Sunday, April 19, 2015

"I Don't Really Care What You Think!"

Though I attempt to remain cheerful and unmoved not only in my blog but throughout every aspect of my life I confess I feel to have a moment to let my hair down and relate some things I ordinarily would not.  I don't know why the Lord has brought my mind so much to bear on this topic of late but I feel He would have me pen the words that have flashed across my brain, as much as I would truly rather forget them and move on.  

I learned a lesson some time ago and certainly had the concept nailed but I feel the Lord would have me revive the pain of said lesson and discuss it on my blog today.  It is the very simple concept that we all know but sometimes have difficulty sustaining in our lives.  It is the one regarding self image.  I don't enjoy admitting this but I had a time for several years during which my appearance was continually berated and criticized.  I was taught repeatedly that I was ugly, substandard, a sorry excuse for a woman and the like.  I was told that my body was worthless and that no man in his right mind could possibly be satisfied with me and for some time I took this as simple truth.  I wasn't offended by it as much as I might have been because I accepted it so much as factual.  I was taught that I could never be as pretty as my older sisters and that because of my lack of beauty I could never expect loyalty or devotion from any man; indeed, I found myself taught that this was not from any weakness on the man's part but because of my own lack of physical perfection in every respect.  And I completely believed it. 

God taught me differently little by little until my psyche had entirely altered and I came to think of myself in an absolutely arrogant sense.  I knew I was special to the Lord and I knew He had made me gloriously.  I knew that in His eyes I was worth everything and I delighted to treat my body well.  I loved to eat healthily and work out, taking as perfect care of the physique God had allowed me in reverent gratitude for the health and beauty He gave me.  I became something of a perfectionist about my appearance, declaring and finally believing that I was exquisite in His eyes and His was truly the only opinion that mattered.  I gained something of a reputation amongst the men at the gym for "walking like I owned the place."  Well, in a very real sense, my Father owned the place and He loved me.  So in truth, why not walk like I owned the place?  A manager may have been in charge of the gym but my Heavenly Father owned the land, building, manager, equipment, and the very air within the building.  And He loved me.  So why not?  

I love this picture and am grateful to my sister for giving me the Scarlet O'Hara robe I'm donning in it.  I love how it feels to wear it and it illustrates the lavish, passionate regard I have come to feel from my Heavenly Father and the fact that He seems to delight in spoiling His daughter rotten at times and treating her like an absolute goddess.  Oh, granted, one may argue that I don't look perfect in this shot - my expression could include a smile, the folds of my robe could be more graceful perhaps, but you know what?  It is something I enjoy, and as God's love surrounds me in every respect, I find its peace and approval more than sufficient.

Pain is Beauty

It may appear odd at first glance, but God truly stands above all aspects of life and watches even the smallest and seemingly most shallow moments of our lives in exquisite detail.  He has many times proven it to me and I find my mind drawn in that direction as He has recently impressed upon my mind the psychological need to indulge in spa treatments and the like in order to overcome the pressing stress that I have found mounting onto my mind and shoulders.  But I digress.

Life can hold many disappointments and in my case throughout the last few years it has felt much as though I have been shoved in certain directions, which has each time leveled out into overwhelmingly painful dead ends.  I have petitioned heaven repeatedly as to why this would prove necessary, and what I am to learn from it.  I have not received complete answers other than that it has loosened my mind somewhat in order to perhaps someday mentally heal from the ever lurking post traumatic stress and in many instances, have taught other people to come closer to the Lord.  But why, I pleaded, doesn't the Lord just heal me?  Why won't He just lead me in a straight line toward peace and emotional rest?  Why does it feel as though the floor continually shifts from beneath my feet when I think I have a moment to lay down my emotional troubles and find safety?  And why, oh why, are there so many stop/start moments when I think I have an answer and then find myself violently shut down?  

