Selfie Susceptibility for Saints

“She opens her mouth with [GOD’s] wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Proverbs 31:26

 

Please don’t miss that part about kindness. If you’re accustomed to only listening to that which sounds sweet to the ears, I may be about to speak some truth in love that may not, at first, seem so very kind. I winced a few times, myself, while writing it.

GOD has been pouring down His blessings on me, as of late, particularly within the spiritual realm to see and hear His Word in action. So when the LORD recently revealed that my heart would be filled with passion through the perfection of His brokenness, I excitedly looked forward to what was to come next. Little did I understand that His brokenness would flow through my heart to spark great compassion – meaning that I, too, would receive a large personal portion of that brokenness (for others).

You see, the man who now holds me near & dear to his heart and refers sweetly to me as “His Love” – and treats me with the utmost respect in every single aspect of my life – had been living his life as single for the past several years before “we” became an “us.” In that time meaningless expanse of void without me, he was also fairly indiscriminate in accepting the largest majority of all Facebook requests that came his way – without taking much apparently any time to go to each requester’s site to review that person’s character before doing so. Hey, he knew most of these folks from his past, didn’t he? Or at least they knew friends of his FB friends (who he may or may not have known). With such highly unquestionable credentials, he assumed the friends list he was accruing was made up of legitimate connections  – or he was just oblivious, as he carefreely inattentively went about playing online games with his sister and nephew while sporadically accepting and liking humorous, compelling (or attractive women’s) posts that popped up here and there. NO biggie, right?

“Above all else, guard your heart.
For everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23

I have several male friends who view/engage in social media outlets in this same way – as in, “Don’t make such a big deal out this. It isn’t real. Why do I need to pay that much attention to something that doesn’t get that much of my attention?” I, on the other hand, scrutinize every Facebook friend request as if it’s a job application for the Secret Service. Generally, if I don’t know you in “real life” and you don’t pass my character test, or you don’t come with a stellar recommendation by my friend who is your friend, you’re not making the list. Or, if you make it and you turn out to be a character, you’ll get black-listed fast! I have some guy friends who make fun of me for such intense scrutiny; but I have no desire to test the reason for my carry permit on some unknown stalker in the middle of the night.

So without getting too deep into this Mars-Venus issue, or my carry permit…

I’ve been awakened recently to how very often my Christian brothers get barraged with sensualized (and certainly sexually visualized) messages throughout social media and other Internet outlets. Of course, I perceptibly understand that many “offers” arrive through all sorts of outlets (from spam advances in email inboxes to interest requests in Messenger). I, too, receive my share of unscrupulous messages from (real, alias, imaginary) men seeking (my or anyone else’s) company. The difference is, men don’t worry so much about “stranger danger” as the recipients; and they generally don’t indulge so much in the practice of “visual advertisements” as senders. Perhaps the greatest danger isn’t from strangers. In case you don’t get what I mean…

latest_delete

An acquaintance my fella’ knew years ago in “real life” – but never noticed these photos were on the profile page of the year’s life in which he accepted her FB friend request. Granted, Facebook won’t classify these creatively angled shots as pornography, by any means – which is one of the reasons they abound, particularly on women’s social media pages – because they appear “innocent enough.”

About the only rare non-existent times you’ll see men taking photos like this are for movie-created fundraising calendars – and they still probably had to lose a bet! Men disdain the thought of themselves displayed like that. More interesting, the men with whom I’ve spoken (whether professed Christ followers or not) view women who pose sensually in selfies with some level of disdain – and most admit they wouldn’t look favorably on their own wife, girlfriend, daughter, etc. engaging in this type of behavior. Ironically, that doesn’t necessarily keep many of them from looking at other women as long as these women are posing & posting (without regard for how wives, girlfriends, daughters, etc. might perceive their actions).

In my quest on this subject, the more I heard and saw, my primary question became: How many women are actually putting similar types of photos on their sites?!

In my most personal investigation on this matter, I honestly wasn’t prepared for the number of women who had seemingly legitimate social networking relationships with my man (e.g., work, past school or community acquaintances) – along with a plethora of other men – whose histrionic personalities had driven them to engage in (repeated) not-so-innocent selfie narcissistic behaviors (usually with as many other men as possible) such as:
-making active pursuits through seductive words & images (either publicly or privately);
-stalking through social media outlets (or even work connections, such as the Social Security office) to (sometimes illegally) locate men in “real” life (yep, it really happened) to send pictures of themselves;
and/or
-incessantly posting overly-sensualized (and sometimes more times than not photo-shopped) selfies on social media to accrue as many (often rather crude) comments on these posts as possible.

