Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Ugly Turned Beautiful Life

"God's Word was meant for 
the ugly life."  

~ Beth Moore from the study, "Breaking Free."

Can I just admit it? I live the ugly life. I live the sinful life: getting angry, prideful, jealous, bitter, depressed, and doubtful. I walk with emotionally tattered clothes and emotionally battered face. I am in need of God. I am in need of a Savior. I am in need of breaking free from the bondage that tells me

I'm a 
bad person
selfish person
that I
don't matter
shouldn't be here
don't deserve any good thing

I must break free from the bondage that the enemy holds over me. He does not want me to know

that I am
made in God's image (Gen 1:26-27)
blessed by God (Gen 12:3, Eph 1:3)
strong, courageous, successful (Josh 1:7-9)
a daughter of the King (Ps 45:9)
precious and valuable (Deut 12:30,31; Ps 106:34-39)
the focus of God's love song (Zeph 3:17)

(I've got a list, shall I go on?)

It's time. 
It's time I let God set me free. 

I may live the ugly life, but God knows I deserve more and He wants to give me more.  
I know I live the ugly life, but I also know that God is for me. His love is for me, for you, for all of us.

He is knocking on the door and I must answer. 

“I believe; help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24 ESV)

And may I suggest a song for your breaking-free journey?
Matthew West's, The Healing Has Begun
(just click on the title and it will bring you to the amazing song)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bedroom Addict

Even though "my bedroom" in the literal sense has now become "our bedroom," since I am now marriied, "the bedroom" has, for me, a history of being a dangerous and volatile place.

In my pre-teen and teenage years, I locked myself in my bedroom and cranked up the depressing music and sobbed in bed over some intense experience or another. In my bedroom I would cut my arms and other areas to release the pain. I knew no other language. In my bedroom I would hide from my mother, loving and supportive as she was; I don't think even the best mother in the world could have been "the good guy" in my life back then.

In college, my bedroom became more of a reclusive cave where self-destruction occurred. Out on my own, I didn't even have well-meaning-Mother knocking on my door asking if I was okay. I had a single dorm room and experienced the kind of depression that leaves you melting into the bed.

After college, after moving to a different state, moving in with my best friend, then moving in with my boyfriend-at-the-time, my bedroom still symbolized my hiding place, my place of unhealthy release and self-destruction.

Not until a few years ago after getting married and having my stepchildren live part-time with us did I realize the consequences of the bedroom and not until tonight did I realize I had a choice.

A few years back, Husband noted to me a couple of times that when I had difficult feelings I would hide in the bedroom for a while and that wasn't fair to him - or the kids. I thought this odd; no one had ever told me not to do this. Well, not since I was a teenager, but then I was self-injuring and it seemed obvious to me that I had an unhealthy habit. I knew, Mom knew. My therapists knew. My close friends knew. But I had stopped injuring years before and now my husband, who I loved more than anyone, told me that he wished I wouldn't hide so often.

I admit I felt angry. Who was he to take away my bedroom? Clearly, I couldn't break down in front of the kids, is that what he was asking me to do?

But as of last year, I worked diligently at not racing to the bedroom to sob and fall apart in the dark. And I even found myself comforting my husband, on occasion, who would do the same thing.

Tonight, I found myself in that old familiar place: the bedroom. And I found myself feeling those old familiar feelings. I looked around me and though the actual room was different, the feeling of hiding, the feeling of wanting to escape was the same. I felt ashamed. I was going through a rough time - today, it was brought on by the resurgence of a very bad medical condition that I thought I had under control. I was in a great amount of pain and on top of that, I felt angry. I wasn't sure who I was angry at so I just became angry at everything.

I felt angry that my body was in so much pain and no one could tell me how to feel better. I felt angry that I had kids and a husband out in the kitchen eating dinner even though Husband offered to take the helm of the ship and let me go in the bedroom and "rest" (I'm not sure Husband understands the metaphor of "the bedroom..." well, if he didn't, he does now after reading this).

But I did not rest. I laid there and cried quietly yet vehemently. I wanted my mom. I called my aunt, the closest thing to her, and talked with her for a while. My body pain calmed down and the conversation helped a little so I hung up the phone. I still felt bad, though.

And that was when this whole bedroom thing came into my head, how this has been a cycle since childhood.

And what have I just started listening to in the car? An audio Bible study by Beth Moore on "Breaking Free" from bondage of any kind - depression, addiction, anything.

