny while he baled hay and wondering what it would be like to fall under its wheels. Other times I’d be driving down the road and press the accelerator hard, ready to ram the car into something, but then I’d ease off and live instead.

Later, after I found Mikey dead, there didn’t seem to be a reason to stay on this earth. I was just done. He was only 16 years old. A mother should never have to bury her baby. Mikey made three for me. It was too much grief for my heart to process.

For months, hiding in a coat pocket in my closet was a bottle of pills, ready for me to take myself out of this world.

Mama knew the state of mind I was in, so she went tearing through my house, emptying bottles. She didn’t realize she got rid of my depression medicine. She never found the ones in the closet.

My other kids made it impossible for me to leave, but I carried those pills around with me for a long time before I got enough courage to pour them out.

When I finally got around to cutting myself, I don’t think I had intentions to die.

I think I just needed to hurt myself. I needed to be punished for not being perfect, for failing, for everything. It’s a twisted way of thinking, but everything I was doing at the time was a direct attack against my own life. Too much drink and too many bad choices led to a meltdown.

Recovery for me started on my knees.

I have a lot of things I wish I could say to the young girl back in that room letting Elvis sing to her–things about her nose and how precious life is. I’d tell her to enjoy every single moment and to dance and sing every day like it’s her last one on earth.

You never know when death will come around.

But I know she’s figured it all out for herself. I also know she’s alive and well, and finally made her way out of the darkness.

I don’t know exactly when it was that I started planning my life instead of my death. My nose is the same as it’s always been—just a nose, not too bad. It’s certainly not noteworthy.  I’m proud I have Daddy’s nose, but I hardly ever notice it. If a cricket were to come sing to me in my bedroom now, I’d smile as I remembered my little friend, Elvis, from days gone by. For a minute, I’m sure I’d enjoy the song. Then I’d search him out and stomp his little head, because you can’t really have a cricket for a pet.

They’re annoying and might make you want to jump off a bridge or something, and I’ve got a life to live.

RECOVERY

I Don’t Know How to Do Any of This Stuff

I’m just over here stumbling my way through life.

This probably isn’t even a surprise to anyone who knows me. If you look at my track record, you can tell I’m not getting anywhere fast. Not really.

I’ll tell you something else.

I’m directionally challenged.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Let me explain.

I can walk into a place (for example, a store at the mall), and when I walk out, I choose to go the exact opposite direction of the way I meant to go. Why? I have no idea what direction I was originally heading.

I’m not observant.

I don’t notice things like landmarks or stores I may have passed already. I’m too caught up in my own thoughts—too wrapped up in my world to notice that there’s another one apart from me, unless it includes flowers or other brightly colored objects that grab my attention.

It’s like I just wander around aimlessly, hoping I end up where I thought I wanted to go. And that pretty much sums up my entire life.

It even sums up my writing. This was penned sitting in the dollar store parking lot. I stopped to get cheese and dog food when I realized I didn’t have my life together and knew I needed to get that on paper, instead of doing what I meant to do.

I’d love to say that my insight and self-awareness were leading me to a new path of intentionality, but I’d be lying. How would I know?

I always think I’m going in the right direction, even though I seldom see a thing that indicates the truth of that.

It’s usually only after I end up in some strange place where I never intended to be that I realize I should’ve taken a different road altogether.

“So,” I think, “I should plan better,” and I make a 60 page to-do list. About two items in on the doing side, I get overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of tasks I’ve created for myself and quit the whole thing. This is further complicated by the fact that I’m a compulsive notebook buyer, and each one is filled with similar lists of things I will never accomplish.

The great thing about having the notebooks with me is I get to write random nonsense and interesting ideas in them, and they’re always handy if inspiration strikes.

Otherwise, I find it hard to justify the fact that I’ll never measure up to those spiral dictators. I don’t give up, though.

One of my favorite blundering-through-life techniques is a little thing I like to call INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

This is where I begin to watch videos, listen to podcasts, voraciously read books, blogs, and everything else I can get my hands on. These help me plan a million and one no-fail ways to get my life back on track based on what everyone else says works.

