Tag Archives: Hope

Showing My Scars

This Saturday I’ll be speaking at a conference called Shattering Stigma with StoriesI attended this event last year and experienced the powerful and informative stories of real people who struggle with mental illnesses, including anorexia, depression, and bipolar disorder. One of my writing friends, Leanne Sype, was one of the speakers. When we later met for coffee, I mentioned that I had a strong desire to tell my story and that I was drawn to this ministry. So she arranged for me to meet with the woman who created the Shattering Stigma ministry at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church.

Well, almost a year later I’d all but forgotten about this ministry, thinking they were never going to ask me to speak at their conference. That’s when Leanne contacted me to ask if I would be on a trauma panel. It didn’t take much thought to know the answer was yes.

So, the conference is this Saturday. Oh wait, I said that already. Can you tell I’m excited?

It seems weird to be excited about telling my story of having endured trauma and struggled with symptoms of PTSD and depression as a result. But I am excited because I know that God will use my story, just as He used the stories of the speakers last year, to shine a light on the truth about people with mental illnesses. That truth is that they—we—are loved by God. He desires to step into our circumstances and bring hope and healing. He desires for us to be a part of His Church and He expects His Church to minister to us in the midst of our struggles and pain.

He expects us to show the scars of the wounds He has healed so that others may find healing, too.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

Pondering the Why of Suffering

When Jesus and his disciples encountered the man born blind as recorded in John 9, the disciples wanted to know why he’d been born blind. Was it the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that had caused this tragedy?

Why me? Why her? It’s a question we all ask in the face of tragedy and suffering. I know I do. Why did my mom have cancer not once, but three times? Why did her dad die of cancer when she was only 14? Why did my sister die of cancer at only 61?

Why was I raped by someone I thought I could trust when I was only 14? Why was I faced with the impossible situation of a teen pregnancy because of being raped again when I was only 17? Was all this tragedy ordained by God to make me the person I am today? Would I have been less compassionate and more judgmental if I’d never experienced all the suffering I have?

I have a friend who is a Christian and yet she lacks empathy and compassion. Her words reveal the pride and judgment of others that flow from her heart. She hasn’t experienced the trauma I have or anything close to it as far as I can tell. I wonder if I would have been just like her—legalistic and critical—if I’d been spared the fertile soil of suffering that mercy needs to grow.

Or perhaps my suffering and my mother’s suffering are God’s punishment for the sins of her parents, my grandparents, or even earlier generations. There is certainly scripture to support the conclusion that God punishes the children for the sins of the parents even to multiple generations.

Then again, my own suffering may have been the result of my own sin. The first time I was raped happened in large part because I disobeyed my parents and hung out with the guy who did it. And after that it was one sin after another that led to more suffering.

I’ll probably never know why this side of Heaven. I can speculate until I’m blue in the face and never know for sure. So perhaps it’s most profitable to stop asking why and focus on the next part of the story of the man born blind.

Jesus answers His disciples, saying that the man was born blind that God might be glorified. Then He heals the man. He gives the man who had never seen so much as a blade of grass full sight. He took the man’s utter darkness and gave him light.

He did the same for me and that’s what matters. He healed my brokenness that He might be glorified. I’ll admit that there are days when even that answer can cause tears of anger to well up in my eyes. Couldn’t there have been an easier way for God to be glorified than for me to struggle under the weight of multiple traumas?

Then I remember the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail by Pharaoh for a betrayal he didn’t commit, and then ultimately raised to a position of power in Egypt. When his brothers came to him for food in time of famine, fearing he would punish them for the wrong they had committed against him, Joseph responded: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV).

I ponder that perhaps God intended the harm that has befallen me for good, to accomplish great things for Him. This helps me let go of the “why” questions and focus on where I can encourage others who have been through similar circumstances and haven’t yet found His healing light. Perhaps I can even be used by God to save many lives.

6 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life

Growing Peace in Forgiveness

Each time I see a Facebook post or Internet meme stating that abortion is murder, calling on us to save the babies, I feel a pang of anger. It’s not that I disagree with this truth. I do not. I know the medical facts that show that a baby has a heartbeat as early as 4 weeks after conception and can feel pain as early as 20 weeks after conception. It is even possible for a baby born only 23 weeks after conception to survive outside the womb.

I know all too well this truth. My anger comes from two places.

