A Grief of Mind

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Heavy-hearted tonight.  This has been a not-so-very-good day.  Opportunities for hurt feelings were multitudinous, for some reason, all the way to the end.  There are days I would rather I had not got out of bed, and this was one of them.

This is the farthest I have ever gone into the month without being able to pay my rent, and it feels surreal.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re short.  Inundated with medical bills, out-of-pocket prescription payments and a host of other things, and it is just not going to happen.  We never get to settle anywhere and feel safe.  I feel like I never get to breathe, or have five minutes of relief from the pressure of it all.  It is mind-bending.  And unending.  Like trying to dig your way out of a pit with a dessert spoon.

So, today didn’t help.  I don’t know what I would, or could have done differently,  I only know that it hurts.  Like hell.

One thing I am sure of:  I refuse to be bitter.  If we can’t walk in love, and grace, and mercy and forgiveness, then we have no right claiming the name of Christ for our own, or pretending to be His disciples.

My heart is both heavy, and hopeful.  It’s a whole new year;  anything can happen.  Good can happen.  All I know is, I refuse to quit.

Wait on the Lord:  be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart.  Psalm 27:14

Stability

Originally posted on Stacey L. Lacik:

“And there shall be stability in your times, and abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the reverent fear and worship of the Lord is your treasure and His.”              Isaiah 33:6

What is stability?  It is defined as “the strength to stand or endure”.  To be stable is to be “fixed, steadfast, and firmly established, steady in purpose; firm in resolution.”

One of the definitions I like is “designed so as to develop forces that restore the original condition when disturbed from a condition of equilibrium or steady motion.”  (Webster’s)

No matter what happens in our lives, the Word assures us that we can be restored to a place of stability; that we can have an unshakable peace in the midst of any storm or trial, and that everything will work out for our good.  God is in control.  It helps if we have already developed a habit of reading, studying…

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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

Love

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English: Unsettled

English: Unsettled (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hard, hard days.  We’re moved, but I can’t say that we’re settled, as settling takes a while.  And my soul is unsettled.

I did finally go to church today;  haven’t been on a Sunday since the day I ran into my counselor in the hallway a couple of months ago; the day that Didn’t Go Well.  Fridays are safe, as a rule. But I have to go; have to get things back in order in all areas, because all of this fear of getting hurt, and the consequent avoidance is unhealthy.  And I was glad I went, because it was good teaching today on the love of God.

I made my own notes, as always, and compared the difference between the love of God for me, and the transitory love (professed love) of my counselor:  how the love of God for me is unconditional, but how her love turned out to be based on appearances (perceptions) and performance.  I’m still trying to figure out what this means as far as her role as a minister, as she is supposed to represent God, but I don’t confuse her with God.  And never have.  All I wanted was pastoral counseling, plain and simple.  Wasn’t looking for psychotherapy, gimmicks or interventions, just straightforward counsel from someone who is a little farther down the path than I am.  Someone who can listen, and counsel wisdom from the heart of God, concerning the way I take, and the decisions that have to be made.  Straight talk, please, preferably in the place where I have already invested ten years of my life, in the good faith that when things  happen I will have a place already prepared to go and sort all of this out.  To sort life out.

And this would be a good week for it.

I went to the hospital earlier in the year, as I had been hurt over the weekend of the Super Bowl.  After many hours of confusion and humiliating exams, they finally decided not to call my counselor (the only person I would have spoken to in a situation like this) and instead sent in a very young social worker, from an agency I was recently fired from.  She was about the age of one of my daughters’ friends.  Very nice, very sweet, and very young.

So I said nothing, other than I will be fine, thank you.  (Not.)  I do not want my personal records sitting on the desk of my former co-workers, thank you.  And so I called my counselor myself, and she returned my call, and was both kind and helpful.  But I’m still waiting for an appointment.  And waiting.

Until finally, after hitting bottom physically and emotionally, my physician said I needed to talk to someone – anyone - before things get even worse.  (After which he laughed, and said things really can’t get much worse, so what do I have to lose anyway?  Right?)  Amen.

That was how I ended up in the office of the cognitive-behavioral counselor who wanted me to quote the alphabet during the panic attacks I’m not having.  And told me, when I said that I preferred to talk only to my pastoral counselor, that “it’s good that you have a positive source to draw positive energy from.”  And she looked completely confused while saying it.

Not worth my time, or my money, especially as I have precious little of both.  No, I want what I have already paid for and invested in.  Not looking for a new counselor at this point in my life, just want to work things out with the one I already have.  I don’t believe in throwing people away, unless they are truly evil, and she isn’t.

But, I don’t perform well, so right now my time slot on Wednesdays is being filled, presumably, by someone who is much better at performing than I am.  Who can play the intervention game  (or isn’t aware that it is one) and looks good while doing it.  Who says and does all the right things, or whatever it is you do to not get rejected by your counselor.  God knows, I don’t.

Which brings me back to the message today:  “And we have known and have believed the love that God has for us.  God is love, and he who abides [dwells] in love abides in God, and God in him.”  1 John 4:16 (NKJV)

When we walk in love, we walk in the very essence of God.

God doesn’t just forgive my sin, He removes it and treats me as though I have never sinned.  He loves me, no matter what.  Still could use a pastoral counseling session, just to talk things out and get direction, and help with managing all of this grief and stress, but my counselor is not God.  With her, there are no second chances, no fresh starts, or clean slates, but with God, always.  Always.

And there my faith rests.

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.

Mice.

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.

Semantics

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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.

Absolution.

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.

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