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
Proverbs 11:22

My next question became…beyond setting oneself up to be on the receiving end of unceasingly monotonous “you’re so hot” comments, could these women be after anything more?

histrionic

The selfie-made FB “model” who spent so much time photo-shopping other parts of herself that she forgot to photo-shop out the potentially drug-induced arm scratch marks (until somewhere between her 2nd & 10th posting of the same pic). Likely, most men never noticed anyway – except maybe the guy she took to the cleaners in real life.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” More concerning than what these women might want should be what the spiritual realms want – with the souls of both these men (whether accommodating or unsuspecting) and these vixen-like women.

In essence, knowingly or not, each of these women has essentially made herself the “foreigner with seductive words” of Proverbs 7. As a mother of three handsome sons, I feel the need to resound an associated warning. If I wanted to modernize Proverbs 7:24-27, I might modernize these verses to sound like this:
“Now, listen, Sons! Pay attention to what I’m saying here.
Don’t give that woman your heart, your eyes, your ears, or your attention.
If you do and follow after her, your heart will end up as blackened (dirty) and photo-shop-covered as hers.
Don’t you think she’s carrying on with other men this same way? As in, MANY other men – and trying to bring them down with her too?!
You see her Facebook page with all those sensual selfies? All those men who click that bait with their likes and their crass remarks attest insertion into her Internet portal –
you know, the one that leads a man straight to his death by drawing his wandering eyes to lustful thoughts (and eventually resultant comments and actions). Turn your eyes and your feet the other way!”

Yep. That would be my mom’s advice to her sons.
And it should be a woman’s advice to her man in a godly relationship.
And it was.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
[while] fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

After our discussion on this topic, my Facebook-exonerated fella’ and I began culling both of our pages together (after deciding the nuclear option of removing Facebook wouldn’t allow us access to our bible study page of friends or to keep tabs on our younguns’). Did I mention that my handsome man and I give each other open access to one another’s social media sites at all times? If you’re in a healthy relationship, you should have that same privilege. (Just remember that you have to be the other part of that healthy equation. It’s not always pleasant to read what others might have said to the one you adore – even before he or she adored you.) In removing these so-called “friends,” we went so far as to even remove some past likes where lack of self-control was obvious in others’ related comments, in an attempt to assure all lack of association. In some cases, we went so far as to remove some likes or comments from the past in seemingly respectable friendships – just to assure there were no prospective or even retrospective misunderstandings.

To answer what may be your next curious question…Yes. I’ve read all those past sometimes unflattering, desperate attempts by other women for my man’s attention. And for those who aren’t astute enough to understand that our current picture together on both of our Facebook profiles is meant to denote a “not otherwise interested” relational status (or who apparently don’t care), we’ve read all of those more current messages together too – in case you were wondering why you’d been defriended. To be clear – mild-mannered flirting from the past was of no threat  – those folks are still welcomed in our friend zone. Beyond those criteria, some of you simply had to (and may still have to) go because we acknowledge that:

“Bad company corrupts good character
[especially when associated with foul or suggestive language on social media].”
[Author’s paraphrase of] I Corinthians 15:33.

Primarily, it was the selfies – you know…THOSE selfies – that became the measuring stick for mass deletion. Honestly, seeing such audacious attempts being made by outwardly beautiful women who should never feel the need to work so hard at gaining attention – along with the remarks they were willing to accept by multiple men (and make in return) in what appeared to be series after series of orgy-type posts on their pages – truly did place a crack in my heart. But that’s not what shattered it.

gross

The dime-a-dozen histrionic cleavage selfie shot

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Proverbs 31:30

As I perused the pages of lovely women whose cover pages might cause others to suppose they were Christian sisters (based on things such as bible verses or Godly-sounding phrases posted there), I was taken aback. Why, these faux femme fatale books couldn’t have been known by their covers at all! I was left to question whether such a level of deceit was meant for unsuspecting victims (such as the warning given about the Proverbs 7 woman), or if Satan had bound these women’s own eyes that tightly about themselves. (I had to come to the conclusion that, had it been the latter, they likely couldn’t have spent all that time in the mirror and the camera and the photo-shop program to accomplish those thousands of self-edifying selfies).

phony

Displaying that biblical-sounding sentiment is probably meant to draw men’s eyes upward from this woman’s upwardly-drawn cleavage. Do you suppose she was really trying to say, “Hey, my sorta’-bible-verse-thingy is up HERE?!”

