I Hope Your Soul is Changing

I have dreamt a song like this for years. Literally dreamt it in the night, waking up confused and disillusioned. I have wept over my abusers. I have shouted and cursed at them. I have fasted for them. And I have prayed for them until I grow weary and God grants me sleep.

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Praying
Kesha

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become

‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ve been thrown out, I’ve been burned
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

You brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying

If you haven’t heard Kesha’s comeback song, Praying, I recommend giving it a listen, in its own right without my commentary.

This is my own story tied in, which welled up in me as I listened to this song about a dozen times on repeat.

I have dreamt a song like this for years. Literally dreamt it in the night, waking up confused and disillusioned. I have wept over my abusers. I have shouted and cursed at them. I have fasted for them. And I have prayed for them until I grow weary and God grants me sleep.

Once, as a young teenage girl, late at night, a much older man messaged me on facebook. This man was a quintessential abusive narcissist. To this day, I use him as a benchmark when discerning red flags in others. It is not my aim to compare, but I can’t help it. Someone will say or do something and I instantly know. I know that something is off. I know I’ve seen this all before. I want to shout, “I know that game. We have to fight or we have to flee. And we have to do it now.”

I remember one particular night in college, with a handsome yet gaunt, bony but strong boy. I had made him angry by trying to leave, so he threw me against the wall of his dingy apartment. An apartment where I had been promised there would be others. There wasn’t. I arrived to only him. As he pinned me there, and I stared at the floor cloaked in all my fear and shame, he whispered to me things which ought to have seemed sweet. Things about “love” and possibilities. But his voice morphed into one I had heard before. One much older that spoke to me when I was much younger. It sounded caring. Sweet like honey. But its end was to shame and control. I knew this game. I knew it. So I shook my head staring at the floor until he shoved me again and let me go.

“You’re at least gonna clean up this mess before you leave,” he said. I had had the audacity to knock over a glass while kicking him off of me on the floor.

“Okay,” I said, actually believing I owed it to him.

He handed me a paper towel, and I tried not to shake or cry as I mopped up the liquid. Then I left. I kicked a dumpster in the parking lot near my car, and I remember feeling so ashamed at having such an outburst. How very un-christian of me. I thought something nasty to myself. Something about how now I wasn’t just a dirty temptress; I was a dirty temptress with a dirty temper.

Since puberty it had been heavily implied, if not outright stated to me, that I was either whorish or gave off a certain inexplicable vibe that I wanted to be whorish. That’s why the boys treated me so poorly, you see. Or so I was told… Since it seemed this label followed me despite my efforts to be rid of it, I had come to accept it. I accepted it with heartache as this lie tangled itself into the deepest parts of my soul, but I accepted it nonetheless. But at least I was a very sweet and kind whorish girl, I assured myself. What an earth shattering crisis it was then, when I couldn’t afford to be nice anymore. I shed my niceness to survive, and yet it almost killed me.

But that’s for another time.

Back to the man. And my laptop. And the late night message.

I had already identified this man as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and had gone no-contact sometime before. For propriety’s sake, I will not say what this man did, mostly because much of it is not my story to tell. The parts which are my story, still make me ill to discuss. But still, I loved him. He was woven into so many of my childhood memories. I hated to hurt him. I hated to reject him. I wanted him to be who he had deceived me into thinking he was. But a pep talk from a very dear friend echoed within me, giving me courage. I had to shut him out. I had to reject him, no matter how bad I felt about it.

“I do not want to send you my poetry. And it’s inappropriate for a man of your age to be messaging me about personal things at this time of night.”

“I don’t understand where this is coming from. I just wanted to exchange writing with you since I know it’s an interest we share. And I have friends of all ages. It’s really unfortunate that you’ve been convinced to limit yourself by only having friends in your age group.”

I was swallowing anger. He was twisting my words.

“Don’t take the bait,” I thought, “Don’t argue his distractions. Just stay on point.”

“Think what you’d like. I still do not want you talking to me anymore,” I said.

