Rockin’ Religion

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me. For whoever is not against us, is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea’.” (Mark 9:38-42)

You know, I totally “get” why some people steer clear of organized religion. As a 50-something-year-old woman, I have certainly seen my fair share of hypocrisy and over-zealousness. And in more than one church. In my case, it seems to be centered on my choices of music:

The minister and his wife who visited our apartment in St. Louis when I was 14 or 15 years old, saw the posters of Kiss and REO Speedwagon on the walls of my bedroom…and came back a few days’ later with holy water to sprinkle around my room??!!? It’s a wonder I wasn’t traumatized away from any church right then and there (although I do remember refusing to go to that church again after they left…)

The Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister concert my Uncle Brian and I attended when I was 17 or 18 years old. Young Christians approached us, as we waited for my stepfather to pick us up, with pamphlets and warnings of fire and brimstone. They even questioned the hoop earrings I wore because one had a star and the other a half moon on them; they thought there was some “hidden” meaning to them. Nope. I spotted them in a booth at the local flea market one Sunday afternoon and thought they were pretty. End of story.

The uncle who had a conniption fit seeing “DOKKN” (shortened variation of DOKKEN) on my license plate because they were a metal band. He asked me what they sang and I made the mistake of listing one of their latest singles at the time, Kiss of Death. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that that was devil worship…until I calmly explained that they were terming HIV/AIDS as a “kiss of death,” a warning against promiscuity and what it could lead to (Brown, 1987; Hunt, 1988).

In later years, the minister who stated emphatically in a sermon that there was “no such thing as Christian rock”. I beg to differ. If the devil can quote Scripture to suit his needs, then surely God in His infinite wisdom and mercy can use even rock and roll to further His Kingdom.

I also “get” the excitement one feels being a Christian, especially when one first accepts Jesus as their Savior. You want to share your faith with the world, which is what we are called to do, but I am reminded of the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now.” Too often over-zealous Christians push and poke and prod because they don’t really understand that it is just that pushing, poking and prodding that often turns people away…not just from that particular congregation but from God altogether. It’s standard Psychology 101: the more you protest, the more they want it (whatever you’re deeming their vice); if you push too hard, or hold on too tightly, people sense a trap and run away. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t correct our brethren if we see them going astray; certainly the Bible tells us that is our responsibility. However, when we hammer incessantly, especially on a “new” or “young” Christian who is still finding their feet in the church about their lifestyle choices, we often close the very door we are trying to open. They’re still drinking that milk St. Paul tells us about.

And, yes, many in the rock and roll genre do glorify things like promiscuity, infidelity, drug use and alcoholism. There are many, especially in the metal arena, who flirt a little too much with the adversary when indulging in their theatrics, looking to shock and garner a bit of free publicity for themselves. I am certainly not defending their actions. And, yes, a young person, especially one with no religious background whatsoever, might be lured by the “coolness” of that theater aspect. It’s the same mindset that compels people to read thriller novels or watch horror movies. For the young, and often impressionable, that might not be a good combination. However, let’s also give kids…from 1 to 92 as the old Christmas carol says…a bit of the benefit of the doubt. For many, they’re just looking to relax, unwind and enjoy a bit of music.

I mentioned earlier about an uncle who initially freaked over a song title but calmed down and apologized when I explained what it really meant. I think that’s the key. If we’re going to pick apart every word, every movement, every nuance of entertainment, searching for the negative, we will find it. But, for the average person listening/viewing, is that what they’re getting out of it?

For me, though I’m pretty all over the place with music today (i.e. I listen to most styles of music, not just one genre), when I was a teenager, it was strictly metal (REO Speedwagon being the one exception; I was in love with Kevin Cronin…both as an artist and as a teenage girl with her first attack of hormones). I was growing up in a household with alcoholism and a stepfather who often became violent after imbibing and who wanted a bit too much to do with me, if you take my meaning. The loud, blistering guitars and earth-shaking drum sequences reflected the anger and confusion and the feelings of injustice churning inside of me. Banging my head to the music in the privacy of my own room; in the car; at a concert with friends seemed a healthier way to express that anger and confusion than acting out in some way…like hurting others, or hurting myself.

As for the lyrics, I really listened to them. I can honestly say, there were very few that I found “questionable”…even with a Christian background. And those that I did find questionable, I stopped listening to.

