Life's Sweet Journey: Addiction
Showing posts with label Addiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Addiction. Show all posts

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mending Relationships and Forgiveness at Christmas

I posted this over on Instagram originally, but figured I would share it here as well for those that don't follow on IG. I know Christmas can often become heavier the older we get, so if the following is one of the reasons it seems harder each year, I hope that this leaves you feeling a little lighter and knowing that you aren't alone... 

I saw the above words on the wall the other night at The Coop and they been on my heart ever since, because it is so very true; it really is never too late to mend... After my brother died there was still something about our relationship that needed mending; a forgiveness that was needed, both towards him and towards myself. Once I was able to forgive the hurt that I felt he had caused our family, I also realized I needed to forgive myself for some of the hurt I am sure I caused him when my anger at his addiction got the best of me.

Mending that, for me, changed a part of my heart and while it doesn't make the loss of him at Christmas any less hard, I can now simply feel the hurt of loss at the moments he isn't here for, instead of holding onto some of the bitterness. I can approach the holidays with reminders of happy memories, because that was one thing about Christmas, whenever we were together, even if every other day was a battle, Christmas Day seemed to always just be a good one!

So please know that if you're hurting this season, if you are missing someone or if there is a relationship that needs to be mended, if there is someone you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from- be it a parent or child, a friend, a spouse, a sibling, or even yourself- it is never too late... after all isn't that what Christmas is all about? God fulfilling a promise to mend a broken world. Christmas is the ultimate mending of a relationship, when a Baby was born and laid in a manager, to set a course that would mend our relationship with God once and for all! And I am so very thankful for that!

If you find yourself hurting this Christmas, please know that my prayers and thoughts are with you. I hope that you find small moments of happiness to balance the heavy and make the load a little lighter. 

If this helped your heart and you would like to read further thoughts on past Christmases since my brother has been gone you can read them here; both the heavy moments and the lighter ones

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Running for Addiction Recovery// MBS Recovery Run

If you have been following this blog for awhile, you may have read my thoughts during the years following my brothers death from a drug overdose {these can be read in the heading A Recovering Family}. For those of you that are new here it has definitely shifted to become much more about my current lifestyle and the travels Babe and I take in our travel trailer, Flo. However, my families history with drug addiction has shaped a lot of who I am today and recovery is something that I am still passionate about. Because of that I hope you will grant me a break from travel posting to share something that means a lot to me. 

Last year was the first ever MBS Recovery Run and it is now time for the second. Below is a post I wrote to share the race last year and I am going to share it again, because the video paints a clear picture of what the race is intended to be. My daddy is the sweet man at the end, the one holding a picture of my brother. Addiction is a beast, one that can tear and kill and destroy. That is why I am so proud of my dad, the men of MBS Surf Co. and the amazing team of people that put this video together for the Recovery Run. Take a look...

This year's race is to be held this Saturday, November 5th, at 8:30 am, in Baldwin Park. Last years event was so full of people out to support one another; some who knew John Wayne and our family personally and many who had simply heard of the race and came to run for a  that had touched their own life in someway. Just seeing the amount of people there to cheer for one another, and to run to show support for those living in recovery, was amazing. 

Photo Credit: MBS Recovery Run Facebook
Recovery is so important! It is a lifestyle that you have to choose every single day, but it is one that is so much more than worth it. It truly is a choice of life and death. I am looking forward to seeing the turnout for this years race and to seeing another year of people run for those saying "yes" to recovery! 

If you would like to donate, sponsor or live locally and would like to run you can sign up at the race website. You can also support the race by purchasing a Serenity Prayer shirt or mug. I made them to honor my brother's memory and to help raise money for the race. Proceeds from the sales through these links go directly to the race and to addiction recovery. 

For more of my thoughts about the race and the battle against addiction you can read this post written prior to last year's run.
And for those in the throes of addiction, helping a family member or friend on their recovery road, or making the choice each and every day to stay in recovery my prayers and thoughts are with you. Recovery isn't easy, but it's worth it. It is so worth it! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Ache of the Wait

I finally sat down to write this post, after I spent the better part of the day trying to avoid it. This space has become more than I had ever envisioned for it, but it often times puts my heart at war with my head. Sharing the mix of the hard, in with mixes of the joy can make me feel as if I don't know the voice of this space, but then I have come to realize that it's all just my voice and some days that voice is light and carefree and some days it can feel as if the weight of the world can leak out when I open my mouth. That's where it started today. Yet, as I wrote, I found myself with this sense of deja vu, so I looked back through last years posts and discovered that I had written nearly the same post I had just started. As I reread my own words, they spoke to my heart the things I needed and so I thought I would share them again, but add a little more this time. 