First, I am angry that the doctors and nurses at the clinic where my abortion was performed didn’t share that information with me. I’m angry that they didn’t provide me with choices or give me the opportunity to make an informed choice. I’m angry that they didn’t ask how I got pregnant. I was raped, but that didn’t concern them. I am angry that the supposed pro-choice movement in this country continues to lie to and withhold facts from women facing crisis pregnancies.

Second, I am angry that the pro-life movement spends so much time focusing on the babies that they often forget the women (or quite often young girls) who have been traumatized by the abortion industry, having believed the lie that an abortion was the only answer to their crisis pregnancy.

But then I feel God’s Spirit remind me that anger and vengeance are not mine. What is mine is forgiveness. And when I focus on God’s forgiveness, knowing He understands my regret and desires to heal my broken heart, peace begins to grow in my heart.

This is when I realize that God doesn’t call me to try to change the hearts and minds of those who are pro-choice or to condemn the methods of those who are pro-life. What God calls me to do is to bring His message of mercy and forgiveness to women, like me, who have endured the trauma of abortion and sometimes feel like there will never be peace.

There is peace. It is found in Jesus, who died to pay for all our sins, including the murder of our children. He will forgive all. His forgiveness will grow peace in our hearts when we let Him.

Are you among the millions of women who have had an abortion because you believed you had no other choice? Were you pressured by your boyfriend or husband, or perhaps even by an abuser? Were you single, with insufficient income to care for a child, and felt there was no other choice? Did you see your whole life’s plan ahead of you, a plan that didn’t have room for a child, and were told you had no other choice?

Do you live now with regret and heartache over the child you aborted? Do you struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts but don’t know why because you’ve buried the guilt over your abortion so deep you aren’t even consciously aware of it? Do you long to be closer to God but somehow feel that you will never be good enough for Him?

Dear one, you are not alone and you are loved. You are not the mistakes you have made and the wrongs you have done. You are loved by God and He desires to heal your deepest pain and hurt, to bring you forgiveness and peace. You only need to lay this burden—a burden that is much too heavy for you to bear alone—at the feet of Jesus. His truth and love will set you free to live in His peace.

Here are some resources to help you:

Silent No More Awareness

Eternal Perspective Ministries

The Radiance Foundation

Walk for Life

Lifecall – Directory of pregnancy resource centers

CareNet – Pregnancy resource centers

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Women

My One-Note Song

Last summer I entered my first poetry book, Light in My Darknessin the Writers Digest Self Published Book Awards contest. Riding high on the coattails of being named a finalist in the Cascade Writers Contest in the published poetry category, I decided to submit my book on the last possible day of the contest and see what happened. I didn’t really expect to win, but I thought the feedback I would receive might be valuable.

I received an email with the judge’s comments just yesterday. I was a bit surprised to find that my submission was only read by one judge. Given the price tag on entering and the national scope of the contest I figured they’d have at least two judges per book.

At any rate, I thought I’d share the less-than-glowing review here with you all. I know, it seems weird to share a review that doesn’t just rave about my book, but I do so for a reason. Although the judge found fault with my labor of love, it was the very fault that he or she found that made me smile. Here’s the review, copied and pasted with grammatical errors and all, with my favorite part in bold:

Judge’s Commentary*:

This book of Christian devotional poetry is written by a woman who pulled herself up from the depths of depression through faith, and she should be admired for it. I also appreciate is that the poet uses many different forms of poetry to express herself:  pantoums, sonnets, villanelles, cinquains, triolets, sestinas, ghazals, acrostics, and even a concrete poem, as well as other rhymed verse and free verse.

My problem with this 127-page book is that it is composed almost entirely of poems of praise, and after a while it becomes a one-note song. The entire first section uses the metaphor of darkness into light to describe her salvation and coming up from depression. One can say the same thing only so many ways. There are five more sections to the book, on themes of “bring light to the darkness of others”, “being set free from the past”, forgiveness, “god in the midst of pain and suffering”, and a last section of what I would describe as “pure praise”.  Recurring themes come up in poem after poem: darkness vs. light, Jesus vs. Satan, “jars of clay”, etc. Most of the poems have an addendum of a Scripture quote too. Also, the poet chooses to label the type of poetic form beneath the title of most of these poems. This isn’t necessary, and many rhymed poems here are mislabeled as “free verse.”  The book conveys its message through its cover too – a kneeling figure on a cliff looking up to an image of a cross on a mountainside. The type size is quite large- was it meant to be a “large-print” book ? (I’m not asking this facetiously.) The bio and blurbs on the back cover are well-presented.