Despite everything that was going on in my home, I had a great-grandmother place a tiny Bible in my hand when I was born. Years later, I used to sneak into my aunt’s CCD classes to listen…because I wanted to know Him better. I remember receiving this pink rectangle of wood in CCD that had a pewter bust of Jesus mounted on it. It hung on the wall in my bedroom for years. Whenever things got really bad in our house, my 8, 9, 10 year-old self could be found kneeling before it…praying for the scariness to end, praying the only way I knew how; it’s the only thing that gave me strength to keep on keeping on. In short, I had a foundation of faith from a very young age. And I have always maintained that if my faith is so small and weak that a mere song lyric can tear it away, it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with.

Granted, there are many who do not have that foundation of faith. However, again, what are they hearing? What are they getting out of the music? Sometimes it’s not the lyrics but simply the music itself that lifts a blue mood or helps us to relax and focus on a task. And it means nothing more than that to the listener. In other words, maybe sometimes in our quest for saving souls, we take things a little too seriously. And that’s what pushes people away…instead of bringing them into the church, whatever the denomination. In short, whatever our religious beliefs, we cannot substitute our version of holiness and worship for someone else’s. Your time or method of prayer; the passages of Scripture that speak most to your heart; the religion you practice (Catholic, Baptist, Congregationalist), etc., are what work for you. They are a part of your personal relationship with Jesus. These are the paths God has led you down to worship Him. If there were any one perfect religion, then we would only ever have a Catholic church, or a Baptist church, or a Lutheran church. Not a Catholic church AND a Baptist church AND a Lutheran. We fight amongst ourselves about whose version of dogma and/or doctrine is correct and wonder, yet again, why so many turn away.

And now that I’ve had my little rant, let me get back on subject…

Music and ministry…or a rockin’ religion. Why is that a bad thing? Why would I not be able to maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ just because Within Temptation CD’s sometimes spin in my CD player? We can substitute WT with Megadeth (Dave Mustaine’s born-again, btw!) or Ozzy Osbourne or Doro. And, these days, I’m listening more and more to some of those “no such thing” Christian rock bands: Casting Crowns, For King and Country, Francesca Battistelli, Lauren Daigle, Barlow Girl, MercyMe and Big Daddy Weave, for starters. Regardless, music lifts my soul. If the lyrics sung to it are messages of love, and especially God’s love, then I say, “Hallelujah!” If some of these artists are hitting mainstream audiences, crossing over into rock, pop and/or hip-hop genres, sharing messages of the gospel to those young ears–young ears who may never hear about Jesus from their parents, grandparents or any other traditional role model, then I say, “Amen!” They are not against Him, they are for Him. And we need the seed of hope they are planting for tomorrow.

A seed.

ONLY.

But what a seed! By singing about Jesus, and reaching millions through the medium of rock and roll, maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring some of those young ears into the church. And guess what? Once they are there, those vices–if, indeed, rock music could really be considered one–will fall away all on their own as Jesus touches their heart and they open themselves to the Holy Spirit.

My love for rock music, even metal, has never fallen away…no matter how great my faith grows. In my youth, we really didn’t have a contemporary Christian, or Christian rock, genre. I do remember being in my early-20’s when I first heard Chritian metal artists, Stryper. I remember them being extremely talented artists but, to combine Christianity and heavy metal was unheard of before them. Instead, in those moments of scariness, when I knelt before that make-shift altar at home, and prayed, He often sent those answers to my heart in the form of a song lyric…because music always brought me joy.

I plan on having this one sung at my funeral someday. It is REO Speedwagon’s “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” They do not mention God or Jesus at all but these lyrics helped to bolster a young, impressionable girl…who believed she might be going to hell for the fornication that was never her choice at all:

Sooner or later you will find a way
To feel like sunshine, even on a cloudy day
To feel like morning in the dead of night
Sooner or later it’s gonna be all right
Now don’t go thinking your life’s a mess
Rather start thinkin’ in terms of happiness
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again
It takes time sometimes to figure out
That there’s nothing to worry about
And that there’s plenty to be thankful for
It takes time sometimes to know the score
See, everybody’s got a smile inside
So put it upon your face and wear it with pride
And it’s gonna happen
Just decide were you’re goin’
Get out in the open
And start blazin’ your own trail again

Songwriters: Kevin Patrick Cronin
Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again lyrics © Hori Pro Entertainment Group

Sometimes that loud, blistering guitar and earth-shaking drum sequence is the only thing loud enough to shut out the pain and loneliness and confusion long enough that one can get “quiet” and listen to Him speak.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Brown, C. (1987). “Kiss of Death.” Back for the Attack. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.