You see, I had approached Thanksgiving with a sense of anxiety I didn't realize I had until the holiday weekend ended and I finally found that I could breathe again, like taking a long breathe of air after trying to see how far you could swim underwater before surfacing. And then on the ride to work the other day, I found myself singing along to my Christmas CD, when tears I didn't even know I had coming found themselves streaking down my face. It had started with the words, "...Trust me and follow me and I will lead you Home." The next thing I know I am trying to get out the words to my Grownup Christmas List and my heart seems to understand every word in a different way and the song became more of a prayer than a song and "I'm all grown up now, but I still need help somehow" seemed to reverberate through my soul and out into the world. And I found myself wondering if it's not just those that have lost someone close, but really all of us who have fully entered the world of adulthood and taken off the blinders that leave us feeling this ache of Christmas. 

When I was writing today's post in my head, before I ever remembered last years post, I had been thinking about the ache of the wait leading up to Jesus' birthday. The post I found was actually written a few days after Christmas and this is what it said... 

The tree stands glowing in the center of the window, in the same place it has always stood, adorned with the same ornaments for over 20 years. It looks the same as it always has, yet it means something different this year. It holds on its limbs the sweetest of memories, but they are memories so very sweet that they leave an ache behind. An empty, dull, pit in your stomach ache, because they hold all that isn't there. It meant the same last year, but I may have been too blinded with grief that I didn't see them. Or they were too hard to put up. This year the sting wasn't so fresh. It didn't take just the feel of the breeze to make the world hurt. But the ache is still there, it will always be there. In the mention of a name and in the ornaments that hang amid light draped branches. They are the sweetest memories and they still can be. But it's the texts you get from your dad, who is putting the ornaments on the tree, saying it's a slow going process. He doesn't say why, but you know. So you go over and you help and though you don't hang but one ornament its just the fact that there is someone there to look and see. To look and see and not need to say anything, because you both know what the other is thinking. You both know that the ornaments mean so much, but feel so hard. 
The ache is still there on Christmas morning. It's there when you are making waffles and eating them. And it's there as tears fall down faces during a pre-breakfast prayer. It's there in between all the wrapping paper and bows. It's there when presents are presented. Beautiful paintings that so artistically brought sweet memories to life. Yet, the ache is there because on this side of heaven the closest we will get to life here on earth with my brother is the smile in the paintings and in the memories that fill our hearts. It's there when you smile at the joy of a three year old opening presents, hugging Elsa dolls close. It ebbs and flows and sometimes gets forgotten, but it comes back. And really that's ok. 

The ache can be handled, it can be tolerated. Though we hate that it has to be tolerated, we will tolerate it all the same. Because it's better than forgetting all together. For numbing it down so much that you crawl blindly through the holidays. That's about where I was last year, there isn't much that I remember. This year the picture is different. There was more color, more light. There was so much more life in this Christmas. I am glad for that. I am glad that on Christmas, on the time of year that we celebrate life, that we celebrate the greatest Birth there ever was, that I can ache. When a part of you is gone, some of you will always ache. I think it is similar to the way our hearts are hardwired to ache for Jesus. We think fondly of the sweetest gift, the gift that filled the whole world with hope. We ache for the fact that we are so far from sitting face-to-face with Jesus, but we are glad for the fact that someday we will. I am glad that the ache can remind me of all that was good. I am glad for the sweet memories of life that will make it just as hard to take down the tree as it was to put up. And I am glad for the fact that, while I ache here on earth, it is just a matter of time before I see my brother again and get to rejoice at seeing his face. I get to rejoice because the sweet memories will be there, but all the hard things will be long forgotten. 
My gosh, how those words just echoed in my heart again this year. But in a different way. This year, the anxiety felt different and now having made it through Thanksgiving, I have a better understanding of it. I know when it comes and I can greet it with a nod of my head. It still sits there, but there is more joy in those moments. The joy and sorrow aren't separate things anymore, but a mix of it all. Even in the midst of moments that, in the previous two years would have left me unable to speak, I am able to fondly talk about memories with a sense of joy and light in my voice. Time has given me that. And while time can not erase the hurt that lingers, I don't think it should. Our hearts should be hardwired to hurt for things that are wrong. Our hearts should ache and cry out and pray loudly words like, 

"No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
and wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up christmas list" 

Our hearts should ache for the coming of Jesus, so that His birth gives way to the joy of what the gift of His Love really means; which is that someday all of those prayers will be answered. Some day the ache will lead to Him coming to us, taking us by the hand and saying. "Trust me and follow me, we are going Home."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Running 4 Recovery

I don't really think I need to say much for this post, other than please watch the video. My daddy is the sweet man at the end, the one holding a picture of my brother. Addiction is a beast, one that can tear and kill and destroy. That is why I am so proud of my dad, the men of MBS Surf Co. and the amazing team of people that put this video together for their first Run 4 Recovery. Take a look... 