Sadly, in assisting my sweetheart with the purge review, I’ve been forced to see more skin than an on-call taxidermist. Much sadder still, the mom in me quickly came to a worse realization. In every case in which a daughter was depicted on each woman-in-question’s FB page, that younger generation female was already emulating the older “mother figure” adult/mentor in her Facebook affairs. And many of these young women were working just as hard to gain that same male following.

Here’s a good place to insert a word to you upcoming gentlemen: If they were left without a depraved audience of male admirers, women of all ages would lack the motivation to continue in this practice.

daughters

Whether with Mom (as on the upper left) or alone, these girls’ selfie posing tactics seek to emulate older female FB mentors’ alarming histrionic personalities.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

[Men, you] are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled,
sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

[Ladies, you] likewise are to be reverent in behavior,
not slanderers or slaves to [intoxication –
including the high of selfie-derangement].
[Ladies, you are] to teach what is good, and so train the young women
to love their husbands and children [even before they have them], to be self-controlled,
pure, working at [or dedicated foremost to] home, kind, and [surrounding their own selfishness for the betterment of] their own [future or present] husbands,

that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Titus 2:1-5 [with Author’s paraphrase]

Take this lesson from its context. For instance, I’ve always been a career mom; but I understand that my primary responsibility is to my family (my home) – working for their good. I also understand that it becomes much easier for me to surrender my selfish, fleshly preferences for someone else’s needs (the meaning of “submit”) to a man who is being an Ephesians 5:25 follower of GOD: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

With this in mind, I appeal to those of you posting or those of you looking at these types of posted images to STOP. STOP immediately! STOP damaging yourselves, your families, others’ lives, your present and future potential relationships with a godly person who would desire to walk with you and the LORD.  Accountability will come. It will come without apology and possibly without additional warning to us all.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:16

Lest you mistake any of my remarks as equating to jealousy or pettiness, or even self-righteousness, let me assure you – I have taken no pleasure in looking at or sharing photos that make women of any age appear less than self-confident with a Christ-filled measure of self-control. All examples were posted images on genuine Facebook accounts from women who either were friends or tried to friend my sweetheart – all publicly shared (most over and over again) by these same Facebook page owners. (And these were, by comparison, mild examples.) This paltry blog page’s audience can’t begin to measure to the public paramour personas these ladies are seeking to create for themselves through social media. By their standards, I’ve likely helped their cause.

My primary goal is to STOP other women who may be in danger of doing themselves (and others) this same harm before they get started! That’s what a Proverbs 31 type of woman does. That’s who my heart desires for me to be – for a very special man but, most importantly, for My LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. It would be selfish if I didn’t have that same desire for each of my (present or future) spiritual sisters.

Go ahead. Test your own response to this instruction.

Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed that the Proverbs 7 type of woman tends to spit out antagonistic messages to anyone who dares offer correction for her own sake. Remember:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
[while] fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

Memes and messages abound that tell concerned people requesting the removal of these images to mind their own business. These ladies insist that their behavior is Private (even when their images are more often made Public for all to view). Not surprisingly, other memes they post most often denote sexual and/or rebellious connotations. Because these women don’t know how to search out true love, it’s no wonder they believe that any measure of correction equals hatred. Especially if it tells them they shouldn’t display the idol they worship most of all – themselves. After all, shouldn’t others be given equal opportunity to adore them?

Haters

I’m assuming this philosophical woman was referring to all of the perverse commentary she was receiving from men for her zillionth selfie post of the day. My other guess is she’s probably too exhausted from admiring herself to have a truly physical relationship with any of them.

And, lest you still believe my words have some jealousy component to them, let me show you that there are many types of booty-displaying, pride-abiding shapes on Facebook pages beyond those you’ve already had the unfortunate opportunity to now witness (in case your rear has also been exposed, like mine, because your social media head was buried so deeply in the sand).

the_mighties

Sometimes, you’d like to protect people who won’t protect themselves or those they love. (I’m referring to the wall photo of the child I covered on the left.)

