Weakness Begone

white flowers on black tree branch under sky during daytime

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It was another great day at Kintsugi women’s self-defense class at Ka’en’s, learning how to wriggle out of a chokehold, hip-thrust to knock off the attacker’s center, grab the arm and toss them. Wooo. But when I rolled to the floor the pain of my bruised ribs screamed again and I had to sit and breathe for a while. I cried out in frustration — ugh, here I was rib-hurt again! and couldn’t do half of what I wanted to do in class.

Ka’en urged me to get some sort of mid-section support (yeah, I’d seen something like that down the knee-brace aisle at Walgreen’s). Then she got this spark in her eyes. She said, “I think we need to pray about this.”

She prayed for all my body systems to submit to Christ and function as they were designed. Then, as she placed her hand on my sore side, she prayed a different prayer. She told the spirit of weakness and fear to leave me, and immediately I saw it: bony hands, black curved claws sunk into my side, cloudy charcoal body clinging to me like some hideous parasite.

You see, ever since I entered the world at a mere 5 lbs. 8 oz., I’d been a tiny person. I was skinny, gangly, frizzy-haired and scared. The kids in gym class would “cover” for me, so I rarely got the ball in basketball or had to bump the white orb over the net in volleyball. Softball was terrifying — really, what sane person wants to whack a speeding hard ball (no ball is soft zooming at those speeds) — flying straight at them? Of course I never tried out for any school sport — an avowed anti-sport person embracing music and a happy “bando,” playing first trumpet all the way through to graduation. Secretly I wanted to try out for Track and Cross-country in high school but what if it was too hard? What if I wasn’t strong enough? So I self-protected, retreating to music’s happy bubble, only (barely) doing sports in gym class.

A late-bloomer, I cowered under the voluptuous girls’ taunts, even after my mom bought me bras and taught me how to stuff them. I was weak, small. Still skinny all the way till college when I finally fully blossomed. When I got married I was embarrassed by my frame till I saw my husband’s happy smile, convincing me that at least in his eyes I was enough.

As I began working out at the local Y, I grew muscles and confidence. But deep down I still considered myself to be the tiny victim of life’s cruel jokes, a skinny little woman, small and weak. A spontaneous lung collapse in my mid-30s revealed a possibly congenital lung condition that would likely spiral into a gasping grasping end of  life. Frail, weak.

flickering flame

But in June 2010 the Lord healed my lungs. They still presented as full of blebs or cysts, but I could kickbox and run and lift weights. Still, though, it took several years to not be terrified of another lung collapse every time I experienced the occasional shortness of breath or lung pain. Small, weak, frail.

Even now, as I’m typing this, I’m breathing through some lung pain, a sharp poke in the side, a cramping pain like a stitch in the side. But this time, I’m not afraid.

As Ka’en prayed that day, I saw the creature and I was angry. How DARE you cling to me? I am Leoa, Warrior Princess of the Most High God, and anything demonic has NO place in or on me. As she told it to go, I saw it shrink back, claws pulling out, Holy Spirit puff dissipating it in a terrified cloud.

 

And I felt strength surge into my frame, starting at my feet and burgeoning up through my legs, through my middle, through the top of my head — a blast of power straight from God Himself. I saw Leoa standing on a mountain ledge, head thrown back, roaring golden fiery blast into the sky! And I saw that I was finally free from the lies of:

Weak
Small
Ineffective
Victim
Fearful
Useless.

Instead, I saw with new clarity what had been true for many, many years — I am weak in myself, O yes, every human is. But in Christ I am a fireball of power, and the fear I once held in me is now afraid of me.

I went home and began to claim back territory the enemy had taken from me, from my children. My son hasn’t been able to sleep in his own room, as terrors in the form of sounds and poltergeist-like activity have kept him bound. I went into that room and roared and roared. I saw, in the Spirit, wispy forms blowing out through the walls at the blast.

 All this power held in human frame, this earthen vessel… Is it me? O please, I’m not that good, I’ve never been much in the natural. But as all of us Holy Spirit vessels come to realize (more and more as we are taught and grow in and by Him), a being filled to the full is a mighty force to contend with, and Satan doesn’t mess with us long. Not to say he doesn’t try and I’m no fool to think he won’t try again. But the battle is always as good as won when I stand on what is true.

I am:

Mighty
Strong
Powerful
Fierce
Meek (gentle in harnessed power)
A Warrior.

screaming woman warrior

An awful lot like my Big Brother, Jesus Christ — the God of Angel Armies, my Commander, Lord, Best Friend, Comrade-in-Arms!

