Pain in Hiding

This summer I attended a women’s workshop to wrap up of the Christian Virtues class I took in the Spring.
For one of the exercises, we paired up with a partner to practice sharing and listening skills. The goal was for the sharer to communicate a problem to the listener, who would then reflect back the problem and if possible, help solve it. The partners then switched roles and repeated the exercise with a different scenario. Some scenarios were fictional, but my partner, Sue, and I chose to use situations taken from our lives.

The situation I chose to share was from a pivotal and extremely difficult time in the 1990’s. When it happened I never shared my personal pain with anyone. Instead, I hid my pain, allowing the enemy to pull me into a downward spiral that lasted more than a decade, nearly costing me my marriage and my family.

During the workshop sharing exercise, Sue heard my pain without judgement, then gently offered me guidance and God’s love. More than fifteen years after the fact, I learned a valuable lesson:

If I would have done this years ago, I could have saved myself and my family lots of heartache!
 

LISTENER and SHARER

Both are important roles we will play several times in our lives with various friends and family members. 

How good are we at listening?
Most of us not good at all. 

How good are we at sharing our feelings and pain?
Not much better. 

How can we improve?
Practice.

God loves us and puts the right people in our lives at just the right time. The challenge is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, so we can recognize the person who needs our listening ear or feel that gentle nudge when it’s time to share our own struggles.

By internalizing our pain to avoid embarrassment today, we may set ourselves up for future suffering.

We must be willing to share our pain, open up our vulnerabilities and risk bring judged in order to receive potential inner healing.

Don’t go thru your pain alone!

Look around. Reach out… God has given you a friend who will understand and walk with you.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.~Proverbs 17:17 NKJV

Are You A Prisoner?

Looking back there are many things I don’t remember about my life. For various reasons I wasn’t present or walking in awareness of my reality. Instead I was a prisoner in my own mind. A Prisoner of the Moment...

 There are many ways one can be A Prisoner of the Moment here are some:

1. Distracting ourselves with things of the world prevent us from being present.
2. Focusing on a memory or fantasy prevents us from being present.
There’s no doubt living in the moment is critical to living a healthy life.
People use a variety of things to stay out of the now. It may be an Internet pornography addiction with an out of control fantasy life, drugs and alcohol; food or sex; sports and entertainment; shopping for more and material possessions, staying constantly surrounded by people or involved in too many activities, etc… ad infinitum, ad nauseam… all to numb themselves from their painful reality.

They all do the same thing, keep us from dealing with who we are, where we are and what we’re feeling.

If we constantly keep ourselves from the present, our lives have no thread of meaning running through them. We remain empty vessels living with no eternal purpose; just taking up space; a zombie-like walking dead person.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived enough of my life that way! I don’t want to live just floating along on the breeze; wherever my current fantasy takes me. I want to go forward aware, intentional, making a difference in my life and the lives of others, living each moment with an eternal perspective.
Are you keeping your self-preoccupied or distracted so that you don’t actually live your life?
What are you doing today that will have an eternal impact for yourself or others?

There is only one thing worth being concerned about. ~Luke 10:42

Working the Steps: Step 8

In my personal recovery walk I focus my daily devotions on the Step that coincides with the month of the year. For the month of August I’m focusing on Step 8. 

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

In Step 8 we start to grow up. We begin doing things that mature people do–taking responsibility for our actions and the wrongs we committed.

Prior to this we have focused mostly on ourselves. In Step 4 we took our moral inventory. In Step 5 we admitted our wrongs. In Step 8 it’s time to look beyond our self to see how we affected those around us.

Step 8 is a very humbling experience. We must recognize our part in the harm that has been done to others. Removing our need to blame others and accepting full responsibility for our actions.

Like our personal inventory, remembering the faces of those we have hurt, can be a very painful process. We must write their names down, carefully considering our relationships and how we harmed them.

Total honesty with ourselves is important in making restitution and going forward with peace of mind. But along with the pain of recognizing the damage we have done, comes a welcome relief that we’ll no longer cause these injuries to our self and others.

Once the list of those we have harmed is prepared, we must ask God for the willingness needed to make the amends. With His help and in His time we can. 

 Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~ Luke 6:31

Book Review: Real Sex ~The Naked Truth About Chastity

Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity
by Lauren F. Winner
Published by Brazos Press 2006
183 pp

Wow! …Is the best place to start with Lauren Winner’s hard hitting book Real Sex ~ The Naked Truth About Chastity. I’ve taken a long break from reading, so it took me a bit to get into; but once in, I couldn’t put it down and plowed through it in one day.

Ms.Winner beautifully and intelligently takes on the subject of sex: sex in our culture and the community, sex before and after marriage, sex and single adults and most importantly sex and the church. Real Sex is conservative yet honest, direct and engaging, intellectual (keep a dictionary handy) and best of all–completely scriptural!

Real Sex is a must read for every Christian adult, single or married. Parents, read it and share what you learn with your teens and tweens. There are excellent discussion questions in the back of the book for small groups or family talks around the dinner table.

Ms.Winner teaches us valuable lessons about how our culture and the Christian church view sex and deal with chastity. She raises some great points that will leave your thinking about what we should do differently. We would all do well to step up to the challenges she humbly puts forth. This book would be an great resource for single and married adult ministries as well as youth ministries across America.

In the last 6 years I’ve read numerous books on sexuality, secular and Christian. But I have yet to find a more relative book that speaks directly to my testimony and the ministry to which I have been called. Blessings, gratitude and applause to Ms. Lauren Winner. I am now a huge fan!

I highly recommend Real Sex~The Naked Truth About Chastity and intend to use it regularly as a resource for my ministry…

Working the Steps–Step 7

Continuing my goal to work The Twelve Steps, one Step for each month of the year; focusing on Step 7 for July…

Step Seven:
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Step Seven is critical to the cleansing process and will prepare us for the next stages of our recovery. In the first six steps, we became aware of our problems, looked at ourselves honestly, revealed hidden parts of ourselves and became ready to change.

Step Seven is the opportunity for God to remove these hidden areas. If you are anything like me, your list is long and painful to reflect on. That pain may bring us to our knees, but what better place to humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer.

We must not hold anything back. It is only in surrendering everything to Him, that we will find true healing and freedom. We must take the inventory list and give each item to God; only then will we experience the serenity that brings the true joy we seek.

Going down the list of shortcomings can cause us to dwell on our self. To take our mind off self, we can meditate on Christ’s presence in our life, on being free to live life following His example. We will soon begin to care more for others and put our self in proper perspective. We will begin to understand who we are and find joy in becoming the person God wants us to be.

To truly humble ourselves in the biblical sense, we must see ourselves as God see us. This can be difficult when our entire life as been spent seeing our self as worthless. By reading and meditating on God’s word regularly we will find the value God sees in us and His plan for our life. We must empty our self like Christ did, surrender to God’s will, serve others and thereby fulfill God’s plan for our life.

It takes faith and courage to ask God to remove our shortcomings. We must trust that God hears us when we pray and believe He wants to answer us. We may not feel or sense an immediate change, but in thankfulness we can go forward confessing that God has heard our request and has begun the change in us. In time change will come to our sight.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. — Psalm 51:10-12

Originally posted January, 9, 2009

Working the Steps: Step 6

Having been out of town the better part of the month, I’m late posting June’s 12 Step work. Better late than never 😉 Blessings…

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Getting ready for God to remove character defects in itself is a process. Some character defects are like old friends, comfortable and available.

We can’t even get ready with out God’s help!

In Steps One and Two we realized our powerlessness and found God’s Power to be greater than ours. Step Three we turned our life and our will over to God. Steps Four and Five we admitted hard truths to God, to ourselves and to another person.

Now in Step 6 we wait for God to do some internal work on our hearts. It’s not an action step on our part, but rather preparation that will enable us to become ready to release our character faults when the time comes in Step 7.

This is not quick work. Most of our character defects have been deeply ingrained in us since childhood. These patterns of behavior were often used as coping mechanisms in a traumatic environment. It will take time and practice to switch from our comfortable character defect to trusting God and allowing Him to be completely in control.

We must see our faults not as comfortable friends but harmful behaviors that have begun to control our lives. Once we know the truth about our faults and what must be removed; we can overcome our fears and with God’s help, gather our self in readiness to go forward in recovery.

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.~ James 4:10

Confession – The Road to Freedom

Not long ago I heard a song called Between You and Me by DC Talk. The song sparked a blog in me and goes beautifully with my Twitter devotions for May focusing on Step 5…

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

All 12 Steps are important, but I believe this one to be critical. Those of us who’ve had obsessions, compulsions and addictions, understand the power held over us by our secrets; a power that can only be broken with confession.

Because the nature of our addictions can be very personal and sensitive, it’s essential to exercise care in choosing the person with whom we share. This person should be detached from our situation (not a family member) but a trustworthy, compassionate female friend, pastor or therapist.

In confession we’re able to be honest about our past and express deep seeded grief; our long carried shame is finally relieved and the barriers of isolation that we’ve had between God and others begins to break down. With the courage to acknowledge our wrongs comes a new energy that will motivate us to change our lives. 