Woe to the men who are gullible enough to hope for or seek out relationship with any of these women. It will be difficult for her to give herself to someone else when she’s been giving pieces of herself away daily on Facebook for the price of a few raunchy comments. I’m guessing these women would gasp at my measure of “a few.” Why, some have reached over 200 likes and 37 or more comments in a single post! Surely that is a world-changing event!

Here’s some assurance. The TRUE world-changing event is the Resurrecting Power of Jesus Christ in our lives. And will continue to be. Both men and women who have been involved in the aforementioned – or even worse – practices can still turn their eyes and their hearts away from these wrongful behaviors. The LORD wants to help you hand your thoughts over to Him. He desires to love you with His never-ending abundance of mercy and grace. And yes, the Holy Spirit wishes to convict our hearts toward repentance of our wrongful ways; but not condemn us through them. Such Love covers over a multitude of sins.

“The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34:22

To become Christ’s servant will require a heart-changing event. I don’t expect that anything I write here will change the behavior of these women, or women like them, or the lonely and longing men they both manipulate and serve. That has to be between each individual and the LORD – though I’ll continue to hope and pray so.

What I do expect to accomplish is to challenge my Christian sisters to carefully consider what you post, as well as your intent for posting it – particularly when it can lure our brothers’ eyes and thoughts (or even younger women’s behaviors) in a wrongful direction. And I challenge my Christian brothers to be more protective of all women in your thoughts and deeds, particularly in this regard. Be diligent to assure that you don’t even accidentally become engaged in this behavior.

Colossians 3:1-2  instructs us, as believers: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on [spiritual] things above, not on [fleshly] things of the earth.” 

In other words, practice GODLY thoughts (and resultant actions) – NOT fleshly ones. And help your brothers and sisters in Christ do likewise.

Colossians 3:3-5 goes on to remind us of WHY we do so – and HOW to do so through the Power of the Holy Spirit within us: “For [your fleshly self] died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your [fleshly] members [desires, thoughts, words, actions] which are of the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

If we are to put to death our fleshly self, I recognize that means we shouldn’t be flashing all that flesh around. I would encourage you to read all of Colossians 3, and by the time you get to verses 18 & 19, you should have a better understanding of how and why we reserve such things of our flesh for one – and only one – special one, through sacred acts of love. By first giving the very essence of yourself (your spirit) to GOD, you will be made more spiritual through His Spirit in you. Then, when you give yourself in the flesh to that special someone who has also spiritually given himself to the LORD – and he is the only one who looks upon you intensely with his passionate, longing, loving desire – then no one else’s eyes, thoughts, or opinions of you will ever matter again.

Do you know what drew my sweetheart to me? It surely wasn’t my [in]aptitude for selfie-taking. And it wasn’t uncovered cleavage. Nor did I send illicitly coded messages his way. My secret? He claims that it was my integrity that stood out above all else and that drew him near to me. He apparently thought the LORD had covered and adorned me well with it. Huh. Go figure. GOD’s liberal measure of Integrity was the main attraction.

“Do NOT let your adorning be external—
the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-”
I Peter 3:3

As for selfies…no one said you can’t enjoy them. Go…take lots of them with all those people who GOD has given you to genuinely love. Find a godly mate and be proud to show him or her off! Make the rest of the world jealous of seeing all those joyful selfies of the two of you together – so jealous, in fact, that they want that same grace-filled JOY for themselves. So jealous that they’ll be willing to pay the incomparable price of regarding someone else (and themselves) with our Heavenly Father’s priceless, loving, unrivaled esteem within a Christ-centered relationship to get it!!

Us

Me? Jealous? I’ll let you be the judge.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

The JOY of the LORD is my Strength!

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Unearthing the Value of my Heritage – and other secrets of an Indian Giver

Sometimes my heritage is confusing to me.

My mother’s father was Norwegian. His wife (my grandmother) was German.
My other grandmother was Irish – down to her peachy skin and Celtic name.
To hear her tell it, her husband (my grandfather) was of Scottish/Irish origin too.
To hear him tell it, his grandmother was a full-blooded Native American from the Cherokee nation – and, despite his gray-blue eyes, he loved flaunting their almond shape, along with his high cheekbones and the well-tanned skin beneath his handsomely tall frame.
Of the four grandparents, I spent the majority of my time with him.
He was retired, so we’d go on summer walks through town together, as I held his large hand and looked a mile upward to speak with him.
We’d work in the garden and yard together, with him entrusting me to operate his first riding mower as I entered into my double digits.
He’d accompany my dad to many of my ballgames, where I was sometimes a teeny bit jealous when my older cousins’ friends would run up and hug him and call him Granddad. (Okay, so I still had to learn to share.)
I felt I had a right to be possessive of him. After all, I was the one who trimmed his ear hairs. (Though my eyes were assuredly better than those of my grandmother – who’d transitioned to a large print bible – some days, I believe he asked me to do this deed simply because he thought it was safer for a kid to be wielding a sharp instrument over him in lieu of testing his wife’s Irish temperament.)