And as I assemble my army around me, I see flaming torch eyes in my sisters and brothers. We are mighty in Holy Ghost power, wind like a hurricane blast in the face of all the evil hell itself can throw against us. This is the true Church, my friends.

And as I breathe through the pain of my healing ribs, I no longer see a weakling. I see a Warrior with some battle wounds to show she’s not afraid of a fight. And, through Christ, I can do all things. All things my Commander and Lord calls me to, for I already have all I need. Fear is no longer my enemy. It is my vanquished foe. It is now afraid of me.

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
~ Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7

We are called to be more than what we were, what we learned so early on we accepted it as truth. We call lies truth because we see the so-called evidence and human logic says what sure seems to be true. But God’s great Truths always outshine the lies, the “facts” life has taught us. We are not who we think we are. Through Christ we are so, so much more than meets the eye.

What are you afraid of, my friends? What are some of the lies you need to unseat? It’s okay to not know what they are yet. But I dare you to pray the brave prayer:

Father, show me who I really am. Show me what You see when You look at me. And teach me to grow into the image You dreamed for me as You formed me with Your hands.

It’s time to unglue the skins that don’t fit. It’s time to grow into your true image. It’s time to become like Jesus.

Jesus reaching in storm

 

 

Envy’s Wrestle

christmas home house light

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 “Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me.  There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.”
Jesus, as recorded in John 14:1-3

It’s early January and I’m sitting in the room I had envisioned for us, for our family, for our school room. It’s simply furnished, neatly organized, sweetly welcoming. Sun beams through a side window, just enough. Sturdy shelves, busy bulletin board, map of the world, art supplies stacked neatly in a rolling cart. An analog clock quietly ticks on the wall opposite the butterfly chart.

Perfect.

Theirs.

We are in the midst of our 23rd year of marriage, 21st year of parenthood, 17th official year of homeschooling. First born is launched, living happily in Denver, Colorado. Second born is back to classes at Cedarville University, in the cornfields of Ohio. Third born is an active eleventh-grader, busy with studies, social life, and a job at Chick Fil-A. Last born dances through each day, busy avoiding school work, busy doing it anyway.

I shepherd, I guide, I do my domestic duties, provide taxi service, meals, food for meals… general mom stuff. In the comfort of my mother’s house.

Where’s this house? It’s in southeastern Pennsylvania, the house I helped build, the house I lived in from age 11 through marriage at age 26, almost 27. It’s the house I’ve lived in off and on since then, fully on since our third born was about 15 months old. She’s seventeen.

It’s the house where my mom still lives and fills with her stuff, her personality. This place we called “Mom’s Dream House” while we were building it — her castle since 1980.

Where’s my house? Oh, yeah. That. We bought a serious fixer-upper back when fourth born (a.k.a. the Boy) was a baby, back in 2005. Built in 1906, the left side of a duplex, it turned out to be unlivable and remains so, at least for now. In the interim between buying it and now, my husband joined and left the Army National Guard, my Dad had a devastating stroke, and the kids grew up, almost all the way up, in my parents’ house.

Dad died in 2013, I had a mental breakdown a few months later that rocked our family and landed me in jail for a few months. The children struggled through that year, and we slowly rebuilt our lives, growing closer than ever. The House (the unlivable one) collected our stuff, a storage facility with a mortgage.

Over the years I watched my friends buy houses, build their families, settle in to happy life mowing their own yards, tending their own gardens, puttering in their own kitchens.

rectangular brown wooden table

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That last one really got me. Still gets me. I’ve always been a kitchen person. Our first apartment, a carriage house over a three-car garage, was my sweet little haven for two years. Its huge open-floor plan had a spacious kitchen, my domain. No children allowed there and severe post-partum depression following first born’s birth landed us at my parents’ for almost a year. When I was well enough we moved into a two-bedroom apartment, where we lived happily enough, which we filled to overflow with three kids.

Then we couldn’t afford our rising rent. We moved back in with my parents in 2003 and have been there ever since. 15 years.

15 years. I say it out loud and it feels strange in my mouth, a sourness spreading through my belly. 15 years of wanting what I’m sitting in now, this sunny sprawling house in quiet suburbia, my niece across from me drawing in her sweet little school room.

Envy has been my wrestling partner for a decade and a half. But there’s something about being in an 8’x15′ cell for a few months, owning nothing. There’s something about coming out of there to a spacious place where I could cook again and wear colorful clothes, even if it was my mom’s house.  My perspective shifted considerably in prison. Stuff doesn’t have the hold over me it once did, and I’ve found contentment everywhere I go.

But I still want a house I can live in. I want a place of my own. We are planning to whip the old house into some shape, moving out what no longer serves, making it livable — if not for us, for someone else, some other family to make their own dreams in.

And I know that someday I’ll have a place of my own, a home I’ll never have to leave. It’s promised by my Jesus, who always keeps His promises. He knows I want one here, that often I want it immediately if not sooner. When the wrestling match starts up, unseen hands squeezing my gut from the inside-out, I draw close. I call a friend to pray for me and with me, so I can make space for what I don’t want to stuff inside anymore. I crawl on Dad’s lap and cry for a while, letting the feelings wash over and through me. I grieve what I don’t have and may never have.  I accept what is and ask for wisdom for the next step.

The wrestle is not as strong as it once was, nor as frequent. But it’s still there. It must be faced and felt — then entrusted into the care of the God who, when all is said and done, is my home.

The wrestle threatens to pin me down, and sometimes it does. But the strength inside is stronger and together the Lord and I disarm envy. I look into my Daddy God’s eyes and find all I need, a shelter for my soul. My heart’s true home.

“Home could be the Pennsylvania turnpike, or Indiana’s early morning dew; High up in the the hills of California — home is just another word for you.”
~ Billy Joel, “You’re My Home”

house covered with red flowering plant

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Take Back the Day Part 2: I’m Struggling Today

frozen rain

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
~ Psalm 42:11

Today’s blog, coupled with Monday’s, should at least lend credence to my bi-polar diagnosis. Let’s be real, shall we? I’m not going to sugar-coat this day. My experience of this day is that it’s creating negative atmospheric pressure. In the common vernacular — it sucks. Today I am struggling with a variety of things, and no solution is presenting itself yet. I think you understand.

Today (Tuesday) began meteorologically the same as yesterday, though the temperature is climbing a bit. Same rain, rain, rain, same dullness to the day. Same, yet so different.

Today I awoke already exhausted. My mood stabilizer medication, the stuff I take at bedtime, sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of making me… restless. I’m asleep but I’m struggling with all manner of situations, some real, most an exaggerated version of whatever I was thinking about as I went to sleep. Last night I was thinking of a dance I need to learn for the play I’m in, which opens next week. So all night long I’m thinking: I need to rehearse, I need to get it down… which morphed into trying to teach a whole group of people a dance I didn’t even know myself. Added to this the irrational feature of a cast member hitting on me, which I know wouldn’t happen in real life. But as I dream in Technicolor 4-D imagery, it was certainly real to me.

I began to awaken before dawn, awake enough to realize the fight was on to solve the multi-dimensional dream problem while simultaneously fighting to set it aside and slide into a satisfying, restful sleep. I finally gave up and dragged out of bed, awake enough to pour a cup of coffee, but not enough to carry on a polite conversation with my Mom (or anyone else — please, please, go away, I can’t adult yet!). Awake enough to taste in my coffee that the half-gallon of half-and-half I bought yesterday was already a bit off (seriously? the expiration date is DECEMBER 11th). Sheesh.

Pondering all of this and the fact that my truck’s dashboard was beginning to sparkle,  warning lights one-by-one popping up as I drove home from play practice last night. And the fact that arriving home I rolled to a stop, a dead battery shutting off those lights in one fatal blink.

Thus began today. On top of that, while nursing my off-coffee, I peered inside to see my emotions: a dark, roiling mess. Now this isn’t unusual for me. I have bi-polar disorder, so my insides often don’t know which way to go on a given morning. I often have to spend the first part of every day sorting them into piles and dealing with them on a bit-by-bit basis. Today, though, it felt like too much. Added to that, a dear friend pointed out that my many vehicle frustrations likely stem from unresolved relationship issues with my husband. And I need to shake the sand off my ostrich head and face them. And there’s more, so many unresolved, amorphous issues pressed down by busyness, popping up like submerged beach balls.

So what did I do with this lovely mash-up? Yep, I grabbed my mug, trudged back upstairs, plopped on the bed, pressed my little owl plushie to my chest and cried. I curled up in Daddy God’s lap and just turned on the tear faucet full-blast, ugly crying, emptying out.