“You said you had forgiven me, but clearly that is not the case. I’ve been very disappointed by the lack of forgiveness you and your family have shown me. I would encourage you to study Christ’s teachings, and forgive.”

Here I will make a full stop. This is trick one. The big one. The ultimate power move that you’ve likely seen if you have ever dealt with an abuser within the Christian community. I cannot state this clearly enough. Forgiveness is to be the aim of the abused (or mistreated etc). Repentance is to be the aim of the one who has done the abusing. Forgiveness is a means to be free from bitterness. It is not a get out of jail free card for those who do harm. A truly repentant heart knows that forgiveness is a gift we ask for when we do not deserve it. It is not a demand. If someone abuses you or a loved one, and then proceeds to turn the tables so that you are the one in the wrong for not giving in to the “forgiveness” they demand, know that you are not dealing with someone who is truly repentant. They are not remorseful over the fact that they have hurt you. They are remorseful over the fact that they are not getting what they want.

We went back and forth for a while longer in this nauseating blur. This man who had lied, manipulated and blame shifted all of his sins, now demanded access back into my life with a healthy dose of guilt-tripping if I refused. He insisted my parents were leading me astray, that he wished I would think for myself and forgive him, and ended with another sickening call to turn to Christ. I’ve learned people like this don’t care much to obey Christ; they just want other people to do so when it benefits them. They also claim very little sin, yet demand large sums of forgiveness. I wonder then, what they are demanding forgiveness from, if they believe they are in the right. Perhaps the tiny half-truths they grant, so that they can appear remorseful.

And all of this, in the long round-a-bout way that I seem to have done it, leads me back to Kesha’s song. A song that settled into my soul the moment I heard it, because I had been waiting for so long for someone to put it into words.

If someone physically abuses you, you may flinch when a hand is raised. If someone sexually abuses you, you may cringe when something sexual reminds you of your abuser. And if someone spiritually abuses you, if they use the Word of God to enslave your heart and wound your soul, a part of you grows heavy when the name of your own creator is spoken. In all my life, I have experienced no greater harm than this.

But there is a persistence in the human spirit, or perhaps it is the persistence of our savior, that causes so many of us to crawl back to him. Amidst all of our fear and guardedness, our soul wants to find healing at its source. And then there’s that sweet stubbornness, that says damn it all if I’m going to let you take me from my maker.

And where that maker is found, there is forgiveness. Not the kind that abusers demand of you, in which you must ignore their wrongs and allow them to continue their abuse. It is a pure and freeing forgiveness, which allows you to walk away from oppressors and live a life of compassion.

Sometimes, I am angry at the tricksters and abusers. Kicking dumpsters mad. I am no longer ashamed of that. But that anger coexists with love and pity. I would not ask this of others, because I do not know their journey. But I know mine. And I know this is at the deepest part of me. It is the part that aches in my subconscious and lingers in my thoughts when my mind wanders.

It says,

I hope you’re somewhere praying
I hope your soul is changing

I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees
Praying

 

 

Days of Peace… And of Sounders

This week, while full of blessings, has been a difficult one. Very difficult in fact. And while I intend to take the time to write about it someday, I will not today. Not only do I lack the perspective to do it any sort of justice, I also know that my soul needs something different today. Today is not a day for continuing in the negativity and the hardship. Today is a day to breath, listen to the rain on my windowsill and meditate on days of peace.

For years, I have been one of God’s children, adopted as His own. While I can tell stories of turning points and epiphanies, seasons of doubt and seasons when my faith matured, I cannot tell you the day I was adopted. I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that it did. I know that, through no wit or righteousness of my own, God chose me wholly and completely by His grace. I know that His Spirit has been tucked away in the depths of my heart through even my darkest days: Days when I saw death and sickness and abuse. Days when memories of those things came in dark haunting flashes. Days that seemed hopeless, when I knew in my mind that I am young but felt in my soul that I was old and withered.

