Monday, 16 April 2018

HOLD MY HAND

An Open Letter From Wives of Porn Addiction/Intimacy Anorexia/Asexual Husbands


Dear Husband,

Now that I know, I'm going to keep my request simple: please hold my hand.

During the morning commute, your hands are clean and groomed. You have prepared them for all they will face today by scrubbing off yesterday's grime. They speak of a fresh start.

By lunchtime, your hands are dirty, often stained with grease and other hazards of your job. You treat them to a brisk rinse and then sit down to a hard-earned lunch. Your hands will feed you while checking messages on your phone and responding to walkie-talkie requests. Your hands do not get to join your feet in rest for this brief time.

At day's end, your hands are more tanned and weathered, and sometimes wear battle scars. Of course, it's hard to see and appreciate this ... unless you hold my hand. You see, my hand knows the texture of yours. My moisturized hands can easily feel the difference between the grooves in your skin and the scratches from equipment moving that shouldn't have. My hands know the difference between the solid surface of your muscles and the swelling of some unanticipated injury. I learn about your day when you hold my hand.

You like to wash the dishes every night. I wonder if it's because your hands get to soak for a while, even though they're moving the whole time. Usually, this process removes all the unwanted bits of the day from both your hands and the dishes. When you finish the dish washing and sit on the couch, your hands finally rest for the first time in 10 or more hours. If only you would hold my hand so I could just rest with you!

Bedtime comes, and your hands are the last ones moving. You wait until I am in bed before you kiss my forehead and turn out the lamp. Sometimes you reach for my hand; almost always, it brings tears to my eyes. You wouldn't know in the darkness, but the warmth of your hand has a way of softening my soul. When there is nothing but you and me, I finally get to touch your hand. And somehow, lying completely at rest on the coolness of the blankets, it holds me together.

Please . . . don't stop holding my hand. The heat in your hand is a sign of life. Where there is life, there is hope. We can find our way through everything, if you just hold my hand.

Love,

Your Wife

Friday, 30 March 2018

GOOD FRIDAY

Dear Jesus,

Can we talk? About today? I need to be honest about my thoughts on this Good Friday.

Today marks the anniversary of Your death. If I were honest, I'd say I'm right beside You today. I feel stripped of everything I've known: exposed and on display, and bleeding from every pore.

Last night marked the night You went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. I read that You sweat drops of blood. I, too, spent last night in prayer and agony. The difference is that You were praying to avoid death, and I'm not certain I would do the same right now.

So the world mourned Your death, and darkness covered the land. There was thunder and lightning and monumental events. Today, there is sunshine and deafening silence and mundane events and nobody knows I'm dying a thousand deaths every hour.

But the purpose of Your death was to redeem us, and to bring us hope. So I'm here today, saying thanks for that. Because even small steps in the right direction are steps, and You have a history of moving toward those who move toward You. So I prayed over his feet last night, because I think he's a good man who just needs You to order his steps: to put his steps in order, as it were. First toward You, then toward me.

When they took Your body off the cross, everything on Your shoulders moved to the grave. The burden of our sin, the weight of our cares, and the tears of our shattered hearts. I believe You left it all in the grave; so when You tell us to take every thought captive, we can bury the unproductive thoughts where they belong. So I prayed over his head last night, too: that if he's too weak to take his thoughts captive, You would stand in the gap. Send him thoughts of worth and value, and steer him away from thoughts of defeat.

Sunday is coming. You rose victorious. I will rise, too. I just have to get through these nights in the dark. Sealing my sorrows in Your empty grave, and waiting for the promise of a Sunday sunrise, where every chain is broken.

Every chain. Even addiction. Every addiction.

And that will make today *my* Good Friday. *His* Good Friday. Your are good...even on Good Friday.

Amen.

Friday, 23 March 2018

IN THE PIT


In my distress I screamed to the Lord for his help.
And he heard me from heaven; my cry reached his ears.
~ Psalm 18:6 TLB

It was the morning after the biggest betrayal in my life. The wind had been completely knocked out of me. Arriving in the office was like an escape for the day: where it would be okay to stay busy and not acknowledge my emotions. Out of habit, I flipped my desktop calendar past the weekend, and found the day's inspiration was Psalm 18:6, as written above.

