Ponderize 11-17 –Proverbs 22:24-25

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Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt no go:

Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.  –Proverbs 22:24-25

   I chose these two verses because they stood-out in regard to their potential relation of dealing with abusive situations (or avoiding them to preserve our own welfare and health).

  It is always difficult to deal with those who have anger issues, especially if it is something they unleash on others. When it is someone we love, we want to find ways to make excuses for them, believe it will get better, or even try to tell ourselves we somehow are the source (thus if we change things about our own selves, they will be happy, and no longer have their issues). Really, none of that is true. We should not ignore the behavior (or blame it on other things), we should not try to lighten the truth of things/ tune-it-out, and we most definitely should not blame our own selves (which is natural, because it gives us a false sense of feeling in control of something that really is not in our control). When allowances and excuses are made for those who have anger/ abusive issues…. all it does is prolong, and increase the amount of damage that they will cause to you, or to others ( if there are children involved who could be harmed either directly, or indirectly via seeing the anger displays, or someone else being hurt or demeaned).

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt no go:”

  This is very direct ( though I believe “man” can be replaced with person, because really it applies to women as well…..who I know from first-hand experience can have these issues), and bluntly says that we should stay clear of those who have any kind of anger issues. I suspect “furious” is used to describe any kind of violent actions that occur along with angry outbursts. I view this kind of as road signs— “Danger!”, “Do Not Enter!”, “Hazardous Conditions Ahead!”—essentially a direct warning in scripture intended to help us avoid harmful conditions…..physically, emotionally, mentally…. and spiritually ( because anger/ abusive people can hurt us on all of these levels).

Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

  There are so many ways that we can be internally impacted and changed by the behavior, and anger of others. Firstly, it is very possible to slide into their ways, even it is not who we ourselves normally are. Over time, abusive behaviors can become “normalized”…..so we look for ways to adapt to the person and situation. For some it can be to constantly give ourselves over in attempts to appease them, or it could be by taking on some of their traits in order to try to communicate on “their level”, or combat with them. We may find ourselves yelling, and having our own emotional/ angry outbursts because it seems to be the only way to communicate with them. They very well may press and push us to fight with them so that they can better unleash their anger, or even use the response against us (make-out that we are then the bad one). Some people use moody displays, demands, anger etc.. as a way to constantly test others to see if they will comply with them, soothe them, give-in to their demands etc….or even as ploys to prove that they are loved (or as a way to manipulate what they want). They are toxic tactics that should never be ignored, or excused-off as “insecure”, or anything else (meant to “downplay” the issue)…..because they cause harm to others, and are ultimately self-serving. Essentially these are not the signs/ behaviors of a healthy, loving adult…. it means that their interests and motives are more focused on their own needs and wants, no matter what they may say in contrary at other times.

  It can really twist us around, and confuse us to have someone seem so charming, sweet, and loving one minute, and then the next have them raging, crying, making demands etc….. We may even put-up with the negative behaviors hoping that the sweet/ charming side is the real them, all the while ignoring the damage caused by having to cater to them, and put our own selves aside. We also may ignore the affect on us from dealing with the stress, and the constant worry that we have to monitor our own selves to prevent them from exploding again. No one wants to believe that someone they love is abusive, or selfish. We sometimes may even try to believe we can fix them. At first, being obliging can seem like the loving thing to do, but overtime if it is an on-going situation it can strip us of our our own sense of self, cause us to lose our sense of worth, and to ignore our own pain and needs. That is not how loving relationships work—- they are supposed to be equal give and take, and support each other’s needs on equal value. One person’s needs, moods, desires, anger etc… should not matter more than the other’s. So essentially, angry individuals can change how we ourselves act, think, feel etc… be it by infecting us with their behaviors, or stripping us down into shadows of ourselves through our tedious efforts to appease them.

  The truth is, if a person is not happy in their own self….. we cannot make them happy. We cannot fill what is lacking inside of them. We cannot solve their issues for them. They may think we can, or even should…. but it is impossible. Relationships are meant to help, support, strengthen—but they are not supposed to completely fill someone, give them identity, validation, or be a soul source of happiness ( yet sooo many people seem to think others are the key to solving their inner issues, and run person to person for that reason… always blaming their failed relationships on others). A person has to be able to regulate their own moods, and be happy on their own—-depending on others to do that for them just means sucking the life out of those other people….a constant never-ending drain that will never solve what only they can solve for themselves. This is why it is dangerous for us to be in those kind of situations. They will drain us as long as we let them, and likely not even notice (or care about) the damage that it causes to us.

  There are so many types of abuse, and thus so many levels on which we can be damaged. Even words can strip us down inside, and make us doubt our own selves, and feel we are not good enough….. especially if we feel like we are failing to make the other person happy ( and do not see that the real problem is that they themselves have a lacking that only they can fix for their own selves). There is nothing good that can come out of dealing with someone who lashes out in anger in any form…..it always will create damage.

  My mother ignored the abusive actions, and anger issues displayed by a man she was engaged to…. and married him anyway. I was the one who ultimately paid the greatest price for that choice.  Abuse ( in all forms) can continue to steal our life away from us long after the abuse itself has stopped. It is always best to leave as soon as someone demonstrates destructive, or aggressive behaviors. Some prices should never have to be paid.

  As for applying “learning his ways” to my own self….. typically, I am a very calm person mood-wise, despite everything I went through. I do not yell, snap, take things out on others, or in general have negative moods of that kind. At most, I may get a bit quiet and introspective at times, or just want to talk things out that are worrying me. I very rarely feel actual anger, and it takes a lot for me to feel that emotion. However, there is one exception to all of the above. There is a family member who quickly makes me feel tight inside, and on edge….irritated, angry….. I suddenly lose my usual patience, and do not feel like myself. I do not like myself when I am around them. I find myself snapping in responses, and acting impatient with them. This person has this same affect on others, and it largely has to do with their having narcissistic issues that prevents them from considering others, or listening etc… Essentially, they are in their own bubble, and not only do they lack the ability to consider the needs of others, or consider things beyond what they want/ have in mind ( no matter if you tell them repeatedly that it won’t work, or will cause hardships to other people)….but they also can be very vindictive when they feel other people have slighted them in some kind of way (this is my attempt of briefly explaining someone/ a situation that is actually very complex, and has a long history of manipulation, and abuse). The combination of past history with the person, their behaviors, and the struggle to communicate with them etc… drains energy, and causes myself ( and others) to take on similar characteristics….often as last-ditch efforts to get them to listen. For this reason, I have learned the need to distance myself. I have employed it as best as can be done for a long time now, while still taking care of their needs when needed. I still love them, but I had to recognize not only the past damage that they caused to me, but also the negative affect they have on me in the present—the reaction that I have to them that turns me into someone I do not like, or want to be. It is not easy, not in the slightest. At times I even feel guilt for how I feel, and for not being able to help more.. but in the end we just sometimes have to recognize that we may not be able to control others, but we can control things on our end. Sometimes it is imperative that we take the measures needed to protect ourselves from harm…. in various forms. That does not make us bad people, or selfish. It makes us people who love ourselves, and our loved ones enough to do what is necessary to protect, and reduce the potential for harm. Sometimes we truly have no other choice but to step away.

  It actually was of great help to me to discover something in scripture that instructs us not to form relationships with those who are angry/ abusive, and to essentially leave/ stay away ( “thou shalt not go”). It even warns of the damage that can be caused to us. It helps confirm to me that I am making the right choice in distancing myself from the family member who can be abusive. I also am glad to have a scripture reference that I can provide to others who are in harmful situations who may feel that they are being selfish, not honoring the other person, or commitments like they think they should….etc…. it just can be a help knowing that even scriptures instruct that we should protect ourselves from those who have anger issues, or are harmful to us.