This Sabbath I found myself curled up on the couch after church, indulging in a moment of cross stitch.  I have been working on stitching Van Gogh's Starry Night, which at first glance I thought would prove a fairly easy 5"x7".  Not so, I discovered.  Some sections seem fairly straightforward, with the same thread color extending across a decently large space, so I can simply stitch the Xs without much thought.  But that seems more the exception in this work than the rule and I find many moments in which I have to employ one color for about three stitches, then stop, get out another, and continue for another brief period before switching to yet another hue.  There is so much patchwork and changing of thread that the art which usually relaxes me has found me sighing in impatient frustration.  

But step back and look at the tapestry, though only less than one third of the way finished.  Consider the painting itself and all the splendor with which Van Gogh enriched the earth with this one masterwork.  Isn't the finished product worth all the internal work?  And when we take this concept and apply it to our lives, certainly the Lord is creating a masterwork in the events around us.  When we find ourselves with so many starts, stops, twists, turns, dead ends and confusion, perhaps we might attribute them to the many subtle hues that God is using to create the tapestry of our lives.  Perhaps those friendships I have considered as ruined and lost in spite of my kindness and efforts will eventually shine forth as shining moments that tested my metal and, I can only hope, brought added light and intelligence into the lives of others. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Crashing Elbow!"



“Crashing elbow, sir!” my children echoed.

“Move!”

My children flew into the appropriate karate technique and the class progressed forward.

I have of late wrestled with a point of psychological and intellectual frustration that arose from the dojo mat.  It is the argument that the sensei often supports, that one is supposed to do as one is told even without knowing why.  Blind trust and obedience, in other words, and he even intimated that there was a way for me to be healed of post traumatic stress and seizures but it would require trust and absolute submission.  You may well imagine how well I took that concept.  I have from my infancy found that many adults have been wrong in things they have sought to force on children and being the youngest of my siblings though often the most responsible I hardly succumb easily to so called authority.  Even when I contracted post traumatic stress, I was able to survive because the Lord showed me why He wanted me to go through what I suffered.  I understood the purpose of that anguish, knew that it would help many people to come closer to the Lord and therefore had a direction to follow.  If the Lord Himself found it expedient to provide me with a reason for those things He inflicted, what right did this 6’3” black belt, a mere 11 years my senior have to withhold logical explanation?  Perhaps he considered that he had sufficient rank, experience, power and authority to make that requirement?  (Here I stand up to full height, square my shoulders, raise an eyebrow, fold my arms and take on a country drawl) Well, I reckon he’d have to show me. 

Though I have never openly argued with him on this topic I have long pondered it and the mental battle has in fact affected my children, since their sensei directly taught one thing and I somewhat emulated the reverse.  The painfully annoying thing proved that the Lord, who had been on my side in this discussion for years, suddenly seemed to shift and support the sensei’s argument when the two thought processes crossed swords and I found myself inexplicably hammered spiritually, mentally and emotionally without any answer from heaven as to why.

Within the last week I had come to the depths of exhaustion and collapse and when I thought I was recovering the Lord saw fit to allow me a pinched nerve in my back.  Barely able to move and screaming in pain I pulled myself up and painfully drove to my favorite massage therapist.  She saw me enter with tears streaming down my face and helped me gradually make it onto a table where I gave myself up to helpless misery.  All throughout the experience I had been pleading to God for an answer of why He was putting me through this agony, but to no avail.  The therapist found the injured spot on my back and I gritted my teeth because I knew the only way she could restore movement to my body was by hammering on that most sensitive spot.  But then she surprised me.  She put a hot pad on that spot and proceeded to massage the rest of my back and particularly the exact opposite side of my spine.  I couldn’t argue or even move.  I just lay there crying and wondering what she was doing.  But it finally dawned on me while her elbow was crashing itself into a sensitive area under my shoulder blade (from whence I discovered an appropriate title to this post), that even though she wasn’t directly massaging the injured area, she knew better than I did what the injury needed, knew how the muscles of the body connected to each other better than I did, and little by little the pain subsided.  When this understanding lighted on me the tears fell much more heavily, not from pain but from the impression washing over me that God knew what He was doing with my life, even if I didn’t.  I couldn’t comprehend a shred of what was going on in many huge respects, or how the painful events would free me from the agonizing psychological terrors I endured, but the Lord did.  

