A Father’s Right

Saturday afternoon. I am sixteen. Taking a shower in our downstairs bathroom, door locked. Content. Thinking my typical teenage thoughts. I hear a noise, see the lock turning on the door. I yell – hey, I am in the shower! The door opens and in comes my dad.

“Dad! What are you doing?”

“I need to wash my hands.”

Shampoo is running in my eyes, stinging and blinding me. I am horrified, embarrassed, shocked that he would come into the bathroom.

I can’t see, but I can hear him pulling back the shower curtain.

“Dad!”

“It’s a father’s right to see his daughter naked,” he says. I protest and try to cover myself with the shower curtain.

He turns, finishes washing his hands, and then leaves.

My heart is racing, panicking, I am in shock.

What the hell just happened?

Feelings of deep anger, powerlessness, violation wash over me. I am not safe, not anywhere.

I finish my shower, dress and walk out. I don’t remember what happened next, what I said, who I spoke with, where I went. I don’t remember.

I don’t remember.

Perhaps this not remembering is a mercy. At sixteen I was powerless. Schooled in the experience of abuse, I wasn’t yet conscious of the fact that I had no power, no voice, no option but to live in that house with that man. I was surviving and doing it well. What choice did I have? None.

Fast forward to today. Another young woman remembers her abuse. Her feelings of powerlessness, of violation, of surviving – sometimes doing it well and sometimes barely breathing. She doesn’t remember, and then, she does.

The depth of her abuse is stunning, heartbreaking, overwhelming, horrifying.

I have no words for this. Not today.

But I will.

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My Heart Is Not Steel

We drive home from her counseling appointment, the first one with the new therapist. I merge into late afternoon traffic, cross over the lanes and head home. The sun is out, the water on the lake blue-gold. Crew boats from the University are visible, sleek and swift.

I desperately want to cry, but she’s in the car with me. I focus on her words as she sings with her beautiful voice to the music she’s selected.

I don’t know what to do.

The cost of her therapy is more than I think I can pay. It will involve me driving her there, across the water, two hours out of my day. It will require me to bill the insurance company for what I have paid for in cash, to wait it out until the reimbursement arrives, emptying out what little cash I have on hand. It will mean that I will need to explain this all to her dad, and I know what he will say. I will hear the words and no matter how hard I try to steel my heart against them, my heart is not steel.

And yet, she connected with this therapist. My daughter told her the hard things about her life, our life. She felt listened to, cared about, and a small seed of hope was planted. I cannot tell her it is too much money for me to pay to help her find herself again. Her freedom is worth so much more to me than how much it will cost.

And yet, it will cost.

I have learned that her healing comes at a price. It impacts me, the truth she tells. I do not always want to hear it. I do not always have capacity to bear her truth.

The sun on the water is a balm to me. It always draws me to God. I am so small inside today, wanting only to crawl into bed and cry. I silently talk to God about all of this as we drive across the bridge.

“Lord, I cannot pay for this, for her well-being, for her healing. And yet, I must. God, please make a way for me to do this. Please show me how. Please let her find peace and freedom from the chains that bind her to the past.”

I ask God to protect me when I talk to her dad. To stand between us and keep the arrows from hitting my heart of flesh. “In all my weakness, God, be my strength. Give me the voice I need, to say what I must, to make him understand how important this is for his daughter. And if he says ‘no,’ give me the grace to find another way.”

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My Valentine Heart

She’s trying to find her way. I know this. I know this. I keep telling myself that this is OK, this is her truth, this is her healing.

I close my eyes. I see a big red heart, a Valentine heart, a heart of flesh. My heart. I know that her healing requires her to take her knife and cut out a piece of my heart. She takes it, and puts it on her own wounded heart, hoping that somehow it will patch the hole.

Its clear that my heart has had this done to it before. Scars, pits, the seeping wounds. It’s all there, clearly visible to anyone who takes a closer look.

Hope. I keep thinking I will find it again. But so far, no. And so I make my judgments. About me, about the world, about God. I recognize the raw honest truth of what she says, that in trying to keep it all together I lost sight of her, and left her spirit bewildered, alone, vulnerable, and without hope. So much so, that now, as a young adult, she is divorcing me. And though my heart is breaking apart, this step, for her, is what she finds she must do to heal.

And so, I let her go. I release her from me. I set her free – to cut my heart, to use my flesh to heal her past, to find her way.