 

 

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Short Story. “Matilda”.

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Last night I was looking for something, and opened a couple boxes that have been closed-up for years. It was like finding treasure chests filled with pictures, production programs, newspaper articles (from past shows), old letters folded into squares (that have yellowed a little)… etc…. In the mix I also found a few old papers and projects from my OSU days. The following is a short story that I wrote for a fiction writing class (I was able to retrieve it off of an old disc as well).

 

Matilda

  Matilda once convinced me that she was a genuine creature of magic. I had no reason to not believe her—she was the girl who could invent games with nothing more than paper clips, and rusted bottle caps. She looked at life with unique perspectives, and had a talent for always making the most out of circumstances. It wasn’t until I was in my teenage years that I understood why adults would look at her with drawn expressions…. or why other kids alienated her, and cringed when forced to choose her for their dodge-ball games. To me, that ten-year-old neighbor with the scabbed knees and self-cut, jagged hair was the friend who could ensnare me into the spell-wrought web of her imagination.

  Matilda could transform our shared back yard into an enchanted forest. The tangled, withered blackberry bushes could cause death at a touch, and the creaky, old swing–set (which was prone to tipping over) served as the “Quartz Castle”. I never questioned her when she told me that the huge, plastic bat was an ensorcelled sword. She would guide me on dangerous quests where that wondrous weapon enabled me to battle mystical beasts, and assist in removing the curse set upon her—typically a magical concealment of her true identity (some kind of lost fairy queen, gifted sorceress, or she-warrior). The theme often had a similar structure—a girl who secretly was special and full of strength, but for some reason was hidden and unseen by everyone ( save me).

  Rainy afternoons were my favorite. Sheltered under her stairs, we would consume hours attempting to out-scare each other with wild stories. Matilda invariably won, but she always listened to my stammers with earnest, wide eyes, and provided enthusiastic comments and suggestions for plot turns.

  Matilda’s house was inflicted with a chronic case of chaos and acute clutter, but the piles of laundry and old newspapers did nothing to dampen our endeavors at having fun. Her father was a withdrawn man who worked a lot (and spent too many late nights out at a bar, according to my mother’s complaints). He pretty much let Matilda do whatever she wanted. There were not any restraints within those walls—no one to yell when you did not pick up after yourself, or when you made too much noise re-enacting a scene from “Knight Rider”. Yet, there never was a parental voice to interrupt your play with offers of Kool-aid and balogne sandwiches either.

  We were on fifth-grade winter vacation the morning that I trudged through the slush over to Matilda’s house—anticipating the completion of our construction of a snow-fort. As I knocked on her splintered door, I inspected the donated Christmas tree that was still bound in wire, and propped against the porch where it had been left several days before. I played with the frothy puffs of air that appeared out of my mouth, and became increasingly curious when I did not hear Matilda’s customary eager steps pounding through the house. The sharp cold attacking my nose prompted me to turn-back towards my own warm home, but just as I began to descend the front steps, her door opened. She blinked at me with sleepy eyes, her chestnut hair even more disorderly than normal. I was startled to see that she was still wearing her Spiderman pajamas, but before I could tease her on it, she turned back into the house without saying a word, leaving the door open in an invitation to follow.

  I scrambled in behind her, and deposited my layers of winter clothing (that my mother insisted that I could not survive without) on the already tumultuous floor. When Matilda led me into the under-stairs alcove that was lit only with a small lamp, I expected her to launch into a new story. Instead, she plopped herself onto a cushion stolen from her living room sofa, and wrapped a faded flannel blanket about herself protectively. Her eyes trailed to an open album spread before her.

  I seated myself across from her, and then fidgeted with the long-strands of yarn attached to the shag carpet. As I combed, and meticulously lined-up the bright-yellow threads, I worried that Matilda’s out-of-character sullenness was something like what my mother said caused my older sister’s moods. It scared me to realize that Matilda really was a girl. I had never considered the matter before—she was nothing like the doll-huggers from school. She could spit farther then me, and out-run any of the other boys in our neighborhood. Barefoot.

  Un-nerved by the silence, I leaned over to look at the album. They were pictures I had never seen before…of a pretty blonde toddler dressed in a red velvet dress; her cheeks flushed like fat apples. Each picture depicted the girl opening a different gift, and a kind-faced woman who had glossy, dark hair was constantly by her side—assisting to remove the layers of shiny paper. I followed Matilda’s eyes to the bottom of the right-hand page, and the last visible photo. The child was pictured again, her hands and impish face squeezed tight in glee. Various gift bows were stuck to the down of her baby-fine hair, and she was seated on the woman’s lap, caught in a tight loving hug. Slowly, I realized that the child was Matilda, and I felt pretty bad for taking so long to recognize her. Her hair had darkened, and well….the disheveled girl before me had little resemblance to the plump, immaculate toddler in the pictures.

Is that your mother?” I asked her quietly. She nodded, and a hand escaped the blanket to slowly trace the shape of the woman’s face. I shifted, taking a tight grip on the thick carpet…. unsure how to handle the awkwardness of the situation. Matilda had never spoken about her mother before—save for wild fantasies involving magical queens and super heroes. I really had never put much thought into the matter. All I knew, was what my mother had told me a long time ago—that Matilda’s mother had died, and that it was not polite to talk about it. Curiosity erased my mother’s sharp face, and careful cautions from my mind.

She’s pretty.”

  Matilda’s hazel eyes raised, easing my discomfort by finally revealing an ember of interest. “ Really?” She asked, looking back down at the frozen images with admiration.

Sure,” I answered. “ She looks like she was a lot of fun. Was the weeble-wobble play-ground a present from her?” I absently pointed, and drew her attention to a photo shot under the massive, white-flocked tree that was smothered in clumps of crumpled tinsel. The lights on the tree (the huge kind with painted bulbs that get really hot), had interfered with the flash of the camera, resulting in streaks of light surrounding Matilda’s mother’s bent head. Coupled with the tender expression on her face, to my young mind, the lights made her look like one of the angels painted on the walls of my Sunday school classroom.

  A soft smile crept across Matilda’s smudged face—wrinkling yesterday’s attempt of a star tattoo that had been drawn near her left eye with a purple magic-marker. I recognized the distant look in her eyes that initiated every story she told.

Yeah, she was fun,” she explained. “ She use to sing a lot…like while cooking. There was this silly song about a sleepy rabbit she would sing when she tucked me in for bed.”

  Matilda’s voice paused, and her face tightened in thought. “I wish I could remember how that song went.” She thought some more, then hummed a couple lines, but gave up…. dissatisfied with the results.

I use to love it when she vacuumed, ‘cause she would let me stand on the machine, and then push me about while making car sounds. And sometimes,” she continued, “ We would eat lunch off of my toy china, and she would pretend to feed graham crackers to my Raggedy Anne doll.”

  I watched Matilda closely as she fell into another round of memory-searching silence. After a while, it was broken with an unexpected detonation of laughter. I looked at her curiously as she rocked on her cushion, hiccuping between her giggles from lack of air. She gave me a sheepish expression, as if just realizing that she had not shared the cause of humor with me. Gaining control of herself, she let the blanket fall to the carpet, and leaned forward so that her elbows rested on her thighs, and her face pressed towards mine.