As for the sensei…sigh.  I am sure at some point I will have to admit intellectual defeat on that one…ahem…give me a minute….

Monday, April 13, 2015

Celebrating the Body

When I gaze across the wild, fast paced world in which we live I see so much of people seeking to gain more, get more toys, chase after new ambitions and the like.  In our cyber based, high tech world, sometimes we forget to communicate with ourselves and pull our focuses on what will ultimately give us greatest joy - ourselves and God.  A person with a strong relationship with themselves and a strong relationship with God can handle virtually anything this world lashes out at them, whereas a person who depends on others and material objects and honors will inevitably prove miserable at every turn.

Since my introduction to post traumatic stress and even before I have found meditation and self communion highly gratifying and purging, and one of the most powerful ways to draw from inner strength is to stop and sink into meditative gratitude for what you have already - your body.  For those who have never stopped to do so, and I do know a few, or for those who are seeking new venues, a few of my favorites include yoga, weight lifting, dance and more particularly belly dance, which is primarily a form of meditation glorifying the female body as divine and crafted by God. When we employ exercise to strengthen our mind/spirit/body connection the results can be amazing not only to the body but the stress level and general happiness.  

What of those who cannot work out?  Not a problem.  Often when I am alone at night I will meditate and take my focus to each part of my body in turn, thanking God for my heart, lungs, bones, muscle, what health I do have, and lapse into gratitude for the God given femininity in my heart, mind, spirit and body, and I am more than sure the same could be done in terms of masculinity.  I give gratitude for the ability to have the feelings of a woman, including compassion, gentleness, patience, long suffering, nurturing, and purity.  Masculinity might include protectiveness, the ability or natural desire to provide, strength, stability and the like and in truth proves equally beautiful and a fitting compliment to its counterpart.  I give gratitude for the moments of feeling good, whether it be feeling the wind brushing my skin or the ease of my body resting on the couch or bed, or any other momentary good feeling.  I find gratitude for the ability to be a female, capable of sacred sensuality, capable of feeling like a woman in nurturing children, cooking delicious food, being a supportive, compassionate friend and the like.  I bask in the gifts and opportunities God has given me and recognize that to Him, my body is a holy and innocent temple.  

And you treat your body like a temple.  Most people who know me know that I do not eat unhealthy food.  Why?  My body is a temple and I seek to keep it pure.  When we fill ourselves full of unhealthy food it shifts the way our bodies and minds work.  It makes us less spiritually powerful, less able to reflect and deeply enjoy the quiet simplicities of life and adds more stress and worry than we really need.  I have taught my mind and tongue to enjoy healthy food and for the most part I have learned to not even miss death by chocolate brownies.  

While the culminating beauty of the physical body is the act of sexuality, I treat that give idea with honor and respect as well.  When we give ourselves away wantonly we injure our spiritual power, the sacred nature of who we are and sell ourselves for that which will never ultimately satisfy.  Aren't we worth more than that?  Isn't love, eternity, joy and soul wrenching passion worth more than that?  Doesn't it make sense that we ought to craft and cultivate our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits that when we come to that sacred and beautiful act, we give ourselves as an exquisite offering on the alter of sexuality to our beloved?  And doesn't it make sense that there is nothing in this world that feels so good as to be worth lessening that greatest of all physical joy? 

