Questionable truth

My first memory was of my dad standing over my autistic brother and hitting him while he flailed back on the floor. They were in the kitchen and on that day I remember my brother screaming and the cupboard doors rattling. He must’ve been 3 because I was around 4. My mom stood in the doorway a few rooms away holding back my brother Mark while I stood by her and watched.

That’s how my life started out. Many well meaning people who would rather not get involved told me things such as God is in control and God will never give you more than you can handle. No one prayed more fervently than me. God if you are in control, please make it stop. But my dad never became the loving father I wanted him to be. My brother never became normal. Did I do something wrong? Did I pray wrong? I couldn’t understand why things didn’t change when I so badly wanted them to. I tried my best to be perfect but still nothing changed.

There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I wondered what would happen when I finally broke. But that didn’t happen either. I became angry at God. If he wasn’t going to control things, I sure was going to try to. I became pretty good at controlling myself, others not so much.

For a long time I carried the burden of over responsibility. I can clearly remember when that started. I was 6 when I watched my younger brothers swim in the lake by myself. That was the day my baby brother almost drowned. I always thought that it was my fault until many years later when I realized how young I was. Maybe it even started before then, but I can’t remember. I always felt like I was responsible for things I didn’t have control over.

It became my job to try to fix things. I became a pretty good problem solver and counselor, but that should never be the responsibility of a child. In essence, I took the place of my dad because he only reacted with anger over issues and never stepped up. Still I prayed every night that things would change, but they never did.

If God wasn’t going to change things I was going to try to. But that didn’t really work so well for me either.

Then I thought maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. It’s time to throw away the childish coping mechanisms that I clung to. It’s not very realistic to think God is going to force my dad to become the father I’ve always wanted him to be. He had that choice and he threw it away.

The last post I talked about how strongly I felt about the freedom of choice. But maybe I don’t really want that. Maybe I just want God to sweep down and take control of my dad so he loves me.

Just because I want something to be good or perfect doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. My idea of God being in control and taking all my problems away when I can’t handle them anymore is incorrect.

Lately I was looking at my new 2022 pocket calendar. Inside there were little fun things to write about. One was to write down your favorite memory you had with your dad. I was stumped. I thought and thought for a long time. Nothing.

But for the first time, I didn’t blame it on God. I blamed it on my dad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to continue having a relationship with someone who hurt me. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him either. But I struggle with the thought that I am causing pain and that somehow this is my fault.

I am still confused about my relationship with God. What’s the purpose of prayer if God doesn’t answer them? My husband says that prayer is supposed to make us feel better about the situations we are in versus changing the situation. That is hard for me to understand because for me feeling better means things will change. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.

Maybe I am healing and growing if I am questioning things I always thought were truth.

Finding faith again

Arabella told us she was an atheist right after her first attempt. Being our youngest child, it wasn’t too shocking when she started to question the faith we brought her up in since her siblings did the same thing right around her age. Up until that point, she went to church with us and was involved. But that ended.

A couple months back, Arabella hit a low point. She only had one real friend that was willing to hang out with her. She met Kami at inpatient. Kami was the girl that told everyone she was going to jump off a bridge, but her car broke down on the way. It wasn’t meant to be. It seems like divine intervention to me.

Kami is a very kind and caring friend. Rumor has it that her parents met in rehab. They turned their lives around and became devout Christians. Sounds very inspirational. I never met Kami’s parents, but I’ve talked to her mom several times on the phone. She called to introduce herself to us and wanted to know the kind of people her daughter was hanging out with. I could tell that she truly cared for her daughter. I also found out that Kami was the oldest with several younger siblings. Her mother wasn’t used to letting go yet. It’s especially hard when you have a child with mental health concerns.

I did notice a couple of times when they would have sleepovers that the liquor bottles were lighter. I expressed my concerns to Arabella stating how dangerous it was to mix alcohol with prescription medicine. Again, experimenting with alcohol wasn’t something that I haven’t dealt with with teenagers before.