Guess what? This doesn’t help. I get so much stuff in my head that I couldn’t make a rational decision to save my own life!

Besides, who’s trying to make decisions? I have all this wonderful INFORMATION to sort through.

Sometimes it crosses my mind to wonder if I’m the only one. Do other people plan out their lives and work those plans, or do they just let life happen to them and hope and pray for the best?

I mean, being perpetually lost is NOT the worst thing. I’ve stumbled into places and people I would’ve never encountered had I had a legitimate goal in mind, or at least a goal that came with a plan.

There’s been a bountiful amount of beauty on my spontaneous and confusing journey.

I’ve learned so many things I would have been cheated out of in an ordinary goal-driven, plan-based life.

I’m extraordinarily grateful for my experiences and the savage joy accompanying them, even as I daily attempt to narrow my focus and thereby create some kind of directional path I can follow.

In fact, I’m going to work on that right now. Well, almost right now.

First, I’m going to go find a flower to pick.

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

I noticed daffodils are blooming, and they’re my favorite. Nothing smells sweeter, and one will look pretty in my hair.

I’ll take my notebook with me just in case.

grief, RECOVERY

Six Simple Truths About Grief

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

I talk a lot about grief and recovery. I probably always will. My son was 16 when I found him dead on the couch one October morning. You can’t go through that unscathed. You don’t ever get to a place where you stop talking about it. 

https://medium.com/the-emotional-mess-2/i-found-your-body-426643165555

Love always comes with the risk of loss.

Death happens just like life does. It’s inescapable. I’m not the only one who grieves. I’m constantly learning things that I want to share, hoping it may help someone else.

Here are six simple truths I’ve picked up along the way.

1. It’s deeply personal.

People get caught up in thinking that because I’ve lost a child, I should be an expert on grief—especially since I seem to have survived it. I can’t count the number of times someone has minimized their own grief in a conversation to me, as if acknowledging the extent of  their own pain somehow makes it seem as if they aren’t aware of mine.

They use phrases like, “But it’s nothing like losing a child…”

Mikey, photo by A Bridges

You’re right. It’s not.

Your grief is your grief, just like mine is mine. It’s not “lesser than,” it’s just different.

We all go through things in our own way.

Sorrow is personal and indescribable. The bereavement you feel is unique to you. You don’t have to throw me a bone in the midst of your crippling loss. I already know how I feel. I don’t need your reminder that you know too. I’d like for you to give me the chance to be there for you.

2. Sometimes being there is all you can do.

I don’t have a collection of magic words to say because I’ve been through hell and back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell, and I’m not back. I’m never coming back. I carry hell with me every day.

Let me explain the loss of a child to you:

“When someone asks me when my son died—it was yesterday, it was a thousand years ago, it’s right this minute, it’s tomorrow.

He will never stop dying.

When a person who experiences such profound sorrow says, ‘You never get over it, you just learn to live with it,’ think about this.

They never stop dying. We have to live every second of every day with that.”


It’s an every day for the rest of my life kind of thing. I can’t always summon up the courage to tell you that grief never really ends.

All I can really do is be with you in your sorrow, hold your hand, wash your dishes, and take out your trash. I can listen when you tell me the same story over and over again, because I know there won’t be any new stories to tell. I can hold you when you realize you will never have another opportunity to take a picture or say, “I love you.”

3. There’s just no answer for some things.

God laid it all out in the Bible for us, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. Hebrews tells us that we are appointed once to die. Psalms 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

God knows when our time to die is. We don’t.

It hurts like hell to look at the world and realize some people live to be 100 but you have to bury your 16 year old.

Or your husband. Or your best friend. Or your sister. It doesn’t seem fair or natural. That’s because it isn’t.

4. Death isn’t natural.

That’s why if feels so off when you grieve for someone. How many times have you thought, “This can’t be real?”