One time,” Matilda began, “ She made this play-dough for me out of flour, salt, and water. We used cutters to shape the dough like ginger-man cookies, and then we decorated, and baked them so that they looked real. After dinner, she sent me out to Dad with a whole plate of them—and he really ate one! You should have seen his face! He tried to eat it, thinking that the cookies were real, and was afraid he would hurt our feelings if he told us that the cookies were bad. Mama laughed so hard that she cried.”

  The image of her happy mother was easy to visualize as Matilda resumed her laughter and rocking, threatening to loose her position on the cushion. Imagining her quiet father in that predicament caused me to combine my own laughter with hers.

  Wiping at her eyes, and then pushing back at her tangled-hair, Matilda’s smile did not falter as she proceeded to share another memory. “She smiled all the time too, no matter what. Even when her hair started to fall out on her pillow, she smiled.”

  I stopped laughing, startled at the picture she had just presented, and at first I wondered if I had heard her wrong. I thought of asking her to explain, but her soft voice rambled on, and soon had me thinking of other matters.

When they had to take off one of her legs, they brought her home from the hospital in a wheel chair. I was only four, so at first it really scared me, and I cried because it hurt to see her like that—you know?” Matilda looked up at me, but continued before I could answer.

She wiped my tears off, and told me that there was no reason to feel sad. She said that she had traded her leg in so that she could have the special chair—because wheels were much more fun to move around on than plain old walking. I remember that she pulled me onto her lap, and gave me rides around the kitchen to prove to me how much fun she was having. When I asked if I could give one of my legs to have a chair with wheels too, she laughed and gave me a hug. She told me that I wouldn’t have to because she would share hers.”

Matilda’s face darkened, and she whispered in a tight, diminutive voice, “I miss her.”

She bit her lower lip as her eyes glazed with hot tears. “Mama told me that she was going to have to go away, and that when she did, she didn’t want me to cry… or to be sad. I didn’t understand what she meant by going away. I thought it was like one of those trips to the hospital, and so I promised her that I wouldn’t.” Struggling with her words, Matilda attempted to wipe away the failure of her promise with the back of her hands.

When Grandma dressed me in a new, dark dress, and lectured me on how little girls are ‘pose to behave, I thought I was being taken to the hospital to visit Mama again, and I couldn’t wait to show her all the presents everyone had been giving me—even though it wasn’t my birthday. But she wasn’t in the hospital. She was in a cold, black box—shiny like my Mary-Jane shoes. When I tried to lean out of Dad’s arms to ask her why she was sleeping in such a strange place, he pulled me back, and covered my mouth. He told me that Mommy had gone away, and that she wouldn’t ever be able to wake-up. After that, all I remember is not believing him, and calling out for her to tell him that he was wrong—and then I was taken away, and I never saw her again.”

  Matilda’s head drooped, and she hid her face and shaking shoulders from me with her uneven hair.

  I didn’t know what to say to her. It was Matilda who was always brave and strong—not me. Looking at her, and thinking of what she had just shared with me, I realized where it was that Matilda had received her spunk—that creative nature that lured me to her. I told her what I thought, and the comparison to her mother caused a slow smile to claim her tear-streaked face. She gazed at the photos for a while longer, still wearing that dreamy smile…. leaving me to sit in silence in that alcove where in future years she would give me my first lessons in kissing.

  After a time, she looked-up, and treated me to one of her crazy, illusory tales—as if nothing out of normal had passed.

  She never really spoke about her mother again, but occasionally over the years, I would spy that photo album open on the bed. The picture of her sitting on her mother’s lap eventually appeared tucked within her wallet. For Matilda, that woman who had so briefly been in her life was the light that inspired her—just as Matilda will always be mine.

Ponderize 10-25

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Jeremiah 17:10

I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

 

God knows our heart. He knows what is within us at our greatest depths, he sees behind any excuses and justifications that we make to ourselves in attempt to validate things we know deep down are not right, he knows every little inner lie and deception…..but he also knows our struggles, our weaknesses…..and our strengths, efforts, goodness, and love. He knows it all. There is nothing that we can hide, even if we try to conceal it from our own selves.

“I try the reigns”….possibly indicates that we are tested in some way according to what he sees within us. We may be tested due to lessons that we are seen as needing to learn, or given trials to evaluate our weaknesses and whether we can overcome them. He knows what tempts us, what our past failings have been—thus it is likely the things that we most struggle with that will be used to test our faith and loyalty… as well as to grow them. Tests are not meant to be easy. In life we do not give children simple tests designed to cater to their strengths, and what is effortless for them…but rather tests are an instrument to make one work, learn, improve, be challenged etc….so too does Heavenly Father likely examine us, and test us via what he knows our weaknesses to be, and where we need to be refined. He may also test us to see weather we choose him, or instead take paths towards temptations … which could lead us to adversity, and even harsher lessons if the “test” is failed.

“And give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” This indicates that Heavenly Father gives to us according to what he sees within us, as well as what choices we make, how we live, how we treat others ( and likely whether we choose Him, follow the teachings of the gospel etc…). Depending on the results, what is given could be blessings/ rewards…..or it could just as well be tribulations, and negative consequences due to caving to temptations, weaknesses etc… or even having dark elements within. We might even be tested multiple times in the same form until we “pass”, and then can be given greater things. It can be compared to driving. Do we just hand kids keys to drive? No. We teach them, and put them through challenge courses….and ultimately test them to see if they are ready to have that kind of responsibility and reward. If they fail the test, then they get put through the same challenges once again until they prove themselves ready, worthy, and responsible enough for greater blessings (in this case, the ability to drive). This could be said for anything precious we wish to achieve or receive. We typically want to see someone grow, and prove that they are ready to be entrusted with something that is a treasure, thus we do not just casually drop things in the hands of someone who has unsolved issues that could cause destruction on whatever ( or whoever) that blessing is. So, shiny temptations ( based on what is seen within us) may be dangled in front of us to see if we run off the path to grab for them, or if we are strong enough to stay on the path/ His plan, and prove both that we trust Him, and that we are ready to be entrusted with greater, true blessings.

To some it may sound like God is cruel to test us, put us through trials…make us have to reap the consequences of wrong choices etc….It may even look like punishment…. but really, it is all about love. It is about helping us to grow and overcome the issues that he sees within us. Without lessons and trials, without being made to face what most tempts and challenges us…. we cannot grow, or move closer in his direction, let alone be entrusted with precious things and privileges. Additionally, we are given what is needed to grow our faith, to help us see clearer, be receptive to the Spirit etc….none of which is something we just instantly come by. Sometimes it is through straying, or failing tests–seeing what it is like not to be on His path, in His light….that we learn the greatest lessons….. thus another possible reason why our greatest weaknesses and temptations are used in our “tests”….so that we can learn first hand what is truly “right”, and where we should place importance in our lives and choices. Ultimately, we are here to learn, grow, and choose if we desire to follow His plan–thus we are given the experiences individually tailored to help us to achieve those things.

At times, it may help us to remember that he knows what is within us, down to our utter-most bottom layer— it could encourage us to examine our own selves closer, and be more honest with ourselves… and the things we may need to improve on and change. It becomes harder to uphold inner justifications, and any “pretending” we may do to convince ourselves (or others) of things….if we pause, and think, “What would Heavenly Father say about what is inside of me on this matter? Would he say that my justifications are true…or would he see them as a means to hide truth….” Often, that could hold very crucial answers for us, and help us to see more clearly, and make better choices for ourselves….especially if we are in the midst of being given an important test unawares.

