My Inner Voice

Henri Nouwen's "The Inner Voice of Love" is a huge part of my journey, if not at the very core.  Here are my insights while reading this book--my inner voice, if you will. The chapters are individual spiritual imperatives. The imperative is in bold, followed by my insight gained while reading it - some are well thought out and some are just scribblings in the margins.  All are the raw truths of my soul.

Trust Your Friends
"Much of your ability to trust your friends depends on your belief in your own goodness."  I kept reading these words of Nouwen over and over.  I couldn't think about anything else in this imperative other than "your belief in your own goodness."  My interactions with others over the last few weeks have caused me to look into what exactly I believe about myself.  And it's not good. 

I don't think I'm good enough.  I don't have an exact definition of "good enough", I just know I'm not it.  I'm not attractive enough, I'm not successful enough, I'm not a girl's girl enough (i.e. have lots of girlfriends), I'm not bubbly and cute every area of my life, I feel like I don't measure up to the standards and expectations of those around me.  This is why, when a busty girl with a tiny waist offers my boyfriend a shot at a wedding, I flip out and contemplate breaking things off because he must not really want to be with me.  This is why, when a friend of a friend is talking about how well their job is going, I shut down, keep quiet, and question why I am a part of this group in the first place.  I have nothing "good enough" to contribute to anyone.

I am unsure how to rid myself of these thoughts; I am unsure what I need to do, what steps I need to take, what books I need to read, the number of counseling sessions I need to attend, before I can truly feel okay about myself and my place amongst others and in this world.  And not a temporary okay.  So many of my blog posts about the inner greatness I am experiencing at that moment is temporary.  And it's times like now, the times I'm feeling worthless and of no real value, that I question if I ever truly believed those good things about myself. 

This can't be normal.  Who feels this way about themselves?  Who thinks such terrible things?  Maybe on a whim when dealing with something unpleasant, but every single day?  Every moment of their day?  If someone were to tell me they thought they had no value, that his/her significant other didn't really want to be with them, that family members didn't think or feel positive emotions when thinking about them, I would have so many words of encouragement and advice and "of course you have value" prefaces to examples and memories and made-up scenarios.  But right now, in this moment, it's me.  It's my inner voice screaming through and all I want to do is shut her up.  (11/17/11)

Accept Your Identity as a Child of God
The praise and blame of the world - story of my life.

I live according to both.  Praise - and I'm happy.  I'm on a cloud and everything is perfect.  Blame - and I'm severely depressed.  I self loathe and experience anxiety and hopelessness.

I do not know myself.  I cannot see my soul for who I really am. I see myself according to the world.  I judge myself by what others say or don't say.

What does God say?  What does the creator of the universe say about me?  He says I am loved beyond belief.  He says I am strong and giving and quirky and driven.  He says I am his daughter, and He loves me.

Stop paying attention to the handful of people in the world who have something to say.  After all, it's God's world.  (5/17/11)

Permit Your Pain to Become The Pain
What is abstract pain?  According to Nouwen, I don't have it.

He begins, Your feelings of rejection, abandonment, and uselessness are rooted in the most concrete events.  

My pain is concrete, but my existence, which is so entwined with this pain, is abstract.  Am I here?  Am I up?  Am I down?  Am I okay?  The concrete aspects of one's life should help one stand, not knock one down.

As long as you keep pointing to the specifics, you will miss the full meaning of your pain.  You will deceive yourself into believing that if the people, circumstances, and events had been different, your pain would not exist.  

I believed that last sentence up until this past year.  I looked outward to find the cause of my struggles.  I picked apart every year of my life and each event that hurt me and further kept me trapped in my misery.  What could I have done to prevent that event/relationship/mistake/choice which added to my pain?  Where would I be if (fill in the blank) hadn't happened?

This might be partly true, but the deeper truth is that the situation which brought about your pain was simply the form in which you came in touch with the human condition of suffering.  Your pain is the concrete way in which you participate in the pain of humanity.

My counselor has expressed this sentiment as well.  The pain I experience is my walk with Jesus, the One who ultimately suffered for us all.  She prefaced that with an "I know this might sound cliche but..."  It wasn't cliche; it got me thinking.  And now, as I sit here with my pain, I revisit those thoughts.

My journey is about moving forward, not standing still, dripping in the struggles of yesterday and today and the fears of tomorrow.  My journey is about healing.  I need healing.  Nouwen states with perfect timing, "Healing means moving from your pain to the pain."  Confused, I ask, "How?"  I thought I was replacing suffering  with healing by meditating and analyzing the causes and sources of my pain. 

When you keep focusing on the specific circumstances of your pain, you easily become angry, resentful, and even vindictive.  You are inclined to do something about the externals of your pain in order to relieve it; this is why you often seek revenge.