If you would like to donate, sponsor or live locally and would like to run you can sign up at their website. You can also support the race by purchasing a Serenity Prayer shirt. I made them to honor my brother's memory and to help raise money for the race. 

You can also enter to win one below. The winner will be chosen on Sunday and I will email you to find out your size, color choice and address and have it sent your way! (Thank you to all those who entered, I am really sorry, but I actually had to remove this giveaway. Thank you for understanding.) 

For more of my thoughts about the race and the battle against addiction you can read this post from earlier in the month.
And for those in the throes of addiction, helping a family member or friend on their recovery road, or making the choice each and every day to stay in recovery my prayers and thoughts are with you. Recovery isn't easy, but it's worth it. It is so worth it! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Words for Wednesday: Feet with Wings// Run for Recovery

Have you ever had one of those moments, where a reality of today sends you spiraling into the reality of the past? A moment that makes you think on what you've learned since you were young. A moment that makes you look at your past in a different way. I've thought about my brother, John Wayne, a lot recently, about his struggle with addiction. Addiction is a monster. People are afraid of monsters. I am afraid of monsters. But what happens when monsters attach themselves to the faces that we love most? What happens when it's hard to separate the two from each other? I had a hard time separating those things when I was younger. Every now and then I still do. But (maybe if only in this instance) I am grateful for the knowledge that comes along with aging. I am thankful for the fact that I had moments, before my brother died, that allowed me to see those things -the monster and the man- as two different beings. I am thankful that I could love my brother while I hated his addiction. And I did. And I do.

I hate addiction, in all forms. Addiction is a thing that takes. It's a thing that sucks life out of people. It's a word I try not to use lightly. I am not addicted to coffee, I am not addicted to TV. If they started sucking the life away from who I was then ok, but I am not addicted to them. They do not make me a shadow of the person I am. They do not control me. So, I can hate addiction. And I hate to use the word hate. But I can love something that comes from addiction. I love recovery. I love the story it writes for people, everyday that they choose to continue living in it. Recovery is not a point on a map. It is not a destination one will reach and say, "I am finished now". Recovery is a road with peripheral vision always in view. Recovery is a choice, made again and again; day after day, hour after hour, minute upon minute. Recovery is what saves lives. Recovery is what saves families.

My dad and the men at Mind, Body and Soul Surfing Co. have devoted their hearts to the fight for life. They have set themselves on the road for those in recovery, to be a face along that road, a sign to reads keep going. And that's why I will be participating in something I don't like, to fight something I really hate, in order to support something I really love. MBS is hosting it's first run for recovery. A run to support those that have met the monster of addiction somewhere along the way. A run to encourage them and help fund their road of recovery. On November 7th, in Orlando (Baldwin Park) Florida, people will be rallying to lace up their shoes and open their hearts to run for and with those who fight the monster that is addiction. Money raised will go to support Turning Point of Central Florida, an organization whose mission has been to work with not only the addict, but their families as well, to set a course for a life lived above addiction.

I am not a runner, in fact I quite dislike it, but I will do it. I will do it for my brother, for his memory, and for the love that he brought into my life. I will run to help my dad continue John Wayne's story. Running is the least I can do.

This race doesn't rewrite our story, it doesn't change what addiction took from us. But it may change the course of someone else's story. Addiction isn't something that is going away. It isn't something to be swept under the rug or whispered about in quiet corners. Addiction is a beast that will slip into the middle of people, slip into the middle of families, and cut them them wide. Talk about it. Encourage those you love to seek help. Encourage them to work the steps they need to. Encourage them to live for themselves and not let addiction live for them. Yes, the addict fights inside alone, but family plays their part. You can support, you can love. You can build up and be that face along the way. Not the face that runs the race for them, but the face that says keep going. The face that says...
"I know it's hard, but you're not through yet. Pound it out. Foot after foot. Breath upon breath. Bear down, fight hard, and finish strong. Worn up and sweaty, but strong." Be the face they see cheering all along the way.