 

Ponderize 10-19

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My scripture of the week was Psalm 37: 7

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

The first line is pretty explanatory. We should put our faith in Heavenly Father, and wait for his answers, his timing… and trust that doing so is what will keep us on his path. Essentially, we should resist the temptation to take things into our own hands out of impatience, or lack of trust.

” Fret not”…How I read it, we should not stress ourselves over anyone who prospers, or seems to have accomplished gain via their own “wicked” ways/ methods. I think that it also indicates that we should not worry about the apparent lack of someone having negative repercussions ( or “punishment”) for achieving things for themselves in ill-begotten ways.

As I have mentioned in previous scripture-posts, patience seems to be a virtue (and skill) that frequently appears as something that is required of us to develop in order to be closer to Heavenly Father, and receive guidance. Patience builds our character… it tests our loyalty, trust, endurance, faith….and helps us to have greater appreciation and gratitude for the guidance, and blessings that we are given. However, patience can be difficult. It is easy to feel forgotten as time passes, especially as we watch others around us achieve what we so desperately long for. It can seem unfair to wait and obey, while we watch others gain, and achieve things through questionable methods. We may see those people as happy, and reaping-in great rewards that are denied to us….and then feel further slighted when they appear to be able to employ “wicked” means without any consequences. Seeing this may cause some to be tempted to cease “resting in the Lord”, and instead follow the example of those who appear to get it all without having to pay for their actions.

The thing is, we cannot see beyond the surface. We have no way of knowing the true situation of others– how happy they really are, how long things will last for them, or what the end result of their actions will be. We only see a small fraction of the story, and have no way of conceiving what their journey is, what their lessons to be learned are…..and what Heavenly Father has planned for them. In some cases, people may not even have awareness that they are doing something wrong. However, those of us who do have awareness may be held to a greater accountability if we step away from the path, and grab forbidden fruits ( per se).

Ultimately, we are supposed to look beyond immediate wants and desires, and look towards a larger, eternal picture. We should resist the urge to juxtapose our situation against the circumstances of others…. especially if it tempts us to become impatient, and abandon what we know is the “right way”—it could lead us in directions not really meant for us. Waiting, proving our trust and loyalty…..is what keeps us on the path that He intends for us, and towards eternal goals and blessings. Straying, and using other means may seem to result in immediate fulfillment of desires, but they very well could be temporary, rather than ever-lasting. It is all about keeping perspective on the big eternal goals, rather than the tiny, immediate mortal ones.

“Ponderize” Challenge.

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The challenge/ goal is to pick a weekly scripture and ponder it, memorize….etc…. Essentially it is a way to work at scripture mastery in small doses that will add-up over time.

  Last week I chose Galatians 5:22-23, and just thought I would share my “ponderizing” on my blog before I move on to a new one for this week.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

  Firstly, “fruit of” indicates that these are the qualities that result for/ are in those who are led by the Spirit. To me, this is a list of fundamental Christ-like attributes, and thus it makes sense that following promptings from the Spirit would help us to develop characteristics that emulate Christ’s example. When we are open to the Holy Spirit our perspective changes, we face challenges and struggles in different ways, our knowledge and understanding can be expanded, we are more likely to feel a sense of calm, and we tend to be more aware of, and loving towards others. Essentially, following that guidance, and establishing firm anchors….brings out the best qualities in us, and strengthens us to withstand struggles and temptations.

Love– Love is not just a feeling that we have for those who are close to us, but rather a way of living… a light inside of us that we can put into everything we do, and share with everyone. It is giving of ourselves purely to give ( without expecting anything in return).

Joy– I do not think this word is used to describe someone who will always be joyful and not experience hardships…..but rather the opposite. It is the ability to still find gratitude in times where things may seem bleak, and being able to see light within darkness.

Peace–Peace is the result of being calm within. We have peace when we our honest with ourselves, live our truth, and when we have a sense of direction and purpose.The first two help to open us to the guidance of the Spirit, which in turn steers us on the right path. Peace comes when we are able to let go, trust, and let ourselves be led….rather than when we try to force things via our own understanding and desires.

Longsuffering–Patience.That oh-so-difficult-P-word that is likely one of the most difficult things for humans to master, and yet it is often the most crucial element to gaining and achieving the things of greatest worth and value. We tend to want things NOW. We want to grab that food and gobble it up, we want to jump straight into the deep-end of the pool, we want to have our love story, we want to quickly build our dream house……. when in reality? If we eat food without giving it proper time to fully cook, we will get sick. When we jump into anything too fast before we have gained the skills to “swim”….we will drown. If we do not wait for the love story God has intended for us, we could end up miserable with the wrong person. If we rush and build a house quickly… it will not be solidly built, will have missing elements… and likely will crumble. Essentially, patience is at the heart of everything truly worth having. When we are led by the Spirit, and have trust… we will have the peace needed to help us endure the wait, and to resist the temptations that could cause us to stray in the wrong directions.The need to rush and push things does not come from the Spirit, and goes against one of the greatest things we need to learn. Longsuffering/ patience is what is listed as being the fruit of the Spirit…..but, no where in the list does it say willfulness, haste, disobedience, or defiance ( all antonyms of “patience”).

  Additionally, patience is not just about waiting for good things to develop and come to us– it also describes the ability to endure difficult things without complaint. It is holding to our truth, and our faith at times when pressure and temptations try to break us, and seek to block out the voice of the Spirit. It is the willingness, and ability to wait out the storm without jumping from the ship.

For me, it brings to mind how we respond to the behavior of children. When a child whines, demands, and keeps asking us over and over for something ( lets say ..a cookie)….do we just hand it to them? No, typically we refrain in order to help teach them that it is not acceptable behavior, and to help build their character and appreciation. If they try to steal a cookie prematurely, we likely withhold giving them any more until they learn and improve. We even test them to try to help them build patience—and see if they are ready for the responsibility of greater things. In reverse…. when a child is patient, polite, and does not try to force, or manipulate what they want….we reward them. We feel proud of them, and are maybe inspired to give them an extra cookie, or even a really big one covered in sprinkles…. due to their willingness to wait without complaint. So patience is a key element in those who are open to the Spirit…and thus, allowing it to guide us towards greater blessings than anything we could achieve through our own means.

Gentleness–Kindness. Being soft, gentle, compassionate…towards others. The ability to be kind even when others are cruel—not letting corruption sink in, and harden our hearts to the plights of others. The Spirit often works through us to help others in need, or to give them messages…so those who are open are likely to be seen as having this kind of quality.

Goodness– Doing what is right. Putting the needs of others before our own. Striving to improve ourselves, learn, and grow into being the best versions of ourselves possible….Using Christ as our core example. Again, its is about maintaining those things despite any battering rams that come to our gates.

Faith—Trust. For me, faith is another word for trust. It is trusting that there is purpose behind things, even if we cannot see it in the present. It is trusting that Heavenly father knows what is best for us…(even if it does not include the things we desire)….it is trusting that we are loved, and watched-over, even when we might feel alone.Trust is what also helps to make us receptive to the Spirit….and in turn, the results that unfold, and the things that eventually connect…. help to build our faith as we step forward and face new challenges.

Meekness–Meekness is not just about being humble. It is about being teachable, and obedient. It is putting aside personal desires, and having self-control in favor of being willing to follow the teachings of the gospel, and promptings from the Spirit. It also is about being patient….which is not surprising, because patience is a theme that connects in so many ways.