Was my bedroom keeping me in slavery?

Suddenly, I felt a profound sense of sadness. Not angry-sadness geared at myself, but sadness over what God sees me doing.

I have been hiding from God.

Well, if you want to get technical, I've been hiding from "feeling better."

And the way to "feeling better" IS God, in my opinion.

Yet here I was, once again choosing the bedroom to hide in, to soak in my own self-pity and anger. How ungrateful I was.

I continued to lay there, but instead of ruminating inside of my head, I spoke aloud to God. I asked for his forgiveness for my ingratitude, my anger, my turning to old addictions such as secluding myself (yes, isolation can become an addiction).

I realized that even if we had 50/50 custody and even if each of the kids was 100% emotionally stable and even if their mom was on her feet and a positive influence in their lives and even if Husband and I rarely yelled or got angry and even if this...and that...

Even if...even if...

I'd still be complaining about something.

I go to church and approach the altar for the Lord's Supper with outstretched palms and head bowed in humility. Yet I live at home with a mixture of anxiety and anger and try to control everything and everybody and still resort to hiding in the bedroom.

Before I continue to put myself down, let me share the good news. The good news is that there is The Good News. And that is: God is in the dark places, too. He is in the bedroom, in every place of hiding. He is especially in the dark places. He was in my teenage bedroom watching sadly as I treated myself so wretchedly; He was in my college dorm room where I sobbed into the bed, and He was in my bedroom tonight, reminding me of His Word:

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:!3)

And I thought of this song, In Me, by Casting Crowns. 

Cause when I'm weak, You make me strong
When I'm blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I'll never get by living on my own ability

Isn't that how I've lived my life? Seeped in the New Age world, convinced that I could control everything, that I could make "good energy" surround me, that all power and ability were right in my hands.

How different I feel now. Yet, obviously, this newbie still needs reminding:

I will never get by living on my own ability.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5)

I thought about all the years I got by on my own, with no help from God (or so I thought). I thought of all the times He was there without me knowing it. I thought about all the times I fell and He brought me back up.

I chose the bedroom all those years.

As I lay in bed, seeped in the dark of the oncoming evening, I said, aloud:

"Lord, I choose You."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Audience of One ~ (Part Two) ~

A week later and part two of this two-part series now goes up. My apologies. But I do not apologize for the many spiritual revelations that have been laid upon me. I am bathing in grace and gratitude.

So, what happened two weeks ago at our mid-week Lenten service to remind me so much of that January essay? What broke me down to my very core after service as I sat sobbing to God in my car?

Weeks earlier, Pastor had invited me to portray Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Lenten dramatic reading. I was so honored and eager to dust off my greasy and underused acting wheels. I brought the pages home and glanced at them with baited breath. What would I find? A dramatist had written this monologue for Mary and for a contemporary woman - the topic was God never forsaking us and how this woman and Mary, both, had buried their children. Both women, of course, felt like God had forsaken them. God showed them that He had not.

I read the contemporary woman's monologue with interest, impressed with how dramatic it was. Wow, I breathed after reading how she described finding her baby dead from SIDS. That is some dramatic stuff.

I eagerly turned the page to Mary's part.

And what I found was one highlighted paragraph.

My jaw dropped. I read the lines. They were powerful, but the actress inside of me balked, "what can I do with this?"

Thankfully, I immediately recognized the pride and arrogance in that statement. Pastor had chosen me to portray Mary and I would do as good a job as I could.

Still, though, as I put the papers back on the counter, I felt this nagging I want more. I want to show them how good I can act.

I went to bed with conflicting emotions. I knew that I had it all wrong. I had stopped acting a decade before because, even if I didn't know it, God knew that my priorities were out of whack. I depended on those flowers and compliments too much. The sincerest You did wonderful seemed to define me.

I thought long and hard about it as I laid in bed to go to sleep. I would accept the meager paragraph of Mary's. In fact, I would rejoice in portraying her. Yes, I could feel myself becoming more at peace with the situation the more I thought about it and the more I put it into God's hands.

Heal me from my pride, O Lord, I prayed. Thank you for keeping me humble even when I trip over my ego-inflated head. 

The next day I happened to be moving the papers to another part of the kitchen. And it was then that the most amazing thing happened. Husband and Stepdaughter13 were both in the room and I looked up at them with wide, unbelieving eyes. I looked down at the papers again, then back up at them.

"What?" they both inquired. I must have looked like a dope with that goofy and confounded smile on my face.