Then there was this guy that Kami was hanging out with who wanted to hang out with my daughter late at night at our house. I told her no. I didn’t want Arabella hanging around with guys alone at our house or while we were sleeping. I didn’t want her to end up in a bad situation or have to worry.

Apparently Arabella spent the night talking to this boy on the phone. The next morning Arabella tried to sneak out of the house. She didn’t want to tell me where she was going. She finally fessed up that she was going to go to church somewhere by herself. She spent the night talking to the guy about his experience with faith.

When she came back home she said she was a Christian again. It was a little confusing because she still wanted to be a stripper. To me the whole experience seemed surreal. I didn’t know if she really meant it or if she was trying really hard to please us so that we wouldn’t leave her too. There was a disconnect. It seemed disjointed in some way.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy about the decision she made. But it all seemed a little chaotic to me to constantly be swinging from one side to the other. She didn’t seem to really know who she was so she became what everyone else was or wanted her to be. That concerned me.

I never did meet the guy that walked her back to faith. But I am happy that her friendship with Kami is still strong. I know that Kami struggles with her own problems, but she is not the type to bring everyone else down. Kami was that one friend that stuck with her when no one else did. I am grateful for that.

I am glad that my daughter decided to find her faith again. I think it will help her get through the hard days ahead. It’s okay that things aren’t perfect or understandable at this point. I have to accept that and let go of it.

Finding God?

Something else strange happened. A couple weeks after the police came, old friends of my parents showed up at their door. They hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years. The couple said they were sent by God. The man reached out to my dad and my dad accepted.

A couple months previous I told my dad that I hope he finds God before God found him. At that time my dad smugly laughed and said it was unlikely that would ever happen. Apparently he had a change of heart.

It was an especially confusing and difficult time for me. If my dad truly accepted Christ then I expected my phone to be ringing off the hook from his contrite heart asking for forgiveness. It didn’t happen. I had this salvation fantasy that we would have this new relationship and he would be the dad I always wanted him to be. My mom was terribly excited, but I wasn’t convinced.

My mom said that he reads the Bible and prays with her. Does he really read the Bible? Well…he listens to it when it is read. Does he really pray with you? Well…he says amen after I pray. Or is he just doing what you want so you don’t leave? My mom believes that my dad has faith. Now he is finally the man she wants him to be. She believes what she wants to believe despite evidence to the contrary. It’s helping her to love and live with him again.

You see, I think I wanted my dad to find God for me. Then everything would somehow be magical and perfect. I wanted to feel happy, but instead I felt betrayed. God loves my dad but he surely doesn’t love me. Look what happened.

I can be a fair weather Christian at times. When things are going well, I am pretty happy with God. When things aren’t going well, I don’t go out and seek God more like some people do. Instead I get angry. I shake my fist and ask God why he would do something like that to me. Why are you punishing me God? If you have complete control why did you allow this to happen? Are you even there? Don’t you care about me? What did I do to deserve this? Why? WHY???

I didn’t feel like God could love both my dad and me simultaneously. In fact, God was one of the few places I could find solace from my dad as a child. He mocked and laughed at my mother for going to church. I wanted God more because my dad wasn’t there. Faith was almost an act of rebellion.

I question if my dad has real faith. But that isn’t for me to judge. I have a very limited capacity to trust both God and man which makes me more skeptical. I didn’t expect my dad’s crime then his subsequent faith would shake my foundation to its very core. I had to go back and examine my life. Part of my foundation was held together with childlike beliefs which held no merit. I had to re-evaluate what is truth versus what is just a coping mechanism. It was a process I had to work through. I had no idea it would leave me questioning everything I ever believed in.

I had to separate myself from my parents and find my own way.

Panic Sunday

That is how I ended up almost having a panic attack singing on the worship team in front of church on a joyous December morning.

I received a phone call from my daughter minutes before the service began. Grandma knows…the police didn’t arrest grandpa…guns in the house…a felon with nothing left to lose…depressed before…we need to get grandma and Matt out of the house…homicide?…suicide?