Temperance—Self-control. Self-restraint. The ability to resist urgings, desires, temporary pleasures etc….Basically, the things that can lead us astray from teachings, and eternal goals….as well as build-up walls against messages from the Spirit. It is about controlling sexual desires, selfish ambitions, retaliating in anger….anything that weakens us, and pulls us in a direction that does not lead towards God. Temperance is having the ability to withstand the pull and attraction of temporary shiny bait offered in the now, in order to achieve eternal happiness and rewards. It also circles back around to patience—being able to wait for what matters most, no matter the amount of time, or trials that may have to be endured through the process. If we let our desires and cravings take the wheel, it is not likely we will be willing, or able to hear anything that goes against those things that we want—-thus, we become closed to the Spirit, and will face the consequences inherit to straying. So, the ability to control ourselves, and keep larger, more important goals in sight ….also aids in keeping us open, and willing to be led by higher promptings and guidance that will lead us towards what we need most.

“Against such there is no law”–I think this means just what it says.There are no laws against any of the listed qualities. They are all noble attributes that result in goodness and love….self-improvement, compassion to others, and reaching our highest destination. It is a recipe list for the core ingredients needed for living a Christ-centered life, and being receptive to go where the Spirit leads.

The Story Behind Obesity That We Cannot See.

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The Story Behind Obesity That We Cannot See.

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I am going to be brave with this entry, but I feel it is for an important reason. We as a society are so casual at finding humor in those who are over weight (as is seen with countless memes, videos, comedians etc…), when really it is anything but funny. Many who suffer from weight issues have contributing factors to their circumstances– be it medical conditions, medications, or mental health. My own weight and body struggles stem from experiencing childhood abuse, and battling the Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted. I over-ate in an attempt to fill inner emptiness, and soothe pain. It was my comfort source.

I share this in an attempt to both soften, and broaden perspectives when we look at others. We do not know their situation, or their story.

In hindsight, I now realize I have always seen food as comfort, a special commodity….a reward….thus why I have also always had a little extra packaging. This too has roots in childhood. Food was not always available, so I gained kind of a distorted relationship, and value of it. It is hard to break the ingrained programing that says I have to eat everything (even though I am full) because it cannot be wasted, and it may be a while until I get a chance to eat again. In middle school, my sister and I worked in the school cafeteria despite being on the free-lunch program. We discovered that they would let us have extra portions, and sometimes we could even take home things like left-over chicken sandwiches. Now, as an adult….I still struggle with the food “hoarding” mentality, and thinking of it as something special to have.

It is very common for people to turn to outside sources in an attempt to cope, distract, fill, soothe etc… when faced with trauma or mental health issues. It is how, and why, many form addictions. Drugs, alcohol etc… are things we obviously know are not good for us…. but the unique element with food, is that it registers as something “good” and “nurturing” that we can give to ourselves. It feels like doing something to take care of ourselves—all the more so when nothing else feels in our control, and like we have no other way to meet personal needs. “At least I can take care of, and do something good for myself by eating this big meal.” This is why it took me so long to see what I was doing to myself.

A big part of it for me was reaching the “over-full” state. I over-ate because the sensation of “fullness” was an attempt to distract from the emptiness that I felt that was not physical. I tried to fill a soul wound with food. I almost ate myself to death, and did not pay attention to what it cost me….because my focus was skewed. It was a reflex, something I was not even aware of doing. I told myself my physical state was due to other reasons. I originally put the weight on quickly starting in late 2002, and into 2003 ( when my PTSD was at it’s worst). When the flashbacks and primary symptoms of ptsd finally subsided in 2006, I “woke-up” to my physical state ( but still did not address the cause), and worked hard to lose a large amount of weight. While on a vacation in Florda in 2009, I almost died from a MRSA infection (they think I got it from a Brown Recluse spider bite), and when it proved resilient to antibiotics they had to remove the infected tissue, which left me with a deep open wound that took many months to fill/ heal. During the healing time I was not able to be physically active, and the weight quickly piled-on……but instead of battling it once I was better, I instead felt kind of defeated and overwhelmed, and slid back into old habits.

PTSD causes flashbacks. Flashbacks are the resurfacing of past emotions, memories, and pain….only it feels like it is happening in the present. It can come in many forms, such as sudden emotional surges and panic. Often flashbacks can attack through vivid real-seeming nightmares, or even be a from of “day-mare” that takes you out of the current reality. For me, I had both sleeping and daytime flashbacks, and they were like experiencing a complete time warp—I was once again a child, complete with thoughts, terror, helplessness….and I could feel all of the physical pain. I relived things over and over, and it was a massive storage. It was as if somewhere inside of me, a pause button had been released. The impact that it had on me in the present was the same as it would have been had it all actually been happening….I even sometimes felt “phantom” pain… it was like my body and brain expected there to be physical injuries. When attempts to get help had unfortunate results, I kind of curled-up into my old training, and habit of dealing with things in silence, and on my own. I did not want to burden anyone. I went through it all once again without anything to counter it. I developed a strong need to feel in control, and keep myself safe…. thus why I eventually distanced myself from most things, and people for some while….and reached for food in an attempt to comfort myself.

The second element to my weight struggles is due to how I relate to my body. I have never really felt connected to it. As a child I told myself that they were hurting my body, not me ( I want to make it clear that my father was in no way involved). I often felt trapped by my body, because it could be used against me. I won’t  go into too much detail…but things spanned many years, and multiple forms. Touch was something I grew-up associating with being hurt/ pain because it was all that I really experienced. I also had it verbally ingrained into me that I was ugly, stupid, disgusting, worthless….no one would want or love me etc….So, the result was very warped (and untrue) perceptions of my own self, and my body. I have never really been able to dance ( unless it is staged), because I tend to be wound-tight, and it is hard for me to let go and just move like that…I feel awkward, and just do not connect to myself physically in that way.

I have a memory of attempting to puzzle-out my place, and why I was treated differently than other children. I think I was seven. I remember thinking of the jewelry box that an aunt who had passed away had given me ( the kind with a little ballerina inside). It was something precious to me, so I made sure to keep it high-up and safe on my dresser, and always handled it with care. I recall thinking how when people value, or love something….they keep it safe, and are gentle towards it. When people do not care about something, and see it as being garbage….they throw it around, stomp on it….don’t care about what happens to it, or if it breaks. Last year, I came to realize that on some deep, silent level… I still believed that was true about my body. It can be hard to place value on, and take care of something that no one else has ever treated with love or care.

I had thought I had over-come things. I had thought I finally was able to recognize my worth, talents, strengths…..but a year ago I discovered that I still had not addressed how I viewed my body, and that was the reason why I was hurting it without really paying attention. In my mind, instead of being the gift that it is supposed to be, I tend to perceive my body as kind of a beat-up car or vehicle…. and assumed others see it that way as well. Additionally, because I re-experienced being small and helpless in the flashbacks, I actually originally felt a form of security and protection with the size that I gained…which fed into my needs I had back then to feel in control, and safe.

As soon as I saw, and finally understood….I immediately went to work on changing things. I did not want to lose any more time, milestones, or opportunities to it. This last year for me has not just been about losing weight, it has been about re-structuring key things within myself…..namely how I view food, how I view my body…..and finding healthy ways to reward, and fulfill myself. Something about me? Once I recognize the source, and reason behind something….I learn from it, and correct it. Knowledge brings about self-awareness, and helps me to watch myself at times of risk etc….especially while I am still “re-wiring” myself. Its been a lot of work, but worth every step of the way. I like who I am becoming, and I look forward to finally reaching the weight/ size I am meant to be. I look forward to being healthy, and unrestricted in what i want to pursue.