"In my distress" seemed to be putting it mildly today. I had devoted my life to choosing someone who - as it turns out - was actively choosing anyone but me. I had literally invested blood, sweat, tears, finances, gifts and prayers into this relationship. And in a moment, none of it mattered. In a single heartbeat, I had been tossed aside. I was old-fashioned, fat and boring. Less than...again.

Zapped of air and void of strength, I had yet to confront my betrayer. Questions swirling in my head were held in by this lump in my throat. My emotional pendulum was swinging rapidly between deep hurt and fierce anger. Silence, I reasoned, was my best modus operandi until I had words and a plan.

"...I screamed to the Lord for His help." This must be one of the most realistic verses in the entire Word of God, and it found me. On this day. King David didn't come to God with a professional prayer. He didn't come to the house of God with joyful thanksgiving or with respectful whispers. Instead, David screamed to God from his hiding place. And although we aren't given David's exact words of choice, I bet we've used them a few times ourselves: God, where are you? Can You even hear me? Do You even care about me, still? 

In Biblical times, a person in a pit was associated with death. Pits served a purpose, such as watering crops and animals. To place a human body in a pit indicated someone was deceased, their body used to feed wild animals or fertilize soil. There are only 2 - perhaps 3 - times a person is recorded as surviving the pit. 

Joseph was the first. Remember when his brothers stripped him of his colorful robe and threw him in a pit? Jealousy can drive a person to do things they would otherwise deem unacceptable. Thankfully, conscience got the better of them, and the sibling group retrieved Joseph, selling him as a slave. Still, he remained stripped of his identity and far away from everyone he knew and loved. I'm so there.

Daniel was the second recorded survivor. He had done everything right, essentially becoming second-in-command in the kingdom. Still, jealousy found a way to sabotage him and Daniel found himself in a pit. Surrounded by lions. Stripped of position, void of companionship, in a place of complete darkness. Again...I'm so there. 

The passage concerning King David is somewhat unclear as to whether he was in a pit or a cave. Either way, it was a place of darkness and isolation. A place of soul searching. As far as I can tell, the only thing that separates David's dark place from Joseph's and Daniel's, is what happened inside.

We do not read of any response from Joseph from the depths of darkness. There is no record of his begging or pleading with his brothers: no cries for mercy or for help. Similarly, nothing indicates that Daniel cried for escape. Though I am certain they both prayed, we are led to believe their prayers were relevantly quiet and dignified.

King David, though? He was more like me. I love that 1 Samuel 13:14 refers to David as "a man after [God's] own heart," because it gives me hope that all my human ways are at least forgivable. In all of the Old Testament, David is the only character I recall described as screaming at God. Certainly Job had cause to, given the scope of his losses. If I were Abraham, I may have protested loudly when asked to sacrifice my child. Still, David's is the only confession to screaming at God in his distress.

I am in a dark place at the moment. I know that there is a way out, and that "Emmanuel" means "God with us." But I may need to scream to confirm to my heart and soul that God hears me, sees me, and has great plans for me. I would love it if my screams were balanced with some whispered prayers from friends like you. 


Blessings,

Vicki


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Lull


Lull. The very word is soothing, isn't it? And I love its association with stillness or respite. It conjures up an image in my mind of a time of refreshing, like an oasis in the desert.

It has been slow in my workplace this week. I commented to my direct supervisor today that we are either experiencing the proverbial calm before the storm, or I have missed something really big! His words were so reassuring: "It's the calm. Enjoy the lull."

What does this look like in the office? For me, it looks like arriving before the lights have been turned on and brewing the coffee. I pull a stack of coffee filters so it's easy for people to grab one at a time, and spend some time with my Bible while my e-mails load. I invite Jesus to walk through this day with me. Slow, easy starts to days that are steady, but not driving busy.

The busy days are coming. In a matter of weeks, there will be hundreds of registrations and warranty claims demanding my attention. Phones will ring off the hook, meetings will require attendance, and my daily devotional e-mails will be buried under hundreds of messages that may appear more important. I will struggle to find my balance some days. Until then ... enjoy the lull.

Confession: I wrote the above paragraphs a week or so ago. I was going to talk about how life in general was also on pause in my world. I would have told you that my word for 2018, "Refresh," has really summed up the first two months of the year for me. Winter is a season of hibernation, but a season nonetheless; I have found myself in a season of stillness. Sometimes the most refreshing thing we can do is to rest.