I would love for you to join me. If you would like to sign up to run you can click the image above. If you don't live nearby, but would like to donate to the race you can also do so. Thank you for your support. Addiction really is a fight for life. And each life is worth it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Words for Wednesday: A Battle We Can't Lose

I was running late, I debated skipping service. I am glad I didn't. On Sunday at church we wrapped up Romans chapter 7. And it started with these questions...

What names do you try to live up to? 
What names do you carry around like a weight you can't throw off?

As the sister of an addict I took on a lot of them for a very long time. I was the "older brother" before I really realized what that meant. And I carried it around with me like it was something I had to live up to, like it was something I should live up to; at times even something I felt I should be proud. Growing up with an addict, or even just a sibling who causes trouble a lot, there can be that sibling who feels like they have to be the "good kid". That was me. You feel like you have to make up for all the issues that happen along the way. But it only causes more; more issue for you, more issues for everyone. It causes you to walk in a way that is not only unrealistic, but damaging.

When I was growing up I viewed Christianity in the same way I viewed being the sibling of an addict. I viewed it in a "I need to be better and do better, because that is what you are supposed to do" way. And it left me feeling resentful, it left me without relationship... it left me on the outside of my relationship with Jesus and it left me on the outside of my relationship with my brother. It wasn't until I was older, as I really began to actually pour into and explore my walk with God, that I realized that the weight of what I was asking of myself was not only too heavy, but that it was impossible and served no purpose. God didn't want me to act out of a need to please, God wanted me to simply be. To come to Him as I am, to admit to Him the brokenness that hurt my soul and to ask Him to fill in where I couldn't. He wanted me to adore Him as someone who wanted my trust and love more than he wanted my blind "rule-following."

It doesn't mean that I have really changed my ways. I still ultimately try to do good and make the right choices, but for a different reason. For the same reason that loving someone and being loved in return makes us want to be the best version of ourselves. For the reason that when we know we are so deeply Loved and cherished, we want to show our love in return not only with words but with actions.

When I realized the plight of the "older brother" and how lost he was, I broke. And that moment, though I didn't realize it then, was freeing. I was free to let go of the weight of having to be the "good kid" and I was free to build relationships instead of walls. And as my relationship with Jesus (and understanding of what Grace truly means) grew into a personal one, my relationship with my brother did too. Does that mean it was perfect? Does that mean I didn't struggle and grapple with my anger at the choices he made? No, I still did. All the time. But it did mean forgiveness had room to seep in (me for him and him for me). And it meant that I now have moments to be so thankful for after my brother ultimately had his struggle be one that took him from us here. And it also means that I can be so thankful that his struggle didn't truly win. That even though addiction is a horrible, ugly thing, that kills bodies and splits families wide open, it doesn't have the ultimate victory. It isn't the ultimate victory! My brother, with his brokenness and addiction and also his zest for life and huge heart, believed that Jesus came to save him. And Jesus did come to save him. And because of that, Jesus won! My brother's struggle didn't win. My own struggles won't win.

Today would have been my brother's birthday. Today IS my brother's birthday. I hadn't realized that when I first wrote the majority of this piece after Sunday's church sermon with plans to post it today. But I find it to be so ultimately fitting. Today John Wayne is celebrating with Jesus. Today is he having the best birthday party any of us could ever hope to have. Today he is winning at life!!  

The battle won't be easy, it was never promised that it would be. 

But you can approach a battle differently when you know it is one that you can NOT lose. 

And for that, I am thankful. Thankful beyond measure, beyond name, and beyond any need to be anything other than myself.
Photo credit from Summit Church; listen to the whole sermon by Zach Van Dyke here. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Words for Wednesday: Grief and Glory

I have been absent from this space for a few weeks. Life was in that flux of space between grief and joy and I wasn't sure which emotions and feelings I felt like sharing (or really which ones I even felt) and so I didn't write at all. Which, I have realized in turn, is bad for my soul. I discovered a while ago that, even if I never post publicly, I need to share the words that choke up my heart. In writing, just for myself, over coffee, with others, internally, externally and most importantly with Jesus. 

I am not usually one to shy away from openness. I share a lot on here, because I feel that in sharing pain and our own walk with suffering we all help one another. Reading things where people share their hearts helps me realize I am not alone. But on the wake of the second anniversary of my brothers death I felt things that were new, things I wasn't sure how to voice and so I tried to block them out and not think on them. And then a sermon preached this past weekend was the gentle reminder I needed of the Glory that there can be in suffering. 