Cronin, K. P. (1978). “Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again.” You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish. Hori Pro Entertainment Group.

Hunt, D. (1988). “Dokken & Co. Is Back for the Attack.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2018 from: http://articles.latimes.com/1988-01-31/entertainment/ca-39417_1_don-dokken

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Christian Confidence

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of Spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

As someone who grew up with alcoholism and abuse in the home, confidence is a fleeting thing. You’re blowing your own horn one minute; the next, you’re plummeting into the abyss. As a Christian, I should neither be boasting of “my” works nor lamenting any perceived mediocrity; both are an insult to the Lord. Any talents or gifts that I currently possess were given to me by the Holy Spirit. They are gifts from God, not self. Indeed, these gifts are meant to be shared with others, to further His kingdom…not hidden away in some corner while I serve small, thinking I’m not good enough.

And yet, for those of us who perpetually battle confidence and self-esteem issues, that’s exactly what we do. We allow the enemy of our souls to keep telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough…

Enough already!

That little red guy with the pitch fork talks too much.

If God is nudging us to do something, He’s telling us we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough and/or talented enough. Because He is giving us the strength, intellect and/or talent. And He will never fail. He doesn’t need us to do whatever the task; He wants us to do it. And it is through our obedience to Him that we are blessed. It’s that simple.

When that ol’ Devil starts whispering his insidious lies, call upon the Lord. Pray for that strength, courage, or whatever else you may need to succeed. Ask the good Lord to show you where your heart is, what He wants for you. And then really listen to the answers He places on your heart.

For someone like myself–and there are plenty out there who have had similar upbringings–trusting someone–even Someone–is often the equivalent of trying to climb Mount Everest with naught but a toothpick for support. It is overwhelming to even consider because we base our trust on our human relationships…instead of the One relationship that should matter most of all…and will never let us down.

I always discount my dreams as too lofty, too impossible. It’s a pipe dream, never happen. There’s someone prettier, more talented, etc. than I am. I blame my present financial situation: I don’t have the money. And that other commodity: I don’t have enough time. And I allow myself to be defeated.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Worse, I’m telling God “no”…by believing the lies.

I’m praying for a set of spiritual headphones this year to drown out the Adversary’s “talk”. Jesus says, “I am enough!” And so is everyone else reading this blog post. What dream has He put on your heart? What does He keep nudging you to do? Where does He keep nudging you to go? Saying “Yes, Lord!” is the biggest hurdle to conquer. Are you up to the challenge?

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

“He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that Jehovah will take care of him. That is why he is not afraid, but can calmly face his foes.” (Psalm 112: 7, 8)

Growing up in an alcoholic home, change often meant something bad. Or at least I learned to associate it as such. Not the little changes that occur everyday but the big changes. The yet another move across country, either to Rhode Island or to Missouri, depending on where we were at the moment, meant beloved pets were sent to a shelter and the loss of sentimental items; a change for better financial circumstances meant more alcohol and more fighting; the sudden loss of a job also meant more fighting, creditors at the door…and possibly another major move.

As you can see, it was a vicious cycle. And it sent a message to an impressionable little girl that, even when things are looking up, expect the worse to quickly follow. It’s an anecdote for insecurity, wiping away whatever joy one might find in this life, and damaging to that little something called faith.

Yes, both good and bad exist in this world. And life is a never ending wave of ups and downs. All things balance under the sun. Hardships don’t last forever. And the good times will come to an end, too…only to swing back up again at a later time. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

It took me a long time to truly believe that passage.

And, of course, here I am on top of the world with this new position coming up…yet waiting for some ax to fall.

You see, there’s even more to the story than this. Things were promised to me repeatedly…only to be taken away just before they were supposed to happen. The trip to buy school clothes was cancelled at the last minute. The dance lessons had to be dropped. The babysitting money I earned was “borrowed” and never paid back. The piggy bank was raided without my knowledge. Sure, it did teach me a lot about handling disappointment. But, because this was a steady situation, it also taught me that I wasn’t worthy of anything better in life, that it was wrong to want, to strive for success. That no matter how hard I worked, the end result was always the same.