  Yes, I do.  I have done some very vindictive things to people who have hurt me.  And when I relive those moments of such anger and pain, I see that I have most hurt myself, and the actions I take out on others is really a reflection of how I feel about myself, the rage and disappointment that overcomes me each time I look in the mirror.  Relationships are my mirror.  This explains why 90% of my pain has shone through my relationships with others.

These thoughts and what Nouwen says next did not immediately connect for me.  "Real healing comes from realizing that your own particular pain is a share in humanity's pain.  That realization allows you to forgive your enemies and enter into a truly compassionate life."  My pain is mine, though.  My struggles are my own, created by me and because of me.  Maybe even for me.  To think my pain is that of the world?  Now that is abstract if you ask me.

Nouwen says, "...shift your attention away from the external situation that caused your pain and focus on the pain of humanity in which you participate..."  What pains are my neighbors experiencing?  I feel my pain is extraordinary to that of others.  Yes, this is true, but could the opposite be true as well?

I see that my counselor's hope for me to find community will enable me to know this truth, to see into others' lives and realize that I am not alone in my pain.  And not only am I not alone, but my pain is also minimal compared to that of others.  This truth will allow me to seek and ultimately experience grace, compassion, and humility.  This truth will transform my pain into a mere pinpoint on a map of The World's Pain.

I am not alone.  I can give my pain back to the World and allow the strength of Jesus and my neighbors to replace the void.  (2/2/2011)

Be a Real Friend
Friendship as pain.  "You desired it so much that you often lost yourself in the search for a true friend.  Many times you became desperate when a friendship you hoped for didn't materialize, or when a friendship begun with great expectations did not last."  Nouwen gets it every time.

All of my relationships have been built upon my inexhaustible needs.  I have known this to be true, at least on some conscious level, for every single relationship I have had in my life: romantic, platonic, and familial.

I knew this, but did the other party?  They had to have known something was up; they had to have had some kind of wounded-ness they were trying to heal at the time of our meeting.  Have I appeared well all these years?

Nouwen says, "Friendship becomes more and more possible when you accept yourself as deeply loved."  I have never thought of myself as friend-able, never considered myself a healthy influence in another's life.  Perhaps that is why I have acted in the ways that I have.  I have acted out the thoughts I have held for myself.  So must negative self talk.  So many mistakes made.

"A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional."  My life has been a merry-go-round of temporary relationships, and I have wondered why.  I have not kept God as my center; therefore, I have attracted negative, unhealthy relationships into my life.  Most have ended disastrously because they were not meant for me.  I fought and fought against my inherent nature to hang on to these horrible relationships that were never meant to be.  And I wondered why my life was chaotic.

Let my needs for affection, affirmation, and emotional support allow my authentic self to move closer to God, and not be led by my small self toward people or things that are not meant for me. 

Nouwen ends well.  "Dare to love and to be a real friend." 

Keep Choosing God--Part 1
“You know what the right choice is, but your emotion, passions, and feelings keep suggesting you choose the self-rejecting way.”

“Self-rejection” does not just refer to the negativity I am regarding for myself; I am not just turning away from myself.  Self-rejection is a deeper form of rejection, the rejection of my creator, the turning away from the king of the universe.  This is sure to make life difficult.
I just know there’s something deeper.  I just know there is something so unbelievably meaningful and fulfilling about this life.  Lord, help me find it.  Lord, help me find You.  How do I listen to your voice when the voices of my enemies, the voices of my own negative emotions and fears are so insanely loud?  Your voice is a whisper, a melody among the falling leaves this season.  I have tried to listen.  I have tried, haven’t I?  

“It is you who decides what you think, say, and do.”  If I have listened for Your voice, I need not ask You, for I would have chosen to listen in the first place.  I have not listened for Your voice.  Forgive me.

“You can think yourself into a depression, you can think yourself into low self-esteem, you can act in a self-rejecting way.”  How many times have I prayed, “When will this end, Lord? Why haven’t you taken away my depression and angst?”  Lord, you answer our prayers and you meet our needs, but sometimes you do so by allowing us to mend the broken pieces ourselves, to give us added strength through ownership.  (12/29/10)

Allow Yourself to be Truly Received
Give without expectations. I give happily, endlessly, but deep down I have looming thoughts and feelings about what exactly it is that I am giving. Time, space on my desk, even niceness. I want something in return. I want something that is so darn specific it’s nearly impossible for someone who is not a mind reader to give. And then, the bitterness comes. Feeling unappreciated and taken advantage of comes.

“Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved—that is, fully received—by God can you give gratuitously.”

Unconditional love, trusting that all my needs will be provided for by the One who loves me unconditionally, trusting that I do not need to protect my own security – all of which Nouwen says are a part of being fully received. These concepts are completely foreign. Even not as concepts, as actual things that I could hold in my hand and touch and look at and smell….still, I cannot even imagine. Trust, love, faith, security--all unconditional, all already dwelling in me because of my Father--but so difficult to fathom. This must be difficult for many, for most even, to imagine. But for me, a girl from such an unbelievably chaotic and dysfunctional home, I have no clue about unconditional anything.