Zach Van Dyke, of Summit Church, preached on Romans Chapter 5 (verses 1-8). He preached about the desire for  a happy place, he referenced Inside Out, he quoted Chronicles of Narnia, he shared joy and sadness and he shared that Christianity is not stoicism (listen here). As Christians our hearts will be broken a million times over and it doesn't mean that we can't suffer, that we can't feel sadness or pain or that when we do we should hold it all in. The Glory is IN the suffering. It is in the broken moments when our tears roll down our cheeks and mix with Jesus'. It is the understanding that when we suffer we can also know we are not alone. Jesus' truest Glory came through His most ultimate suffering and it was the thing that saved the entire world. 

Suffering and grief are part of the picture of what makes us human. In this world we will suffer. But slowly time heals and suffering and sadness mix with joy and that joy is amplified by the pain that hides underneath. This second anniversary of John Wayne being gone was a strange mix of those feelings. Two days before was my mother's 60th birthday and my sister's 35th and we did the best we could to celebrate that day with joy, but there is a lingering undertone. It is the chance to be together with family and close friends to celebrate, but the reminder of what's missing is forever there and so the laughter and the tears blend together in a mess of BBQ and key lime pie. And that's ok. 

Last year the grief was so fresh. This year it left us each trying hard to go about our daily business, some even working longer hours that day to have less time at home. We didn't meet up again, instead leaving the celebration of birth our time together as a family. We reached out to each other via texts and we responded to each others Facebook messages on my his still active page. Calls were harder, as if the sound of a voice would be the cutting edge we needed to break past the floodgates until we all went under together. I am not sure if that was the best means to get us through the day, but it was what we all seemed to need. An unspoken bond that would carry us into the day after. And sometimes that's all it is when sadness and joy morph into a relationship with one another; an unspoken bond of understanding that, though the two might seem polar opposites, they need one another in way that other emotions don't. The reminder that this isn't all there is. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Surrendering the Older Brother

"Don't you know I'm the prodigal son?" He says it with a smirk and a condescending smile as he closes and locks the bathroom.

And, like something that feels threatened and angered I do the first thing that comes to my mind. I start spewing venom. I start banging on the locked door like all of the world's problems will be solved if I can just break the door from its hinges or in any way shape or form get him to move faster. "Open the dang door!! You are the most selfish person I have ever met in my entire life! Who do you think you are? Get out of the shower!! You do not have time to shower! Today is not about you!! We are already late and we have to leave! Dad said we had to be out in the car! You think of no one but yourself! You care about no one but yourself! We all know you're the fricking prodigal son, you sure do get everything you want!! That's your problem!! Now GET OUT!!!" I scream so hard my throat feels raw. I scream and I scream and I am right where I was before I ever even started screaming, behind a closed and locked door, accomplishing absolutely nothing. And do you know what happens with those words that left my mouth like venom? They burn. They burned coming out and they burn afterwards. They burn a hole right through you. They are words that never leave you.

There is no vindication in them. There is no answer. There is only weakness and the hurt that you felt and then placed on someone else. And maybe in that moment, when all my brother wanted was 5 minutes in the shower even though he had woken up late, he felt like he would use the prodigal son card to get what he felt he deserved. But when you feel like you have the authority to call yourself that it's also because you know how far you had fallen. How lost you had been. And instead of looking behind the condescending smile and the air of entitlement that I was "so sure" he was throwing in my face, I played into the older brother role yet again. And in that moment I was just as lost as I had always assumed he was. I was so far past any realm of understanding because I let my own brokenness cloud what was going on. I fell into my human nature and made my bitterness, my brokenness, more important than his struggle. And I will always carry that with me. You see, I vowed after that trip to NEVER again go on a family trip with John Wayne. Or at least to never be made to stay in the same hotel room with him. And I never did. I will never have the chance to. Because a year after that trip, he would never get the chance to take another one. 

I had prepared myself for this week's sermon. I had been given fair warning that this sermon was going to be about the prodigal son. I thought that I had come to terms with the demons that I faced that left me a heap of a mess after each previous sermon preached on this same story. I was wrong. Because again, from word one, I was waterworks. And do you know the moment that I truly broke open? It was these 4 simple words, "Jesus loves older brothers." That was all it took. I thought I had come to terms with it, with my sin and brokenness and the bitterness that played so strongly on my heart. I had asked God to forgive me. Thank God I had the opportunity to ask John Wayne to forgive me. But I realized, in that moment, that I had never allowed myself to forgive me. I never forgave that part of myself that held so strongly to those moments where everything in me broke. 