Granted, I am not a devout person, so maybe I don’t take the message to heart as a more religious person would. Still, I think even a faithful reader may find this book a bit repetitive after the first twenty or thirty pages.  My advice to the author: Use your interest in poetic forms to your best advantage, and diversify your themes and subjects. There is so much you can say from a perspective of faith about nature, your family and friends, social issues, even your career.  Don’t be afraid to bring in more details of your life and less of the language of praise, and your next book may be even better.

I am thrilled that this reader saw my praise of God so prominently in my poetry. If that is my one-note song, I’ve succeeded in doing what God has called me to do. I’ll keep singing that song until the day I die. To those struggling with depression, I want to clearly reveal the love and hope of Jesus so that they might one day praise Him, too, for being the Light in their darkness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

I Am the Moon

I am the moon
shining the light of the sun
into a dark world

Some nights
I shine exquisitely bright

Tonight I wane
keeping the light to myself
I need it all to survive
for now

But fear not
I shall wax again

___________________________

For yesterday’s Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Grace is calling for poems about the moon personified. This is what I came up with.

12 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Resurfacing in Blue

I should have seen it coming
this sense of feeling blue
Delving into trials of the past
to write a memoir that’s true

I’m doubtful that this venture
is worth the time and pain
Will I survive this process
where no secrets will remain

Or will there be some truths
odd feelings buried deep
that I’ll find I cannot share
but to myself I’ll keep

It’s easy to write stories
of cerulean skies above
What I want to convey at last
is God’s gracious love

The writing is not easy
for it has been said
Where no tears in the writer
the prose is surely dead

__________________________________

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write about something blue. I didn’t really have time today, but this poem kept nagging at me, so here it is. I hope to get back to dVerse later to do some reading. Do pop over and see what other poems of the great blue you will find.

24 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Assumptions of Bias

During the past week watching the news and reading Facebook posts about the violence and racial tensions in this country, I was struck by the assumptions made by some who protested the loudest. One such assumption—a  statement I read more than once—was that white people are afraid of the big black man, and that’s the problem.

I would argue that this assumption contributes to the problem of racial tension and is not true because it is an over generalization. All white people cannot be lumped into one set of beliefs or viewpoints any more than all black people can. Many white people, as well as many black people, would prefer to be part of the solution.

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of something that happened to me just a month or so ago. We were having mandatory “Implicit Bias” training at work. It’s not the first time we’ve had this training, but this time something happened that made me think about how sometimes our assumptions about implicit bias can be part of the problem. We focus on and assume bias where diversity and camaraderie might flourish if we didn’t try so hard to see the negative.

The presenter was talking about the online Harvard Implicit Bias Project tests. I’ve taken several of these tests before so I raised my hand to offer my unique experience.

“I’ve taken the race Implicit Bias test three times,” I said, “and each time it has revealed I have a strong preference for African Americans. I have no explanation for why that is because I really only know a few African Americans.”

The presenter thanked me for chiming in and started talking about how we don’t always know where these biases come from. Then she said,” That was very brave of you to admit that.”

”Wait,” I replied, “I think you misunderstood me. Why would it be brave for me to say I had a bias in favor of, strongly in favor of, blacks?”

“Oh,” she said,” you said against.”

My boss, who was sitting at the same table as me, replied,” No she didn’t, she said in favor of.”

Later I talked to several people who were on the other side of the room and they all said they clearly heard me say what I actually said. But the presenter—who spends much her time talking, thinking, and studying about implicit bias—heard what she assumed any white woman would say, that she was biased against blacks.

I share this because I think it is so important not to assume we know what others think about difficult issues like this. We have to stop making broad general assumptions about whole groups of people whose only thing in common might be the color of their skin. Human beings—and each individual human being—is so much more complex than that.

The second presenter at this training had commented at the beginning that we didn’t need to talk about religion or spirituality, because that isn’t really very important for people in Oregon. I found this comment odd because it was another inaccurate assumption. For me, my faith is very important and it is the teachings of Jesus that inform much of my belief about others. It is my understanding that we are all created in God’s image, no matter what color our skin, that helps me in dealing with and accepting those who are different from me.