Do you have a secret that’s holding power over you?

Don’t wait! Contact a trusted woman to share your burden and find freedom today!  

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. ~ James 5:16 MSG

Sometimes Ya Gotta Fake It Til Ya Make It!

 Are you struggling to make needed changes in your life?

Whether you’re an addict trying to stay sober, wanting to lose weight, repairing an unhealthy relationship, trying to get on a better schedule, or just making it through life difficulties; we all struggle with changes. 

Maybe…

You don’t feel like finding a 12 Step accountability partner. 

You don’t feel like starting the exercise program at the gym. 

You don’t feel like going through relationship counseling.

You don’t feel like turning off the TV so you’ll be rested tomorrow.

You don’t feel like reading the Bible for guidance today.

Usually we can’t trust our feelings. It’s certainly dangerous to allow ourselves to be led by them. Instead, we should discern what the next right thing is and do it.   
 
“Do the right thing even when it feels wrong!” ~ Joyce Meyer

It’s easy to sit back and say, “I’m gonna do this or that.” But unless we actually do something, it will just be a bunch of words that mean nothing. We can’t forget people are watching us; friends and family members, most especially our children. Our credibility may be on the line and we don’t even know it.

 “If we want what other people have, we must be willing to do what they did to get it.” ~Joyce Meyer

Sometimes we may need to go through the motions until our heart gets in sync with our actions…  

Act as if or Fake it til you make it. (Wikipedia’s definition) 
~ to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence. 

Whatever it takes!!

We long for things to be different, healthier, to live a transformed life.

But we are afraid to change.

When we realize we don’t have to walk the path of change alone, that fear is removed.

God can give us the needed courage, determination and peace to take the necessary steps that will bring the desired changes. But it’s up to us. We have to reach out for His hand before He will help us.

Let’s pull ourselves together with a good attitude; pick up our Bible and walk with the Lord.
In the strength of His promises, we can do the work to change for the better!

God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that He won’t stop before it is complete…~ Philippians 1:6 (Contemporary English Version)

Book Review: Dirty Girls Come Clean

May 2010 at a XXXChurch conference in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to meet Crystal Renaud. With her interviews just published in Christianity Today and The New York Times and an upcoming book, The Dirty Girls Ministry was taking off like a rocket. Anxiously I awaited the opportunity to read Crystal’s story.

In Dirty Girls Come Clean, Crystal Renaud breaks new ground by coming clean about her own pornography addiction, along with 6 other girls. With stories that are touching and transparent, these women are breaking a silence that is long over due in the recovery arena. A well rounded recovery book, Crystal provides the necessary steps and resources for women to find hope, forgiveness and healing.

Pornography addiction, like other addictions, knows no religious or age boundaries. There are millions of Christian women hiding in the shame of this addiction. If you, or a woman you know, struggle with a pornography addiction please get this book. Teen girls and parents this is a MUST READ!

Embrace Yourself

As women, we often compare ourselves to other women; either to those we know or women in the media. For me this resulted in a love – hate relationship with the mirror that began at a very early age.

Growing up I was very much a tom-boy. When I was 8, my brother, Wayne, who had cerebral palsy, died of pneumonia at age 12. I thought if I was more like a boy, I could soothe my father’s heartache by taking Wayne’s place. Maybe then Daddy wouldn’t drink so much and be mad all the time.

To further complicate things, a Playboy calendar hung in our family bathroom. So for 18 years I stood on the bathroom scales comparing myself to the ‘Bunny of the Month.”  I was trying to be my daddy’s boy, but because I was a girl, I felt expected to grow up and become a magazine centerfold. That’s what daddy likes, isn’t it?

To get the love I so desperately needed and wasn’t getting from my father, I began acting out sexually with boys on the playground early in elementary. At the same time, I was sexually aroused by the calendar photos and began masturbating regularly. I was deeply conflicted and unknowingly stayed that way until I was almost 50 years old.

Don’t discount the power of pornography. The Playboy images forever changed me. In fact, I still remember many of the women, even details about the pictures. Because of this, unwanted same sex attraction has been an on going struggle for me in my 6 years of sexual sobriety. 

It sounds silly, but I’m writing this blog after deciding to grow my hair out.

Those who know me, know my hair has been extremely short most of my life. In recent days, I’ve realized that as long as my hair remains ultra short, I continue to have butch tendencies that lead to wrong thoughts, which if continue unchecked, could develop into unhealthy and unwanted behavior.

Perhaps if I grow my hair out it will help me truly embrace my femininity… then the mirror can finally become my friend.