I held onto those words, to those moments of broken anger and others like them, like some badge of shame against myself, so that I would remember the feelings that came after them. I never really let them go. I let them play on repeat and fester in my mind and in my heart and all that did was lead to more broken and bitter feelings. This time at myself for the role I often played in our story. I feel grateful for the times where I could have a conscious discussion with my brother. I am grateful that not long before he died, we had been talking about trying to give the whole "family trip" another shot. And yet, I still could not surrender the hardness I had built against myself and his addiction to allow for me to drop my "older brother" badge altogether. I held onto it, unwilling to surrender it to God. Unwilling to let Him take it and make that part of my heart His. It seemed too ugly somehow. Too broken. But nothing is too broken for God.


"Jesus loves older brothers." 


My heart needed those words. Jesus came for everything lost in us, for the older brothers and younger brothers alike. And He said "I love youI love you more than the pain of death and loss and I will carry you home. I will celebrate YOU, because you were lost and now you are found." And with tears streaming I surrendered the darkest parts of myself. The parts I tried to keep locked tight and hidden away. I surrendered them then and I will surrender them each time I feel like I am trying to pull them back, because God can do such a better job at loving the older brother in me than I can. 

If you would like to listen to the sermon and the rest of the series (preached by Zach Van Dyke) you can click through the picture at the top of the post or find it here

Monday, December 1, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks, Saving Innocence

"The rain brings life- so does the sun." -Saving Mr. Banks 
When one thinks Disney or Mary Poppins, they think happy thoughts. They think magic. But I have so often found that magic is given to the areas in our lives that we fear the sting of reality. Addiction is messy. It is messy and ugly and it takes away so much. Yet, it is very much a part of reality. Saving Mr. Banks hits that reality on the head in the most real of ways. But it also saves something too. It saves innocence and it saves magic. I have never been one who likes to watch realistic movies. I prefer my movies (and books for that matter), with enough fantasy to pull me out of the world for just a brief moment in time. I don't mean that in the sense that I watch only far out fantasies or pure science-fiction. I mean that I prefer movies with enough reality that they could almost be real, if it weren't for the fact that they aren't because there is far more that the movie doesn't show you. They leave out the messy and broken bits. Or they weave them together in such a way that they are all well and mended by the time the credits roll. I don't tend to watch documentaries or read biographies. Even Sundance movies are far too real world for me. Which is exactly why the story of Mary Poppins is something I can't stop watching. It is the hard and bitter truth of reality, of one grown child's story of addiction, told through the magic of one man's imagination, to paint for her a world in which things ended up alright. 

I watch Saving Mr. Banks and my heart breaks and mends and breaks and mends time after time. It breaks for the little girl who covers for a father she loves. It mends for the woman who opens her heart to the forgiveness she denied herself. It breaks for the cruel reality that addiction brings into people's lives. It mends for the resiliency we have within our hearts to keep going when it takes everything away. 

When I watch saving Mr. Banks I see my own story. I hear the lies you tell yourself to pretend it all away. I see broken people, wearing the physical faces of breaking hearts. I think about all the questions, the questions screamed outwardly and inwardly. When I watch Saving Mr. Banks I can't help but think about the questions that my niece won't have to ask because she was never old enough to understand what was going on around her in the heat of a relapse. But I wonder too about what questions she will ask the older she gets and knows fully the reality that her dad isn't here. I dread the day she asks why. How do you explain to anyone, at any age, the truth behind addiction? I still don't understand it. 

When she is three you can tell her that her daddy is in her heart and that he is with Jesus and that he loves her and that is and always will be true, but what about the day when she wants more? Yet, in it all there are things to be thankful for. Thankful that she was too young to realize what was going on, thankful that she was too young to be made into a crutch to hold up a world that was falling apart around her. I am thankful for the fact that she can hold onto magic, that we all can. When we loose that innocence, that magic, we turn our backs on the hope that life can have beauty. When we loose that, we build walls around our hearts. Walls that have thorns to keep out anything that can hurt us. We build fortresses around our battered hearts to protect us. Fortresses that shoot arrows to fend off anything at all; love, pain, life and death. I know, because I have been there. Keep out the good to keep out the bad. 