Trusting enough as to not protect my own security? Absolutely not something I am accustomed to or comfortable doing. Protecting my own security was the only protection I had. My happiness, my safety, my worth, all depended on the conditions of my mother. Between the two sisters and I, we “took turns” at the mercy of our mother being the bad child. One week it was the youngest sister with the bulls-eye, and me and the other sister took delight, sadly, in our mother’s acceptance. But when it wasn’t our week for acceptance, but rather our week for ridicule and shame, it was a nightmare. It was unbearable and degrading. Sometimes I want to call her and scream nasty, vile, horrible things at her and ask her what in God’s name did she think she was doing when she was “raising” us. But, it wouldn’t matter. Her head is so fucked up, it wouldn’t even matter. (12/29/10)

Rely On Your Spiritual Guides
Regina, Paige, Eric, Wes…I once had all these spiritual guides rooting for me. Now, I feel so far away. I feel like I used up their energy and compassion until I thought I didn’t need it anymore, and then went on my way to create more havoc and pain for myself and for others. Nouwen is right – I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust my own knowledge about where my deepest desire is being fulfilled. But I don’t trust others, either. I am always so skeptical, wondering what they really think of me, wondering the true meaning behind the words they are telling me.

I looked into some churches and spiritual counseling options. I am scared. I need spiritual guides. I need direction from those who are wise Christians. But I don’t want to disappoint; I always disappoint. People put their hope in me, and I do okay for a while, but then go back to my old ways – to being flaky, skipping out on social activities or missing appointments, to leading a double life dividing my time between things of the flesh and spiritual progress. (12/27/10)

Love Deeply
How can I love others, when I do not love myself? What sadness, what a tragedy – to not love yourself, the one you are with at all times, the one you can never escape.

Nouwen says, “The more you have loved and allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper.” I feel like my heart is a prune, shriveled and wilted and rubbery to the touch. I feel so rejected and abandoned and hurt from the love I have lost; so, taking into account Nouwen’s statement above, have I really ever loved?

Nouwen continues, “When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you.” When I think back to all the love I’ve experienced and lost, I don’t believe any of that love was pure. It was never truly giving and receiving. It was conditional. It was manipulative. It was painful from the start. The love from my mother; the love for my mother. The love from my biological father; the love for my biological father. Boyfriends, best friends…I never truly received and I never truly gave.

Nouwen talks about a community within yourself, a community made up of those you have loved and love, those who have loved you and who love you. A community within myself – this sounds comforting. Could this be a reason I feel so empty? Nouwen says those I have deeply loved will become a part of me. If I do not experience this inner community he speaks of, is it because I have yet to deeply love?

This imperative is a confusing one. Love seems so distant from my life. I don’t feel loved by others. I don’t feel loved by myself. I don’t feel I love others. What is a life without love? I’m in my late twenties and I’m terrified I am becoming a bitter, hopeless, ungrateful woman. When does it change? When do I change? How do I change? (12/27/10)

Acknowledge Your Powerlessness
Where am I powerless in my life?  What in my life victimizes me?

Alcohol.  Emotions - anger, sadness.  Fear - of abandonment, of inadequacies.

Surrender.  Such a sweet word but very difficult for me to do.  Parts of me have surrendered, but other parts are clinging on to my old ways of living.  God deserves all of me.

Remain planted.  No more running or hiding or dodging.  Healing comes from remaining where I am, no matter how crappy circumstances may be, weather the storm and I will blossom.  Trust and be faithful. (12/4/10)

Stay United with the Larger Body
"You still have a way to go, and there will be times when your friends are puzzled or even disillusioned by what is happening to you.  At certain moments things may seem more difficult for you than before; they may look worse than when you began."

These opening  Reading these words brought relief and clarity to my "friend gage".  My journey is just that, a journey.  It will be downhill and uphill and winding and straight and bumpy and smoothe and everything in between.  This is okay!

Relief:  Yes, I will strive for stability and contentment, but it is unrealistic for me to expect it at all times.  A rough few days does not negate how far I've come, and any infinite number of set backs are just that--set backs--momentary and temporary and do not undermine how far I have come and do not determine how far I will go.

Friend gage:  If you are my friend, you will remain by my side through it all.  This is not to say that my messes and mistakes should infilltrate your life and get in the way of you living a healthy and functional life.  But you, my friend, won't run when things are rough for me.  You won't only support me and love me and comfort me when times are good; you see me through the rain and the shine.  You welcome the rain, and the shine.

