Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

person-looking-searching-clean-large
Read: Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1 Here

It’s OK that our stories are not in a neat and tidy packages.

Writing a new ending requires vulnerability first, owning the truth, and then allowing it to transform us. What I mean by that is that our stories don’t have to end when the lights go down, when the curtain swooshes to a close on that event or season of life. Just like some letters include a post script (P.S.), the “One more thought”, the “Oh, by the way” comment, our stories can include an “Oh, and….”, etc.. I love a good Post Script!

Post Scripts

This learning more about ourselves, understanding our emotions and how they play out in the world around us is HUGE, everything really. It impacts every single relationship and interaction we have with others.

Let me dissect this a little. When we revisit our stories, we can move from a place of dwelling on the past and all the negativity that it is certainly due– to understanding who we are now or who we want to become. I cannot say this enough or express this more than if I was shouting it from a mountain top: We are NOT what has been done to us, or what we have done to others, or even our environment. They shape us certainly, but that shape can be heated up (by being vulnerable enough to revisit it) and be remolded by putting our life, with all its pains and regrets…, into our Maker’s hands.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify” Malachi 3:3.
This is the rewrite process. The skimming of dross from the silver that we are. Our Refiner sits until the work is done. He does not leave us no matter what garbage surfaces. He will purify us. He promises in Phil 1:6 that “He will finish the good work He begins in us”. He never gives up. He plays the leading role in our stories because our stories are a part of His greater story; part of  His greater plan.

Christ doesn’t dole out love or hope as resources to be used up. He inhabits Love. He doesn’t mete out mercy or grace. He incarnates Mercy and Grace. He doesn’t define truth. He is Truth. Love isn’t merely a thing. It is the presence of God indwelling us, pouring Himself into and through us. Peace is not a thing that God gives, but a serene abiding in Him. We rest in assurance of things to come because He is Hope. We know grace because the Spirit of Grace dwells within us” Jerusha Clark.

When we allow this beautiful truth to wash over us and to seep into the smallest, darkest parts of our stories, can we possibly fathom how Christ views us as clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Do we get a sense of the look in His tender eyes as His gaze rests upon us in our weakness, in our brokenness? Do we sense a Love that knows no limits?

It is imperative to accept this as Truth to move from a place of hiding and/shame/regret to a place where we allow our vulnerability to lead us into writing a new courageous ending to our stories. writing-828911_960_720

It is here, we move from our first responses (of hiding, glazing over the pain, ignoring, over compensating, etc.) to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is here that we write our Post Script.

My post Script

In my healing, I gained a better understanding of who I am and Whose I am, but honestly, I am still very much in progress. It has been easier to start with what I’m NOT, which eventually cleared the way to see who I AM.
I am NOT a victim.
I am NOT someone to use up and throw away.
I am NOT worthless.
I am NOT weak.
I am NOT broken.
I am NOT damaged.
I am NOT ugly.
I am NOT unlovable.
I am NOT unacceptable.
I am NOT damned

Some of these took a little longer to believe than others. In thinking about what I was Not, I needed to define who I was or who I wanted to be. To be completely honest, I had to ask the Lord to help me to both accept my identity rooted in Him and to live it out with each and every inhale and exhale. I couldn’t even ask Him for one day at a time. I needed His assurance with each breath! I have genuinely wrestled with my significance found IN Him (no one else)–This is a life long journey and as I have taken one small step at a time, I have clung desperately to the promise that God loves me. He is FOR me, not AGAINST me. If I did not believe this,  I easily would have become enslaved to my distorted thinking; and I would have decorated my invisible, safe, but oh-so-lonely cage and remained where my pain has held me.

“You will know the Truth; and the Truth will set you free” John 8:32.

I AM a Child of God.
I AM unconditionally, unfathomably loved.
I AM incomparably valuable.
I AM dearly wanted.
I AM whole in Christ.
I AM unconditionally loved.
I AM beautiful.
I AM accepted.
I Am made new.
I AM complete in Christ.

I discovered many more attributes as I began rewriting my story. But this gives you the idea. Through my experiences, I have learned Who Christ is to me. I understand more of His beautiful, gracious character. I see Him more clearly. I feel His presence. I hear His voice. I know Him. I really know Him—I was in great need and He was the only One who could meet those needs, and supply the healing I so desperately needed. My heart gushes as I attempt to put into words my love for Him. He is my happy ending. Without Him, it would just be me. And I am not enough on my own. He is my Alpha and Omega; my Beginning and my End!
typewriter-1062697_960_720

The flip side:  We can choose to stuff those emotions and all that pain. We’ve tried to, haven’t we? And we have discovered it doesn’t actually disappear. Instead, it compounds, seemingly builds up until it owns us, defines us. I know far too many adults who live in their childhoods and cannot, no matter their efforts, move forward. They are stuck. And if I can be so bold: we can only blame our pasts for what happened. We can only blame ourselves if we give it the power to hold us captive. God desperately desires freedom and not bondage for us. We need to own our stories and allow Christ to reveal the ending He had in mind the whole time. We are worth it. We really are!