Sure, God knew how it would all play out from the beginning, because He made us and He gave us the free will we would use to self-destruct. He knew, but man made the choices. I don’t have to remind you of what happened in the Garden. It’s LITERALLY the oldest story in the world.

You know it by heart. If you don’t, you can find it at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3.

We’re still making those choices every day.

I remember the second I realized that Adam and Eve didn’t pay the ultimate penalty for bringing death upon all mankind. You can disagree if you want to.

Picture this: they threw immortality away for the frailty of humanity. They were looking to be gods and the consequences were dire. Immediately, they knew they messed up. They realized they were naked—out in the open where they were vulnerable to attack from every kind of enemy, targets for pain, fear, and death. All of these were new to them. They had no protection other than their Creator.

What did God do? Immediately He covered them in animal skins, so they weren’t naked anymore.

He covered their sin and their shame. There were consequences to their actions, but He covered them, physically and symbolically. It was a picture and a promise of the Lamb that would be slain to cover the sins that created death.

5. All hope lies in Jesus Christ.

What I know about grief—what I REALLY know about grief—is that I couldn’t face one moment of it if not for the fact that God sent Jesus to redeem our lives.

I put my hope in this because it’s all I CAN do.

If I didn’t know there was something beyond this life, I couldn’t go on.

I remember in the early days of horror when I was still very crazy. I went running down the dirt road, screaming at God, “Where were You? I did EVERYTHING I thought You wanted me to do and You still took my son!”

I’d wrestled with my faith since Mikey died. How could a loving God allow death at all? How could God even exist? I said I didn’t believe. I was looking toward the sky and screaming when it hit me.

“I’m screaming at God. I’m screaming at God because I know He’s there.”

I learned that grief is not enough to take away the love of God. God has been with me from the beginning. He has been the constant of my life ALL my life. I didn’t lose faith in Him. I was just mad at Him because I didn’t understand.

I still don’t understand.

What I know is that I don’t have to know WHY anymore. God always provides everything I need to get me through, even when I can’t see it. He’s there, even when I think I don’t believe.

6. The death of someone you love feels like the worse thing you’ll ever go through because it is.

It can leave you confused, lonely, cold, and empty. The light at the end of the tunnel is an eternity where there is no fear of loss or death. It doesn’t exist. There will be no more tears. It’s a promise from God to those who believe in Him.

I won’t have to visit a cold stone to talk to my child. God has prepared a place.

Hope to see you there.

grief, RECOVERY

Side Effects of Tremendous Loss

Grief sucks.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I’m going to go over a little bit of what happens when you have to say goodbye forever to someone you love. First, a bit of context.

Shock.

I lost my kid.

Well, I didn’t exactly lose him.

Horror.

I know where he is. I hardly ever go there. There’s something disturbing about standing on a bit of cold ground while your flesh and blood decomposes beneath your feet.

Unrelenting Pain.

Even more devastating is the crushing sensation in my chest when I drive up to the cemetery. It doesn’t just happen in that moment though. It comes unbidden in unsuspecting scenarios for the rest of your life.

I mean, you know the holidays will be hard. That’s expected. And birthdays. Dates of departure are devastating, but you know those days are coming and can kind of half-ass prepare for them.

It’s those other days, days when things are good. You’re happy and laughing and….

Guilt.

How the hell could you possibly laugh when your child is dead? What kind of monster are you, anyway? Thoughts like these come to your mind and even though you know they’re irrational, you think them anyway and you can’t help it.

And it hurts so bad. Worse, you know it always will. The lump that you keep choking back in your throat is always going to be there. You’re never not going to cry when you hear the song that YOU chose for the funeral because it was a favorite.

Hopelessness.

You can’t fix this. The very idea of that is overwhelming. You feel helpless because you ARE helpless. Looking down the road at life you wonder if you even want to go on at all. Several times you decide that you don’t.

Sometimes you can count on one hand the reasons to stay. I’ve been there.

A few years ago, a young man in the town next to mine committed suicide. It wasn’t long after that his mom laid across his grave and did the same.