My journey is not just for me.  My journey is for my brothers and sisters within my community as well.  I am here for you; you are here for me.  Together, we are here for Jesus.  We are walking His journey for a purpose we are not capable of understanding at this time.  I must find members of my community on which I can rely, and support, and love.  I have a handful of believers who pray for me and who genuinely desire for me to find peace--thank you, Lord.  Their prayers and their love have lit the darkest corners of my journey.

Jesus, I pray to you, please help me find more of my brothers and sisters, help me find those who you appointed to be on this journey with me.  My progress is not just for me; help me find those with whom I can share my story, with whom I can strengthen and who can strengthen me.  (11/8/10)

Receive All the Love That Comes to You
Running and working out leaves me feeling physically strong.  My intelligence allows me to feel mentally strong.  Still, there is an underlying dread for my life past and present.

Nouwen states, "...there are few waking moments when you do not feel that throbbing pain in your heart that makes everything seem up in the air." Nothing is mine; there are no feelings of ownership for any stability, peace, and contentment I may feel.  A good day is certain to be followed by a bad day.  Depression and its associates loom just around the corner, waiting excitedly to attack.

"A deep, unresolved pain," explains Nouwen, "exists far deeper than you can reach." This brought to mind wood rot; I could be the tallest oak with a huge umbrella of green shade to provide, but my roots are infected with disease and maggots.

Nouwen says, "One day it will be quiet and peaceful." I don't see how this could ever be so.  At least not permanently.  Nouwen talks about living a life that allows me to receive the love that comes to me.  What should I do to make this happen?  Certainly running comes to mind; it cleanses me.  Reading and writing, too.  But there's more, I just don't know what exactly.  How do I open myself up to be loved?

I always thought love came from being in a relationship with a guy.  This is ironic because the times I have felt the most unloved were while in relationships with men.  And with my mother, but that's a given.

I need to make choices every day that allow my inner being to not just be loved but to truly receive it, to own it.  This love will slowly pour in to my emptiness, filling my rotteness with peace and calming the raging waters that have for so long drowned my soul. (10/25/10)

Remain Attentive to Your Best Intuitions
Nouwen states I must be limited with my movements. I must not take on too much; I've done this all too many times before--in love, at school, at work. I have been choosing solitude, and I enjoy it. I yearn for it. Nouwen comments about losing connections with the world. I don't want the world; I want what the world can't provide. I do, however, want to be invited to events. I want to feel wanted. I want to be there, among the excitement and camaraderie. But...when I'm there, I feel disconnected, from others and myself. I want to feel connected.

Past events and fantasies of the future -- I move on. I no longer least not much longer than a few handful of moments. I must continue to push away from the world and pull to Jesus; pull to the "now". (10/4/10)        

Follow Your Deepest Calling
“…a solid inner base from which you can speak and act –without apologies—humbly but convincingly.” For years, I have yearned for this talent, so I thought. To be able to speak confidently and be respected, but I see now that it’s a bit different. A solid base, this is where all originates—respect, confidence, likeability, contentment.

The trouble with my family is they don’t know my heart. They know my weaknesses, my mistakes, my pain and emotions, but they do not know my heart. I am in a better place (not where I want to be, but further from where I started); I am working on my journey. Now, I must open up and share myself, this new self. This scares me; I don’t want to be rejected.

Words that come to my mind: Live life not with worldly decision but with heartly precision. Consult my heart, not others. (9/29/10)

Keep Moving Toward Full Incarnation
Nouwen provides a wonderful way to describe my journey.  "You can look at your life as a large cone that becomes narrower the deeper you go.  There are many doors in that cone that give you chances to leave the journey.  But you have been closing these doors one after the other, making yourself go deeper and deeper into your center."

I closed the door to getting wasted night after night.  I do still drink but am aware of when I start feeling upset or angry or confrontational; this means I have had enough.  I closed the door to my mother - at least in the literal sense - no phone calls, no visits.  It bothered me that I didn't have some sort of idea of how long I should keep this door closed.  Just hearing about her, hearing how she is still doing the same things but now to my sisters, is...disgusting, disheartening, and validating.  The door to my mother will remain closed right now, and that is all the explanation I can provide myself.

I closed the door to isolation.  I am in contact with my counselor through phone and email regularly.  I am expressing my thoughts and emotions while on my journey through this blog, being honest and speaking my mind and soul.  I have closed the door to inaction - I am reading, writing, and taking my medication (and as prescribed, for that matter).  I went out for a jog today and felt the intimacy of being outdoors with ground under my feet.  I have a full-time job and a temporary part-time job - I am getting my finances in order so that I can provide for myself, independently and confidently.

There is this one door, however, that keeps opening no matter how many times I close it.  That is the door of self-loathing, guilt, and inadequacy.  This week I have kept shutting that door by repeating this Bible verse, "My grace for you is sufficient; for power is perfected in weakness."  When I start feeling down on myself, thinking I won't be able to get to where I want to be financially, emotionally, or relationally, I repeat those words and slowly the door closes for the time being.