“When we said yes to God, He declared our eternal victory” Jerusha Clark.


Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1

holey jeansLast week, I wrote a two-part series about Friendship, which focused on the concept that vulnerability leads to courage. As I have thought more about some of the messy, painful parts of my own story; the parts that leave me feeling exposed, I realized that although I am not unique, the journey I have taken may be. Though initially unconscious of the steps I have taken to rewrite my story, I have most definitely moved through a process where I can now live peacefully with my past.

This is not to say shame and regret do not rear their ugly little heads every once in a while and try to pull me into that dark place, where self-protection and self-sufficiency reside; leaving no room for others, they certainly do. And even though this is a painful place, it strangely feels safe because the only one who can hurt me here is myself. You know this place too. I think we’ve all visited at one time or another. Some stay longer than others, while others never leave. What happens in this place, however, is hurt grows, bitterness creeps in, and the light becomes blinding. If we choose to stay in this place, rewriting our stories will be impossible!

I’ve heard it said that “What we think determines how we feel, which then impacts how we behave” (I wish I knew whom to credit for such geniuses).

Think about this for a moment. I bet every one of us can pinpoint either a story or a situation where our thoughts have been high-jacked! Our minds play on loop: I’m not good enough, I am unlovable, I’m unfixable, I don’t amount to much…” These falsities poison our minds and somehow, if we are not careful, we can actually believe them. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us when it says, “Be careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life”.

What we can derive from this is Satan wants us to get caught up on the external things we do, not our thoughts. If our thoughts are the wellspring of life, it is essential we begin here as we rewrite the ending to our stories.

We cannot change our past. We can undo what has already been done. We have endured heartbreaking things. Harm has been done, trust has been broken, lies have been told. So, if we are going to rewrite the ending to our stories, we have to get ready to “prepare our minds for action; be self-controlled; set our hope fully on the grace Christ is giving to us” 1 Peter 1:13-14 (paraphrased). One way

What that looks like:
Understand that wrestling with our past, as painful as it might be, is necessary in order to move forward. It’s ok to mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a childhood, to face that we did not get what we needed, or the fact that what we had was stripped away from us, etc. It’s OK to acknowledge that parts of our stories are wrong, bad, evil, painful. We don’t like these feelings; they hurt. They are the very ones that cause us to run the opposite direction, to glaze over these parts of our stories, not just because they are uncomfortable to us, but we know they make others feel uncomfortable as well. Somehow, we have made ourselves the decider of what they get to feel. (how silly is that?)

My glazed version of one of my stories: I was raped. I’m kind of comfortable leaving it right there. It’s all most people can handle. No questions asked, no details to share. Minimal pain ensued.

Here’s what wrestling with that looks like:
I couldn’t function for days—even the basic tasks such as getting dressed were hard. My body felt as if it were moving through sludge and yet, my mind felt as if I was floating in a numbing hazy. I avoided the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. I felt ugly. I felt ruined. I feared everyone could tell by looking at me what had happened, which in one moment moved me to tears and in the next, hardened my heart. I feared making love with my own husband for months afterwards because every time I closed my eyes, I saw my attacker’s eyes; and every time my body began to relax, I was jostled by the imaginary feeling of his heavy-handed grip on my waist. I wondered if my bruising and tearing would ever heal or if I would be physically damaged as much as I was emotionally damaged. Flashbacks haunted me both day and night for seeming forever. To be honest, I don’t remember when they became less frequent. It just seemed they were always there and then disappeared; though even now, 17 years later, I am startled by something and my mind replays that night.

Sigh. That hurts to write; really hurts. And it is that kind of pain we glaze over to make both ourselves and others feel more comfortable. However, if I chose to stay in this pain and live, as a victim, my thoughts will hold me captive. I will be locked in an imaginary cage, suffocating. And though I am fully protected here, I would spend my entire life pining for freedom, where I could grow and thrive as God intended me. And you as well. With Christ, we have the power to stop the chatter and to cling to a life in FREEDOM.

Brene Brown says it this way, “[We] either walk into [our] story and own our truth, or [we’ll] live outside [our] story, hustling for [our] worthiness”. barrel 1

No one gets to hold that kind of power over me; nope, I’m not gonna let that happen. I own my truth. I get to say where the story ends.

Read “Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2” Here


Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

Nostalgic or Transfomative; Our Stories Are Powerful

DSC_0812

Our stories are nostalgic at their least, transformative at their best.

