Weeee are the champions!

Katy's softball team completed their Cinderella season on Thursday by going all the way to the championship! The girls played hard in the semifinals and maintained a big lead. The other semifinal game went 9 innings in a tie, so the championship didn't start until 9:30 p.m.! There were some very tired girls trying to compete after dark! Luckily, the game only went 5 innings. The girls were behind the entire game, but rallied in their last at-bat to score 2 runs. They held the other team in the bottom of the inning and became very excited and very surprised champions! Here are some pictures from their last two games. I was so proud of Katy and happy that the girls maintained their cheerful spirits all through the season and tournament.

Oh little girl

{Warning: This post may contain triggers; please read only if you're ready.}

Bare feet on beams. We go to cool off down by the stream. It is 2013, and the memory washes so far over me that I catch my breath, forgetting children laughing under the bridge. I'm no longer here, I'm gone again - into the trap of the secret sin. I am remembering the halcyon days before you ruined my favorite clearing in the woods. I remember the cool of the shade, the feel of the moss under foot, the whispering wind quaking through the aspens, the shafts of sun lighting the world yellow and green. I was at peace there, it's where I went to think. I thought a lot when I was a child. Spaces of silence and solitude were sacred.

And so here it was that you found me. 
Sitting silent under a tree. 
I was amazed... how could it be?
A friend like you for a little girl like me?

You took my hand
and we sat down
No sound escaped
when you laid me on the ground.

Oh little girl,
the things you knew
darkened with her shadow
as you looked up at the blue
sky above
and earth below
dirt beneath your nails
as she mutilated slow.

She said, don't you dare tell.
The world swam
and you fell out of body
into her hands.
Your soul escaped
out through your eyes
you perched on branches
when she took you by surprise.
The precious thing -
you never knew -
she stole it long before
it was precious to you.

Oh little girl,
I wish you'd cried
I wish you'd beat her
every time that she tried
to shame your soul,
tearing at the seams,
she kept your tears
locked up in your dreams.

She knew the cost -
she'd paid it, too,
She knew exactly what
she was doing to you.

That clearing now
only appears
in your nightmares
and in your worst fears.
Where is the peace
she took away
When she crushed
you on that sunny day?
Her eyes looked down
she laughed out loud
glad she had wrecked you
without a sound.

Oh little girl,
where have you gone?
To heal the damage
I need you to come home now.
I finally feel
the missing piece
I finger lightly
because it still stings

Oh little girl,
why can't you cry?
How could someone
make you wish you could die?
Confused and scared
You made the leap
Out of safety
and under her feet

So go reclaim
that holy ground
this time when you scream
won't you make some sound?
Let it come
from deep within
and forgive yourself
for her dirty sin.

Oh little girl,
I'll keep you safe
come learn to weep
go pick your soul out of the heap
of trash she threw
deep in your mind
Oh little girl,
won't you be kind
hold yourself gently
while you're trying to find
the pathway out
from those dark woods

Oh little girl,
I'll take you home
to forgive yourself
now that you're grown.
Now you're grown.

Oh simple faith where have you gone?
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin
~originally sung by Keane~

Bouncing back

In the darkness of the soul, only the shadows of shame, grief, hopelessness are visible. Profiles of black against an unattainable light. The future appears as shrouded as the moment you are in now.

Time and again, I've sighed, resigned myself, and stepped back into the light. The living light. Grace is holding me by the hand, and mercy the tug of life's current around my ankles. You are never alone, He whispers. Each day is sprinkled more and more heavily with happiness. Laughter with my therapist. Sharing a joke with my kids. Yelling and screaming at my daughter's softball game, totally abandoned to the moment. A card full of encouragement from a friend of few words.

Each dark time is shorter. It's a massive amount of work, moving the mountain of those inhibited and unhealthy ways of coping and building a new mountain worthy of the foundation of Jesus' sacrifice. The old mountain spews it's shame and lies across the landscape of my life as the dynamite of hope blasts holes in it's edifice. It's as if she's saying, I won't go down without a fight. And who is it that speaks from that dark mountain of self-neglect, self-loathing, stubborness and sin? Evil is what speaks from there. The explosion of the dynamite of hope is God's thunderous answer to my own self-doubt. SHE IS MINE, He screams at the stubborn rocks. 