The more I move toward the center of this large cone that is my journey, the closer into God's heart I become.  At the center of this cone is love, God's love, and all of the incredible, unimaginable things that come along with His love.  It's hard not to realize how far from the center I am; but, when I look up into cone, I see how far I have come!  And, without God's love and forgiveness, I would not be where I am today.  I must keep traveling into the center, closing doors and taking delight in walking hand-in-hand with God through my journey.  (10/3/10)

Let Your Lion Lie Down with Your Lamb
Nouwen says, "Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing." I thought, isn't the most general need of all human beings to feel accepted and affirmed as individuals, through all of our uniqueness, strengths, and faults?  The lamb in me, something I viewed as a weakness, is not just something I experience - the human race experiences this. 
My lion and lamb have been at war; I can feel the war inside me. I didn't think I could be gentle and strong, much like everything in my life. It was all or nothing with my mother, as a child, teenager, and up until the point I discontinued letting her into any part of my life. To me, gentle meant weak; strong meant mean. Or maybe strong even meant fearless and I could never be considered strong, because fearless and bulletproof are two things I definitely am not.

Nouwen continues, "Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities."  I immediately thought of the old phrase, "To much is given, much is expected." Then a train of random thoughts started firing off in my brain. I have a cycle and it goes like this: I am doing and doing and I have this momentum going. More and more opportunities are coming my way, be it in the form of friends or work or good grades. Then, I feel overwhelmed and this feeling continues until I give up. Then, I'm in a bad place of depression and loneliness. It is in this bad place where I beg God and everyone around me to get me back to where I was, the place of opportunity that bred my feeling overwhelmed. What does all of this mean? All I could come up with was: Take it slow. Life is about distance, not speed.

Nouwen states, "The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met."  First was my interpretation of Nouwen's words "And the more you claim." My heart told me this really means ownership.

What is it to be a child of God? To feel safe not in the driver's seat, to be in control by relinquishing control. To be confident in doing what needs to be done, because you can take on anything with the Lord as your father. A child of God wants to be responsible.  So, does the reverse say anything? I don't feel responsible and I have difficulty with responsibility. Does this mean I am not feeling safe as a child of God? I don't feel as if I can be responsible, and I make poor decisions. Is it because I don't respect myself, because I don't know whose I am? Then these words formed in my mind: Serving God opens me up to allowing myself to be served.  (9/28/10)

Protect Your Innocence
What makes me love God?  --hope, someone who love has endless, unconditional love and guidance.  Nouwen says, "As a child of God, you need to be prudent.  You cannot simply walk around in this world as if nothing and no one can harm you."  I am stunned when I am pulled out of the light.  Not in an egotistical way, but more ignorant, thinking "in God" means no trouble or pain or temptations.  It is in Christ that I am most vulnerable.  The closer I get with God and my true self, the stronger the pull from the opposite side.  Expect this; be prepared.

Nouwen says, "When you are temporarily pulled out of your true self, you can have the sudden feeling that God is just a word, prayer is fantasy, sanctity is a dream, and the eternal life is an escape from true living."  The word temporarily grabs me - I will have moments, but know they are just this:  moments.  Moments pass.  I'm reminded of Liz in EPL when she says, "Eventually, everything goes away."  It is in these moments that I share Jesus's walk.

The truth is simple:  My father is God.  God loves me.  And from this, I created a few words to meditate on:  My father is God, and God my father loves me.  (9/19/10)

Stand Erect in Your Sorrow
Nouwen says, "The question is "Can you stand erect in your pain, your loneliness, your fears, and your experience of being rejected?"  The danger is that you will be swept off your feet by these feelings.  They will be here for a long time, and they will go on tempting you to be drowned in them.  But you are called to acknowledge them and feel them while remaining on your feet."  After reading this opening paragraph, I thought of a passage I read last night in EPL, in which Liz says her Guru tells her not to become overwhelmed and collapse in her pain, because this becomes a habit.

Nouwen goes on to say that the temptation you face "is to complain, to beg, to be overwhelmed and find your satisfaction in the pity you evoke."  Find your satisfaction in the pity you evoke.  What bothers me the most during my difficult times is my self-loathing.  Surely I wouldn't self-loathe if the thoughts that ran through my mind while self-loathing weren't true.  But this is simply not the case.  I self loathe because I am not experienced to handle my pain in any other way.  Because I self loathe does not make me a bad person, and the things I think while self loathing are not true about myself.  This is just the way that I, an imperfect and inexperienced person in deep pain copes and tries to find peace.