Today, though, the lull is over. In speaking to God aloud a couple of weeks ago, I thanked Him for the pause. I recognized my tendency to worry so much about what's coming next that I neglect to enjoy the moment. I apologized, and praised God for the fact that no matter what's coming, I do not face it alone. Then came the storm - both physically and virtually.



We had known the snowstorm was coming. It was a rare weekend where no travel was required, so I took full advantage of the opportunity to spend a whole Saturday in my pajamas with a book. It's easy not to worry about impressions when nobody is moving. A good storm can be anticipated in this part of the country, where you are required to drive for everything except your mail. Snowplows are a commodity reserved for parts further north, so a good storm can halt traffic for days at a time here.

Saturday, though, came and went without a single flake falling. Sunday morning arrived with light drizzle, but salt trucks were already on the highway as I drove to church. By the time I headed home, the commute was a challenge best met by restrained speed and whispered prayers. Still, it was early evening when the skies opened and the house across the street from ours seemingly disappeared.

Internally, I made no connection of how fitting it would be for physical and emotional storms to collide. So it was that I was blindsided. First by the letter in the mailbox, dated an entire year ago. Then by the letter in a social media inbox, advising me to have my Goodbye talk with my dad. Then by the discovery of a social media account under an alias name, belonging to someone who once meant everything to me. It has called me to question everything I thought I knew, and has cast a huge question mark over the future.

I am so grateful for the peace that passes all understanding! I am grateful that no matter what happens in coming days, I do not face this storm alone. Mostly, I am grateful for the lull. There is always a time of rest: a time to gather and restore strength. I will need another one when this time of turbulence has passed; how grateful I am to know that God's vision and His plans for me far exceed my own!
How blessed I am to have spent my time in the hallway, the lull, praising Him! This, too, shall pass. It's just another test becoming a testimony.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2018: My Year of Refreshing

In a moment of candid honesty, I would confess that I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's Day.

I love the image of a blank slate, dusty from lessons learned, but empty and ready for the learning still to come. I always dread, however, the reflection upon the past year's achievements...or lack thereof.

From a Christian perspective, I am increasingly frustrated by the overuse of Isaiah 43:19 in reference to the New Year, as captured in the image below:


I'll let you in on a secret: God doesn't celebrate New Years. He doesn't wait for the calendar's permission to address you or your situation. How do I know? I read the verse below:



Imagine, if you will, what it's like to live in Heaven's time zone. The 2,018 calendar years marked off by mankind are little more than 2 days in Heaven. At the same time, every single day is like a thousand years to Him. If you are a parent, or have ever experienced a challenging day in the workplace, you understand the concept of the day that never seems to end.

So what about the days you realize you spent a whole year missing the mark? Resolutions weren't kept, goals weren't achieved, or perhaps it even seems you moved backward. What about those days? And the ones that seem to last forever, and for all the wrong reasons?

Sweet friend, God made provision for those days. Just because He lives outside of time as we know it doesn't mean He has no idea how this works: He designed the system! We break the system down into days, hours, minutes and seconds - but do we forget that seasons are part of the plan, too? Consider Acts 3:19, where we are told that times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord. (Some versions of the Bible translate the word "times" as "seasons"  - I love the imagery that word paints!)


This year, as I look at the 365 days just passed and the 365 days ahead, the word for my New Year was nearly audible to me: Refresh. Last year was good, and I learned a lot from living by the word "defined." I believe I am on the right track, but I need a season of refeshing before I set new goals.

As someone who works with computers daily, perhaps I can draw an analogy from them. When you press the "Reset" button on a computer, all programs will shut down and you will need to restart each one. I would consider our cross-country move five years ago as a "reset." which required us to restart everything: our home, our jobs, and even our friendships.

Pressing the "Refresh" button on a computer does something completely different: it simply reloads the program you are working in without whatever factor was slowing you down. A season of refreshing, then, as applied to life, means you are doing good work, but you have some things to get rid of. This ties in beautifully with Hebrews 12:1, which instructs us to "throw off everything that hinders..."


For me, some things that hinder include anger, guilt, and low self-esteem. The low self-esteem is directly connected to my troubles with weight management, which I have begun to correct. The guilt and anger are tied to what seems like a whole other lifetime, but they directly influence my weight management when I eat based on emotion. So although I'm doing the work, I need to "refresh" and throw away the issues that slow down the finished work. 