I received the two minute warning that I needed to go up and sing. I quickly said my good-bye as I threw my phone in my coat pocket and ran onstage. Maybe I should’ve taken some time off. When life goes to crap I tend to carry on with my plans. Maybe that was a mistake.

It was almost impossible to sing praises to God as I imagined my dad with a gun to my mom’s head. Singing may have calmed me in the past, but with each word my panic built to the point I almost ran off the stage mid song. I had a hard time keeping it together as the what ifs clanged in discord through my mind. It was agony to feel this way yet having to pretend that everything was fine. The service was being recorded and was live online. The whole world could watch me freak out.

I called my mom as soon as I could afterwards. She had tickets to see a show with Matt. She was going to pack her bags and come over after she took Matt back to his group home. With four teenagers in the house, I didn’t have an extra bedroom for my mom but she was welcome to stay here as long as she needed to.

I was still afraid of what my dad might do when she left. Should I go over there and try to talk with him? Was he angry with me because my daughter turned him in to the police? I called my brother Luke. He said if there was any chance that I could be in danger I shouldn’t go. It wasn’t like I had a car to drive anyway. The girls were in a matinee performance at the theater and needed to use my car since Paul’s truck broke down the day before.

Luke said he was going to give our dad a call and talk to him about Jesus just in case it was their last conversation. He said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t reach out. He also said it was time to tell our brother Mark and he would make that call as well. I decided it was time to tell my adult son Alex. Alex was very upset about the news and said he never wanted to see his grandpa again.

I decided we needed to keep the doors locked day and night just in case grandpa tried to come over and retaliate. I didn’t feel safe. We were on high alert. Later that evening my mom came over. I was relieved that she was safe. There was a lot of crying and whispered conversations behind closed doors. It was obvious that something was wrong. I told the children and people somewhat close that my parents were thinking about getting a divorce. It wasn’t an outright lie because it was possible, but it was far from the truth of what was really going on…

Gratitude week 25

  1. I have one less teenager in my house…actually my son turned 20 this past week. I am grateful for him and the person he is becoming.
  2. My son had a mouse in his room which I am thankful for. It prompted him to clean his room to how it looked before we moved in. Now let’s hope it stays that way. My cat has the bad habit of bringing presents in the pet door.
  3. Although Paul and I really didn’t luck out in the dad department, I am grateful to have a husband who is a wonderful father to our children. That is what I celebrated on Father’s Day. I did send my dad a card though, not because he was a great dad but because I am a good person.
  4. In what can only be described as a God moment, I was able to meet someone who might be a friend and someone we could work with in our new business.
  5. I am thankful for my therapist. She called me to reschedule my appointment so I could have a double appointment for the cost of one. I have a really good team of people working to help me heal my body, mind, and soul.
  6. Summer!! I am enjoying every minute of it. I have yet to turn on the A/C in my house or car.
  7. Thanks to the coronavirus, it made it easier to transition from blonde to gray hair. People now ask if I dye it the silver color it is. It is so in right now and I don’t have to pay a cent.
  8. I went up north for the first time this season and swam in the lake.
  9. My daughter is planning on moving back home at the end of the summer and is able to keep her new job. I think she was only able to come home two or three times this year. Sadly she wasn’t able to make it home as planned this past weekend but it won’t be long until we see each other all the time.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing better than we expected.