The saving grace was school. I worked hard, got good grades and, yes, there were rewards. This balanced some of the negativity coming from home and mitigated the apathy of such an existence. Is it any wonder that in my late-40’s I went back to college? Or that, in so doing, my confidence levels have steadily soared?

Of course, the New Age gurus who hang upon the every word of “The Secret” would say I’m attracting this negativity. Maybe I am. But, after having read said book, my first thought was one would drive one’s self around the bend trying to stay positive all the time. Despite everything I’ve just written, it’s just not logical–or possible–to be positive 24/7. And to deny, suppress, etc. the negative is a form of denial. It’s unhealthy. Instead of facing whatever negative thing or thought, and working through it, you’re suppressing it…where it does more damage in the long run.

Faith is the key.

I have hit at least one snag in this new change…maybe. But I’m striving to take it on faith. He brought me to it; He’ll lead me through it. To deny that there’s a potential snag looming, is to get broad-sided later with something bigger. Maybe that bigger something is His plan. But, while Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd, and we his flock of sheep, denial is not the answer.

Faith is.

And faith is telling me that, yes, we moved around a lot but, because we did, I have friends in Rhode Island, Missouri, and now Connecticut. If we hadn’t moved so much, I would not have my best friend, Mary, in my life…or countless other good friends. The promises made that were forever reneged? Finances didn’t always allow those promises to be kept…which has taught me the value of budgeting, thrift, living within one’s means and having some sort of an emergency fund.

So I guess I am incorporating “The Secret” in my life to some extent–I’m looking for that silver lining in every situation and focusing on the positives learned from it. The bad times hurt. But maybe they do for a reason–to make sure the lessons are painful enough to be remembered.

Either way, I’m taking it on faith…because while there is “a time to cry”, there is also “a time to laugh”. And this promise is for all of us…no matter our situation. He will never leave us.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Byrne, R. (2006). “The Secret” Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing.

Who’s Really in Charge Here Anyway?

“We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.” St. Teresa of Avila

I’ll admit it. “Charles in Charge” has nothing on me. I’m in control, or so I tell myself, and then hear the echo of what can only be God laughing as I tighten the reins…and chaos erupts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I remember reading somewhere that 98% of us have at least a touch of it. Some of us have a bit more than a touch, unfortunately. Oh, it comes in handy at times. The alphabetized CD, DVD, VHS and book collections make finding whatever I’m looking for a snap. Because, really, who wants to waste time looking for something that may be right in front of your nose? I have bigger fish to fry, as they say. And, maybe it’s a bit extreme but my closet is color coded with all the yellow garments together, all the red, all the green, etc. Again, it makes finding that outfit easier. And I’m all about economizing my time. However, these little impulses and neuroses also tie me in knots and can make me a rather difficult person to live with.

Poor Mom.

This feeble attempt at perfectionism often manifests as criticism. I hear myself and cringe. Criticism was definitely NOT the intent but that’s what surely came across if I put myself in her shoes. And really, how important is it if the buttery popcorn bowl wasn’t rinsed first before it went into the sink? Or if the spoon rest is backwards on the stove? This latter “pet peeve” doesn’t get spoken; I simply turn it around again but then I think, as I’m doing it, does it MATTER???

And here is where the knots get tied because, as one voice is asking about the importance of such an act, another voice knows how much of a mental distraction it will be if I leave the spoon rest backwards…or the toilet paper feeding from under, rather than over.

Of course, I’ve never really sat down with Mom and tried to explain exactly what it’s like to live with OCD. Sadly, such a conversation tends to veer off into why mine is so intense in the first place: it’s a response to the molestation I grew up with. And that is a subject Mom would rather forget about altogether. As a child, I couldn’t control what was happening to me so I acted out by adopting these little “habits”. It gave me a false sense of security. And I was desperate to feel secure. Not only the abuse but also the alcoholism, the drunken accusations that told us all that we were “stupid” and couldn’t do anything “right” and to “look a little harder than you have to”. Like many children who grow up with some sort of substance abuse…as well as the abuse of their bodies, minds, and spirits, I turned all this negativity onto myself and shouldered all the blame. If I was a better student, he wouldn’t be so angry. If I kept my room neater, maybe he’d leave me alone. If I did all the chores around the house, all this chaos would stop.

Who was I kidding?