But I digress…

My father and uncle were both intrigued by their Native American heritage and, for years, searched out related artifacts.
My dad turned me into a junior archaeological librarian, as I’d assist him in organizing and tagging his finds by appropriate periods. I can recall also getting to go on “archaeological digs,” walking sandbars during the cold winter months, most often needing to be carried by my father, as my small frame would sink into the soft mud as if I were being swallowed up by quicksand. Many years later, my father and uncle were killed in a boating accident in January, out in those same waters where the three of us explored our heritage together. As much as it hurt to lose them, I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate place for them to have been together when their spirits crossed over into eternity.

Nancy Ward print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

Hiskyteehee (Five Killer) print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

One of the gifts my father left me was a Ben Hampton print of Nancy Ward.
Awhile back, as my youngest son was lying on our couch, his head hanging upside down, he peered up at the print and inquired, “Mama, is that you?”
I was amused when I asked him if he thought it looked like me. He sat up and somberly nodded, still waiting for my answer. He was a little disappointed to hear that it wasn’t, but then he became intrigued with Nancy Ward’s story and decided to embrace that part of his heritage too. He now has a print of Five Killer in his hangout space (in which I can more easily see myself, having a “don’t tick me off” scar in the exact same spot; mine, admittedly, came from my neighbor’s cat, Herbie George, who decided to engage in a surprise attack when I thought we were in the midst of a peace treaty. I wish I was wearing his claw around my neck as a symbol, where I could then refer to him as “Cat with Nine Claws” to make him sound more intimidating. I mean, Five Killer started off as LittleFellow. Sometimes, you do what you have to do…)

I didn’t think anymore about my son’s remark of my resemblance to Nancy Ward until a few weeks ago at work. There, I have a framed poster in my office from an Eastern & Western Cherokee Council Reunion, which my dad attended (with my uncle and Ben Hampton, as I recall) & which has a montage of Mr. Hampton’s Cherokee Heritage prints. Our new secretary walked into my office, took one look at the poster and asked, “Is that you in that picture?” Nancy Ward? Are you serious? Don’t I wish? I did have a proud moment of sharing the who’s & why’s of that poster, though. And, admittedly, I do enjoy having some obvious features from that particular part of my heritage, just as I do from the many other parts of my heritage.

What I don’t enjoy are the negative connotations that people place on that heritage, just as I don’t enjoy other negative connotations that sometimes surround me. Just as my heritage may create some confusion for me, so do people who make unjust slurs against others in the name of being offended, with no regard for what offense the accuser has created. The term “Indian giver” is one such example, being bestowed upon Native Americans because of a misunderstanding in communication and trade customs; yet not bestowed upon those who came in with no regard for such customs and forced natives from their own territories under purposefully perilous conditions, providing them little means for success in prosperity or survival. (Here’s where you might need to reference the Trail of Tears.)

That savage sort of thing still happens in modern social circles – at least in the spiritual, if not the physical realm.

Invaders show up in our own private sanctuaries of peacefulness, determined to drive us out (or basically, just drive us crazy). The offenses of which we get accused only exist as excuses to control our soul’s treasure. Any gifts of grace and peace offerings we produce get scoffed at, with newly fabricated accusations made. Invaders work overtime to convince others that we want them to bestow something of greater value to us in return (basically, because scoffers over-value whatever power they believe they wield). Once our weaknesses have been explored and exposed, these conquerors – convinced they have used up anything in us that was of importance to them – push us aside, out to the margins, treating us as if we never had any heritage here at all. Soon, we feel as though our peace has become some antiquated artifact that must be dug up in pieces and put back together if it is to be discovered again.

  • We see it happen in homes.
  • We experience it in the workplace.
  • It crops up in churches as easily as in middle schools.
  • When focused on themselves, people seem to have a tendency to want to de-value and drive others out for their own selfish purposes – to steal another’s heritage of belonging.

Whenever that happens to me, I take time to remind myself of my most important heritage – the one in which I am a daughter of a heavenly King. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). In Christ, there is no east or west (United Methodist Hymnal, No. 548); thus we are not sent on a journey of separation from others. In fact, our God reconciles, telling us He “will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I’m also pretty sure there are no gossipy trouble-makers in that land of peace because we’re told that, “only in the place of hypocrites will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). (I can’t think of any better example of how teeth gnashing must look than to watch a gossiper in action, chewing up a gut-full  of someone else’s troubles.)

No one said we had to wait for the new creation, though, to experience life’s best heritage. When Jesus walked among us in the flesh, He said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). We are expected to live in peace and harmony with this land and the beings with which we have been entrusted in the here and now. Native Americans have long understood the spirituality and sacredness of all of creation. The gifts that they gave, such as roots that seemed worthless to the white man, held great meaning and often the power of healing or sustenance. Likewise, the gifts we give of ourselves, in which we know the value and meaning, may be received by others as meaningless, with that same sort of haughtiness and open disdain.

This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the gifts of your heritage, though – the ones that are given to you because you ARE expected to graciously share them with others. I want to encourage you not to be driven out – but to go. Go be an Indian Giver. Offer goodness when others don’t have the capacity to understand the value. Offer peace in the midst of strife. As for the scoffers…II Peter 3:3 tells us to expect them. But then we’re told: “But in keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13). In my mind, that new creation will look much like Native American spirituality, full of nurturing relationships between all people, land, and all living things. We are called to be part of that new creation in the here and now.

LORD, of all the characteristics that others may see,

let them most clearly heed the heritage of You in me.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Need to R.I.P. Together before Death Knocks on our Door

This is surely the toughest post I’ve written to date (as it’s often easier to disclose pieces of me while remaining within the fictional realm). I couldn’t on this occasion. My heart just wouldn’t let me.

Most of you don’t know me well enough to realize that I pretty much raised myself as a latchkey kid, while my widower father worked many miles away as a teacher and a coach (meaning I saw him leaving as I awoke in the morning and rarely was still awake when he came in after a lengthy day of work). Single parents do the best they can with the resources they have. Their best provision under those circumstances can’t equip their children with the social skills they need to function in healthy relationships out in the world, though. At least, not for me or many others I know.

Despite the values I thought I had, I was pregnant at the age of 17. Looking back, I don’t think it was an issue of morality. I think it was the need to be fulfilled through a close relationship – it was a desperate plea for love.

Despite the involved young man’s lack of desire to be a father at 18 (and his suggestion for me to reconsider being a mother), in the end, he surprised me. He showed up in another town (where I was hiding out at an older sister’s house) and offered to live with me. My older sister, in her best intentions, insisted we should get married. My morals agreed to that price because my experience didn’t understand the higher price of victim-multiplication.

Now, this young man hadn’t had it any better off than I had in the relational realm. If put to measurement, his life experience was surely greater (on many counts). He’d been the oldest of six children. (I’d been the youngest of four, by far “the baby.” My sisters had already left home when our mom died.) This young man had been tasked with the responsibility of caring for five younger siblings every night while his mother worked second shift into the night (and then imbued in her social life thereafter). “Caring for” his siblings included cooking dinner, assuring clean-up, homework, baths, bed, and any other demands, including figuring out how to scrounge up food for dinner on many occasions. There was no father close by to visit, with only an abusive father figure who had died. My point is, this guy might’ve been better at cooking and even surviving than me, but neither of us were equipped for a healthy relationship, particularly not a marriage.

It was no time after getting married (about 3 months, to be exact) before I was back at my dad’s, baby in tow. Within the year, my newlywed husband was back in town with no place to live; within two years, there were two babies in tow. Not long after that, while in school, I lost a third infant. (Yes, young people are extremely fertile; and, no, birth control isn’t always effective.) A little more time passed, and my father was killed in an accident. (To be brutally honest, I probably wasn’t helping his health conditions much anyway.) My young husband and I were left to figure out how to finish raising ourselves and our own children.