God never left me during these times. He comforted me by His Spirit and blessed me with loving friends and family to pick up the pieces when I could not. It is after years of His faithfulness in my heart that I can confidently say that there is never a day where some measure of hope cannot be found at the roots of my soul. But that does not mean that every day is cheerful. It does not mean that every day is peaceful. Anyone who knows me well knows that I put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of sorrow and allowing others (and myself) the freedom to grieve. And in knowing grief, in having the courage to look it in the eye and the softness to allow it to be felt, we can also recognize its absence with clarity and gratitude.

I call those days of grief’s absence, days of peace. Even amidst grief there can be peace, but there are some days when peace does not have that competition. Days when somehow, in a world where the air itself can feel heavy, peace manages to take over both inside and out. I was reminded of all this as I opened my laptop this morning and saw pictures that had been posted on February 20th in years past.

The first photo was from one year ago. It is a picture I took of my husband at the memorial service of our close friend. It is a beautiful picture and it was a beautiful day, but it was a difficult day. It was a day in which we were heavy-hearted and we had to look within to find the peace God had stored inside.

The next picture was from three years ago. It is of my mother and her dear friend smiling with their whole faces, squished as tightly as possible beside me and my own dear friend. We were in Seattle at a Sounders game. It was sunny, so beautifully sunny in Seattle of all places. Each person in our group had only two intentions, enjoy the day and love those around us. The peace between all of us was so strong, that any competition it may have had was stomped out before I even noticed it was there.

If you love beyond yourself, and make a point of seeking others who do the same, there will always be days of peace ahead. Days when you do not have to defend your heart against cruelty or work to remind yourself that there is still hope in sadness. There will be days when you do not have to struggle in your soul. And when you are tired, the memory of these days will warm you until you’ve conquered the valley and can rest once again.

Today, gazing at the fresh rain which ripples across the edges of our mostly frozen pond, I remember bright green and blue. I remember my dad’s characteristically subdued but unmistakably bright excitement as we bustled about in the morning to get ready for the game. I remember Rob’s curiosity towards Kendyl’s and my sparkly eyeshadow and the way we laughed when he asked to watch how we put it on. I remembered we laughed even more freely when his face flashed from annoyed to amused upon realizing that I was taking pictures of him, not selfies.

I remember warm scarves and marching and chanting and cheering.

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I remember Dawn and my mom looking out over the sound,  sharing thoughts I couldn’t hear and perhaps they don’t even recall.

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I remember my mother somehow looked even prettier with the Sounders logo on her face and she was delighted, as she always is, by the sunshine.

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And I remember Kendyl’s crows feet as she smiled, lovely little lines on a face that can never seem to help but be lit up with joy. Kendyl and I met on the first day of first grade, and to this day I’ve never met another child who smiles so often and so fully that they’ve earned their laugh lines by age seven.

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And I remember being happy.

And I remember being peaceful.

And I remember my heart;

It was light.

 

 

 

 

october twenty-ninth: a saturday

We indulged in large sums of nothingness today. 

Chase made me tea and then drove to Starbucks and bought us both coffee. All with an attitude that it was very normal to spend Saturday morning bringing various hot beverages to your wife. 

We sat on the couch and laughed as the dog tried to speak to us. 

It was rainy outside, and once our coffee was finished we hibernated in separate rooms. He played video games and I watched youtube videos. Somehow dinnertime arrived. I cooked slowly, with as many ingredients I could find that would harmonize. When it was ready, we ate without much conversation; our mouths were too full of fried rice. 

Afterwards he rubbed my shoulders and we joked back and forth, one sentence hopping on top of the other, about all our minds had absorbed that day as we sat cuddled up in blankets.

Then he walked away, and I stayed where I was, and the day faded out as peacefully as it had begun. 

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7 photos

for my husband

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1. (top left) Winter. Chase loves winter. He loves coats and scarves and gloves and snow. Mostly snow. This photo was taken over Christmas break. The students were gone so we had the streets and shops of downtown practically to ourselves. Most of our walks started like this, on our wrap around porch in the cold.