D.C. Talk does a great song called Colored People that I want to end with. I’m linking to YouTube because often embedded videos don’t work on this free blog. I encourage you to follow the link and give it a listen.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

Seeking Truth

Words matter. Our choice of words, whether speaking or writing, makes a difference.

And words have meaning. That’s what dictionaries are for—to tell us what words mean. When we try to use words to mean something other than what they really mean, it causes confusion.

Sometimes people do this on purpose. One such misuse of a word that I have encountered lately is the use of the word “true” to substitute for “believe.” A person will say “such and such is true for me” when what they really mean is “I believe such and such.”

According to the dictionary, the word “true” means “being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact.” Truth is not relative and is not affected by what any one person believes. Truth is external, and belief is internal, in origin.

Many years ago, when I was suffering from major clinical depression, there were a number of things I believed about myself. I believed I would always be depressed based on how long I had been depressed already and my doctor telling me I would always have bouts of major depression for the rest of my life. I also believed I would never be able to hold down a full-time job. I believed no one liked me and that I was worthless. In the parlance of relativism, these things were true for me.

But they weren’t true. They aren’t true and they never were, no matter how deeply I believed them.

And trust me, I deeply believed these things about myself.

But here I am, 18 years later, and I haven’t had a bout of major depression since God showed me how to be free. I’ve had the same good-paying full-time job for almost 12 years, and I had a different full-time job that paved the way for this one for 5 1/2 years before that. On top of my full-time job, I’m actively involved in my church and Bible Study Fellowship, have self-published two poetry books, and take care of my family. And I have a lot of friends, people who like me (and some who even love me).

As I look back over the past 20 years, I see God’s hand in my life, lifting me up and leading me to see the truth. I believe that. But it’s not my belief that makes it true. In fact, I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

Whether God is real and cares about His creation enough to do all I believe He has for us is either true or not. It can’t be true for me and not for you, or vice versa. Truth is. As humans, our greatest purpose is to seek the truth. To say that truth is relative—that what is objectively true for me is different from what is objectively true for you—negates that essential human drive to know truth, to know our Creator, to know where we come from, and to know our reason for being.

At any rate, that’s what I believe.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

I’m a Finalist!

I’m so excited! One of my poems is one of three finalists in the Published Poetry category of the Cascade Writing Contest put on by Oregon Christian Writers. I entered three poems as individual entries. I look forward to receiving the feedback on all three, but am also looking forward to the Oregon Christian Writers Conference in August when I will find out if I win.

The poem that is a finalist was published on this blog and is titled The Philosophy of Choice. The other two that I entered were more overtly “Christian” but this is the one that made it through to the final round. This supports what I’ve been learning lately about my writing—when I write honestly from the heart about hard subjects, people respond.

And a special thanks to Brian Miller, whose prompt led to the writing of this poem.

9 Comments

Filed under Faith, Life, Poetry

Speaking of Gold

She saw in nature’s
beauty and majesty her first
glimpse of the Divine, swathed in green
amidst the beauty is
an echo of gold

The home He gave her
turned out to be the hardest
to hold onto as the hue
of the forbidden fruit came to
tempt her and take hold

The loss of her
innocence came much too early
even as the green leaf’s
sprout was still on the tree and a
serpent offered a lovely flower

She could have walked away but
then there was only
nothing to lose or so
said the deceiver with an
invitation of an hour

to spare for then
it would have fallen, the leaf
as the temptation subsides
and yet that was not to
be the fate of the leaf

Temptation bowed to evil, so
rich and lovely Eden
survived, but humanity sank
deep into despair so as to
succumb to grief

Now we long so
earnestly for the Light to dawn
to know where love goes
or see love come down
and heal our souls to
see the break of a new day

A day where nothing
more precious than transparent gold
will pave the way so we can
in Eden forever stay

_______________________________

The Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is a Golden Shovel poem, which is a poem in which you take one or more lines from a favorite poem and use those lines to be the end-line words in a new poem. The result is that if you read down the right margin of the poem you will see the original line or lines. I chose Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost and used the entire poem. This poem was a big challenge for me because I discovered that you can’t really write a Golden Shovel poem unless you use enjambment, which I have a hard time with usually, but I think I made it work.

27 Comments

Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry