Fret Not


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imageI think I killed our tree.  Last year was not my fault (the apartment was too hot) but this year I did it.  I don’t know what’s wrong;  I went to put the lights on it, and it sounds like it’s raining.  Needles everywhere.

It is the week before Christmas, and there is no money for gifts.  It’s the most horrible, nauseating, dead-in-the-very-bottom-of-your-gut type of feeling a single mom can have.  Most of the time, I feel sick.  No matter where I am, or what I am doing, I can’t fully enjoy it.  We are in pretty much the same boat we were in last year, and I haven’t yet recovered from last year.  Same scenario, different location.

Constant worry.   

So many bills are unpaid;  there are piles of medical bills, utilities, my daughter’s tuition for spring.  Everything is past due, so late fees keep piling up.  The car needs repairs, or it won’t pass inspection next week.  If I buy gifts for my daughters, or for anyone else for Christmas, even a few, there will be no way to pay the rent next month.  I’m preparing myself now for the annual January shut-off:  no internet, television, or phone.  It seems to be a new and unwanted tradition – dead silence.  Not good for those already struggling with depression.  I know my girls have bought gifts for me already;  we went to the mall yesterday.  Walking along behind them, I thought, they are so beautiful.  I don’t know if they realize that they themselves are my gifts.  Probably not, because they aren’t parents themselves yet (thank God) but like most parents, I want to be able to give them something to open on Christmas morning.  There is a little girl in all of us, no matter how old we are, who wants to come down to a sparkling tree with beautiful packages, and bows, and pretty things picked out by people we love.  People who love us.

I don’t feel merry, I feel grim.  The kind of grim determination you need when you have to head out into a storm, and there’s no getting around it, so you set your face like flint and go forward.  But it is definitely not fun.

We don’t need a small miracle, we need a large one.  Maybe several.  I have mustard-seed-sized faith.  You can see it with a magnifying glass, but it’s there.

If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, … nothing shall be impossible unto you. – Matthew 17:20

Of Mice and Money


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Shortly after signing the lease for this house, and when I had only made a dent in the sea of boxes in the garage, all of my money was stolen.  By a stranger;  someone standing at an ATM in Atlanta, Georgia.  They just helped themselves to everything, and added fees along the way on top of it.

I had gone to Home Depot to buy mouse traps (of all things) a couple of days before, and I believe it was there that my account was compromised.  Not quite sure, as I also went to Target right after, but I believe it’s one of the two.  I got a call from the card company saying that there had been some ‘unusual activity’ on my account, and that someone had just changed my pin number and withdrawn everything I had set aside for bills.  Several hundred dollars, all of which is needed by Saturday in order to pay the rent for November.

The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  Indeed.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

Nothing like a good, old-fashioned attack of the enemy to make you wake up and put your armor on.  That, and the quiet observation of a nineteen year-old passenger that you sound more like a nihilist lately than a Christian.  (These are long car rides.)  I have already been through so much that I’m determined not to let this one get to me.  God has been faithful, always, and has helped me and strengthened me through everything.  I know God brought us here.  I believe we’re supposed to be here.  I believe He has a plan and a purpose for us in this place. He is who He says He is, and will do what He has promised to do.  I am not going to let depression and fear win this time.

With God’s help.

 Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force;  never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.  – Sir Winston Churchill

The Shadow Side of Truth


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I spent most of this summer looking for a place to live.  For some reason, I also spent it re-reading a book by Robert M. Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; a book that was assigned in an English class my husband and I took years ago, before we were married.  This is one of my all-time favorite books, not just because of the memories of my relationship with my husband, before everything went so horribly wrong, but because it’s probably one of the best philosophy books I’ve ever read.  It was around that same time, that first semester of college, that I dug a used copy of Francis A. Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There out of a bin in the college bookstore.  Although Pirsig circles spiritual truths and poignant realities without ever coming to actually know God in a personal way, and Schaeffer’s book argues from the other side, both books shaped much of my young-adult thinking.  Anyway, I thought I was so desperately searching for Zen because I missed my husband, but I think I was really just looking for me.  (The old pink copy from Mr. Baldwin’s English class was buried somewhere deep in a storage unit, so I finally went to Barnes and Noble and bought myself a new copy, which I liked much better anyway.)

I don’t actually read books, I ‘eat’ them, so to speak, and so I wandered pretty far off the path this summer in my thinking.  Stress does this to me;  I can think myself into a hole so deep only God can find me.  He always does, but not without considerable grief on my part, usually ending in some kind of confused fog that no amount of therapy or medication can dissipate. I went all the way to Is there really a God, and do we even exist, and if we don’t, then what’s the point of it all anyway? full circle back to There is a God, and these are real tears, so I must exist, and therefore, there must be a point out there somewhere.  The real value of a book like Pirsig’s is that while truth is approached but never arrived at, it gives you something to measure truth by.  A theoretical plumb line.  As in, okay, if I do not believe this to be truth, then what is?  Or, more accurately, what exactly do I believe?  “Truth is arrived at by the painstaking process of eliminating the untrue.” And while the Lord was more than patient with all of my midsummer wanderings, now it’s time to put things back in order and get back to work.


An irritatingly re-occurring, and always traumatic reality in my life, they seem to have moved in to this place sometime before we did, and I can’t quite wrap my head around how to deal with them.  I don’t want to;  I want them gone.  Can’t get a cat, either, because I’m as allergic to them as I am afraid of mice.  Besides, a sign saying “This house is guarded by a kitten” is something only a real blond would put in the window.  I had just been thinking, too, that I don’t actually meet the DSM criteria for PTSD anymore (said criteria having been obliterated by all of the ones required for a major depressive disorder) and haven’t for some time, but no, no such luck.  Back with a vengeance, which is so humiliating, because this house was supposed to be both a blessing and a place of refuge.  And so many, many people bent over backwards trying to help me, and are now so happy and relieved that my summer of homelessness is over, that I don’t have the heart to tell them how upset I am with where I am.

The proper response to “Blessed and highly favored;  how are you?”  is not “Stressed and suicidal, thank you.” (“Blessed and highly medicated” doesn’t go over so well, either, unless you actually like being obviously and hyper-actively avoided by other well-dressed, seemingly healthy, adults.)  At least, not at our church.  Our poor staff is just not prepared to deal with such disturbingly raw honesty, so out of kindness and consideration for them, from the goodness of my heart, I give the appropriate response, knowing full well that I’m lying through my teeth the whole time.  God forgive me.

I really am grateful.  Grateful for a place to think, to write, to sleep and study.  I missed my bed.  And my coffee maker.

It’s good to be back.

Over the Falls, by Hugo First


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profile_236971163_75sq_1350264225I feel like my daughter and I have just been drifting alone in a tiny boat for the last year, knowing the edge was getting closer, and we were going to go over, but I was completely unable to do anything about it.  And go over we did, in July, because there was nothing to hold onto, and nobody was watching.

It’s amazing how your life can just quietly come to a complete stop- can end-  while the rest of the world just goes on without you.  We went over the edge, and nobody noticed.  Everything just disappeared.

I’m not who I was before this all happened.  I feel it when I sit down to work and don’t know what to write, or when I pick up a pencil and don’t remember how to draw, or a paintbrush and can’t paint.  Or play the piano.

I see neither pillar nor cloud.  Just unending darkness.

The God that I have created in my head is not the God of the Bible.  This thought occurred to me the other night when I was out walking.  The God in my head is impersonal, detached. Critical, and somewhat harsh;  usually irritated, if not angry. Punitive.  I don’t even know how or when everything changed, I only know that it has.  I see Him as another person to whom I don’t measure up;  another place where I am not wanted, or am no longer free to go.  I don’t see Him (in my mind) as the loving, gentle, forgiving God of mercy I read about in scripture.

I cannot serve both.

Forgiveness is hard work.  Not impossible, but hard.



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800px-The_Subsiding_of_the_Waters_of_the_Deluge,_1829,_Thomas_Cole_-_SAAM_-_DSC00868My daughter is getting impatient with this whole unable-to-find-a-place-to-live thing again.  On the way to pick up her medicine this afternoon (she came back from Florida not feeling very well) she expressed some of her frustration in the car.  Specifically, her frustration with me.

“Why don’t you do something, for once, about our situation?  Why do you just keep trusting God to fix everything, every single time, when clearly, He isn’t doing anything?”

I didn’t have an answer, so I just kept driving.  Besides, I keep having the same thoughts myself lately.  Trying not to, but there they are.

I honestly don’t know.

I briefly contemplated running the car into the next telephone pole, but abandoned the thought as soon as it came.  (Although I have had that thought quite frequently lately, too.)

I don’t believe that being depressed also means you are mentally ill, any more than being mentally ill means you are, by default, depressed.  I’ve worked with quite a few truly mentally ill people who aren’t depressed at all;  in fact, many of them are far more cheerful than I am.   However, I will be the first to admit that I am emotionally ill.  Semantics?  Maybe.  Maybe we could make a religion out of it;  I’m sure we could, if we tried.  The Church of Semanticism.  You say mental illness, I say emotional illness.  You say prosperity, I say greed.  You say faith, I say apathy.  It could be a whole religious movement.  (Don’t all email at once please;  I’m being facetious.)

I’m sure my counselor has told her friends and colleagues, or whomever she has talked all of this over with, that I am mentally ill, simply because it would serve her purposes to do so.


She sure isn’t telling people that all I did was send an email, and she read it, or read into it, rather, and got angry and said I couldn’t come back.  What should have resulted in communication ended instead in excommunication.  I could see if I were actually mentally ill, not just depressed, or had in some weird way threatened her, or, say, stole a coaster from her desk or something.  I don’t see why everyone else can go to their appointments except me.  What in the world is the big deal about a depressed woman trying to heal from a divorce?  Pastoral counseling is for situations like mine.  There is simply no ethical, professional, or moral reason for what she is doing.  She’s doing it simply because she has the power to do so.

I don’t know how to answer my daughter.  I really do believe God is going to work this all out, somehow.  Both situations.

We don’t have a place to live.   We have a pile of boxes.  I’m as frustrated, upset,  and worried as my daughter is.  Time is running out.


There’s a skull at the bottom of this painting that I’ve never noticed before.  Huh.  Interesting.

Cole,Thomas.  The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge.  1829.  oil on canvas.  Smithsonian.

This Party is Over.


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I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.  Not because I don’t care about our country, but because when it came time to pick and choose who gets the kids on holidays, my husband chose all of the bank holidays.  We settled without going to trial, because my counselor couldn’t go to court that day.  She was moving into her new house, and had scheduled the movers for the day of the trial.  It was too late to do anything about it, so the whole thing fell apart.  An honest mistake, but as far as my husband was concerned, he had an easy victory.  I couldn’t testify without her there for support- she was never supposed to testify herself, she just needed to be there in the room so I could, but the whole thing got mixed up, and my lawyer didn’t communicate this to her until the very last minute, and my life has been a living hell ever since.  So, for the last ten years, I have blocked those days out as much as possible, and I work or stay busy until it’s over.  I try very hard not to think about the past, and all the fun things my daughters and I did when they were little.  Today they are at Disney World, and will be there tonight for the fireworks.  Two weeks in a condo on the beach, dinner on a cruise ship, Disney, Epcot, Universal Studios, etc. but he can’t pay their medical bills, or the college bill, because he’s ‘broke’.  And, he took them at 8:00 on my birthday so that I wouldn’t get to spend the day with them, so even that was ruined.  All I want is to be on vacation with my family, without the girlfriend, of course.  I want to go to Disney World.  Is that too much to ask?  No, I want my girls to have fun and be happy.  This is all my fault for marrying him in the first place.

It has been one hell of a horrible week.

I don’t do well when they’re gone, especially with him, and so here I am again, sitting in the middle of a pile of boxes, with nowhere to go.  One year older, not a hell of a lot wiser.  We were supposed to be out of here by the first of the month, but I don’t make enough on disability to qualify for any safe or decent housing, and I can’t get off disability until this mess with my counselor is cleared up, so that I can actually go to my appointments.  So, here we are. I will be the first to admit that I should be talking to a counselor, probably today, but I have absolutely no control over that.  It has simply all been taken away from me, and is not an option, for reasons that make no sense, to me or anybody else, and really don’t matter any more.  None of it really matters at all;  it’s too late.  I can’t get any of this time back.  I don’t even really want my money back; although it would solve a hell of a lot of problems right now;  it would keep us from being homeless, which we technically are, I guess.  I just want my life back.  And it’s gone.

I miss my kids.

Fears, Phobias, and Fairytales


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profile_236971163_75sq_1350264225I have been away from the blog for quite a while. Moved one daughter home from college, and the other one into a new apartment, and then she graduated from her college.  In the middle of it all, my mom had surgery, and was in the hospital.  Throw in a graduation party, and our own packing because we have to move soon, and endless financial aid requirements for the next round of classes for everybody in the fall, and you have an idea of how our summer is going to go.  We sleep, shower, and run.  We’re tired.

The graduation party.  In my mind, I love parties.  I like to plan them, go to them, dress up for them.  I’m a very social person… in my mind.  In reality, I have social anxiety, and this is how it plays out:  I plan a large party for one of my kids, and buy a lot of food, and decorations, flowers, and balloons.  Then I freak out and don’t invite anybody because I can’t make phone calls.  There is no help for this;  I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember.  It’s embarrassing, and frustrating.  I have a hard time going to their school events, or anything else that involves large groups of people, or strangers.  Graduation parties, weddings, receptions, reunions, work, school, church, you name it, I get sick over it.  Not with friends and family, and never in counseling, but pretty much anything else.

My counselor once said she really wouldn’t have time for someone like me until she was at least partly retired.  A fair, but cringe-worthy observation.  This is not an easy problem to solve.  I never really knew myself what was wrong with me, until I went to a clinical training on children and anxiety.  I ended up in the back of the room, which was a good thing, because I cried all through it.  It was the first time I had ever heard myself described so accurately.  Turns out there are a lot of people who grew up just like me; afraid to make phone calls, uncomfortable around anyone except close friends and family, too afraid to go to school.  I don’t do well in staff meetings at all, and my internships were so anxiety-provoking  (because of the performance aspect) that I was sick most of the time.  I wouldn’t have made it through at all except for two things:  an absolutely unshakable knowing that this is what I am called to do, and my own weekly appointment with my counselor.  How I will manage grad school I don’t know, but hopefully this situation will be resolved by then.

Anyway, we have to move in less than twenty-five days, and once again, we have nowhere to go.  I miss owning my own home so much.  I just want to be able to paint my bedroom the color I want it, and plant my flowers, and actually see them come up and enjoy them.  I miss our yard, and our trees.  Losing our home has been the single biggest factor in our financial security.  Well, okay, losing my husband was THE single biggest factor – many women who experience divorce immediately plunge below poverty level, along with their children.  One minute I was eating appetizers with local politicians and celebrities, and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the Civic Center downtown, waiting to meet with the domestic-violence worker who would sign us up for food stamps and other social programs.  Nothing prepares you for that;  what in the world do you wear?

I’m tired of living in other people’s houses.  I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but  it is depressing to live everyday in an environment that isn’t yours to change, or to make pretty.  We have had our share of slumlords, and terrible problems with mice, bees, and squirrels.  (In the house.)  People tend to not take care of their rental properties, but because of our limited finances, we have had few choices along the way.  It’s been a matter of we-have-to-take-whatever-we-can-get-because-we-have-to-move-next-week for the most part.  The last house was the best so far, but, as has so often happened, the house was put on the market, and it sold to someone who wanted $400.00 more a month than we were already paying.  (Oddly enough, I think I saw her in church tonight, too.  Weird.)

What do I want?  I want what most single moms want:  a house, a home, a husband, security.  Peaceful, quiet, private, and safe.  I want to drive, for once, with the gas light on the dashboard not always on.  I want to read a recipe, and actually have the money to buy all the ingredients.  I want to plant flowers, and paint walls, and unpack boxes, and rest.  To stop this incessant moving.  Everyone is telling me I have to be realistic;  that I can’t keep expecting God to help me out of all the messes I seem to get myself into;  that God doesn’t always give us what we want, and I have to stop expecting so much, and asking God for more than what would be possible under normal circumstances.  I already know this.

I serve a big God.  That’s all I can say.  Do I deserve anything?  Nope, not on my own merit.  I have messed up more times than I can count, intentionally or not.  I don’t even feel particularly loved most of the time, and sometimes I question if God even exists, or if I’ve fallen for some kind of fable, or fairytale.  But at the very core of my being, under all the doubt and disbelief, I know that God exists.  I do know that He loves me.  And I know He delivers.  Every time.  Always has, always will.

Good-early morning people.

 “In the day that I called, you answered me.  You encouraged me with strength in my soul.” ~ Psalm 138:3

Nothing But the Blood


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That was not the first time I was treated to my very own, personal deliverance session.  A long time ago (I believe it was after I graduated from high school, but am not sure – it may have been during)  there was another meeting, not so unlike the one I described a few days ago.  This one took place in the home of my youth leader.  I was going through a lot at the time, as most adolescents are, and was struggling with both depression and anorexia.  There was a belief in our local Christian community that anorexia was caused by demonic oppression, and that I was at the very least, oppressed, if not possessed.  Not sure about all of this, not being privy to the adult conversations;  I only remember getting into the youth leaders’ van one day, and seeing a small paperback book on the seat, I picked it up and said “What’s this?”  My youth leader took it quickly and said “Nothing”, but not before I saw the title:  Pigs in the Parlor.  He wouldn’t let me see it, but I remembered it.  There were a lot of odd things said about me at the time;  some was said directly to me, which made my social anxiety worse, and my sense of shame and embarrassment increased.  So did my depression.  I had only recently shed the back brace I wore for several years, and my biological father had also disappeared.  Reasons enough for any adolescent to have identity issues.

Anyway, I really did have a difficult time.  All I remember about this particular meeting was that my parents drove me to the youth leaders’ house one night.  I remember that many people were in the room, including my pastor and his wife from our other church.  (We went to two different churches from 1978 until 1985, for reasons I won’t go into  right now.)  I sat in a chair in the middle of the living room, which seemed dark to me for some reason.  The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation:  some people throw up when the demons come out.  And so I sat, frozen, while they all prayed and sang in the background.  “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is the only song I can remember from that night, only because they sang it over and over for a very long time.  I now hate that song, and feel so guilty about it.  But when we sing it, as we did tonight in church, it puts me right back into that living room, into one of the darkest periods of my life.  I don’t think anyone noticed I wasn’t doing very well with all of this;  I sat and stared at the floor, as I usually do when scared or nervous. The appropriate medical term would be shock.  I can’t remember all of what happened that night, partly because it went on for a very long time, and partly because I was exhausted.  I have always thought that if there had been at least one clear-thinking adult in the room, they would have taken me out and left. The overwhelming emotion associated with all of this was fear.  No, terror.  This is a horrible, horrible memory;  the damage this did to me  is indescribable.  What it did to my ability to relate to any kind of spiritual authority with even so much as a grain of trust is irreversible. Suffice it to say, I trust God, and God alone.

I honestly think that my youth leaders, and pastors, and everyone meant well; I just think they were misguided in their thinking.  I’m not alone in my experience, either.  Many young girls who struggled with eating disorders were thought to be under the influence of demonic oppression, and were subjected to similar experiences.  There were some highly esteemed leaders, both in and out of the church, who had some strong ideas about the etiology of anorexia;  there still are.  I have some strong opinions myself, but can only speak with a fair amount of certainty to what it was all about for me.  Certain mental health ‘experts’ believe that eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse are intrinsically linked;  I say not so.  Not always.  Causation and correlation are too different things.  The Sidran organization had a brochure out several years ago in which they stated that they treat anorexia as an expression of unresolved grief;  this is the closest I’ve found to what fits me and my own experience.

I don’t fault the church.  They were reading the books and ‘research’ that were available at the time. The elders’ wife, who made the same erroneous mistake some twenty years later, was also reading books written by people who seemed to have a great deal of credibility.  I think she also meant well, in her heart.  But when you sort things out, and take an honest look at the facts, I had good reason to be sad, scared, anxious, and depressed.  Most of us do, at various times, and not everything is caused by demonic activity.  The elders’ wife was reading a book written by a man I actually agree with much of the time.  He has written some really good stuff.  However, it became a problem  when she had me start repeating prayers after her, and ‘renouncing’ and ‘binding’ things that were listed in the back of the book, some of which actually were a part of my life before I became a Christian, but not after.  I did it, because I tend to be outwardly compliant to a fault, but realized I actually didn’t (and don’t) agree with all of this in my heart.  To my thinking, the day I became a Christian, all of that was under the blood of Christ in that moment, and my spirit was completely renewed.  Satan no longer has any claim, or power over me at all.  I believe that when we put our trust in the death and resurrection of Christ, our regenerated hearts are no longer under the influence of Satan, or his demons, and that Christ alone has not only removed any trace of generational sin from me, but that there is no curse that can control or oppress me, at all, ever.  Do I still sin?  Yes.  Do I need deliverance, as a Christian?  No.  Is my mind completely renewed?  Of course not;  that comes through reading the Word, and growing and maturing spiritually over time.  Barring an untimely death, I’m only halfway through this thing.  But the book bothered me.  So, I stopped ‘doing the work’ and eventually frustrated the hell out of the elders’ wife.  I’m not interested in sitting, week after week, doing work I don’t actually need to do.

Sometimes, but not often, I speak up and say so.

I think a little common sense and a lot of faith goes a long way.

A Collage of Many Colors


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CIMG0396In order to tell the whole story, I have to go back to how I met my counselor in the first place.  On July 8, 2000, I was invited to an event by a friend, who was, at the time, attending the church I go to now. This all came about because of something that had happened at my old church.  When my marriage fell apart, I started meeting with one of the elder’s wives.  This was not for counseling, but for spiritual guidance and accountability.  I made it clear in the beginning that this was all I was looking for.  I did not want to become somebody’s ‘project’ and said so.  My doctor had suggested that I talk to her, because I refused to go to a counselor, and I finally agreed.  I found out much later that this woman was in training to be a counselor for the church, but I didn’t know this at the time, and she never mentioned it.

It turned into a nightmare.

Somehow, she got the idea that the extreme grief I was experiencing as a result of what I was going through with my husband was really because I had been abused as a child;  specifically, ritual abuse.  (If you’re not familiar with this, bear with me, as this could all sound a bit odd.  If you are familiar with it, well, I’m sorry.)  It all culminated with a meeting in the Pastor’s office one day, when he was out of town.  I had thought it odd when she said that she wanted to meet there, instead of in her office, as we usually did.  When I got there, my best friend was already in the room.  I found out later that she was also being mentored by this woman as a counselor-in-training (I hadn’t known this, either) and, lo and behold, I was the person they were practicing on.  I have no idea what transpired between them, or how or why my friend came to be in the room that day, and had no idea what was about to happen.  As we sat down at the table, the elders’ wife said, with a nervous laugh, “If he (meaning the pastor) only knew what we were doing in here today, he would never allow it.”  That should have been my cue to leave the room.

I don’t know what made this woman think that grief from a broken and abusive marriage warranted a ‘deliverance’ session, but apparently she believed it did.  It was a humiliating and painful hour;  I sat frozen through most of it.  I could not look my friend in the eye, and the friendship ended soon after.  I had never, to my knowledge, told her anything that would have led her to participate in such an event, and could only imagine the talking that had happened between the two of them behind my back.  At one point, before they started praying and ‘casting out demons’, the elders’ wife put a wastebasket next to me, as she had heard that “people sometimes throw up when the demons come out.”  Really.

To my knowledge, the pastor never did find out what happened in his absence, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anybody.  I did, finally, tell the elders’ wife that I had heard that she was in training to be a counselor for the church, under the leadership of the person teaching our biblical counseling class.  I only found this out when I signed up for the class myself;  the unwitting secretary had told me, and suddenly, everything made sense.  So, when I asked her “Do the other church leaders think that you are my counselor?” she became very angry, and said she would no longer meet with me, or help me in any way.  And so, we were done.  Immediately.  And she stopped speaking to me completely, even in church.  But, she kept something of mine, and hid it in her husband’s office without telling me, or asking if I minded that she put it there.  (Since my husband golfed with her husband, I would have minded very much.)

At one point in meeting with this woman (before the casting-out party) she had asked me to make a collage;  it was a project from a book that she had ordered for the bookstore.  I thought it was somewhat juvenile when she suggested it, but went home, borrowed some of my daughters’ glue sticks from her home school supplies, and sat down with a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors.  I started cutting out pictures, and little snippets of headings, and parts of sentences.  I couldn’t find anything sturdy enough to use as a backing, so I took the cover off an old copy of the church directory, and glued the pieces around the logo of the church.  So much of my pain was about the church, and my experience there, that it seemed fitting, and made the finished collage make sense.  To the right of the center fold was everything about the church and my divorce, and my adult life, and the left was about my childhood and growing up.  (For the most part).  This wasn’t really planned, but is just how it worked out.  I worked on it for at least three days straight, and did very little else during this time.  The collage really created itself, as most artwork does.  I can remember it clearly, if I think hard enough, but it, too, is gone now.  I cry about that, a lot.

After I finished the collage, I took it to her, and we did talk about it a little, but it seemed to be a bit too much for her, so we put it away.  Actually, she put it away, and that was how it ended up in her husbands’ office.  When I finally asked for it back, she told me where it was, and went down the hall to get it.  But it was ruined;  without even so much as asking me first, she had put it through the laminating machine in the office.  She said she was worried that all the little pieces of paper would come unglued, and she had hoped it would come out of the machine okay.  Then she said that she was going to use it to show to other people she was meeting with.  There was nothing about ritual abuse, only a lot of hurt and confusion, all poured out on paper.  Some of it was spiritual, and some was about abuse, but none of it was intended to be about the things that were in the books she was ordering.  (About ritual abuse, which I had never heard of until I met her, and started reading these books.)  I have no idea how many people in the church she showed it to, without my knowledge or consent.  Only God knows.  To say I was embarrassed is an understatement.  So, this is how it came to be that my friend, out of sheer desperation, said she wanted me to meet this counselor, who went to her church, and was going to be speaking at a women’s event in July.

I don’t believe that all therapy needs to be an intensive archeological dig, but mine did, only because of what I brought with me.  I brought my collage, and wanted my counselor to help me make sense out of it.  I desperately needed help.  I was a confused, depressed mess.  Although, come to think of it, that is how most people end up in a therapists’ office, so I guess there’s nothing all that strange about that.  What is strange is how it all ended.  But we’re not making a collage of that.  Or anything else, for that matter.



Scattered Pearls


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IMG_299554994445707My husband always bought me Chanel No. 5;  he started doing this when we were dating, and continued for about ten years into our marriage.  To this day, I can’t walk by and see it on a department store counter without feeling a certain kind of pain.  And then, one year, I opened a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue on Christmas morning.  I wondered why the sudden change… until I discovered that he had bought two identical bottles of perfume that year.  Shortly after that, I found several other receipts, for gifts I didn’t receive or open.  Smart man, yes?


There is so much shame and embarrassment that comes with divorce.  It would be nice if there was a safe, quiet place where we could go and heal.  Divorce also comes with a lot of upheaval;  we lost our home, and every place we’ve rented since has been sold by the landlord almost as soon as we unpacked and got everything set up the way we want it.  Suddenly, it was all gone.  There is a saying that “God is a God of second chances.”  With God, we get a clean slate, so to speak.  Not so with people.  Sometimes they’re just gone.  Sometimes we lose our place of hope and safety.  Or we lose our voice, instead of finding it.

In the very beginning of counseling, I had an extremely difficult time trusting that my counselor was honestly not going to just quit and disappear.  After everything I had just been through with my husband, I just did not believe that she wouldn’t do the same thing, and I wasn’t about to go through anything like that again.  I was already extremely sick, and tired, and it just seemed like to much effort to go digging into the past.  Nor did I want to dig it all up, and then risk being left alone with all of it.  I told her that I was afraid I would ‘come apart’, and all of the pieces would scatter, and I would never in a million years be able to get it all back together.  When I said that, she did the most wonderful thing;  she left the room, and then came back with a small package of Skittles.  She opened the bag, and let the candy fall all over the floor between us.  Then she got out of her chair, and knelt down, and started picking them up, one at a time.  She looked up at me and said:  “And if that happens, we will pick up every one of those pieces, together.”  When she had them all, she sat back down.  She had heard me.

Some time after that, she gave me a small, beautiful bracelet made of pearls.  She said that she was giving it to me so that I would know that I could trust her, and that she would never just quit and give up on me, and walk away.  She said that she understood that I had a hard time believing her, and that I would learn over time that she could be trusted.  I loved my bracelet, and I finally believed her.  I did wear it, and it did help.  Had I known what would happen in the end, I would have handed it right back and left the room, but at the time, I really did believe her.  I think she did, too.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way she promised, and now all of those little pieces of my life are scattered everywhere, like little beads from a broken bracelet.  Most of this is all my own fault.  I wish I could go back, because there is so much I would do differently.  For the last couple of years, I have been trying to pick up all of those pieces by myself, without a counselor.  It isn’t going very well, mostly because  I didn’t get to take them all with me, the way you normally would when you finish counseling, in some kind of integrated whole.

After the horrible day in her office, the day she was so very angry because of my email, I waited and waited for her to call and say that what she did was wrong;  that she had made a mistake, and we would talk it out at my next appointment.  Instead, she called, and said that she would meet me at Panera Bread when she got out of work one night.  Why we met at Panera Bread, I will never know.  None of it made any sense, and still doesn’t.  I don’t know what the purpose of any of this is, and it’s all still such a confusing mess.  It hasn’t served any purpose, Godly  or otherwise, other than to make me wish I had never asked for help in the first place.  When we got there they were closing soon, so we didn’t have much time.  She explained somewhat hurriedly over coffee that she had read something in her devotional that morning, and that she took it to mean that God had given her an ‘out’ so to speak.  (That is not how she worded it, but is in essence what she was saying.)  She had brought a copy of it with her;  I read it, but didn’t see what it had to do with what had happened in my session.  I still don’t.  I felt like I was watching our conversation from the ceiling, or another part of the room;  the whole thing was surreal.  When she was done saying what she had to say, she promised that nothing would change, she “would still be there” (I haven’t yet figured out where) and that we would be friends, and have coffee, but we just wouldn’t “do therapy.”  And just like that, she was free.

She kept a part of her promise, for a while, and even sent an email on my birthday.  We were actually going to go for coffee (she said) but before that happened, she read a couple of the posts I had written about how hurt I was.  I regret it, but don’t know what to do about it.  There’s nothing anyone can do.  Needless to say, everything has changed, and all I want is to go back and finish my therapy.  It’s not about her, it’s about me.  I want a second chance.  Now we are not even friends.  She just disappeared.

I was heartbroken when we left Panera Bread.  I also sent the bracelet back to her, but can’t remember if it was before or after Panera.  She told me that as she took it out of the envelope, it broke, and the pearls scattered.  She said that she took it as a sign that the counseling just “couldn’t stay together any more.”  As though it were proof that God had let her off the hook.  I took it to mean that she had broken her promise, and that I was right in the first place;  it was a sign that she really couldn’t be trusted after all.

Do you know what it was a sign of?

That if you wear a bracelet every single day, for years, but never get it re-strung, the elastic will eventually break, and the beads will go all over the place.

That’s all it means.  Nothing prophetic, overly spiritual, or profound.  It’s not a sign from God that it’s okay to break a promise, it’s just a sign that you shouldn’t send fragile items through the mail.  It’s a sign that you can’t trust a piece of jewelry to keep a human being from acting like a human being.  They get angry, they blow up, and they hurt the people they say they love.  And then they leave.

That’s all.

I miss my bracelet, and I want it back.  And if I had honestly thought for a moment that she would keep it, I wouldn’t have sent it to her.  I only meant to remind her, in a not quite so harsh and hurtful way, that she had made a promise.  If I hadn’t sent that email, none of this would have happened, and things wouldn’t be as they are today.  It really was a pretty bracelet.

I will never see that again, either.


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