I explained to them both how I had only found one small paragraph of Mary's to read and how that, at first, had disappointed me, but how I had decided to do my best as Mary and to glorify only God, not myself, in my portrayal.

Then I shared the real amazing grace:

I stumbled upon a paper that had stuck to the others. It held a whole page of highlighted Mary lines. And what the lines said pulled on my heartstrings. They were of a mother crying out to God...her Lord...yet her son...why have you forsaken me? Have you forsaken me?

She tells of how Jesus had been by her side all of her life...and now she was by his side, looking at his wounded side, watching him die.

"When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home." (John 19:26-27 NLT)

I almost cried at how emotional this monologue was. How emotional this hidden page was. I explained with wild emphasis and high-pitched excitement that I was sure that God had kept the entire monologue from me until I could fully understand my undertaking. I was not going to use Mary's dramatized words as a way to show my acting skills. I was not going to pretend I was up on a stage.

I would pray, ceaselessly and with gratitude, that I would glorify God with my portrayal. What a gift this extra page was. Not so I could puff around with a big actor's ego, but because I knew I could put my heart and soul into it and that was a gift God had given me - even as a young child.

So the service came and I took my place at the pulpit while the other reader stood opposite me with Pastor standing in the middle.

My hands grew sweaty and my heart beat a mile a minute. I felt dizzy. I looked across the congregation while Pastor talked and the woman read her words and I prayed.

Then, it was my time.

After the reading, I walked down to my seat. Husband asked if I was okay. I had shed tears during the reading due to the emotional content. Because I had felt Mary's heart beating inside me for just a minute and I wanted to do her justice.

Husband squeezed my hand and smiled softly, said I did a wonderful job.

I couldn't look him in the eye. I sat down and felt a bit winded.

Once service was over, a few more people approached me with kindness and gratitude. I tried to graciously thank them, but say it was all God's doing.

It just so happened that Husband and I had taken two cars because he had to pick the younger two up from Awana. So he and stepdaughter13 left in his car and I sat in mine.

For some odd reason, I sunk into my seat and kept my car dark. Sobs escaped as I felt my heart and head begin to yell at each other. I still felt a longing for compliments, for those flowers from high school plays.

It was an attack. An attack of the ego and the enemy both. And the enemy knew my weakest point:

I started to mourn the fact that my mother, who attended every play with devoted regularity, was not at this service.

And I missed her. I cried with inconsolable grief.

But I shook my head out of the fog the enemy had settled around me and realized: she had been there. She is with God; she can see everything I do. And of course she is proud of me.

But I still beat myself up for wanting the limelight, the praise.

Easy, I heard myself saying. You're still learning. 

So I am an addict. Once an addict, always an addict, I suppose. Alcoholics remain alcoholics, no matter how long they stay sober. It just means that they always have a weakness, a thorn in their side that makes them susceptible to falling.

An attention addict? A praise addict? I don't know.

I do know, however, that being an addict does not define me. I am not defined by my need - former or present - to feel praised by mankind.

For I know that
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

And, I strongly feel, that is all I need to know.

My identity is not an actress nor a writer, a wife nor a stepmother. Not even a motherless daughter or a victim of trauma.

I am a child of God.

And for God I live my life.

God is in the audience. He is the only One who is always in the seat, never leaving, never forsaking. God is my Audience of One. 


other Bible verses about addiction I have found helpful:

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death." (James 1:12-15 NLT) 

What tempts you? Big or small? 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Morning Roundup

I'm rounding up a good morning for myself; I'm rounding up God to create a good morning; no, I am rounding up my perceptions to see the glorious day God has made and be glad in it!

Morning Gratitude:

~ setting my alarm clock 20 minutes earlier this Lenten season to spend time with God in prayer, reaching out to Him.

~ the CD of hymns I listen to at this time, the quiet hums and choral rejoicing.

~ My cat happily patrolling the living room, sans dog, hopping up on my lap and padding around me.

~ Knowing today's weather will be in the 50s - a March miracle!

~ a good work site to go to today

~ good-smelling lotion and perfurme

~ the coffee pot going. I rarely make morning coffee unless I have enough time and I decided to have some and the percolating sounds remind me so much of waking up at my childhood home, my mom's coffee maker going, smelling the aroma wafting into my bedroom right off the kitchen. That was my alarm clock on some mornings. Sitting here listening to my own percolation sounds, smelling my own bean aroma, I thought back to those peaceful mornings and, while I miss my mom with a thousand aches, I smile this morning with her on my mind.