For the record, I have faced things and owned my truth (it was needed to stop the flashbacks)….which is why I am able to talk about things more openly now (compared to the silence I maintained most of my life). It is also why I now can talk more about what is behind my weight issues, even though it is typically a very sensitive subject for most people. I decided that I am tired of having to hide everything, feel shame….especially when really, my struggles were a response to having experienced trauma caused by others. I would rather be open about it, and focus on feeling proud of what I have accomplished and improved for myself. Additionally, I have come to discover, that though sharing these things may not be comfortable for everyone, often it can be just what someone else needs to hear or see to help them not feel alone with their personal struggles.

I have interacted with many others who suffer from weight issues. I have seen so many stories of health issues, extreme stress, mental health battles, and even side-affects from medication. Though lifestyle choices are contributing factors, there often is so much more to it. I wish people would understand this when they see graphics and pictures with captions that make jokes out of people who in reality, have a type of illness.

Obesity is painful and debilitating. It physically hurts, strains, and damages the body…. and limits what you can engage in. Emotionally, it leaves you constantly self-conscious, and embarrassed to be seen. It isolates. People do not treat you like a person. They either look away and pretend you are not there, or they glare and stare. Some snicker, and point you out to someone else for them to have a laugh. They look into your cart to see what kind of food you are getting. You find it hard to get service, and once you do, they talk to you with the assumption that you have low intelligence. You are treated like you are someone of low status, and not worth giving time to. People let doors swing shut on you. You often feel invisible, despite your size.

I still am over-weight, and have a ways to go. However, apparently I am now in the “acceptable range”. People look at me, and smile. Doors are held open for me. My presence is acknowledged, and people say “excuse me”, or even ask me for help, or an opinion. I am no-longer talked to like a child. I even sometimes receive compliments. As nice as all of this sounds, it points-out how wrong our ways of viewing those who are obese are. I am still the same person that I was 100+ pounds ago. My IQ was in the 140’s then, just as it is now…..my degree did not disappear when I gained weight. My heart did not shrivel. And yet, the difference in treatment often makes it seem as if nothing else of worth about me could be seen when my package was larger. These are the kind of things that every obese person faces every day.

I make a point to look directly into the eyes of people, and smile. Obese, disabled, elderly….most especially. It is sad when I see a reaction as if they are surprised I am acknowledging them—that moment of hesitation while it sinks in before they smile back. That was me not very long ago.

Please try to look at things differently. Facebook, pinterest, youtube, commercials….everything is laden with making fun of those who are overweight. It isn’t funny. Someone wearing questionable things might hold some humor, but a person’s actual physical state should never be considered entertainment itself. This includes any kind of physical attribute or disability—I often see memes of pictures of people with unfortunate teeth, or other physical issues….posted as something that is humorous. They are still God’s children, and just because they are not physically perfect does not lower their worth as a person, nor should they just be seen as fodder for those more fortunate in those areas to use as amusement.

I am sorry if I seem to be ranting on a soap box. However, this article came about because I have seen a lot of memes used in groups, and pinterest pins that are labeled as “humor”. I have also seen recent news stories of grown women making fun of those who are larger than themselves, and hurtful statements being made in the media, and prominent online communities. It really has always made me shake my head, and it is kind of sad that it is only now that I am in the “acceptable range” that I feel I can say something about it. Our society has nurtured these kind of views, and I think most people just do not understand what it is they are laughing at. I shared my story to help put perspective on how there can be things behind the surface that you cannot see. To some, it might seem funny that someone is “fat”, and okay to laugh at them—but is it funny, and okay to laugh at someone who was a victim of abuse? Someone with an illness? Often it can be one and the same.

Love one another. Look past the package. The real value is what is contained inside. That is what is important, what lasts…. what we take with us. Beautiful souls are not required to have beautiful bodies….and sometimes beautiful bodies can have deceptive contents…..yet people seem to put more value on the outside, than the inside. It would be lovely if that could change.

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What “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Can Teach Us About Making Life Choices.

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An odd memory tickled my brain early this morning. Once upon a time (in the late 90’s), there was a website that allowed you to challenge others to a game of “Rock, Scissors, Paper” via email. A friend and I engaged in several rounds of the game, and at some point I got it into my head that I was going to choose “rock” for every challenge. Over and over, I clicked the rock….chuckling to myself (and thinking that I was being clever and funny) as my opponent went through the process of discovering that was the move that I was routinely playing. Now and then he would play a move other than paper, anticipating that eventually I would play something else to catch him off guard. However, I waited until he stopped playing anything but paper (and was obviously displaying frustration that I kept sending him challenges when I was not going to play anything but the same move), and then I finally challenged him one last time…. and played scissors. I won. So, what does this teach us? Well, firstly, it indicates that I was once very young and annoying, and perhaps lucky that said friend did not strangle me…….but it might also represent elements to be found when approaching life choices.

Ultimately “Rock, Paper, Scissors” is a strategic game of choices, and although the actual game itself appears to be simple, it actually involves many of the same thought processes that we use when making major choices for ourselves. When playing RPS, we watch for patterns….we try to anticipate what the other person will do, and thus what our best options are to be the victor. Sometimes we try to control the game by plotting ways to deceive and manipulate the other player so that ultimately we can surprise them, and win. And yet, many claim that the best way to play the game is to avoid analyzing or plotting, and to simply trust that letting go, and playing at random will be what will ultimately create the most wins— because the other person will be stumped with the lack of pattern to aid them in their own combative strategies.

When we make life choices, many of us try to analyze all elements to the situation to try to aid us. We strive to anticipate what others will do, what choices will have the best outcomes for us, and what possible negative results could occur if we take certain actions. Other times, we may plot, plan, and try to line things-up in a way that will lead to, or even force the results that we hope for…..even if it might lead to manipulating others, and practicing deception to get the outcome that we desire. However, how does the “random” RPS strategy equate in real life?  Faith. Trusting that God will guide us, and learning how to flow with that trust, and not force things due to thinking we know what is best, or because we are too impatient to wait for God’s answers and timing.

Rationally, it can appear at first glance that carefully weighing all elements to a situation is the best way to make choices (it is the course that I usually take)—this typically is true, because it at least prevents rushing into big mistakes impulsively based-off of temporary feelings or various other fragile elements…..however, it can also sometimes have the reverse issue of holding us back. At times we can be almost too careful, and get so wrapped-up in “this or that could go wrong”, that it prevents us from even making a choice, let alone “winning” at things, or finding peace and enjoyment in life. We can become our own stumbling block that prevents us from making choices, or we may even make choices that are fear-based that eventually lead us in the wrong direction.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. — Phillippians 4:6

Essentially, the above scripture teaches that we should avoid being overly careful or anxious….but instead, we should take everything (choices and trials) to God through prayer with a thankful, open mind-set and attitude. My interpretation on the “thanksgiving” is a reminder to approach prayer from a place of open gratitude, rather than with a stressful anxious mind that may not be able to hear, or receive anything through all of the inner commotion. It is about silencing our worries, our desires, and striving to have faith that Heavenly Father knows what is best, and that we have to sometimes let go of all of our intricate analyzing to allow room for him to guide, and have a hand in our lives.