Some moments spent over coffee have been filled with joy, celebration, and school-girl giggles while others have been burdensome and even life-changing, and every emotion and situation in between. Coffee (and sometimes wine and sometimes tequila, but mostly coffee) is the perfect pairing to share life and stories between friends.

It is forever imbedded in my mind the afternoon I sat across from my oldest daughter at our local coffee shop, mesmerized by my own reflection in her dark chocolate brown eyes. I had seen glimpses of myself in her throughout her entire childhood, but as she grew, the reflection grew stronger and with each misstep she took I feared her future would fall into pace with my past. I knew this well-trodden path, full of pitfalls, detours, and hairpin turns. I knew it better than she did; I had the scars to prove it, though barely noticeable after all these years and rarely, if ever, talked about, but never, never forgotten. I braced myself, trying to steady the beating of my nervous heart as I was about to dive into a conversation I wasn’t sure I was ever going to have with her; a conversation where shame and regret still loiter.

Like many parents, I’ve wondered how much of my past to share with my girls and have had many conversations (over coffee) with my fellow mommas about this very issue. I cannot even begin to tell you how heartbroken I have been to hear time and time again how every one of those mommas said they would never share their past with their children. I’ve remained quiet, feeling isolated in my opposing thoughts; thoughts of the potentially missed opportunities to connect on the deepest, heart-to-heart, level with our children. I had read an article when my oldest was just a wee girl, which said something to the effect of “What happened in the past determines what we take out of our daily lives” and I had added to this idea that our past also affects what we put into others. I have patterned portions of my parenting style with this in mind.

Sitting across from Abigail, with coffee in hand, I flashed back to the first moments when her precious 8 pound, 4-ounce body was place in my arms for the first time. Running my fingertips along her plump cheeks and kissing her head over and over again, I remember whispering countless promises to her; promises to love her the best I could, promises to show her her value, promises to guide her in Truth and wisdom, promises to be vulnerable and honest with her even when it was uncomfortable, even when it might paint me in a bad light, even if it meant she might use it against me or worse yet, follow in my footsteps. I wanted her to know I was not perfect and I didn’t have all the answers, but would give her all that I am and all that I have. A tall order for this then 22-year-old who, in hindsight, perhaps bit off more than she could chew.

When I say I might have bit off more than I could chew, I do not mean to imply that I ever wavered in keeping a single one of those promises! On the contrary! However, some of those promises came with a searing pain and bottomless tears that I could not have imagined all those years ago in our hospital room. I entered into parenting knowing that my past, my stories; my personal collection of lessons learned held immeasurable value for my girls. Our parenting is filtered through these lessons whether we share our stories with our children or not.

I was born a story teller. It’s part of my DNA and my Daddy nurtured and encouraged this part of who I am throughout my entire life  until our last conversation this side of heaven (this is why I write today); but my stories are nostalgic at their least, transformative at their best. I, personally, stand in a long line of God’s redemptive acts through His people. We are a redeemed, forgiven, and loved people and recipients of God’s abundant grace. We are a privileged body, and a “royal priesthood”. I pause here for a moment…. and find myself so entirely overwhelmed with this beautiful, life-giving truth and shudder to think if my family’s legacy was not shared through stories, the joyful and the painful, I very well might have taken for granted these precious gifts and very well might have missed the fact that my identity is completely tied to the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Our past not only tells us who we are, it tells us who we are not.

So, I clear my throat and wipe the tears, which are already stinging the corner of my eyes and begin to paint the detailed strokes of who I once was, the mistakes I made at 19, her same age, and the forever consequences I now carry with me for the rest of my life. I share the pain, the shame, the regret, and I share how I coped, Who I learned to trust and rely on, and how it was in that single experience that my life was forever altered and because of those scares and the One Who born them for me, I live in freedom. I know my story pierced her heart and caused her to see me through a different lens.

Later, when I asked her if I had lost credibility with her, she let out a soft laugh and through a wistful smile said, “No, it actually gave you credibility. I respected you more. I knew I could talk to you about anything and you’d get it; I mean really get it”. Those seemingly taboo channels had been cleared, opening to an endless dialogue about hard things. I know she isn’t just hearing the words and advice I give her, I know she’s really listening, really taking it in. Her choices will still be her choices, of course. I cannot protect her from everything; but really, I don’t want to. I want her to have her own stories to learn and grow from. And when she does, she’ll know I’m right here with open arms and a heart that genuinely understands.

Our kids will remember our stories long after our advice is forgotten, and I hope they’ll learn from those stories. In time, they will have their own stories to add to our heritage and to pass along to another generation. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll share them over a cup of coffee!


Related Posts:
My Testimony