So celebrate your body, just as it is.  Celebrate the spirit, mind and heart God has given you.  Take a step away from this quick paced, reckless world and bask in the light of your own divine nature and your relationship with God, for when we do we find that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we can always be squarely in our own haven of peace.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Little Warriors

We all want to protect our children, and I am no exception.  I give my all to shelter them from things that are just more than a child should have to handle, and throughout their lives I have suffered from seizures without explaining to them in full detail as to why I have post traumatic stress.  It wasn't a burden I wanted them to bear.  I would sometimes feel the aura of a seizure upcoming and excuse myself to my room where I had from long experience taught myself to exert such forceful self control as to stifle my own screams while the episode transpired, that they might not see or hear me.  Black Friday of last year proved an exceptionally dark day as it marked the close of their innocent childhood in a way.  The truth stumbled out in front of them in spite of my efforts and they had to come to grips with all the foul reality of why their mother was ill.  The road has been wild and bumpy but these two little ones have shown their metal in powerful ways.

One night since that time I once again found myself exceptionally ill and again was trying to hide the fact from my children but the severity had landed me on my bed, trembling from seizure and, as is very unusual and caused only by extreme violence in the episode, I had precious little strength even to breathe.  I continued without breathing in the darkness of my bedroom, except for the occasional involuntary gasp that kept my body and spirit together.  My son entered and found me in this state.  I tried to tell him to leave so he wouldn't have to see it, but his response was to come to my bed and take over as doctor.  He knew why I was ill, what had triggered it, and held me, telling me that it would be okay in a moment and that the reason for my trauma being triggered was subsiding.  My body gave an involuntary shudder - the warning sign of a full blown convulsive attack.  I have been in this state only a few times before and then around a grown man who fell weeping and nearly hysterical with fear.  Not so with my little seven year old.  He said he would hold me and hug me so that I wouldn't go into seizures and helpless as I found myself to stop him, he laid himself on top of me and hugged me with all the protective, passionate love in his innocent little being.  You may imagine my pleading heavenward prayers at that time because I knew that if God didn't intervene it would be very possible that my son would find himself alone in the house holding desperately to his mother's finally lifeless body.  At long last my breathing returned to normal and though shaky I was able to resume my maternal duties. 

Throughout the last week I have found myself bordering physically ill as my body has become weakened through stress.  I have found myself exhausted in spirit, mind, heart and body and I have found it a struggle to take care of my children.  Though fast recovering now, there was a point in which evening had come and I hadn't the strength to tuck in my daughter.  She had taken her bath and was ready for bed but I was too unwell to stand.  At long last she came and read me a My Little Pony bedtime story, tucking me in since I could not do so for her.  She expressed the desire to sleep in my bed, which I know she often wants in order to have her own comfort and her mother's attention.  Tonight I was too feeble to give any kind of attention and I told her as best I could through strained and breathless voice that she needed to go to her own bed because I was too sick to take care of her.  I reminded her that she often kicks me in her sleep and tonight if she did so I might vomit on her, and she needed to sleep alone so she could be protected from being vomited on.  To my amazement she buried her face in the blanket and tears poured down her face.  I asked her what was wrong and her answer was that she didn't want me getting sick and wanted to stay in my bed so she could take care of me.  She promised she wouldn't kick around in her sleep.  I consented and true to her word, she hardly moved an inch, even in deep sleep, all night.  

I wouldn't have chosen it for them.  I wouldn't have given them those trials if I could have helped it.  But God clearly knew better and allowed my kids the opportunity to stretch their arms and spirit, show and strengthen their metal and convince me that though their Mom would give anything to protect them, they were also ready and willing to protect Mom.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Is Your Child Changing the World?

"Mommy!!!  I get to do my school project on Anne Frank!!!"

My daughter bounded toward me in a happy skip and landed on the blue bench that usually proves my seat of choice whilst I wait for the dismissal bell.  I knew quite well what that news flash meant.  My house would soon transform into a scene from World War II and we would all be eating, breathing, and sleeping facts about a secret little annexe in the streets of Amsterdam. No problem!  I love this topic!

Sure enough my little girl started immediately studying that other little girl who lived so far away and for such a short amount of time.  As I taught Julia about the diary, the darkness of Hitler's vision, and about Anne's conviction and optimism through her sufferings I came to ponder and take into my life a different lesson.  Otto and Edith Frank had no idea what they were raising.  They didn't know that their daughter's name and theirs would be handed down with love across generations and throughout the world.  They didn't know that high school students would reenact their sufferings in hiding as my sister Coral did in the role of the beloved Anne.  They didn't know what a beacon of light their daughter would be to many.  They had no idea that they were witnessing an everlasting and exquisite moment of history every time their young daughter quietly picked up a pen.