~ my morning snuggles with stepson5 every morning before he gets dressed, the feeling of his warm, just-risen-out-of-bed warmth

~ knowing stepdaugher13 is going to have a challenging day ahead (based on our conversation last night), but so grateful that she communicated to Husband and myself, instead of bottling up all the anguish as she normally would.

~ my cat's little staccato calls to the birds and squirrels she sees out the window.

Prayer for today:
Now it is time to start the movement of the day. Lord, may I move to Your music. May I step into Your steps. May I smell the percolation of Your pleasing aroma. May Your Spirit percolate in me - all day. Through the morning's routine (which sometimes can be a bit hairy), through work, through my staff meeting, through our evening which includes confirmation, Awana, and mid-week Lenten services, and, finally, that afterward time when we must rush the kids to bed after such business. Lord, help me to walk slowly, to breathe slowly, to look and talk slowly. Help me be slow to speak and slow to anger. Let me be the person You call me to be this morning and every morning. And, Lord, thank You for rounding me up this morning. Sometimes I need You to tame me.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Lay It Down

Crying tonight. Tears for the broken ones in my home, tears for the brokenness within me. Tears for the inability to help any of it, to fix any of it, to control any of it.

Grieve for the one in my home who blames God, the girl who thinks she is too broken and that God is too cruel, thinks the sight of blood lets the inflating balloon sigh.

I know that thought. It is buried inside my box of youthful sins that I want to keep under the firm earth.

I am weary tonight. I wish I had a girlfriend to talk to right now, but I don't.

But I do have my God. And so we will be talking in a short while as I lie down to go to sleep.

But before that, I want to share this song with you. Click on the link:

"Lay It Down"

While I can't figure out how to embed actual videos in this new blog format, please do visit that song. Visit those images.

Maybe the both of us can lay down these burdens for a while.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Audience of One ~(Part One)~

I initially wrote this on January 20, 2012 but never found the time to type it up as a blog entry. Something happened last night at our mid-week Lenten service, however, that directly related to this very topic and brought the whole thing once again toppling down upon my shoulders. I knew I had come across this topic before and so I looked back in an old journal and found this essay. I type it now in hopes of better explaining what happened last night. I will publish this entry alone and then write a "part two," if you will, explaining how the very same topic visited (haunted) me last night. 
Thank you for grace. 
I was a dancer as a child. I was a singer, too. And an actress as I entered my teenage years. I quickly learned, at an early age, the instant gratification of performance.

At summer camp between ages 7-12, I was in every talent show. I remember being 9 years old and people  humorously calling it "the Lisa Brodsky Show."


I played a flute solo. I sang a song, I danced a solo, I read a poem, I joined a dance ensemble.

I loved performing. I loved entertaining friends and family and, I admit, I loved the flowers and praise I'd get after every performance.

Particularly in high school when I got leads in plays such as "You Can't Take It With You" and many others, I fell in love with performing. People said I had "the acting bug."

Ironically, college theatre brought disappointment and disenchantment. I continued to perform in years to come, though, this time featuring in open mic's reading my poetry - my other love and talent besides acting.

My tumultuous 20s were peppered with many literary successes - both in performance and in the literary world, all of which garnered me praise from everyone around me.

Yet I did not feel fulfilled. I was still searching for that all-elusive, all-encompassing approval.

What I've learned about who I need to please, who I "perform for," since becoming a Christian has been a gigantic milestone in my life. I suddenly realized why theatre and I stepped away from each other: not because I was bad or wrong, but I did seek the wrong audience to give me an identity.

Those strangers in the seats couldn't tell me who I was. Even friends and family who attended every performance did not have the power to tell me who I was. Since I decided to follow Christ's ways, I've felt a distinct push away from the performing arena. Now when I try to go to an open mic, I don't feel that same drive to perform.

For a while, I walked around a little lost, blind, and confused. Why had something I loved stopped fulfilling me? I continued to read my Bible, my Christian living books, listen to my radio programs. The more I read, the more I realized that for all these years, I had it all wrong! I sought fame and attention. I thrived on the praise of others so much that I became an addict.

An addict of praise which drove my head down instead of pointing my eyes up.

I now know that I have only One that I need to please, perform for, answer to.

God is my Audience of One. And when I do things that please Him, the blessings I receive are far greater, far more fulfilling than any flower bouquet I could ever get after a show.