   As for plotting? Oh how we strategize, and even twist things in order to “win” or get what we want. Sometimes we try to take the steering wheel, and turn it in the direction towards things that ultimately will not be good for us. We want to believe that we know what is best, and force things into the results that we want. Even though we might be able to do/get something, and even achieve what we desire, it doesn’t mean that we will result in truly “winning” (such as young me who “won” at the cost of aggravating a friend in a very negative way). There is always the possibility that if we manipulate things to get the outcomes that we desire, that it could actually be something that was not even meant for us in the first place (especially if we had to be deceptive in any form to achieve it). Our tactics can result in lying to others (and even to our own selves), or doing things such as pretending to be someone else, or claiming that we have interests, or skills that we do not…all in the effort to achieve a relationship, a job etc… Even though they may seem to be tactics that are excusable because they are done as a means to gain something “good”, in reality nothing that is truly right, or meant for us should require any kind of force or deception to achieve it. Additionally, at some point those deceptions will become known, and likely cause problems—-typically the loss of whatever was achieved via those deceptive practices.

Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord–Proverbs 19: 2-3

   So, the message in the first verse ( as I see it), is that it is not advised for us to allow ourselves to let our judgment get clouded, and to grab that steering wheel and force it down the road we want—especially if we have not received knowledge or answers that demonstrate that it is truly the direction we should go in ( or if we do it despite possibly having received indication that it is not what is best). It is acting on our own will…and though that is our right and choice, it does not necessarily mean that it will fit with what Heavenly Father would want for us. Compare it to when a child decides to not listen to, or take the advice of a parent due the assumption that they know what is better….even if they do not have enough experience or knowledge to fully understand what it is they are doing, and ultimately would fair better if they did listen and take that parental guidance.

   As for, “he that hasteth with his feet sinneth“, I personally think that it is a warning that rushing into choices could result in mistakes, especially when we do so on our own ambitions (without spiritual guidance/ knowledge). I personally have seen this demonstrated many times in my own choices, and also that of friends, clients etc… Typically, the needful inner voice that pushes us to race and rush indicates the desire to “cinch” something before anything could ruin it, get in the way etc… even if it is running form the simple tap of truth and reality that could eventually catch-up to the situation, and pop the fantasy bubble. Any urgent need to dive-in and make something happen fast is the sign of something within us knowing that what we are doing might not be right, or could change/ be lost if we give it time….so we have to make it happen quickly before anything can make it fall apart. The truth is, anything that we truly know is right should result in us having a sense of calm and trust that no matter how much time is given, that it will happen, and be there for us….that we do not have to rush, push, or force it into happening. It is akin to building something with snow, and wanting to rush it into form before the sun will come out and melt it…..as if that somehow will prevent the inevitable outcome. However, if we take time, if we follow guidance, and if we feel truly secure in our choice and plans…. then we have the time to build a solid foundation of sturdy bricks without the fear that something can easily destroy, or take it away from us. So, we must learn to watch for our own inner warning lights when we feel the need to quickly make something happen, as well as when anyone else tries to grab us up into their sprint towards an expeditious destination.

   Proverbs 19:3 indicates that it is through our own foolishness and desires that we can come to negative paths and results. The word “perverteth” hits me strongly, because it represents corrupting or twisting something to alter it’s original course or purpose—in sense, it is speaking of perhaps not only going against guidance, but even distorting things to make ourselves believe that we are acting on what God wants us to do, when in fact it is allowing our own desires to dominate, and misuse any promptings from the spirit to justify our actions, and what it is that we want. The danger in telling ourselves that we are acting on spiritual promptings ( when we are not), is that when things eventually lead to disastrous results, it then is all to easy to put the blame on having been guided incorrectly, and somehow betrayed (“his heart fretteth against the Lord”). We might even feel anger, and a loss of faith because instead of a blessing, we were given an extreme hardship….when in reality, we were acting on our own wishes, and created our own path out of “foolishness”… instead of truly listening, and receiving—-especially if it was because we did not want to hear, or follow an answer that revealed something other than what we wanted.

   Making choices is hard. It especially can be difficult if we pray, but feel we are not getting answers, or maybe are even hearing a small voice that goes against what we are hoping for the answer to be. We simply need to have patience for things to truly be revealed, and come to recognize the signs of things that point towards letting our ambitions lead us astray —rushing/impatience, using deception, rationalizations or justifications, and anything that moves us on a path that goes against what we know is right/ true…..or away from God himself. They sound like basic guidelines, but they are what will help us to keep our feet moving in the right directions. We have to learn to be self-aware, and honest with ourselves. Sometimes it is not just about having faith, patience, trust…and being able to receive spiritual promptings. It is also about being able to recognize when we have not received guidance, and when we truly are just racing towards our own desires.

   When we make selfish choices, or gain things through any form of deception….we will have to carry that weight and knowledge with us, which in a way taints whatever it is that we have achieved. We cannot truly be at happy, or at peace if we know deep down that something was gained through wrongful means. However, when we are honest and open, and make choices that are both spirit-led and healthy for us (without anything we have to conceal)….. that is when we truly can experience peace, and assurance that we have made the right choices.

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Suicide Awareness and Prevention. What I Learned When I Lost My Sister.

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I debated at length about writing this. Myself, and so many are still struggling to cope with the immense loss. However, what decided me, is the thought that maybe this could somehow help someone who stumbles upon it—be it someone in direct need, or someone who is trying to understand a loved one who is struggling.

It is still hard to say it in a public way. It is not something that we have hidden, or treated like a secret, and it is certainly not something any of us are ashamed of….. just, I think we do not say it directly because of how painful it is—the shock, and sadness that is so deeply felt from losing someone in that kind of way. We instinctively want to shield, and tip-toe around that which is so hard to understand, and which seems too fragile to touch. Even now, it is hard to type-out the word. I prefer to say that we lost her to depression. I feel that is the most accurate way to define it. It is the truth.

Pain. Pain is what causes it. They just want the pain to go away….and lose the ability to understand what else will end with it.

There are so many stigmas and mistaken beliefs that create obstacles in treatment and prevention. We have such a deep, long history of associating it with negative connotations– in large part ingrained from religious ostracization, and mistaken traditions in society that treat it as something that brings shame, or creates some kind of black mark on not only the person, but their family. These beliefs have created thousands of years of pain and struggle in the dark. In hindsight of how long these beliefs have been practiced, the shift to new ways of understanding and treatment is still relatively in a stage of infancy, and many still have old misconceptions ingrained. I think a good example to reference is the reaction to the death of Robin Williams. The Internet and media lit-up with debates between those declaring it an act of selfishness and cowardry, while others tried to combat it with explanations that it was depression, and thus something that debilitated his ability to think rationally. As tragic as it was to lose such a brilliant person who was loved world-wide, it was an event that both revealed how far we as a society still have to go in gaining understanding, as well as provided a way to bring more awareness and education to light. If only there were easier ways to create awareness. It is understandably something uncomfortable to address, all the more so due to lingering past stigmas….thus, it is crucial that we not be silent, and that we continue to educate and strive to break-down the invisible restrictions. It is why I am writing this, despite how hard it is. Every person who shares their story is another slice against those ancient bindings, and another light that is created to push back the darkness.