Life on Earth? Addiction? The reality of all the painful things? They are hard, brutal and messy. There is no way around that and no way to prepare for it. But I have hope and faith in the things that I can not see. I know that someday I will live in a world without pain and without tears. I will live in a Kingdom with no walls, because they won't be needed and that is no fairytale. That is the magic, that is the ending to the story- and the beginning. That is the reality that changed all realities. Walt Disney took Mary Poppins and he saved Mr. Banks. God sent us Jesus and He saved the whole world. It hurts- He never promised it wouldn't- that believing doesn't mean we all get to live here on Earth together until we are old and feel that we have fully lived. It hurts that people leave before we are ready for them to. Free will and the choices we make often hurt us, but there is the Promise of a life forever. And I will hold onto that. I will hold onto that and the innocence of a child-like heart. The innocence and magic of a child-like heart that can find beauty in the most messy of stories. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sin Boldly

Do you sin boldly? 
No? You should! You should sin boldly. 
Sermons often have a way of rocking me, but some have a way of breaking me wide open. 
They are all just words, words formed by letters, to make a sentence that someone speaks aloud. But it is in that arrangement of those specific letters that one can truly see the power of words, the power in a sermon. They are words laid together just so, so that we can see God at work through the one who is teaching them.

Sin is a short word, comprised of three letters. But it holds so much if we let it... All week long I have heard those words "sin boldly", replayed the question in my mind as I attempt to fall asleep. 

This entire week and all week before that really, I have walked around in a fog. I stopped blogging. I did exactly what I had recently vowed I was not going to do anymore. I wrapped myself in cloak of haze and let myself hide in it. Why? Because I don't want to think. I don't want to remember. I don't want to move forward, because it is painful. I stopped thoughts, because I didn't want to feel the pull that it would bring from my heart. It has been almost a year since my brother died and with it comes the urge to block it all out again. 
But God gets through fog and haze has nothing on Jesus. And so, He met me where I was. He met me where I was so that I could see the question marks that I had been letting eat me from the inside. 

Do I sin boldly? 
That answer would have been no and I would have thought it should be. Sin boldly? Why would I want to sin boldly? And so I leaned in closer and I listened. "You sin boldly, because Jesus is bolder than sin." These words made sense, but not in real terms. And then there was a reference, a reference to a story that always brings me to my knees... the younger brother, the prodigal son. The inaudible intake of breathe, the invisible fingers tightening around my insides was all it took and the tears were pouring out, tears I had been forcing back all week long. This story has so much significance for me and usually without fail any mention of this story will leave me in tears, it has for years. But these tears were different. These tears held so much of what I have been working so hard to repress, because when this story was mentioned- in this particular sermon, in this particular context- I was confronted with all of the questions I have been refusing to acknowledge. The question prosed went something like this, "What if part of the reason the younger brother left in the first place was because his older brother wasn't contrite enough to share his own sins? What if the younger brother felt he could never live up to the expectations set by his older sibling and so he just didn't even care to try?" 
And so in the middle of a sermon, on a Sunday, in the far corner of a sanctuary I broke open. All week long words have been bottling up and now, because another sleepless night can wait, they will bleed out. Cut open, bleeding black and white. 
Was I contrite enough? 
Did I do enough to help a dark situation? 
Did my brother know that my heart could be just as sinful as his?
Did I share my story with him? 
Did I share my sin? 
I brought him to church, I encouraged him to come to reGroup. I did this checklist of things I thought might help him, but how did I do it? Did I say "come, you need this" or did I tell him how much I need it all too? 

I would like to think I did. I would like to think a part of me had gotten better, that I had learned to be more forgiving. I would like to think he remembered my apologizes more than he remembered the words I spewed at him in anger. But then I replay the number of my memories that include bitter undertones. I can't go back, I can't replay the picture. I can only hope that the things I shared with him before he died were enough for him to know just how badly I wanted him in those seats. I am grateful for the year we had before he died, I am grateful for the redemption our relationship had started to see, but I also know that I could have done more. Our stories are our own, but they are also there for the sake of others. Looking back, I wish I had shared more. Not on pen and paper, in my own private way, but out loud with him. I wish I hadn't waited until I had fully understood my own sin to share it with him, because it wasn't enough time. 

