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.

Am I mentally ill?

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and books (not to mention blogs) lately about people who struggle themselves or have family members with mental health issues. I have seen a common theme that I can’t disregard. One of the most important factors in recovery that I can’t deny is having parents who are supportive through this struggle.

If I think about it, the most difficult thing about my dad was not his porn addiction. It wasn’t his hoarding. It also wasn’t his lack of good hygiene. For the most part, he just didn’t care and that was a good thing. We tried hard to keep under his radar because we didn’t want him to notice us. Him noticing us involved bursts of explosive anger. He frequently told us how stupid we were or how we would never amount to anything. Our dreams, aspirations, and goals were ridiculous. He laughed when we cried.

The hardest part though for me was when he would taunt us with the things we were most afraid of. He amplified our fears. For example, he knew I was afraid of weeds. One of the few times he went in the lake with us as kids, he grabbed me and forced me to stand in the muck and weeds. I cried as he laughed at all of the things that slithered under the weeds that my feet could be touching. It was horrifying. I screamed and I cried for him to let go while he laughed. When he finally let go I ran for shore while he chucked weeds and even a dead fish at me while calling me names.

Then at times in my life when I am afraid, I wonder why God hates me. I wonder why I have trust issues that no one else seems to have. I wonder why I almost feel better at the thought of a distant God than one who hates me. Duh?

My relationship with my mom is much more complicated. She always expected too much from me, perfection. I felt this way since I can remember. But the first real memory of this for me was when my mom had me watch my three younger brothers in the lake by myself so she could spend time with my dad in the cabin. I was 6 and one of my brothers almost drowned. That’s too much responsibility.

My mom never confronted my dad for his poor behavior. But she would move heaven and earth for Matt. If someone gave him a wrong food just to be nice she would call the school and chew that person out. But when I had to go to school to try out for cheerleading while I had the flu and a high fever and I was the only person that didn’t make the team nothing was done.

My mom loved playing the martyr card. She got a lot of attention for having a special need’s child and an asshole husband. But she never did anything about it. She never gave Matt the skills to live without her. She never confronted my dad for being cruel to their children or anything else other wives would’ve left him for.

She also likes to manipulate, control, and guilt trip. She was jealous when I had friends because I was her best friend. She pulled me out of school from 8th through 10th grade where I lived in extreme isolation. She didn’t like the guy I was dating so she set me up with my ex without me knowing it. She made me feel guilty about even thinking about leaving the area to go to college or living my own life that didn’t revolve around helping her or caring for Matt. But the hard part is that I think my mom is a genuinely good person. She just saps the life out of everyone she is around with her negative energy.

My dad struggles with depression, my mom with anxiety. I can’t remember a time in my life before I started struggling with anxiety and depression. Not only was it modeled to me but there probably was a genetic component as well. I really could’ve used their help with my own struggles. I could’ve used their help when I was raising my own children. I could’ve used their help when I had to deal with my own children’s mental health struggles. But they always needed me to help them. It’s no wonder why I feel so alone. My husband doesn’t have any family either.

I guess maybe the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I needed to be a certain way such as untrusting in order to survive then maybe I shouldn’t shame myself for having a lack of trust. It might just take a little longer than most people to get there. If nothing else my husband and I, although neither one of us has had it, try to be supportive parents of our children when they are struggling with their own mental health issues. At one point I even thought that maybe they wouldn’t struggle if we were good enough parents. Unfortunately that’s not true. There’s hardly a sane person in the family. What did I expect??

But we can do our best to help them through. Besides, sane is boring anyway!! I’ll keep telling myself that.

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.

Melting my ice cold heart

After I received the devastating news, I was filled with despair. Is there any other way to respond? I jumped on the roller coaster ride of a myriad of emotions before I had time to put on my safety strap.

I felt anger in its purest and rawest form. I pushed the people who were closest to me away lest my anger would boil over and scald them on the way out.

I felt the depths of despair. Would hell be any different than what I have been experiencing here?

If it was up to me, I would blot this year right off the calendar. Some of the things that happened are too painful to write about, and you know the kind of personal dribble I scribble.

I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t right now. Maybe, mayday.

I felt the panic rise up from within me to awaken me in the morning. I wondered what horror each new day would bring. Once again, the nights are sleepless and the nightmares are terrifying. My stomach hurts, I cannot eat.

I shake my fist at God. Why do you hate me? Is it because I am dumb? Maybe I am not perfect enough and you want to zap me? I feel like a June bug drawn to the light, flying into the fiery flames of hell. Every time I cry out, you are not there. Are you laughing at my feelings and making sport of my fears? I thought you would want to take care of me, protect me? Am I worthy of love?

Or am I confusing you with my earthly father? He is probably not the best reflection of God. I don’t even have to count on a full hand the good memories we had together. Maybe the father-daughter bond is just a magical fairy tale meant for other people. To me it is just bondage, another trap I can’t get out of without a lot of pain. I don’t want to think you are like this God, but it’s hard to see you any other way because that is what I was shown.