I don’t intend to go into the details of our 18 years of marriage; but I will tell you that we didn’t do such a great job on that part about raising one another. The marriage ended (for real this time – unlike all those other times) after my husband was involved in multiple affairs (likely many more than I ever learned about), battled addiction issues, and finally placed a bullet through his heart as I stumbled over myself falling out his back door (because I thought he had pulled the undisclosed weapon to use it on me). His concluding action demonstrated what he’d been feeling for likely his entire life – his heart was bursting in pain – and neither of us had the ability to relationally heal it. We weren’t equipped. Perhaps he thought taking control of this heart-breaking issue by his own hands was kinder than allowing others to rip it to pieces for him. I’ll never truly know the answer on this side of heaven.

Interestingly, we weren’t arguing at the time of his death (not even for the couple of months prior). Things had actually been more peaceful between us. He’d been to my house for a birthday dinner; and he’d even openly had another girlfriend, though we weren’t yet divorced (yes, that had stung too; but I knew it was time to move on). Just as I’d told him that morning, I continued to hope and pray that he was on the road to recovery,  for his sake and for the sake of our sons.

His life coming to such an early and abrupt end was very tragic – and still is – more than my own heart could ever stand to express, though I trust in a merciful God who loves us even when we can’t find reason to love ourselves.

Today, the wound of that sadness was re-opened when I learned from a friend that the woman who had a hand in putting a demise to our family (or at least putting the final nail in the coffin), with a blatant affair of shared addictions, had also passed due to years of abuse to her body. My mind traveled back to those many years ago when I honestly would’ve wished her dead – back to when I felt so much hurt from her actions with my husband that I had to pray daily – no hourly… make that by the minute – that God could somehow give me enough compassion for her to take those thoughts away. Amazingly, that day finally did come – after months and months of prayer – when I was able to see this woman as a wounded child, also hungry for relationship, also desperately searching to meet her need for someone’s love. In that instant, I was able to let go of my hatred and pain, to forgive her transgressions (as mine have been forgiven), and even years later, to continue to pray for her health and wholeness – to pray that she had found peace and joy in her life.

According to my friend, this woman’s Facebook read, “R.I.P [with her name]”. In my mind, I want to imagine – to hope – she was able to enter into a healthy relationship, to find her peace, that my prayer had been answered long before this day of her demise came.

And I pray the same for anyone reading this today. I offer up that prayer for us all in the most difficult of circumstances, the most challenging situations, when our hearts are breaking, when we feel the pain and the demise of life – that we can find not only our peace, but we can recognize and embrace the joy of a life that’s been given to us by a loving Father, one for each of us to share…

in healthy, whole relationships with one another.

I believe I took this at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City (Jerusalem)

I believe I took this at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City (Jerusalem)

How to turn your teacher into a cry-baby

I haven’t been able to visit the blogging community too often lately – mostly because I’ve been traveling across five states for the past few months, gathering the final data for 5 years of longitudinal research (otherwise lovingly, or sometimes not, referred to as my dissertation project). By the time I reached my final graduate from whom I would gather this data, I was feeling a great mix of emotions – – elation (that no more data would need to be collected), trepidation (that all this data still had to be analyzed), exhaustion (from gathering months of data across 5 states), and depression (that I may never see many of these folks again with whom I’d gotten to catch up – or at least it may be a very long time until our paths crossed again).

I wasn’t actually expecting to cry though.
But that’s exactly what I did.

After gathering my last set of data, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of this particular graduate’s patients were completed for the day, so we’d have some fun catch-up time. Now this is a delightful, beautiful young lady; but the most special characteristic of E is her enthusiastic honesty. She’s never afraid to share her thoughts or even tell on herself, and this day was no exception. Because she’s such a warm person, she enjoys connecting with people. That’s exactly what she set out to do, too – connect with me on my level, telling me about her first whitewater rafting adventure (because she knows that’s something I love to do). By the time she had finished her story, also explaining how someone could’ve videotaped her to demonstrate all the things one should NOT do on a river, she had me holding my sides and tearing up in our shared laughter.

But those aren’t the tears I meant.

Sharing a celebratory moment together on graduation day.

Sharing a celebratory stage moment together on
E’s graduation day.