I wonder, in the heartache of this season, if I will ever find a place to land. A safe place, away from all this pain. I wonder if I truly trust God to be here for me. I continue to ask God to rescue me out of this, to bring peace to me, to no longer require atonement from me for the wrong choices I made and the ensuing havoc. And yet, atonement continues to be what is required.

I consider my options. Suicide. Self-harm. Leaving. Bankruptcy. Those are the big ones. They tempt me in the dark night. I keep them in the back of my mind as possibilities, but not probabilities. Surely there is something else, less dramatic, that I can do to ease this pain. To atone for my past and present failure.

In the early morning, I light a candle. Hopeless, I yearn for hope. Broken and bleeding, I yearn for relief. Never having known that I was good enough as I was, I yearn for God to tell me that I am enough as I am. Inside, where I live with all that I failed to do for her, for all of them, I yearn for forgiveness, for cleansing, for my own setting free. For absolution. For peace.

My heart does not know a way through this. Not this time. No words to say, no place to go, not this time. I cannot find a salve strong enough, a word powerful enough; it feels like death is the only thing that can fix this one. And I do not choose to die.

So rip away. Shred away. Cut away.

My Valentine heart is yours.

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Winter Road Trip

Today I am heading out with my two teenage daughters on a winter road trip. Or, more accurately, a winter road-boat trip. We begin with a trip to Bellingham, WA, to see friends and meet up with my oldest daughter and her husband. Tomorrow early, we cross the Canada-US border, and travel for another day by car and boat to reach their home on the waters of the inland passage of BC. The last leg of our journey is a three hour ride in small boat, hoping to arrive before dark with our luggage and supplies.

Road – boat trips are the best. I love to travel, and the thought of conquering international borders, ferries, winding roads, and small boat travel to reach my destination is thrilling. I am glad I am not making this journey alone, glad for experienced boat drivers, glad for the company of my daughters and my son-in-law.

Because of the distance and length of travel to see my oldest daughter, I am taking ten days for this trip. My therapist stated that I needed the rest and refreshment – the dead of winter in a remote location with all the comforts of home (except cell phone service) seemed to be a great idea.

Exhaustion has been my companion for many months. Maybe even years. Recently, it’s all I can think about. My need for rest. My need for refreshment. My need for quiet, peace, time to breath, time to be. I pray that this time away, with people I love, in a place that is filled with God’s presence, will tip the scales enough to bring my soul and spirit back into view.

I am bringing a few books, my journal, my knitting. We will play games, cook, sleep and look out on the beautiful ocean, mountains and woods of British Columbia. I will see eagles, seals, and other wildlife. It will be quiet, the kind of quiet that comes from a place where there are no roads or cars, deadlines or burdens to bear.

It is a road trip into my soul. It is a journey into my spirit, the winding roads into the depths of me. My hope is that the borders of my heart that are so carefully guarded will let down the gates and allow God to travel in, without a passport, to speak in a language my soul will understand. That the waters of God’s Spirit will bathe my wounded heart, will become a balm to me. That I will have a time of not forgetting myself, a time of remembering who I am created to be, that I am Beloved.

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A Memorial Service

Today is my friend’s memorial service. Two years after being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, she is gone. We worked together in caring for teen moms for over a decade, and she was an amazing mentor, guide and spiritual support. I grieve her passing.

The memorial service is over two hours away – a five hour round trip for me. I would be there for 2 hours with a large crowd of people, consoling, remembering, crying, laughing, talking. I know the service will be lovely and I know people will appreciate that I was there.

I don’t want to go.

I’ve thought about the reasons why I don’t want to go. Today is a big work day for me. I am leaving town in a week for ten days and I am backlogged and need to finish projects before I go. I am in the middle of heavy counseling – talking about my past with a great therapist. Ninety minutes last week and two hours scheduled for this week. Talking about my past, the abuse, the trauma, the abandonment and loss – I feel that my soul is reliving it again at some level. I know that healing is happening, but I have little reserve.

I just want to go to work and get things done and not be so behind in everything. I want space. I know that if I make the long drive – I will have over two hours both ways to be quiet and alone. And yet, I know that the time spent at the memorial will be exhausting. I will go for others, not for me.

Can I be selfish?

If I go, it will be for a community I lived in and loved, who loved me, for almost a quarter of a century. For friends and coworkers, for former bosses and ministry partners, for the past and, in some ways, perhaps, for the future. I will not go for me. I will go to people-please, to not disappoint others, to not be in trouble or thought of badly.