I know that these things - these questions and the way I throw them at myself- are a processing step; a self-inflicted guilt pang that will probably heal with scar-tissue that can still be felt from underneath the skin. They are real; they are the questions that I have been pushing to the far corners of my mind because I didn't want to address them. Yet, they are what I need. I need them to be the reminder that my sin should be shared; shared boldly, so that I don't have to question if I could have shared more. Shared boldly so that maybe another "younger brother" doesn't feel the need to run so far away, so that maybe they will want to settle into a seat, that fills a room, that is filled with people who can help tell them of God's grace. 

Sin is a short word, comprised of three letters. But it holds so much if we let it.
God is a short word too, but God will trump sin every time.
He doesn't need to hold any of it for us, He has already let it go. 

Link to hear sermon (preached by Zach Van Dyke) 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letting it Change

To say I have ever welcomed change would be the furthest thing from the truth. I have often feared change above all else, often gripping far too tightly to things, even ones that I knew were not the things God wanted for me. Even when things were going terribly I would often cling to what was known simply for the fact that it was comfortable. But recently, I have felt this itching for something that needed to be moved. It was me; it has been me. And yesterday, while sitting in a staff meeting it was all too clear to me. A wonderful leader at our church spoke on the subject of change; change in the way it relates to grief and to healing. He talked of the healing process in the physical sense. That sometimes, after a bad fall or an accident that leaves one injured, there is a period of unmoving. 

You have to be still to heal. 

You have to let the world move around you and you have to allow your body the time it needs to repair itself. It is the same for emotional wounds as well. The ones that often seem, at least to me, harder to face. We don’t have to look at them. We cover the bags under our eyes with makeup or fill our bodies with caffeine to keep us going. We bury ourselves in busy so that our emotions can remain at rest. Laid docile so that they don’t drown us. But eventually, as with a physical injury, there comes a time when we have to get back in the game. There comes a time where we have to welcome change, start some physical therapy and put the body back to the work it was purposed for. That’s where I am now. I have felt it coming because I have felt the grip on my heart, the hand around my throat that means I am trying to keep feelings at bay. I knew it was coming because when my schedule opened up more during the summer, due to one job being out from break, I panicked. I had been looking forward to the freedom, the chance to just sit, be and breathe. That was until I really thought about what that extra time meant, exactly what that sitting, being and breathing would bring about. 
It would mean less tasks to occupy my time; less "have to get dones" and more time for the "you need to address this". Getting back to blogging was another pinpoint sign that I needed to let it change. I needed to let some of that pain back in to fully keep moving. I stopped blogging because it was too hard to find words, it was hard to make words make sense. The things I did write during that time (simply because the words had to come out some how) are not words that I am sure I will ever share. They are hard. They are raw and they are void of much hope.

My little brother, Patrick, got married this weekend and it was a glorious, beautiful morning of celebrating new love and new potential. But things were missing, people were missing. A father was missing his eldest son and a daughter wasn’t able to kiss her daddy on Father’s Day. Instead, she kissed a balloon and sent it up to heaven. Makaylin was confused. Her eyes saw a balloon, but her demeanor said she didn't understand the meaning of the moment. What do you do in the situation? So I took some time to explain it to her, to let her know she was sending the balloon to her daddy. She still didn't seem to understand why everyone was circled around her or why they were watching her so intently, but she kissed it and she let it go. Then she grabbed her cousins hand and they ran, as fast their little legs could carry them, so that they could dip their toes in the water. And while on one hand she is young, there is a side that stands to reason that maybe we haven’t (maybe I haven’t) done enough to continue the story for her. John Wayne’s story has been continued in the life of the recovery community and shared to help others. But have we done the job needed to help her understand his story as her father? We add him to our prayers at night but outside of that it has been hard to mention his name outside of bigger events. Hard because when she asks questions or smiles and tells us her daddy is in her heart it brings it all back, it makes things fresh. That’s where I am now, at the road between wanting to avoid having to face things I was never prepared for and knowing that it is time. 
It is time to figure out the future from here. It is time to forge a new beginning and the bright possibilities that holds, while still remembering the past and all the good and bad images it contains. It is time to let change happen. To let God change me into the person he has been molding and will continue to mold for the rest of my time here on earth. It is time to get up, time to move forward. The tears that I fought hard against as I listened to the words of a wise man during a monthly staff meeting told me so. The tug on my heart that says, “this will be hard, but it will be worth it” reminds me of it every time I want to curl up in a ball on the couch and shut it all out. The breathing may seem hard right now, but it will get lighter. It will get lighter as I give it over, as I let go of the controlled face I have worked hard to put on and as I let go of the "strings" so that my hands are open to embrace the change.