Nouwen also says, "As long as you remain standing, you can speak freely to others, reach out to them, and receive from them.  Thus you speak and act from your center and invite others to speak and act from theirs.  In this way, real friendships and real community can be formed." When I am in pain and needing help, all I express are pity and sadness, and I don't feel like I get any real help.  I don't feel like I have true friends to turn to and who will help me, and I have no community that will take me into its arms to love me and to show me the truth.  I see that showing pity and sadness and all of the defeated emotions I am feeling at the time will not grant me the acceptance and assistance I need.  Standing tall in my pain is the only way to truly reach out for help, and is the only way I will receive it.  (9/16/10)

See Yourself Truthfully
I'm lost.  Another friend come and gone.  Another bad ending.  It's me - obviously, it's me.  Even so, I am so frustrated.  God will bring me who I need in my life...but am I missing them?  Now, I feel like there is not an answer.  The only answer is to live in this moment, no matter how shitty, how sad, how empty, live this moment.  And trust that this moment will pass and better moments will come.  (8/27/10)

Stay with Your Pain
Owning my pain is strength.  It's taking my struggles, my regrets, my guilt, my shame, my envy, my rage, my deep sadness and saying, "This is mine.  You cannot cause it and you cannot take it away."  As the Lord works through me, He will heal my wounds.  Know this.  Trust this.  He will use this pain, my pain, to mold me into His creation.  This adds beauty to my pain, adds hope and light and is the beginning of His healing.  (8/19/10)

Enter the New Country
When I think "old country" I think alcohol.

Trust that both the treasures of my soul as well as the tools that enable me to experience them exist in the new country.  I will take many trips going back and forth between the old country and the new country.  Is there such a thing as taking a giant leap forward and never looking back?

Why do I keep going back?  I miss it.  I feel happy in the new country and want to go back and experience the old country in this way, with my new-found happiness.  But my happiness does not last there.  So I go defeated, back to the new country, depressed and knowing I shouldn't have left in the first place.  (6/10/10)

Befriend Your Emotions
Keep remembering God.  Keep an inner dialogue that repeats, "God loves me.  I am loved."

I feel pangs of jealousy, insecurity, and inferiority when I've been drinking.  And when I feel this way, I go off the deep end.  I go into rage or deep sorrow - I want to hurt other people, but I only hurt myself, and embarrass myself, and isolate myself even more from normalcy and healthy living. 

I must rescue myself before it even gets to this point--by spiritual affirmations, or prayer, or removing myself from the situation.  In these times, I must nurture myself like a third person--"you are feeling insecure, and that is okay.  Take a deep breath, now remember how beautiful and one-of-a-kind you are."

Don't be blindsided and taken aback by negative emotions.  I am only human.  A moment of feeling negative emotions does not negate how far I have come, how great my progress is, and how the peace within myself still remains.  (6/9/10)

Live Patiently with the "Not Yet"
My mother’s emotions were bat crazy; she was in and out of unhealthy relationships, and she was running from a painful past that she could not escape. She was up, she was down, she was angry, she was caring, she screamed horrible words at her children for minor infractions; and so, nothing I ever did was good enough to make her act loving toward me, to keep her from yelling and cursing and playing favorites with the others.

My father and mother divorced when I was two, he joined the military, and after not seeing him for several years, he returned with a new wife. Naturally, I did not feel accepted by him either. The step mom was not my mother, so naturally I didn’t care for her and I believed the feeling was mutual. Whether it was or not, I’ll never know, but after a recent run-in with the stepmom’s own craziness, I wouldn’t doubt that she wished my father had no children when they met.

My mother remarried shortly after her and my father divorced, and I really didn’t like this new guy. While my mother did not discipline me and then scolded me when I did something “wrong”, the step dad wanted me disciplined from the very start. He grew up in a healthy home and wanted the same for his new family; he wanted structure, and rules, and a sense of normalcy. This went against everything my mother knew, so they fought and fought, viciously sometimes, and with every argument I hated him more and more. Fast forward 25 years and this man has become one of the few most important people in my entire life, and my mother, for me and for him, is no longer in the picture.

As I grew older I carried this sense of chaos and not being accepted into every situation and relationship. In school I had problems with teachers and classmates, and when the age came when I could date—watch out. I carried the same craziness I viewed from my mother into every relationship. Once I started drinking, which was at the age of 16, it was a whole new ballgame with more chaos, more broken friendships, more fights with the mother, and more problems in the classroom. This continued for 10 years and ended with a broken engagement, a broken arm, and a whole lot of pieces to pick up on my own.

Picking up the pieces began with counseling, then church, then medication. In between the “thens” were bouts of depression, serious depression, when I wanted to end my life. A few nights of heavy drinking ended with a bottle of pills, a razor in my hand and a choice to make. Such a dark, lonely place I was in. Looking back, I often wonder how I got out alive. Never had I felt pain run so deep, and I felt as if I was in the bottom of a well, screaming for help, pleading for someone to save me, but no one heard me. Except for Jesus.