What of our children?  They may not have to go into hiding, but perhaps their stories will also eventually change the world.  How are we treating them?  Do we look on them as a mere responsibility, or even a burden?  Or do we see in them that golden hue of innocent light that this darkened world so badly needs?  Do we believe in them or do we treat them roughly and in ways to lower their self esteem, extinguishing that flame of beauty they naturally possess?

I have never shared this until now but in high school seminary my teacher asked all of us to take out a piece of paper and write a letter to someone in history.  One classmate read hers aloud which had the class laughing to the point of tears.  I quietly folded mine and threw it away but not before some classmates caught hold of it and read it silently.  It went something like this:

Dear Anne Frank,

I know who you are.  So many people know who you are.  Your sufferings are not in vain and someday millions throughout the world will speak of you with love and great honor  Your words and your influence will be felt in nearly every country in the world.  Don't give up.  There is a purpose to this and it will be glorious.  

Michelle

One hundred years from now what will all the world wish to tell your child, the neighbors' child, or that quiet little kid who finds himself constantly teased by others?  

Just a thought.

Who Deserves Food Stamps?



It is a difficult question and I confess I may pose more inquiries today than answers.  I have heard many requests that people who apply for food stamps ought to be subject to a drug test before receiving help from the state.  It may be a wise procedure and as I find myself participating in a food drive this month I cannot help but ponder the issue within the walls of American society.

Many of my family and friends have received food stamps and each situation proves remarkably different.  One friend, for example, has six children and a very unstable job.  One may think that it was her fault for having six children, but knowing her situation as I do, I know point blank that it was never her intention to bear so many, especially when she has need of care herself.  Life’s situations often prove sticky.  But here is another indication.  She has moved into the least expensive situation she can find and through the grace of heaven pays no rent.  She shops at thrift stores for clothes for herself and her children, drives whatever car she can, tightens her belt, lives beneath her scanty means and saves as much money as she can for the use and benefit of raising her kids.  Her husband’s habits are equally frugal.  They have precious little in terms of money but they work together and are rich in love for each other and their little ones. 

It pains and grieves me to describe another situation in which some friends accepted a great deal of charity.  College brought me many friends, including a couple with one child who lived off the generosity of their associates and also food stamps.  They lived in a dingy apartment with an old car but in many respects their situation proved much stranger.  Drug tests would have proven them both clean, but a great anguish permeated their lives on a different level.  The husband claimed he could not find work, but in truth would turn down jobs at fast food restaurants and the like because he claimed the work was beneath his level of expertise and intelligence.  Instead, he received numerous student loans and sent his wife to work as an exotic dancer.  She made excellent money when she “went to hell,” as she put it but both also fell into the habit of spending liberally what they received so easily and quickly found themselves broke yet again.  It became a cycle which she informed me proves quite common in the life of a stripper.  One may think that they were being irresponsible, vile and making wrong choices and ought to be punished rather than rewarded with food stamps.  My friends, consider whether they were not already punished enough?  The psychological prison in which they lived surely stands as one of the bleakest I have ever encountered.  I don’t know the answer to that on a governmental level but as a human I cannot help but pity them.  I stayed with them in friendship, offering them time, counsel, money, and helping him find a job as best I could until their spiritual lives turned around enough to enable her to feel the damage she was doing to herself and finally quit her miserable job. 

Maybe…maybe in order to aid our country’s financial strain we need to seek out the one as human beings.  Maybe changing society isn’t altogether up to the government at all.  Perhaps we, in our own personal lives need to be a friend to those in need, not only in handing them money and food but in loving them, setting them a better example without being judgmental of their weaknesses and helping them to look upwards until they can shatter their own psychological manacles and learn to want to help themselves.