As I stood to go, telling E how very proud I was of all she was accomplishing in her career and all the wonderful life experiences I knew she had ahead, she stopped me from leaving with these words (as well as I can recall them): “I don’t want you to leave without me saying this to you. You need to hear it from me because it’s important for people to know how others feel about them. People need to feel special, and I want you to know what an impact you’ve made on my life – and I don’t just mean in my career. I mean, I appreciate everything you taught me about my profession, but that’s not the most important thing I learned from you. You’ve made an impact on me way beyond that. I think you’re an incredibly strong person in your faith and the way you deal with hardships in life. I’ve watched how you’ve handled things you couldn’t control and didn’t give in, and I look up to you for that. Thank you for letting us see you for who you really are. That’s the kind of person I want to be.”

I was floored.
I never saw it coming.
I’m a hugger, but it’s hard to make me cry. (I even have a twice-broken nose to prove it.)
I cried. (Must’ve been fatigue setting in.)

E was right. Everyone needs a good dose of encouragement, and I wish I could say that I’ve always had the opportunity to tell others exactly how I felt about them (well, the good stuff, anyway). Even if I’ve gotten it right sometimes; sadly, I know I’ve missed many other opportunities. This lovely, young lady didn’t miss hers this time around, and she made me feel something I can’t even quite describe. (Sad testimony for a blogger, I know.)

E taught a good lesson of her own that I hope sticks with me for life. She’s the kind of person I want to be, and I thank her for that. Because of her, my new goal is to set out to make many others do exactly what I did.

Yep, I hope I can make you all cry – –  like babies.

How to Keep Your Friends by “Dumping” Them

What’s in the bag?”

“Little of this…little of that. All in all, some pretty useless stuff.”

“Now you’ve piqued my interest. What’ve you trapped in that silk prison on your arm?”

“ I used to carry items that I thought were important to my appearance there – a tube of lipstick, a compact for smoothing imperfections, a brush to freshen up, a credit card for purchasing any whims I fancied. Eventually, I came to grasp that accumulations were just weighing me down. That’s when I cleared all that stuff out to make room. Now this bag serves a much greater purpose.”

<Long, Uncomfortable Pause>

“I’m still waiting for an answer to my original question. What on earth are you carrying around in that pretty little bag swinging from your arm?”

“Don’t let its outer appearance fool you. Its contents aren’t all that impressive, truth be told.”

<Shorter, Terser Pause>

“Very well. If you absolutely must know…. It’s full of today’s mind clutter.”

“Pardon? Did you just say…?”

“Yes, I did, as a matter of fact.”

“Why in heaven’s name would you empty out your beautiful purse, only to fill it with…mind clutter?!”

“I’d rather contain it there for a time as have it swimming in my head, distracting my brain all day. At day’s end, I simply open it and dump this mess out, then begin fresh tomorrow.”

“Interesting concept. What happens if you mistake essential information and accidentally discard it too?”

“Have you been staying up early again?”

“Staying up early?! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. No, you’re the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard – someone carrying a purse full of mind clutter.

Wait! What are you doing? Are you placing this memory of me in there?! How dare you!! Take it out this instant!”

***

“Trust me. By the time I dump this tonight, my mind will be emptied of all insults it tried to heap onto you in retaliation. Better this way. We can be friends again – come tomorrow.”

As I ended this post, I was reminded of this beautiful gift I received from a physician visiting the states from India, after spending the day working with him on imaging simulator demonstrations.

As I ended this post, I was reminded of this beautiful gift I received from a physician visiting the states from India, after spending the day working with him on imaging simulator demonstrations. Isn’t it marvelous?

______________________________________

I took the opportunity to provide this little moral life lesson through 2 fun writing prompts heaped upon me this week.

inmonsterbadge1The first was from BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday prompts (in which I worked to use them all – because it’s more interesting to see how the story turns out that way). Stephanie likes to “tease” and say there are no rules, but since such a thought gives me a migraine, here are the rules-oriented prompts:

  • Silk Prison
  • Waiting for an Answer
  • Mind Clutter
  • What’s in the Bag
  • Staying up Early

Other non-rules “highly suggest” limiting between 200-500 words.

From there, I looked for the opportunity to incorporate this week’s Trifecta prompt, which slid right there in the midst of my ridiculous bag. So before I accidentally dump it as useless information, here’s the uncluttered word and definition that had to be used:

GRASP (verb) – 3rd definition

3 : to lay hold of with the mind : comprehend

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.OVZymUQ4.dpuf

By the way, Trifecta requires between 33-333 words. (My count came in at 333, which just so happens to land between 200 and 500 – how fortuitous!). By the way, this week’s entries are being community judged at Trifecta. So come one, come all! Come read, come vote, come enter!