I will take this season to be made cool and clean. I will first be emptied of things that hinder, then filled with peace and purpose. I will practice seeing each day as fresh and every moment as re-fresh. Refresh. Re-fresh. Fresh, and fresh again. As many times as required, until the work is once again moving forward without hesitation. 

I do not expect this season to be easy. I will put in the work because I am excited to see the results. I look forward to feeling lighter, both physically and emotionally. Because life is a gift, and the Giver is good. 




Tuesday, 19 December 2017

HOW MANY MORE?

I am brushing my teeth in the morning when little feet come thundering around the corner. The tousle-headed owner pauses briefly to hug my hips, then skirts around me to pee. Hugging me again as he leaves, he will find some random way to make me cry: like, "It's a good thing you have the beautiful light on, Mama, because you're beautiful. And I love you!" (The "beautiful light" is the Scentsy warmer.) I wonder how many more mornings like this I will get.


If I am dressed with my hair styled in time, I will get a few moments of cuddles in my recliner. Then it's coats and boots and out the door. We wait at the bus stop, and the favorite activity, when daylight allows, is Snapchat. I wonder how many more smiles like this I will get before he outgrows his mama.



A kiss on the lips and a play fight about "I love you mostest!" sees him on the bus and me off to work. I live all day for the moment we arrive at daycare and watch all his friends run and hide. There are shrieks of laughter as we open the door, followed by a rousing game of hide-and-seek. Hugs from my little buddy and all his friends - and kisses, if I promise to tell Santa they've been good! I wonder how many more days I can shower them all with love before they're all awkward and shy.


After supper there are games of war fought on moon sand, books to read, and  little time for video games. All are paid for in a currency of kisses or "lovin's." There will be random compliments on my beautiful necklace or my hair or my shirt. And when bedtime comes, my presence is a must. Each night I make him list 3 things for which he is thankful; each night includes some version of his wonderful parents, a mama who loves him, or something very similar. And the day ends with his head or his feet touching me. And I wonder ... how many more?



He may outgrow my hands, my lap, or my bed. But he'll never outgrow the corner of my heart. I look forward to all the future holds for this kid and his sweet, goofy friends. 💞

Sunday, 29 October 2017

TILTED HALOS

We were a few songs into our worship service this morning when I spotted it: the tilted halo on the light fixture just above me. I began at first to fixate on it, as a person with OCD does, but I was interrupted by what could only be described as a God-moment. It was a memory of a moment from earlier in my work week.

I had made an untimely joke in the lunchroom that morning. You know the kind: it's a harmless joke unless current events give it new meaning. Like saying "You're dead to me" and immediately realizing you have just lost a co-worker, and death is no joke. I felt like such a tool the moment the words had left my mouth!

Real tears blurred my vision as I confessed my major faux-pas to a coworker. Her words were so comforting! She assured me that those who have known me for any length of time know my heart and wouldn't be offended. Reflecting on thoughts from earlier in the morning while standing in front of the mirror, I asked, "Are you sure? Because I often wonder if anyone here knows that I actually love Jesus. I mean, you all see me wearing skirts and hear me singing Christian songs ... but you also hear me losing my mind and swearing. I feel like the message may get lost in translation."

OK, so this is my confession: I carry more guilt to bed each night over my struggle with swearing than possibly anything else in life. To me, it is the most visible flaw that occurs on a regular basis. Have I done worse things? Yes ... but not on a continuous basis. This one battle makes me feel like I should order several t-shirts for daily wear that say "I love Jesus, but I cuss a little."  Just so it's clear that I'm double-minded and clearly unstable.

As this memory interrupted my thoughts this morning, a voice inside me began to speak about tilted halos. Does that tilted halo diminish the effect of the light bulb? No. Does the tilted halo need replaced? No - just repaired. Does the tilted halo decrease the value of the light fixture? No - because it's not damaged, just misaligned.

This is a truth regarding my life, as well. I can become misaligned with the Body of Christ - but Sundays are a time of realignment! Christ has no intention of removing or replacing me - just perfecting me! And my flaws do not diminish His light! They simply serve to highlight the choice we all must make: do we focus on imperfect people with tilted halos, or do we look past them to the Source of Light?

In that moment, I was able to move from becoming fixated on the flaw into smiling. In fact, I may have laughed out loud. It's strange what God will use to get our attention from time to time. Today, it was the oversight of someone who was likely cleaning or replacing light bulbs. I am forever grateful that it gave me a picture of how all things are redeemed by the One Who loves us best.