Almost a year has gone by and with the help of a few spiritual counselors, my doctor, drug and alcohol therapy, and listening to and reading spiritual subject matter, I am doing okay. When I read that last paragraph I think of how far I have come, and how perhaps I should feel like I am doing great compared to back then. But I don’t want to reference “back then” to gage how well I am doing in life. I want a higher, more healthy standard for my life and that’s what I’m working on now--building a solid, never before seen, solid foundation for myself on which I will grow and thrive and love.  (6/4/10)

Let Jesus Transform You
I used my actions to express who I thought I was - crazy, out of control, disgusting, unlovable, deceitful.  I felt I had to mold myself to fit the emotions and circumstance of my mother; eventually, I became a person dependent upon emotions and circumstance to tell me who was and what I would do.  I was emotion and circumstance.  I would find friends and boyfriends and mold myself into what I thought they wanted. 

Nouwen states, "Jesus came to free you from these bonds and to create in you a space where you can be with him."  To me, this is the meaning of home.  Nouwen continues, "He wants you to live the freedom of the children of God."  This reminds me of something Joyce Meyer says in one of her podcasts..."With God, you can live a life that you have never before experienced."  (5/16/10)

Trust the Inner Voice
Nouwen states, “Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?”

Sometimes I wonder. I have this lengthy, in-depth blog with numerous posts and pages of this “journey” I speak of. I read daily, I’ve written more in the last couple of months than I have in my entire life combined, I’m praying, I’m having revelations, I’m listening to spiritual podcasts, I am consistent with my counseling and my medicine…but I still wonder, do I really want to be converted? Am I really ready to be transformed, and transformed completely?

I am holding on to my old life, not by actions but by thought. By guilt and shame and regret, I’m still hanging on the old, miserable Kristin. I so much want to let her go, but I’m kind of fond of that girl, that weak, sad girl. I feel like she needs me, like she will be truly lost if let her go. Part of me wants to believe the old Kristin could survive and be successful in her old ways. I spent 27 years as that girl, and the thought of grieving her loss is unimaginable. So much of me wants to resurrect her, to tell her it will all be okay and the last 27 years weren’t a complete waste, but another part of me wants to lay her to rest, give her one last kiss on the cheek, maybe have a glass of wine for good measure, and be done with her. This would be freedom. (5/12/10)

Stop Being a Pleaser
Nouwen begins, “You have to let your father and father figures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.” I scratched out the word father and wrote mother.

How did I please my mother? I kept my mouth shut to avoid verbal warfare and drank my feelings instead. I agreed with every crazy demand she made but rebelled in secret. I wore a mask, a never-ending facade of “yes, mother” to get through her particular crisis at the time. Obedience led to comfort only to be led to more crisis.

Others have taken the place of my mother. How do I please others? I say yes when I mean no. I skirt around a topic, viewpoint, question, want, or need. I don’t say what I want, therefore I don’t get what I want, and then I resent the person for not giving me what I want.

Nouwen says, “You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.” How do I identify as a free self? I first thought to be a free self I would need to know what I want and why I want it, and tell others exactly what I want. But at this point in my journey, I believe that to be a free self I should just stop wanting and start trusting. Start trusting that God will give me everything I need, and what I don’t have that he wants to give me, he will place in me the desire to seek out those things, creating an even greater dependence on him which will only strengthen my walk of faith and bring God the greatest glory. (5/11/10)

Keep Returning to the Road to Freedom
I experience one set back as I’m reminded of another. Then something painful happens, and it all becomes too overbearing and I quit. I surrender, not to God, but to pain. I find myself again in that same lost place, where all I have around me is the smallness of myself. This is depression.

Sometimes stepping off onto the shoulder is necessary; it’s a matter of survival. I may just have to step to the side for a bit to let bigger obstacles pass, all for the simple fact that I am not yet strong enough to take them head on. (5/9/10)

Find the Source of Your Loneliness
Why am I lonely? What is my pain and how can it pave a new way to Christ’s love?

Growing up it was hard to keep friends. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t fit in because of my looks, my family, my life – as a child and now as an adult.  Here I am living alone in a small apartment with no connection to childhood friends, to high school friends, to college friends.  I look around and I haven’t gone far. I’ve only been taken advantage of; I’ve only been judged, and I don’t measure up – to my standards or others.

My situation is unique. The situation of my mother. The situation of my father. The situation of the fighting. The situation of being too sexually familiar too young. The situation of how much I hate myself, how much I hate how I look, how I smell, how I feel, how I talk, how I cry. This separates me from others.  I want to fit in. I want to be liked. I want to be thought highly of, but my situation prevents this and adds to my loneliness. And at the heart of the matter, this all is not possible anyways.