I’ve been tied up in knots since I was a very little girl. Is it any wonder that I’m still tying myself in knots? Unhealthy though it may be, it’s also a comfortable numb. It’s familiar. And, if I don’t grasp, and clutch, and sterilize my whole life, I start to relax…and then chastise myself for being “lazy”.

The paradox of all of this is that my property from the roadside looks like tobacco road. This is another coping mechanism from dealing with alcoholism. It keeps people away. But such a desire never cropped up until a few years ago when I had a live-in boyfriend…who was also an alcoholic. He seemed a nice enough guy when we met. And there was an instant rapport. This last one should have been a red flag…heck, it should have been flashing in neon red. Because that kind of comfort level so early on, well, they say a girl looks for her father when she dates…or, in this case, father figure. I was embarrassed. The sometimes-arrogant self, who would never allow herself to be caught in such a situation, got caught in it. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? And, worse, it took me forever to finally get out of it. The same mind control that I grew up with, manifested again in this romantic partner. The same self-doubt and shame crept in. And I felt sorry for him. He, too, had grown up with abuse in the home. I knew what that was like. And, while I had had a network of family and friends behind me as I sought therapy and tried to claw my way into some sort of normalcy of life, he was still wallowing in the beaten-down misery he grew up with. He even threatened to beat me physically…and I still let him stay. It wasn’t until, in a drunken stupor, he cut down a beloved shade tree in the yard that I snapped and gave him the boot.

Tobacco road’s been growing ever since…because I’m mortified that I allowed myself to be caught up in this unhealthy situation. I fell down on my principles. Every stitch of therapy went out the windows. Though I have no actual proof, I even suspect he was abusive to one of my cats as Trooper’s behavior while he was here was almost unbearable. And it stopped almost immediately once this man was finally gone for good.

A little bit at a time. That’s what friends tell me as I tackle this overgrowth. It’s a little bit like that “One Day at a Time” motto advocated by both Alcoholics’ Anonymous and Al-Anon. A little bit at a time, one day at a time.

This homestead is healing me as well as it is healing the land. My OCD says I should be able to perfectly landscape the 3/4 of an acre I’ve set aside for fruits, vegetables and herbs in a weekend’s work; it’s not good enough otherwise. Reality says, as I am implementing Charles Dowding’s “No Dig Gardening” method to bring as low an impact to the earth as I can, that such an enormous undertaking simply cannot be done in one weekend…not to the scale I envision. And not by one single person…especially one on a part-time income.

No, the “No-Dig” method isn’t expensive. Quite the contrary. It uses flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground (something easily had for free from many of the local businesses who don’t mind not having to pay out to cart the cardboard away instead) and then composted waste, from both the kitchen, and the animals, layered on top of the cardboard to create a raised bed. I’ve been dismantling a broken section of stone wall that runs along the front of my property to outline the beds once they’re made and using old feed bags that I’ve cut open and laid flat for the walkways in between. As funds permit, I buy a bag or two of red mulch and lay it atop the bags. This is where the part-time income comes into the picture as I cannot purchase enough at one time to cover all of the walkways at once. And, as I am on a major interstate, as well as in the commercial district, it has to be “pretty”.

So, a little bit at a time, one day at a time.

And, when the OCD starts kicking up again and stresses perfection, I need only look outside to see the rhubarb growing tall and strong in the three-tiered pyramid I built for it and the strawberries; I need only look at the green beans poking their kidney-shaped heads out of the ground in one raised bed and the beautiful purple flower heads of the chives, and the lush expanse of marjoram in another to tell me that, yes, one day at a time is good enough. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “perfect”. Obviously, these plants don’t care a fig if it’s perfect or not; they’re still growing in imperfection.

As for the grass?

Mankind has ever strived to tame and “control” Nature. I refuse to use anything gas-powered, or any chemicals, to kill it off. Even with the raised beds, the weed and grass barriers being laid down, there’s still the occasional blade that pokes up even amongst those sections already landscaped. This is a reminder that, despite my valiant efforts to control and manipulate this landscape, much like the landscape of my life, there is Someone greater than I who is really in charge. Someone who takes those knots I’ve tied myself into, lays them out flat…and helps me to grow.

May God bless you & keep you!

Over It

“Get over it!”

I hear a lot of this whenever I talk about, or add a new blog post, that shares about my childhood. Oh, the fun and games that every child remembers is acceptable. But the darker, more sinister aspects of my childhood should be kept quiet…if only because it offends the delicate sensibilities of others.