Gratitude week 23

  1. I am finally feeling like I am making progress on my self-improvement project.
  2. Summer weather!!
  3. I was able to get out on the sailboat for the first time this season.
  4. Things went better than I expected taking care of my autistic brother Matt. He adapted to our family well. More on this later.
  5. Taking care of my brother allowed my mom to get away with her sisters for a few days. It felt good to be able to give her a break. She decided she didn’t want to let fear control her life.
  6. I’m grateful our best friends had a really good experience with the foreign exchange student our daughter talked them into hosting. It was sad to say farewell to him over the weekend, but I’m grateful for the experience they had and we have had with our foreign exchange students. They are all awesome which says a lot since I’ve heard quite a few horror stories.
  7. I’m grateful that Paul’s new business is doing better than he thought it would.
  8. I’m grateful that for the first time I had a good experience singing in church. It has been difficult at times singing about the love I feel or the trust I have in God when I am struggling with that. Not only that, but I was able to sing relatively anxiety free. There were times that family issues made me feel panic or the thought of having to run to the bathroom in the middle of the service was terrifying.
  9. I’m grateful to have a clean house today.
  10. I’m grateful for the times I feel like everything is normal. That’s saying a lot because the last few months have been far from normal in so many ways.

What is love?

By the end of last year, my life started to crumble apart. I was dealing with some serious issues with my dad. I reached out to God. Please God, if you are there, show me that you love me. Trust hasn’t always been my strong suit. But what I was asking for didn’t seem like much.

In February, someone I am very close to attempted suicide. Do you know the pain of feeling that one morning you might wake up and your loved one is no longer there? It’s pure hell. I stopped sleeping and battled insomnia for over a month with nightmares. Maybe if I was always vigilant, maybe if I didn’t sleep, than nothing bad would happen come morning.

In March, someone I knew decided to quit battling kidney disease. He died and we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral because this new virus was sweeping the nation. Later that month, we were planning on driving down to Florida to show our 2 foreign exchange students our country. The week we were leaving Disney World closed and we had to cancel our trip.

It was not the only trip that was cancelled. My mom, daughter Arabella, and I were planning on going on a school related music trip to Europe this summer. The company cancelled the trip and kept $1900 per person to line their pockets. The money they kept for all three of us was like one person went on the trip that didn’t.

We decided that our daughter Arabella could no longer be a foreign exchange student next year not only from coronavirus. When we sold our company, we took some of the profit as private equity stock in their business. We were supposed to get enough money to live on for the next couple of years the first quarter of 2020. We were going to use this to jump start a new business. It never happened and now we don’t know if and when it will happen.

Our financial security is gone. With the virus and the economy, it is a struggle to start a new business.

The schools shut down. Prom was cancelled. The track season that just started was cancelled. The musical postponed. My college daughter’s recital and later graduation was cancelled. The gym closed. I struggled to get a good workout because winter held on to the middle of May.

In April, one of our foreign exchange students decided to go home. It was during that time that I started taking an antibiotic prescribed by the wellness clinic which says a lot since they mainly treat with herbs and supplements. Ten days after the last dose, my body crashed. I was sick running to the bathroom 20 to 30 times a day, day and night for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. I pleaded with God to let me die. After being poked and prodded by several doctors and a colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with colitis and sent on my way.

After the flare up, I was left with a hollow shell of a body. I am weak. I had to give up running. I am still sick. I can’t eat. I watch as my family members eat my favorite foods. In the last week alone I lost almost 10 pounds.

Meanwhile my daughter Arabella is packing back on all of the weight she worked so hard to lose. She went from an honor student pre-coronavirus to barely passing. I’m not sure she is going to pass all of her classes. I can’t blame her for feeling depressed since everything she was looking forward to is now gone.

Then I heard the news that the family business my great-grandparents built over 100 years ago burned to the ground. Although no longer owned by my family, a lot of my good childhood memories are tied to the building and my family that worked in it who are also gone. It was painful to see something they lovingly built destroyed.

There are things that happened this past year that I can’t even talk about yet. Somethings I will probably never share. It’s not even June yet. I’m not even sure if there is a God anymore. But if there is, right now I feel pretty certain that he doesn’t give two hoots about me. Or is God just taking the things I have away to show me what I already have been given?

What is love? Is it giving or taking away? Or is a mixture of both necessary for growth like sunshine and rain?

Okay, okay enough complaining for today. Tomorrow gratitude…

Would it kill you to be nice?