I labor in vain trying to change my circumstances. Maybe if I pick up the pieces, I could try to make a complete puzzle out of this. But I am too broken. I can’t change or fix things. I can’t make it work.

God, the unchanging lighthouse or rock. The deity that is a firm fortress.  He is the lighthouse that draws me in as I am starting to drown and rescues me. He is the large rock I can grip onto as I’ve built a wall around my self.

God has to be inanimate and unfeeling. It’s the only way I can survive this right now. I can’t see him as a person, because that is too scary. If he is swayed by feelings, then I will think he is out to get me and the people I care about.

Why the blizzards that leave me cold and locked inside? Why the storms? Why not warm summer days of smooth sailing? I need something to warm my heart. I need something good to come out of this brokenness.

I want this ice to melt.

Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

Goal 2: Spiritual growth

As I mentioned recently, a few months ago we left our church and started attending a new church. I noticed my ruby ring was stolen the morning I left to go to church right before Christmas. The following Sunday we sang a song stating that God was the God of miracles. I thought in my head, yeah I believe in God, but I don’t believe in miracles anymore. I was seeing more tragedy around me than restoration. Even in my own life recently, a precious gift from my mother was stolen.

We didn’t know who took the ring, we just knew that it was missing. We allowed my son’s friend back into our lives after I got a lock box for the remaining precious gems. We didn’t think it was the friend that took the ring. We honestly thought it was another boy whose mother told me that her son stole from her. This second boy was in our house over the time that the ring went missing along with the first.

We took the first boy back into our house. We told him that we trusted him. But through our misguided trust, I started treating him like he belonged here again. I cooked for him and did his laundry. It was through this act of trust that I discovered my stolen ring in his pocket when I was doing his laundry. A miracle occurred. I never thought I would get my ring back and I never thought I would catch the person who did it.

After talking to my son about the betrayal of his friend, I sent a message to the other boy’s mother telling her that the ring had been found. I couldn’t imagine the agony of thinking that my child victimized another parent, a friend.

A miracle happened, but I no longer believed in miracles. I didn’t trust God. Instead I put my trust in someone that intended to hurt me. How bizarre is that!?

I was betrayed by someone I considered to be a best friend many years ago too. But hey, so was Jesus. Right? I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I didn’t trust the boy, I never would’ve gotten my ring back. I learned a lot in the process.

I am a pretty good person. I live with few regrets. I’ve been hurt more than I have hurt others. I’ve even read the Bible from cover to cover, but I’ve never truly trusted God before. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to be in control.

Then yesterday a big miracle occurred. A most precious gem was stolen, a child by the name of Jayme Closs. She is a 13 year old girl in our state of Wisconsin that was kidnapped after her parents were brutally murdered. She was missing for almost 3 months without a trace. Just gone. Yesterday she was found. ALIVE!! What a miracle!

I no longer believed in miracles, but I do now.

Now I have to wonder…What more can God do??

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Aren’t miracles precious and beautiful? Are you looking for a miracle in your life??

Paul’s journey, part 6

I am going to skip ahead a little today…to when I met Paul.

Paul had settled down considerably since his college years when I met him.

We lived in the same apartment building. My bedroom was right above his. We met in the laundry room. I remember the day well. My cat puked up a hairball on my blanket. I was irritated that I had to make a special unplanned trip to the laundry room. But if it wasn’t for my cat, we wouldn’t have struck up a conversation.

Later that night, Paul invited me out to drinks with some friends. That really didn’t go well either. His friends were fine, except for one girl who dominated the conversation with Paul. She spoke and sputtered loudly looking only at Paul and frequently put her hand on his knee. I didn’t like her.

He kissed me that night out in the parking lot.

From that night on, I was hooked. He told me his story about growing up with a single parent in the inner city of Chicago…that was all it took. Paul played hard to get and I chased him relentlessly. There was a point when I thought that perhaps he wasn’t interested and decided to walk away. That was all I needed to hook him.

It was time for Paul to meet my parents. I instructed him on what to say and what not to say. My mother asked point blank if he believed in God. Paul said that he did not believe in God. In fact, he said that he believed in evolution. He went on and on about Darwin and natural selection as I kicked him under the table.

The following week, my mother set me up with my ex-boyfriend Brad. She came to my apartment under the guise of going out to eat. When we got to the restaurant, Brad was sitting there waiting for us. Brad cried the whole time telling me how much he missed me. I took him back to my apartment after lunch and gave him back everything that I still had of his. It took a long time for Paul to forgive my mother for this.

I believe that my mother started praying harder after the dinner date with Brad. At the time, Paul was in graduate school and was approached by the campus ministry with a Bible. Also, a friend of his who became a missionary came back into his life. Eventually, God wore Paul down. God knew I wouldn’t be interested in chasing a nice church going guy. I wanted a bad boy.

After I was already hooked, God changed the direction of Paul’s life.

Weathering life’s storms

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Sometimes I feel like God is smiling down at me for weathering life’s storms. A ray of light sneaks through the clouds and dries the falling tears.