2. (top center)This is the chapel near the house I stayed at while volunteering at a prison over spring break. Chase is not in this photo. That’s part of why it’s perfect for this. He’s not in this photo because he stayed home working full-time while I went on an adventure. He’s always encouraging me to pursue my passions and calling even when that means sacrificing money or comfort or time together.

3. (top right) One of my favorite Seattle trips. This is us making out in a random parking garage downtown. Because we like to kiss anywhere anytime.

4. (center) Taken at a family wedding. We got the time mixed up and missed the ceremony. Then I got ridiculously ill that night when we got home. But the time in-between, exploring behind the barns and laughing by the fields, that part was excellent.

5. (bottom left) Our first home together! The leaves on the trees were lush and green. The sun was bright through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows. We were so so excited and so blissfully ignorant of how much trust and patience God would require of us in that tiny apartment.

6. (bottom center) A candid photo. July 4th, 2015. Our first holiday together. It was perhaps the most perfect holiday I’ve ever had. We wandered through the small trails behind the park then met up with a few close friends for fireworks. Life is rarely blissful, but that day truly was.

7. (bottom right) Driving home with our new puppy, Oliver. He is the strangest fluffiest cutest little dog. We stayed with Chase’s grandparents the night we picked him up in Boise, then he snuggled in my lap for the long ride home. It’s odd. Ollie symbolizes our future in a way. We got him as a sort of graduation present for Chase (the money he received from friends and relatives added up to exactly one labradoodle) and so he was the shift into our next step in the world. Now as we look at jobs for Chase and schools for me, he’s always playing at our feet reminding us he’ll be tagging along for every turn, marking the change of seasons with his ever-growing limbs and expanding fur.

Angst and Cupcakes

When one of the high-energy of the artist race is trapped behind an office desk, and all the busy-work is finished, he or she has a couple of options. The first is to happily pop up whenever an office task is available and spend the time in between doodling little bunnies… 20150417-141210.jpg

and cutesy cupcake families…..

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perhaps an italian greyhound….
20150417-141150The second is to sit tight and rage-scribble angsty sketches so as not to hulk-smash the repressive cage, I mean, desk.

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Both are suitable alternatives to utter insanity.

Usually.

Daily Blessings

First came the glorious pack of discount colored pens. Felt tip. Vibrant by nature. Mmmm satisfaction.
I was blending and swirling ink as soon as I got the chance.

20150209-143550.jpgNext came a gift from my favorite person:
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THE DAILY SKETCH JOURNAL. I like journals… and sketches. I like them daily.
Needless to say, I kissed my favorite person a lot that day. Then again, I kiss him a lot everyday.
And now here I am, pen in hand, sketching away. I love lines that are bold. Thick. Black. Unflinching. I also like cute owls and girly designs…. So here’s day 1 & 2:
20150209-143537.jpgIt’s amazing what a blessing it is to add ink to paper. My mother used to tell me to count my blessing when I was sad, or homesick, or simply needed something nice to think about as I fell asleep. Pretty much, I was encouraged to always count my blessings.  There are far too many to count, but for now, I’ll name just a few:

Paper, pens, love and a boy who encourages me to take hold of these blessings daily.

The Garage

Some of my best moments have come while painting in the garage. Music blasting from old speakers is always too loud but just loud enough to drown out my own singing.

There are those certain songs that make me grip my brush tighter and move faster until I resort to just throwing colors. I have a theory that we never really grow out of having temper tantrums. We just find ways to disguise them.

1My bare feet get dirty on the concrete floor. Paint gets on my jeans and up my arms. I’m colored by accidents but secretly I’d like to be painted all over.

No one’s there to see me pour paint from a bucket onto my canvas and spread it around with my hands. No, it’s not modern art. I’ll make it look like something recognizable. But I’ll get there by finger painting.

toes and paint

Eventually the project ends. What’s left is a piece of art and a mess in the garage.

Soon I’ll find another project. I’ll have new refreshments to be replaced with brushes, another set of songs I can’t get out of my head and a new something or someone that I never say anything about unless it’s with paint.

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