And I decided to (wo)man my laptop, following up my happy Monday Pollyanna-ish blog with this very real, raw, sucky day blog. Because some days are like that. Today I just want to scream, all the possible negatives sticking to me like the black blobs on Mr. Incredible.

mr incredible black blobs

I don’t want to face any of the stuff of this day. I want to curl up in a blanket fort, but I don’t want to bother building it. I want to hide in a Netflix binge-fest. I want to self-medicate and push it all away.  I wish I could push it all away forever. To somehow live as a perpetually carefree four year-old, nothing on my mind but my dolls and my funny made-up stories, my toys and yummy snacks.

But I know that even with a necessary break I’ll have to face all the stuff. All of it. What can I do to face it in a healthy way? Jesus, how did you face all your crap-hitting-the-fan days?

All at once I see You in a darkened grove, just You alone among the olive trees, just You crying out your heart with our Daddy. I see You shaking Your fist at the destroyed, toxic chaos Adam and Eve unleashed on Your perfect world, the horror and futility of it all. I see you raw and real, crying out, saying, ” Father if You don’t do something about this, if You don’t help, if You don’t go back out into that mess with me, I will fall apart! I can’t do this — I just can’t!”

And I see gentle hands stretch from the clouds, light beams spiking through, illuminating dark spaces. I see our Dad reach down and scoop You up. Scoop me up. I see Him, face intent, his eyes knowing it all, empathy a cloud around us — such tender love! I hear deep, soothing tones, “My child, I know. I see you, I see your pain. I see your slumped shoulders, your eyes misty, forlorn. I see discouragement radiate from you. Ah, my child You know something? I never meant for you to do any of this alone. It IS too much for you to face. Lean into me, let go, drop into Me. You are enough for all of this because of one thing:

I am enough, little one. I AM enough. And I live in you. You never go anywhere, face anything, without Me.”

And I feel hope trickle in. I don’t have to have all the answers right now.  But I know His record. I remember sitting hopeless  four and a half years ago in a prison cell, my charges screaming death, hopelessness, futility to me. I remember light spears spiking all around me, showing me what I could only see with eyes bigger than mine. Showing me that somehow I had to hang on, that if it would get better it had to be God’s intervention. Nothing more, nothing less. In a moment I see the ribbon of my life, spots caught in flashes of Him coming through for me, again and again.

I still feel trembly confusion today, tears so close to the surface, unnamed, as-yet unknown pain turbulent in my belly. But I turn my chin up, look into my sweet Father’s face, Lion of Judah arrayed in light and love, all-sufficient, all-love. I know beyond knowledge He really is enough. And I take the next breath, do the next thing. It will work out. I know deep below all the chaos, the Truth, my Jesus, holds me close. He is my shield, my wisdom, my It’s gonna be ok.

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And in my tears I find I’m smiling, if only a little. On days like this, when the best case scenario is slogging through, I remember I have strong hip boots, I have sunlight on my face, a light-pierced cloud above my head, while the cold rain still pours all around.

It’s gonna be all right. It really is. Deep down I know it’s true. And it’s okay if my emotions take a while to get there.

 

The Reveal

 

Elohim-2b-formed-man-from-dust-earth-2-e1508785999853-233x300

Hungry for who You really
are — beyond understanding,
beyond my dreams, bigger than
The universe, yet infinitely
Gentle…
You know me so well!
I don’t trust my own mind or
My gut to perceive You, for
I am flawed, my knowledge inside
And out — so small!
I don’t even know myself
Unless You remove the layers:
of denial
self-protection
of I think this, I believe this,
I am right.
And when I see tiny me beside
You, so helpless, so frail!
I jump into Your arms, for this
World is too big for me.
And You — who are you, really?
Some amorphous Being, floating
All-powerful Amoeba?
On the day You spoke,
“Let us make man in our image,”
The being You formed in Your hands,
Into whom You breathed life — had
arms and legs
a body, a face,
eyes;
Adam saw You first, before gazing
around agog — a face like his, for
You look like us, an Image
so pure, to look on glorious
Heavenly You would kill us —
So You wore flesh and became
A man who’d get lost in
the crowd except for
those eyes
that smile,
this love.
I gaze agog, eyes unmasked,
Knowing beyond knowledge
Who You are —
In the reveal, where
You laughed
You healed,
You taught,
You died and rose again
Among us.
I’m accepted, adopted!
Big Brother pulls me into
Trinity’s endless embrace,
Emerge from behind the curtain —
To amazed applause.