I can’t let the storms rock my boat…

I need the wind at my back to guide me in a different direction, to open my eyes to new perceptions instead of fighting the circumstances that surround me.

But first I need to leave the safety of the harbor and trust His navigation. I won’t get anywhere tied up in false security and empty comforts.

I am afraid that I will never have enough faith to walk on water, but I can’t let that stop me from taking the first step..

 

I’ll probably worry about this

It was Friday night. I was hitting up a local bar that I never have been to but was close to home. I was surrounded by people, alone. There was a man outside. He was very large and scary looking. He also brandished a semi automatic weapon of some sort. He was telling people what to do. I was afraid, but I left my cell phone in the car.

Then it seemed like I went back in time to the 1980’s. The place seemed old and rather run down. No one had a cell phone, but the owner of the place had an old rotary phone that I called 911 on to try to get help. 911 said that it wasn’t in their jurisdiction. Sorry we can’t help you. I called my husband. He came inside the building with me along with faceless nameless other people I didn’t know who seemed oblivious to the threat. When he got there, I hid in the back room with a machete. I felt like a coward for hiding and leaving him out there to defend me.

They found me in the back room anyway. I had a knife fight with another person to defend myself. It was awkward because I was left handed. I got stabbed in the stomach. I was dying but felt no pain and wondered why.

I woke up at 3:43 AM.

On Friday night, we actually went to the nursing home to visit Martha. At the end of the visit, we watched the birds in the cages.

Last night I dreamed that I was going to be dropped off somewhere in the middle of nowhere to run at night. It was going to be dangerous. It might storm. I might have to seek shelter. I was excited until I got attacked by the nursing home birds. I woke up screaming NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Two nights with nightmares, two days without exercise. Maybe I really do need to run to outrun my demons.

Yesterday I thought a lot about worrying. It has been a life long struggle for me. I decided to keep a list of every worry that came across my mind. I gave up after already having at least a dozen before I left for work.

I realize that worry is not going to add an extra day to my life. Worrying and overthinking every possible scenario does not equate to having control. It takes away my joy and I really want to sever its hold on me.

Sometimes I also have anxiety, which is a lot different from worry. Sometimes I even panic about the things I tell you. Opening up. Being honest. But if I really (over)think about it, who cares? Probably not the 3 people that actually take the time to read my posts.

I hate it when people tell me I need to worry less. Don’t worry. Be happy. Don’t you think I’ve already worried about how I can worry less?

Or they tell me that I really don’t trust God because if I did I wouldn’t worry. That just plain hurts my feelings. Let go and let God. If it were only that easy. Obviously those people don’t have the same struggle. If they did they would realize that it is not a kind, compassionate, or caring thing to say. It actually gives me more to worry about.

Sometimes I want to slam people with ‘you really don’t trust God enough’ for every weakness or struggle they have.

Wow, guess who is feeling a little edgy today??

I am going to end this here and sit around for the next couple of hours worrying about what I just wrote.

 

 

25. Dinner with anyone in history…

Day 25: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be & what would you eat?

If I could dine with anyone in history, it would be Jesus. We wouldn’t have real food, just food for thought. I would be like a child and ask many questions… Why??

I would start at the beginning with the age old question that I asked my Sunday school teachers as a kid. If God created the world, then who created God?? Just have faith is not a good enough answer. You really don’t know either.

How did it all begin? I do believe in the creation story. No other theory makes any more sense to me. How could people evolve over millions of years accidentally from cells? Seriously, how? If that happened by accident, how come people can’t replicate that today with all of the advances in modern science? How could all of the different races and varieties of animals and trees evolve? If that is the case, why isn’t evolution still happening today?

How old is the world anyway?  If not evolution, then how did all the different cultures and races start from Adam and Eve? Is the Garden of Eden an actual place? Or are we just blocked from the knowledge that they had before they sinned? Help me understand the continuum of time. I can barely grasp tomorrow’s time change.

Does everything happen for a reason? Or just certain things? Or do we live in a world of sheer coincidence? Did Judas have a choice when he betrayed You? Or was he given no choice because it was meant to happen? Or did you just know what he was going to choose before he chose it? How much control do you allow us to have over our lives? Can our prayers change our circumstances or the circumstances of others in any way?

Is all life sacred? I believe so…but if given the option to go back in time, would I try to convince Hitler’s mother to have an abortion? Why did you allow the Holocaust to happen to your chosen people anyway? If all life is sacred, then how about the life of the prisoner on death row?? Should we kill others who have murdered? I believe in justice, but should we be the ones to administer it?

How could David be a man after your own heart? He was a man who had it all…good looks, riches, and hundreds of beautiful women to sleep with whenever he wanted to. Yet he had to kill off a man to take his wife and broke almost every commandment that you gave us. Why him? Why not the Pharisee who tried to be pious?

Why is the Old Testament focused so much on rules and rituals and the New Testament on love and grace? It seems so extremely black and white to me. I don’t understand. What happened to your miracles? Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens to the souls of the people who never had the opportunity to believe?

Why? Why? Why? I just want to understand.