I say, if it offends your delicate sensibilities, then good. Great, in fact! If I’m offending your delicate sensibilities, then I’m getting under your skin. I’m making you aware that 6.6 million referrals of child abuse/molestation are reported annually in the United States alone–many involving more than one child, and alcoholism affects 15.1 million adults over the age of 18 (Child Help; NIAAA, 2017). Quite often, the two are irrevocably linked. And these are just the incidents that were reported…because the delicate sensibilities of those closest to many of these lost children dictate that these children should suffer in silence, rather than exploit the family dysfunction. I say, to what purpose should I “get over it” unless both of those statistics change to a big, fat ZERO.

SPOILER ALERT!

I hate to burst a few bubbles but, I am “over it”. You see, if I wasn’t “over it”, I wouldn’t be able to blog, or talk, so candidly about my childhood experiences. 20+ years in therapy have led me to a much healthier place, mentally and emotionally. I know sometimes it may seem otherwise when there are so many “hang-ups” that still trip me from time to time. But, honestly, before therapy, I bottled everything so deeply inside that I couldn’t see the proverbial forest through the trees. And I guess this blog post is coming about as a means to change some misconceptions…about a lot of things.

First of all, therapy. Whenever I get tripped up by some sort of coping mechanism I adopted as a child, or by a wave of self-doubt, there are some who cast aspersions on that therapy…or the therapist who worked so closely with me. But therapy, while valuable, can never truly wipe away those “hang-ups”; my memories aren’t going to disappear. I’m not going to forget what happened. However, I no longer dwell upon it. It isn’t an all-consuming nightmare from which I cannot wake up anymore. Therapy has helped me to put those painful memories, well, not really on a back burner but, instead, I can look at them with some distance, take them out, study them, study their effects, and, like an onion, peel away another layer of hurt and dysfunction in manageable bites. This is important because, if I tried to deal with everything all at once, I would get overwhelmed and incapacitated by that overwhelming. The abuse that I endured growing up was spread out over several years; is it any wonder that the recovery from it would also take a number of years?

Another blessing of that therapy is that, while I am peeling away those layers, I also have tools to help lift me out of depression and anxiety, to boost my self-esteem when it wants to plummet, to deal with anger and even the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that became one of those coping mechanisms. I will probably always be afflicted with some trace of OCD. In fact, with Mom now living with me, I find myself falling back into some old obsessions. I’m guessing it’s because I am suddenly exposed to some of that learned behavior from dealing with active alcoholism again. I escaped life with an alcoholic when I was in my early-20’s; Mom lived with that same alcoholic for over 40 years. For at least half of those years, I was in that therapy, peeling those layers away; Mom was still in the midst of it, dealing with it. Yes, she did choose to do so but that doesn’t change the fact that she learned a few coping mechanisms of her own. I see it, hear the sometimes sarcasm, the passive-aggression, the lack of concern for her own well-being, the escapism, the manipulation, the desperate attempt to develop a new co-dependency with me. It saddens me. Because, overall, she’s a good woman who simply allowed herself to get caught in a bad situation…partly because she didn’t believe that she deserved better treatment, and partly because, underneath the alcoholism and abuse, she saw something–someone–that she loved despite the abuse…and she’s still struggling with the ill effects of that choice.

Of course, I will also concede that the OCD has become over-active again because some small part of me may still harbor some anger at Mom…for not acting when I first told her what was happening to me. I was eight years old. Today, she says she doesn’t remember me telling her. I’m not sure how one would forget such a conversation but, I am willing to concede that it may have been such a shock to her, that maybe some part of her did block it out. Because it was too much for her to deal with. It hurts too much to think that maybe she simply didn’t care enough to help me. Either way, acceptance is the only way to true forgiveness.

And therein lies another misconception: forgiveness. A lot of people look at forgiveness as giving in, giving up, as saying that whatever vile and/or hateful thing that has been committed is okay. No, it is never okay for a little child to be abused…in any way, shape or form. It’s not okay for any living creature–human or humane, child or adult to be abused. Forgiveness isn’t about the actions of the abuser. We’re not forgiving the act–or lack of action–but the person committing the act, or lack thereof.

“Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.” (Matthew, 6:14-15)

Forgiveness isn’t truly about them anyway. Forgiveness is a gift for the one doing the forgiving, for the peace that settles over the soul once we finally let go of the grudge, the anger, the stubbornness that inhibits further healing from the transgression. Forgiveness releases the power the transgressor still wields over us to hurt us even more…because by hanging onto our anger, truly, the only person we hurt is ourselves.

So, what does all of this have to do with homesteading? I get asked that one A LOT. Because, really, that’s the whole reason I started this blog. I wanted it to be a daily accounting–or at least a weekly one–of my journey as a homesteader. However, as I technically started this blog back in 2010, but never really contributed to it on a regular basis until last August (2016), obviously, I didn’t have as much to say about my homesteading endeavors. Or maybe I just needed to get into a regular writing routine, which I have done, and see which direction it evolved. I’d like to think that these two separate journeys are somehow intertwined…above and beyond the fact that this modern-day homesteader is also the one still healing from the effects of childhood trauma.

In fact, there’s the link: a journey of healing from childhood abuse…and a journey to heal Mother Earth from the effects of Mankind’s abuse of her. What’s in our food? A lot of things that should not even be used in the same sentence as “food”: high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, dyes, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Where does it come from? A package? A can? From over 3000 miles away where a huge carbon footprint is created to transport it across country, across the globe, after lacing it with these artificial preservatives, and growing it with chemical pesticides and fertilizers…which kill us, kill the animals, the plants, kill the honey bees. What’s in our clothing? Nylon, synthetics–by-products of the petroleum industry. Athletic wear, especially, contains a lot of plastic. Plastic off-gases in our landfills. It gets dumped into our rivers and streams, our oceans, where tiny particles of it…and sometimes even larger pieces…get ingested by wildlife and aquatic life. I recently did a presentation regarding climate change. I found a photograph of a seal that had died from ingesting run-off from lawn fertilizers–such as Scotts or TruGreen. We’re killing our planet, ourselves. And, while one lone homesteader may not be able to make much of a dent in that carbon footprint, I can lead by example. And I can rest knowing that I’ve done the best I could to lessen my contribution to the abuse. That’s worth it to me.

As this homestead is also intended as an animal rescue and rehabilitation, a sanctuary to help heal animals of abuse and/or abandonment, here, too, is another journey of healing. I need a bigger homestead if I’m to achieve the level of success that I envision but, for now, I work with what I have and mitigate whatever suffering I can, one heart at a time.

For every new skill I learn as a homesteader, whether it is canning, preserving, a new gardening technique, a new fiber art mastered, for every new animal that I learn to care for and that thrives, I gain a new level of confidence that takes me even further away from those painful memories. And that’s a link that will endure forever.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Child Help, (2017). Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

A Blessing of Friendship

“There are ‘friends’ who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

I have an abundance of friends–good friends who are there for me through the good times and the bad…at least when I let them be. When that ol’ Devil, Pride, and his partner, Self-Doubt, don’t sit on my shoulder and shout through the megaphone to my ear.

Arrgh!

And double AaarrrrrrrgggghhhH!

Do you know how many times I have started and re-started this post? And I’m afraid I’m still going to botch it. I started this post as a way to publically thank some dear friends of mine for the help they gave me recently…help which, all of them would likely say, was no big deal. But, to me, it was a big deal. And, no, the simple “thank you” I offered at the time the help was given isn’t enough. I’m not enough. Or so I tell myself. Despite the 20-something years of therapy. Despite Farnoosh’s wonderful “Affirmations for Life” series…that I make a point to listen to each morning. No matter what, the internal tape recordings still play, chasing away whatever peace may finally settle into my soul.

This expression of gratitude is turning into another one of those affects of alcoholism blog posts instead. So be it. I’m tired of fighting it. And, if I botch it, oh well. At least I tried. With a little luck, maybe that nugget of gratitude will come through after all. Because it is heart-felt.

I grew up with alcoholism. I grew up in a family where, yes, people would help you if you asked…and even sometimes when you didn’t, but whenever there was a disagreement, or I grew angry or upset about unfair treatment, that help was thrown into my face. Ditto for any gifts given. I was disloyal because my opinion differed. Or maybe, just maybe, an ounce of self-esteem reared its head at the receipt of said gift, or pair of helping hands, and, for a moment, I dared to believe that I might be loved and appreciated “just because”. And I spoke up. How dare I? So I learned not to ask for help, became uncomfortable with receiving gifts, and stuffed my feelings all way around. Because it was better to slug it out alone than to deal with the unbridled guilt that followed. Because, apparently, through that “disloyalty”, I somehow did not appreciate the help or the gifts. It was as though any help given cancelled out the right to speak honestly about my feelings, or about the horrors that often took place behind our closed doors. And, with alcoholism–and the many forms of abuse that often accompany it–that’s exactly the point.