Heartache.

I spent an entire day grieving for her, even though I didn’t know her. Or maybe I was grieving for me. I knew what drove her to it. I live it every day.

Isolation.

When it’s your kid who dies, you separate yourself from other mothers. The ones who have never lost a child. They don’t know. You don’t want them to ever know.

You can pick out your worst enemy on earth, and you won’t wish this on them.

This grief is something you hold close.

But you DO want to talk about your loss. You want to talk about WHO you lost.

It doesn’t take you long to realize that people are tired of hearing it. They’re also AFRAID to hear it.

It’s as if the whole world thinks that talking about death means it will come to call.

Maybe it does.

Cold Loneliness.

I always hear the gravel fly from under my truck tires on that final stretch to the stone. I remember walking that road a hundred times. I also remember always ending at the cemetery and not being able to walk back. Someone always had to come get me.

Numbness.

How can everything be so intense when I’m so numb?

It’s like standing under a tree hearing a leaf fall without being able to move to try to catch it.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

Reality can’t be real when you bury your baby.

Insanity.

Looking back, I realize I’m lucky. I walked through the woods so many times with a gun in my hand. Utterly crazy. Hunters would come down from their stands and lead me out. They didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted their hunting. I don’t know for sure. We never talked. I only talked to Mikey.

One day I stumbled upon a skunk. I was carrying a .22 rifle that day. No matter how crazy a person gets, you always know you don’t want to smell like a skunk.

I realized it was either him or me. He fell over like a cartoon character. I walked around him, probably giving him more space than he needed.

It felt good to kill something.

Then I found the couch. It wasn’t hidden very well. I would have done a better job of it myself. Something like that, you don’t leave to chance.

We called those woods the “forty.” It was forty acres of good hunting land. Full of deer, squirrels, and mosquitoes. Apparently, it had the occasional skunk as well.

The first thing I saw when I came through the pine sapling thicket into the clearing was that couch.

 It had been in my living room just a month before when I found my son on it, face down and stiff. Already starting the rigor process.

Anger.

I unloaded my gun on the couch. Killed it dead, the way it killed my son. My thought process wasn’t lining up with reality. After I shot it, I laid on it and cried myself to sleep. That’s how they found me later.

The couch was burned and buried after that. I never saw it again. It’s a good thing. I would have killed it again.

Disbelief.

You should never have to find your child’s body. It should never be cold and stiff. Your child should not die. It’s a travesty. It’s an injustice. It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to a Mama.

I feel all of this again as I pull up to the cemetery.


Tinnitus.

My ears have been ringing since the day the keening started. The doctors call it tinnitus. I know it’s the echo of my own voice screaming for the life of my child.

Another side effect of a morphine overdose I didn’t take.

Flashbacks.

Call it PTSD or call it whatever. I have flashbacks. Who wouldn’t? Not as many as before, but they still come. Usually when I’m driving, which is inconvenient at best and life-altering at worst. I don’t drive to the cemetery much.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

It triggers me.

Anxiety.

I doubt it will ever go away. Terror has a strong grip on me. I wake up at night with my heart pounding and all I can do is call out to Jesus. No one else can help.

I’m afraid when my kids are out of my sight and I’m afraid when they’re with me.

He died on my watch.

My watch is scarier now. I will never not check to see if my kids and grandkids are breathing. I always think about it.

All night long.

Insecurity.

As a Mom, you think there’s an instinctive way that you’ll know when your kids are in danger. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that instincts can fail you. I didn’t know. You don’t always know. I question my ability to be a parent and keep my children safe. I question my grandchildren’s safety when they’re with me.

Children can die. The headstone in front of me is proof of that.

Side Effects.

I’ve only gone over a few of them. I wish that life and death were an easier process, or maybe I don’t. What makes it so hard is also what makes it worth it.

Love comes with a potentially high price tag.

We don’t know how things are going to turn out. It would be less risky to never take a chance—refuse to love—but life wouldn’t be worth living.