What if I told you that my son had a couple of friends overnight last night? Would you lecture me and call me stupid?

What if I told you that the two boys were brothers who got kicked out of their house by their single mother who went off of her medication for severe mental health issues? What if I told you that when she is like that she is violent towards her children? Would that change your mind?

What price is too high to pay for human kindness?

What if I told you that the day our foreign exchange student went home Paul asked the coordinator if there were any other children in dire need of a place to stay? Who willingly takes on more teenagers in a time of crisis? Who steps up to take the children who have nowhere to go?

My best friend Cindy took in a teenage boy who is friends with her son. He was going through a hard time at home. Yesterday Cindy took this kid to the ER for what might have been kidney stones. Would you risk getting sick by taking someone else’s child to the ER right now?

What if your parents were in need of groceries and were afraid to leave the house? Would you spend over two hours in the store to get them everything that they need even if you didn’t have a mask to wear?

All of these things happened within the last couple days. It’s the new moral dilemma. Do you put yourself at risk to help others? There are so many people who are struggling right now.

What price is too steep for human kindness? Seriously, I want to know. Is the risk too high to help others if you are healthy? Would you donate blood? Would you try to make a difference in this world even if it means you might get sick?

I think of all the doctors and nurses who are stepping up to save lives at the price of losing theirs. What is that worth? There are many people out there making a difference in other peoples lives.

Would it kill you to be nice? Maybe it would this year.

At Eastertime I reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. What would he want from us? I think he would want us to be caring and kind towards the other people he placed in our lives. In times of struggle it’s hard to do nothing if there are people out there that need help.

 

My salvation fantasy

I used to find solace in God.

I prayed and yearned for my whole family to seek serenity there.

Then a miracle happened. My dad really made a mess of his life. Before this every time he invoked the name of God it always had a damn after it. He laughed at my mother for her faith. He sneered at the very essence of God. He knew a lot about theology and always could find a loophole in our faith. It was easy to seek sanctuary in a place where my dad refused to go.

But then my dad sunk to the very bottom. It was the only way he could open his heart. He started listening to my mother’s words about God. He started reading the Bible. He shed a few tears. He said a few prayers.

Soon afterward, God sent old friends of my parents to their door. My mom didn’t recognize her old friend. They haven’t seen each other in 15 years. The friend said that God had my parents on her heart. She came over to invite my parents to a Bible study at their house. They knew my dad didn’t believe. They had several heart to heart talks with my dad and he was very receptive.

My mom even tried out their church which has a low sensory room for people on the autism spectrum to participate in the service. My mom could take my brother to church without worrying about whether he was going to act appropriately. It seemed like the hand of God was all over this.

It was everything we ever wanted. Right? Then why does it seem like the closer my dad becomes the further I am cast away? Seriously who wants their parents to go to hell if they sincerely believe in God??

But this was not how I played it out in my mind. I thought the first thing my dad would do once he became a Christian is give us a call and ask us for forgiveness. He would apologize for the abuse he heaped upon us. Then we would have a great father-daughter relationship. He would all of a sudden be everything he wasn’t. He would be loving, supportive, encouraging, and would want to get to know me and love me the way he never had.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even close. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook with his bright shiny new clean heart. I didn’t receive any handwritten letters in the mail. I haven’t even spoken to my dad in two months. I was deceived by this salvation fantasy in my head that if my dad accepted God everything would be perfect.

I know this is going to sound crazy because isn’t this after all what I prayed for. More than anything, I feel abandoned by God. This is not what I wanted, nor expected. I feel like maybe there is still a God out there, but he doesn’t love me.

All I wanted is one person to reach out to me. I, myself, am drowning in sorrow. Just show me God’s love, tell me he hasn’t left me. I sought but found nothing.

I just wanted a normal loving family. Is that too much to ask for?

I can no longer find solace in God because now my dad is there. Spending an eternity in heaven with my dad sounds like hell to me. I can’t hide under God’s wing anymore. It is no longer safe.