In some ways, going means that Susie is truly dead. I really don’t want her to be dead, to be gone, to be eaten up by cancer and no longer here. I want her alive, giggling, laughing, loving, nurturing – a presence, a force, for love. I want her here for safety, to prove that cancer doesn’t kill, to make a statement that miracles happen. I want her here.

So, what do I choose? To go for others, to miss a day of work and all that it means, to come home exhausted and hit the ground running tomorrow, behind and frazzled? Or to stay here for me? To work quietly, to conserve my energy, to trust that the people who need to be there will be there, for Susie’s family and close friends? Either way, I will be sad. Either way, I will not feel I have done the right thing.

It’s hard for me not to people please. It’s hard for me to know that I could just get in the car, push myself, go, make people happy, comfort and console, and come home again to this challenging life I live. It’s hard for me to care about me. To say no, I am choosing to stay here, even though it’s hard and it feels like I am disappointing everyone. It’s hard to care that I get work done, that I eat well, that I rest, that I love me. It’s hard.

Staying won’t make Susie any more alive or dead than she already is. Going won’t make the pain go away or ease the loss I feel.

People-pleasing has been the death of my soul many times. Pushing myself out of obligation or a sense of duty, has caused more pain than life. Can I let go of that – of people pleasing and pushing myself? No matter how guilty I feel about caring about me? No matter what people say? No matter what it might mean about me?

If I am selfish to stay here, then I am selfish. If I am wise to assess my own reserves, responsibilities, and resources, then I am wise. If I am sad no matter what I choose, then I am sad.

I will not go to Susie’s memorial. I will risk making a big mistake, being missed, being thought less of. I will risk it. I will risk it.

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Kindred Spirits

Sitting in my car, looking out at the Lake, overcast skies, fall colors all around. I have fallen into what seems to be insurmountable grief. My heart aches, my eyes are teary, my soul is bruised. I feel unfairly alone.

Leaving church this morning, I saw a text from my sweet friend. Due to my recent move, we are now separated by a mountain range. Her text read, “Most days I’m really grateful you were able to make the move. Today is not one of those days. Missing you in the neighborhood. Would have loved to stop by for soup and dessert like we did now many hundreds of times over 25 years.” Her next text read, “I started to tell my husband what I wrote to you and I started to weep.”

I called my friend. Driving around my new town, I told her all about it. The fear I have for my son who is making some poor choices. The lack of personal space I feel in my apartment as I share it with three young adults. The weariness I feel in learning a new job, trying to prove my worth, constantly pouring into others. My loneliness. I feel invisible. In the four months I have lived in this town, and worked at a huge church, I have had only one invitation to someone’s house.

As I poured my heart out to her, my friend did what she has done for 25 years: she listened, reflecting and commiserating. My friend knows what it feels like to be a single woman sitting alone in church, surrounded by people. We are kindred spirits in our personal pain through loss. My friend is with me as I peel the onion of my life and look for what is below the surface, what is at the core of me.

I fear for my children’s choices. I am lonely for community with my oldest daughter. I have invested what feels like a lifetime in other people’s children, and I want God to do the same now with mine. I want God to heal the great wounding of our lives and restore us to one another.

There was healing in my friend’s presence. She excels in listening, in getting mad and sad in all the right places, and has been here for me in the history of so many hundreds of phone calls over a quarter century of friendship. She extends me peace by allowing me to simply be me.

After we hung up, two things came to mind. As the onion is peeled back, and my eyes start to sting, her weeping joins mine. I am crying in church, and she is crying a hundred miles away. Kindred spirits. I believe that God let her cry my tears, share my pain and in doing so, took some of my burden from me.

I also realized that yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Now divorced, I thought it would lessen, the pain of all that was lost. And yet, there it is, in my face. Failure, grief, anger, fear, loneliness, weariness, all of it. It is part of the pain today, part of the tears, part of the onion. More years married than single. While I do not wish to return to that marriage, I do wish that somewhere inside me this wound would heal.

I take a deep breath. My friend reminded me that I need to look at what is life-giving to me, and what steals life away. She encouraged me to give myself time to rest, to be quiet, to be alone. Once again, kindred spirits. She knows whereof she speaks.

God, I am grateful that you put me on my friend’s heart today, for the tears we shed and have shed, for and with each other, all these long years. I am not alone. I am not invisible. I am loved.  Thank You.

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Changing My Blog Name

I renamed my blog today. It is a reflection of the truth about me, the path I am on, and that I didn’t want something super specific to be the title of my blog. Thanks to all my readers who read my stories and commented. I am the same person, just using a different title!

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