It would be a simple choice to never have children or truly love another human being because of the chance you may have to bury them one day. To make that choice is to choose to live without the greatest gift of your life.

Even knowing what can happen, I will always choose to love. It’s hard to say it, and hard to know it, but it’s infinitely worth the pain.

RECOVERY

How do you handle life when everything goes wrong?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Two flat tires.

That’s how my day started. I was driving to work on these fantastic Louisiana roads, and the best I can tell, I went in a pothole.

I’m not sure why it took out two of my tires on the sidewalls, but there were a couple of huge holes looking back at me. This is certainly not how I meant for my morning to go. I had higher hopes than that when I crawled out of bed.

It seems like bad luck comes in waves. First, I caught the hubs cheating. Okay, that’s awful—maybe not even comparable to a flat tire or two. In the end, that one will cost me a whole lot more.

This tire thing was just like icing on the cake.

For a few minutes, I thought about hurling myself into traffic and taking my chances with one of the eighteen wheelers barreling down the road. Luckily, I gathered my wits together and called a tire store instead. $421 dollars later, I was fixed up. They even gave me a ride to the office while they worked on my vehicle!

So, what DO you do when life gets crazy and overwhelming?

One answer (and not a very good one) is to isolate.

Isolating means to withdraw from other people and try to get through everything on your own.
It can also mean to withdraw from other people and AVOID dealing with anything.

Often when we isolate, we use distractions or substances to keep us from acknowledging our mountains and doing the work it takes to overcome. This causes more problems to pile up until our lives become completely unmanageable. That’s 12-step talk, for anyone who hasn’t been through it. Recovery is an amazing thing.

Isolation is NOT the preferred solution but it’s something I’ve tried and made bigger messes with before.

Another choice that you could make (and I’m guilty of this one as well) is VENT.

Everyone knows what venting is, but here’s an explanation anyway.

Venting is when you seek validation, approval, or sympathy by telling your side of a story (often with dramatic emphasis) on social media or to another person or group of people. This is my own definition, just like the definition for isolating, but it’s basically what venting boils down to.

Here are some ways that venting can be damaging:

  • Feelings often change, but once the spoken or written word is out there, it’s out there. You can apologize, but you can’t unsay it. Someone can forgive you, but they’re unlikely to forget.
  • You can hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you mean to rage about someone and at the time, it doesn’t make you feel bad (even though it should). Collateral damage happens. That person may have children, parents, grandkids, or other individuals in their life that you just victimized unintentionally with your words. It hurts to hear bad things about people you love, whether it’s true or not. It isn’t fair to throw shade on everyone even if a certain person is shady and you want it known. Please think twice before venting!
  • Venting often damages the venter more than the ventee. I don’t think that’s proper terminology, but you get my meaning. It makes you look bad. JUST DON’T DO IT.

It’s okay to cry.

It may be hard to go through a bad time without crying. So, don’t. There’s a lot to be said for the cleansing and healing effects of a good, blubbering, crying session!

Get it out of your system.

Just don’t make it a long-term event. Cry, then stand up, wash your face, and move on with life!

Community.

Photo by Phil Coffman on Unsplash

I find it useful to plug into a community of like-minded people when going through the rough times of life. Ideally, you already have a group like that. If you don’t, seek one out. Look for people that you know or know about who believe like you do, worship like you do, and who will hold you accountable for getting your life back on track.

The truth is it’s YOUR LIFE!

How you live and whether you end well is ultimately up to you. You can hang your head in defeat and quit trying, or you can shake it off and get back behind the wheel.

For me, the most important thing I can do is lean on God.

He’s my constant whether things are going good or not so great. He’s my shelter in a storm and the rock I’m standing on. No wind will blow me away, and no waters will drown my soul if I cling tightly to His hand.

My faith isn’t what gets me through; it’s the One I’m faithful to.

This is why two flat tires and an impending divorce didn’t defeat me today.

There will always be potholes. And there will always be God.