I am not at peace. I have stopped seeking. I can no longer pray.  I don’t even want to go to church. I feel very confused and afraid. It’s strange, I never thought my dad finding faith would threaten everything I’ve ever believed in.

questions

It’s amazing how gullible we were as children believing the things we were told.

How could anyone believe that some fat guy in a red suit could get skinny and simultaneously go down everyone’s chimney with a bag full of presents that end up under a tree the next morning perfectly wrapped? Or that a fairy is going to sneak into your room at night to take your teeth once they fall out? Or that a bunny is going to leave a hidden basket of chocolates? But we do all believe it if that’s what we were told.

Then what about the other things we were told?

I was told that God loves me. If I prayed hard enough, he was going to send us the right doctor that would heal my violent autistic brother. Mile after mile, state after state, we trudged hoping we would find the right doctor.

I was also told my brother was violent because of the foods he ate. Or it was the east wind that blew auto fumes in through the windows of our house. Or it was the lady that was wearing too much perfume. The music was too loud. Just fill in the blank…

I was also told I was stupid, not good at anything, and that I needed to be perfect to be loved.

Why wouldn’t I believe what I was told as a child?

I’ve been cleaning out my closet and found that almost everything I’ve been told and believed as a child was not true. There is no Santa Claus. There is no tooth fairy. There is no Easter bunny.

I am not stupid. I am good at some things. I still fight the drive to be perfect. Thankfully, as an adult, I no longer believe the negative things I was told about myself as a child. It probably took a bit longer to realize that than a child who was told positive things.

But take it one step further, as an adult pursuing healing I am questioning everything I ever believed.

Do my parents love me? Is there a God out there that loves me? I want to think so, but God never healed my brother. I no longer believe God will heal him. But if I had real faith shouldn’t I believe it is possible?

I don’t believe reactions to the foods he ate or his environment caused him to be violent. He was just violent. There was no rhyme or reason. There wasn’t a way to control the unpredictable chaos in my house.

It took me longer to dismiss the beliefs of magical thinking and false hope. But isn’t false hope still hope? Didn’t even false hope help us cope?

Then is God real? Does he really love me? Our pastor spoke of God’s love being like that of a father taking his child in his arms and kissing him on the forehead. What is that like? Neither Paul or I knew. We’ve never been kissed by our fathers. Is that just more proof that a father’s love, God’s love, is meant for others, not me? Are some chosen and some not?

I still have the childhood belief that God loves me. But I’ve also built this big wall around myself that prevents his love from shining through. I can no longer accept this belief as truth, but I cannot dismiss it either as a lie. Some strange almost miraculous things happened in my life that I can only attribute to God. Yet sometimes I feel God answered my prayers with silence.

I no longer believe that parents always love their children just because they are parents. Yesterday while I was running an elderly man started to talk to me. I removed my earbuds and asked him what he said. He said I was pretty fast and pretty too. In just one sentence, a stranger said words nicer to me than my dad ever said. Sometimes the kindness of strangers hurts. Over the past 45 years, I’ve accomplished some amazing things. How hard would it be to say you are proud of me? Does a stranger have to take your place? Why would I think you care?

I want my world to be neat tidy black and white. I feel safer there. I want to be all in or all out. I seek the truth and find myself with more questions than answers.

I hate the grey areas. It causes me so much inner turmoil. I want to pick and choose what I believe. But I want that decision to be made realistically. I want to toss out the things that aren’t true. I want to fully embrace truth, not just what I want to believe is true. I hate this feeling of being in limbo. Not knowing. Not being able to distinguish truth from non-truth.

Can I even trust my own thoughts? Is truth absolute? Or can truth be different for other people, yet truth? Can some of it be truth and non-truth at the same time? Does God show me love by the blessings and good in my life? Conversely, is the opposite true too? Is God punishing me for the bad that has happened? Or does God take bad things and make them good? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn’t life always fair?

Aaaarrggghhh!! Here’s to overthinking!