Being treated to an ice cream cone cancelled out the shouting and myriad crashing and banging from the drunken argument the night before. The block of notebook paper, the clothes purchased for the next school year, mitigated my right to be angry because the family cat was kicked across the room when she happened across my stepfather’s path as he trailed my mother, shouting at her for…something. The gifts brought back from the weekly eight to ten hour shopping spree should’ve been enough to ease the anger and downright panic that ensued as my 14 year-old self waited for someone to come home so my little brother could be taken to the hospital for the head wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding…and, when he finally got there, required 3-4 stitches. He also had a concussion. PS We never had a phone growing up and, though a neighbor called family members to see if the parental units could be located, an ambulance would not come to pick us up because there wasn’t a parent, or legal guardian, to authorize his admission into the ER (this was very early 1980’s).

Of course, gifts were also dangled before me like the carrot before the horse…at least when I was really young. As a very little girl (5, 6 years old), my stepfather would promise me trips to Rocky Point, or even Disneyland, if I would keep our “little secret” from Mommy. And Grandpa, who was a cop. By the time I reached 7 or 8 years’ old, I knew better…and no gift was truly worth what I was going through. Then he simply threatened to hurt my Mom to keep me quiet.

The help I gave to my family in return was never enough. It wasn’t enough that I cleaned the whole house top to bottom while the parental units were out shopping and visiting family nearly every weekend. It wasn’t enough that I also took care of my brother those weekends–often without choice because they would often be gone before I awakened. Any money given to me for birthdays was taken. Ditto any wages earned babysitting. When I finally graduated and started working, half my pay–whatever it was–was demanded, not a set room-and-board fee.

Needless to say, growing up my sense of self was in the proverbial toilet. And, sadly, that sense is still just dangling from the rim of the bowl.

And, yet, I’ve been blessed with such an abundance of good friends…great friends…best friends, that I am constantly wondering what I ever “did” to deserve them all. And therein lies the faulty thought patterns. I didn’t earn them by anything I did. Or said. Or gave…other than my own friendship in return. For me, that’s a wonder in itself. And enough to make me misty-eyed as I continue typing. I can “know” this on an intellectual level but there’s still that echo of a childhood that keeps looking for ways to earn, or re-pay, kindnesses and caring. It’s as if it is a sin past bearing to ever be down-on-your-luck, or in need, and have to ask for help. The simple “thank you” seems small compared to what is given, what is offered. And, though some part of me hopes I am giving something in return, the scale by which I measure says I am perpetually short-changing everyone. I.e. I’m not enough.

And, as I type this, I can hear Farnoosh’s bright and happy voice echoing, “I am more than enough!” so I guess the Affirmations for Life are having a positive effect after all…

I hope any friends reading this blog post aren’t offended, hurt or insulted by it. It is, perhaps, a feeble attempt to explain how things are when you grow up in such an environment. And that, yes, while outwardly I continue to struggle through this thing called under-employment, it is the internal struggles that often keep me truly down-and-out. I hope you understand that it’s more than just the lift up to the feed store for goat chow or to CVS last minute for Mom’s prescription meds; it’s more than the unexpected call as I was leaving Walmart to see if I would like a ride home instead of walking in the rain and the dark after work. It’s knowing that there are people out there who care. About me. People that I don’t often reach out to because I don’t want to become a burden or wear out my welcome…because such was reinforced over and again as a child. It’s the seed of hope that such seemingly minute acts of kindness can plant…and water…and nurture in the heart of someone–anyone–who has ever felt lonely and alone, abandoned, scared or isolated. And we all feel nudges of each from time to time. It’s that whole Wiccan rule: what you give out, comes back to you three times three.

And, so, with that thought in mind, I am asking the good Lord to bless all of you three times three the blessing you have all been to me. Not just in these recent acts of kindness and sharing, but for all the years that we have been friends. For the love and acceptance you have given so freely. And the love and acceptance I hope to share with all of you–and more–for all the days of my life.

Of His gifts, I have little doubt.

May God bless you & keep you!