I’m more comfortable alone because nothing matters. There are no judgments. No criticisms as to how my apartment looks, how I look, how my belongings look, what I do or how I do it.  No one understands me, so I seclude myself because I’m more comfortable alone than around people who don’t understand me.

Open Yourself to the First Love
I have felt the need to move on from so many failed relationships. It becomes exhausting, this “moving on”. Instead, I should work to accept these relationships as what they were, and as Nouwen says, “realize that the love you received in them is part of a greater love.”

In relationships, if I sense something doesn’t “click”, or if a person rubs me the wrong way, then I immediately place the person in the “outsiders” category. I will be friendly to them, but not overly, sometimes I will say hello, and sometimes I just completely ignore them. I don’t care about consistency with these “outsiders”.

But, even a person’s presence, his or her acknowledgment of me, whether we are strangers, acquaintances or best friends, is all a part of a greater love – God’s love. I must be thankful, kind, and open to all love in the same way, no matter how big or small.

Tell Your Story in Freedom
I will not let my past make me bitter and weak.  I will allow my past to strengthen me, to soften me.  I will become strong yet soft, calm yet energized.  My past does not define me; it simply tells a story of the woman I've become. (5/3/10)

Keep Living Where God Is
I feel like, at this point, it's so easy for me to drift from where God is and not even know it.  Or, is it possible I just think I am not with God?  Could it be that I am being hard on myself spiritually as I am in every other part of my life?

Cling to the Promise
God will put people in my life with whom I can confide in, trust, and feel secure. I must remain hopeful in this. I must also remain hopeful in knowing God will answer all of my questions, clear all of my confusion, and provide my soul with the love and acceptance I long for. All of my emotional holes, my dark, hollow abyss - He will fill with love, delivered to me through the spirit and human hands. But I must hold on. I must never give up. And while never giving up, I must take contentment in what is and what will be. (3/30/10)

Go into the Place of your Pain
I feel so stuck in my pain, like I can't move past it. It's always there, weighing me down, dictating my words and my actions. It's a feeling in my gut that says, "You are not well."

My pain controls me, what I do and don't do, say and don't say,

Anxiety, despair, regret - all rooted deep in my soul. Years of struggles, problems, bad memories, mistakes, missed opportunity - bits of pain pieced together into this person I've become, a person I've been running from and clinging on to for years, too many years. (3/16/10)

Trust in the Place of Unity
What does my heart believe?

I am loved. I am lovable. I love others.

God is love; therefore, God rests patiently in all relationships now and yet to come. God rests in me. (3/4/10)

Bring Your Body Home
My body is God's body, His temple.  Therefore, I must respect it, own it, care for it, and use it for His good.  I am His possession.  I loathe myself, I regret myself -- this disappoints my creator.  No matter what I've done or where I've been, God LOVES me. (3/4/10)

Understand the Limitations of Others
Limitations of others are okay, because no one person can give me what I need.  I find what I need to make me content within myself.

Come Home
I am unsure what Nouwen means by home.  My childhood and adolescent home was unstable, chaotic, quickly changing from one extreme to the other, depressing, draining, bitter, angry, and frustrating.

I am getting acquainted with my home, another new apartment--keeping it clean and organized, taking care of it.  I have never done this before, I have never valued where I lived by taking care of my home.  I have wondered why I always remained fearful anywhere I lived.  Now, I understand why.  I don't feel safe here or in any home.  In my subconscious, home is unsafe and I am vulnerable.

In this sense, home is not meant in the familiar definition, but is meant to be a place inside of me where I find all that is offered by a true, healthy home. 

I am coming home.  Home where I feel loved.  Home where I feel appreciated and accepted in all circumstances, everyday no matter what.  Home is where I want to be, where I want to return to, and where I don't want to leave.

Give Gratuitously
I will always love Jared.  I will always love Jared's family.  They welcomed me and loved me, despite my darkness.  Inevitably, my darkness blocked me from accepting that I was loved.  So I sabotaged and ran like always.

What's done is done.  Love is love.  I pray they forgive me and love me still, even if it's in some tiny, forgotten place in their hearts.  And I am okay if they don't.

Cry Inward
Lord, I need you.  I am a jug pouring out with no event, relationship, memory, drink, day, experience, paycheck, or person able to fill me up. I am craving what you offer--love, peace, joy, patience, respect, humility, charity, thankfulness.  I am empty.  I fill my emptiness with items fit only for the flesh.  Feed my soul, Lord, with fruits found only in you.

Always Come Back to the Solid Place
This week was difficult.  I feel drained, tired, sad, empty, questioning life.  I must choose solid ground. (2/26/10)

Work Around Your Abyss
How can I find balance?  How do I know I'm working around my abyss?  How do I know what to do?
Good:  what I did on Sunday--typed out my feelings and thoughts, medicated, listened to spiritual podcast, nurtured my soul
Bad:  drinking, self-loathing, suicide  (02/10)

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