There are two common obstacles that create the largest challenges…. and the first is believing. It sounds like something so simple and basic, and yet it is one of the primary reasons why people are ignored, or fear that will be the result if they attempt to tell others. Something that I have learned, is that it is very common for us to try to twist scary uncomfortable things into being something else—be it child abuse, sexual assault, combat situations, mental illness, or anything else that is hard to face. We most especially do not like to think about those we care about as having been victim to, or suffering from terrible things—-so we seek other explanations. This is why so many people who are most in need are met with not only being ignored, but also being accused of lying in order to gain attention, or to excuse off negative behaviors and addictions. It seems far safer to tell ourselves that the situation is not real, and that the person is just creating some kind of fake ploy, stunt, or manipulation…. than it is to embrace a terrifying, and painful reality involving someone that we love. It is all the easier to do when the person is seen as having acted erratically or dramatically in some way—yet those often can be the very symptoms that display that something is truly wrong. At a time that people most feel alone, they are met with further isolation that can add to their pain, and to their beliefs that they are unwanted, unworthy, and do not belong. The rejection and denial can serve as a form of confirmation of the negative things that are being felt and thought. We need to always take it seriously, no matter how uncomfortable it is, and even if it seems like something that is just being said by someone to get what they want, or to gain attention. It is a risk that cannot be taken. We need to tell them that we believe them. We need to call for medical aid, even if we have fears or guilt that it could result in that person being held for a psychiatric evaluation—it may be exactly what they need. We need to not worry that the person could be mad at us for forcing them into care. It is far better to have their wrath and blame for a while, than to never be able to hug them again.

The second obstacle is the old stigma and belief that it is an act of selfishness, and weakness of character. In addition to the fear that people will not believe them, those who are suffering often do not say anything because they are afraid that it will result in being told that they are a bad, selfish person for feeling that way (or considering to do such a thing). No one wants to be told those kind of things, let alone someone who is struggling against inner voices that are already pushing in that direction. The guilt and fear keeps people trapped, isolated, and from getting the treatment that could help them. The thing is, when a person is deeply affected by a mental illness such as depression or PTSD…. the pain, despair, and negative thoughts can drown-out everything else, and make the person incapable of thinking clearly, or seeing things in any other way. They can truly believe that they have no worth, and that they do not belong—that they will never do anything right, have anything good, or be loved. While it may seem selfish for them to abandon loved ones, especially children—for them, they can completely believe that others will be better off if they are gone, and that they may somehow taint, or cause harm to those whom they love if they remain. They can literally believe that it is somehow an act of protection and love. The illness tells them that there is no other way to break free of their pain and suffering, and that they are not worthy of those that they love.

As a society we need to not only learn how to recognize that depression ( and all other mental conditions) is a legitimate illness that needs to be responded to with compassion and care, but to also get that message out in every way, and place possible. Imagine how many losses would be prevented if people did not have to fear negative responses, but instead could trust that they would receive kindness, understanding, and aid. What if education was so widely available that it might easily assist people to recognize warning signs not only for loved ones, but maybe even for their own selves? What would it be like if no one had to feel ashamed, or fearful of how others will respond? That is what we should be striving for. However, in order for that kind of change to happen, it is something we all need to take a part in.

I am writing all of this as someone who understands. I overcame C-PTSD…..and I lost my sister seven months ago today.

People who have meant well have tried to compare it to when they have lost their loved ones to natural means…..but the truth is, as heartbreaking as every loss can be, there are elements that are unique to losing someone to depression. To suicide. Those they leave behind not only grieve their absence, but are left in torment as they struggle to grasp for answers—they get slammed with immense guilt, and the constant mental churning on what they could have possibly done to have prevented it. We blame ourselves, even when logically there was nothing that we could have done. Self-blame is a natural response when we cannot find any other sense of control, or explanations for what happened ( it is also a natural reaction for victims of any kind of crime or abuse). We torture our own selves, and are left forever haunted with wondering if there was any shred of possibility that we could have done something. Logically, I know that there was nothing that I could do…..and yet, even with that knowledge…. I still sometimes find myself battling those whispers that say otherwise. I had frequently been speaking to her for hours at a time due to the difficult situation that she was facing. I know that I was there for her. I know that I told her that I loved her many times. I know that I offered to go stay with her….. and I know that had she revealed the true scope to me, that I would have instantly acted on it—and yet, my mind still sometimes twists around all of that with, “What if I had…”, due to that instinctive need to find answers and control. It will forever break my heart to think of how alone she must have felt. However, the truth is, so many people had been actively helping her, and showing their love and support—family, and friends alike. She just did not have the ability to hear, or believe us. That is what depression does.

That call was the most devastating moment of my life— as I am sure was true for everyone who received that same call seven months ago. I had been sleeping, and woke-up to the phone ringing in the living room. Even though it was not unusual to get a call in the middle of the day, I instantly knew that something was wrong… something was missing. I bolted-up out of bed, and ran for the phone. I did not have long to process anything, so my first panicked thoughts were fears that what I was feeling meant that something had happened to my father. I answered the phone, and instantly asked ( without saying hello), “What happened, what is wrong?” My step-mother stammered for a moment, caught-off guard by the instant questions. She said the words in a sudden rush. I made her say them a second time, hoping that I had heard wrong. I then screamed. And screamed. I don’t know how long that I screamed and paced back and forth across my living room. Everything inside of me instantly felt ripped-apart in shattering horror and disbelief. What brought me back was the sound of my father sobbing, and realizing that he could hear me through the phone. I spent that first afternoon and night alone. I know that was confusing to some people, and my sister especially pleaded to be with me ( we have different fathers, so she and my sister who died are not technically related.. just to explain that I was not pushing away someone who was also grieving). I simply was too emotionally raw to have anyone around me, and I could not bare to restrain my emotions (which is my usual habit to prevent upsetting others). I periodically broke-out into more screaming fits, vomited, sobbed, and prayed through the night as I struggled to grasp that it was real… that my baby sister was gone. The next day, I held my father as he sobbed for his baby. There are no words to even describe how that felt.

The days that followed are a fog of grief …struggling to keep water down, going through pictures with my father, hugging her babies, blurry faces and hug after hug at her service…..and battling the disbelief that wanted to scream that it was not real. She was so young, beautiful, intelligent…loved…. It could not be real. But it was. It is.

There is this massive hole where she is supposed to be. There is no way to fill it. Every holiday, every special moment for my family….. will always have a crucial face, and beautiful laugh that is missing. Her children will grow through life without their mother, and her youngest may struggle to retain memories of her. The loss has forever changed all of us. I will always ache to hug her.

Grief is what happens when a piece of our heart is missing. Our love pours out through that hole, desperate to wrap around that which is gone….only it can’t. That is the most accurate way that I think I can describe it.

I share this hoping that it will help others to understand. I want to make clear that my intent is not to make anyone feel guilty that they could potentially cause pain for others. I have shared my experience and emotions in an attempt to demonstrate how much love was felt for someone who believed that none existed for her. I am just one of so many who loved my sister deeply.

I hope that if someone who is considering suicide happens to reads this, that maybe it somehow will get through a crack to help you understand that people truly would be deeply affected by your loss—that they would be broken—due to how much you truly are loved. This is truth, even if the depression and dark thoughts are trying to make you believe otherwise( Yes, they truly do love you. Please try to not tell yourself that none of this would be true in your case.). Additionally, I hope that if someone reads this who has a friend or family member who is struggling, that it will help to sharpen your awareness and understanding of the situation and person. Lack of education is truly a leading cause to these kind of losses, and that is a fault on our society, more than we as individuals. We of course cannot always prevent it, however, we can at least improve the odds through education, and creating a society that nurtures and supports…. so that more may feel safe in breaking their silence—without fear of being ignored, accused of lying, or being shamed in any way. They should be treated the same as anyone else who reports a serious life-threatening illness.

 

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If you are struggling, or suspect that some one is ( and need help with what to do), please call this hot line:

When you dial 1-800273-TALK (8255), you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Additionally, this is the website for the Lifeline Network, and it has a wealth of information for all ages and situations, as well as additional modes of contact and help.   http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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02-23-2015 02;34;29AM

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. –Mathew 5:4

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