I am a woman of words. I carry my books in a bag that says, "I am God's idea. Please be nice." A talismen against those who would cruelly crush me again. Even the new letters etched on my shoulder are a forever tribute to this time of ultimate trust and testing: "Fear not. Only believe, and she shall be safe." (Luke 8:50) I finger the Latin - noli timere crede tantum et salva erit - remembrance of the pain of the tattoo gun piercing flesh a good analogy of the pain of the past 3 years.

Each time the sky grows black, I see the light at the end of the tunnel quicker - as the night grows deeper, the light grows, too. A light that is faint in full sun is brightest in the darkest hours of the night. He leans down and tilts my chin upward, reminding me that I am His daughter and protected and beloved even when it doesn't feel so. The light is blinding. Beautiful. Bewitching.

What am I building this new mountain of hope out of? I have a list of all the skills I've been taught using dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Skills like these:
  • Turn your mind (repentance)
  • Teflon mind (refusing to listen to evil)
  • Half-smile (a cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine)
  • Accumulating positives (count your blessings)
  • Coping ahead (stewardship)
  • Mindfulness (do not worry about tomorrow)
  • Wise mind (seek wisdom)
  • Accepting reality (trusting an all-knowing God)
DBT has quite literally been used by God to save my life. If you are struggling with relentless self-doubt, depression, PTSD, or other mental health issues, you can find a trained counselor here. DBT was developed by a psychologist who spent most of her teens and 20s in mental institutions without any relief. She developed the skills herself and then began sharing them with the world. You can read Marsha Linehan's story here. DBT is one of the most proven therapy techniques available today, rigorously tested for multiple conditions using randomized controlled studies. For an introduction to what DBT is, read here. If you are interested in DBT, but wonder whether the skills taught are Biblical, please contact me and I will send you a list of Bible references demonstrating the Christian foundation for these skills.

The golden boys (and girls) of summer

It's been a June of many nights at the ballpark, surrounded by the stocatto of the player's shouts, the crack of the bat, the smell of the fresh-cut grass. Katy is on an all-girls softball team - switching from baseball to softball now at age 9 - and she has had an incredible experience. Her easy-going manner has made her friends with every single girl on the team. I feel my mothering fears of her not fitting in dissipating quickly as I watch her in the dugout with her team, smiling and laughing.

She's still permanently in the "clean up" position in the batting order. She regularly crushes doubles and triples far out into the outfield above the fielder's heads. She is happy that her "slugger" status remains intact with the larger ball and "distracting" windmill pitch delivery.

Legging out a single into a double is something my big girl - once too scared and shy to run bases, she actually walked for an entire season - can be proud of. She's been lucky to be on a team with similarly abled girls, and they've had a great season. Her favorite part about her team? She wasn't the tallest at the beginning of the season (there are 10 and 11 year olds on her team as well). She noticed, though, that she passed up her female coach and caught up with the two other tall girls in the span of 8 weeks.

They are currently battling it out in the tournament. They have advanced past the first round with a 7-0 win - their first shut-out - and will be playing again tonight.

Amy is an athlete, there's no doubt. What plagues her is my competitive streak, apparently passed down to her in spades. She rarely recalls any of her good plays, and focuses instead on her mistakes. It's always hard when one of your kids demonstrates a character or personality trait that you've disliked - but been unable to change - in your own life. I'm not sure how I'll help her enjoy the game more - she is so intense!

Maybe it comes from running behind on many other skills - fine and gross motor and functional cognitive level. T-ball is where she is a rising star, the backbone of the team. Maybe because it's in her control and she is starved for recognition of excellence - maybe that's why she tries so hard.

Caleb is still showing very little interest in sports. He's good at t-ball - when he focuses his limited attention span on it! He is too much of a daydreamer to enjoy the game. We're on the fence (no pun intended!) about having him play next season. Our schedules are already so packed, why fight it?!!

Yes, that's him sitting in the grass looking the wrong direction!

My, how they grow! T-ball season is over, softball will be by next week. After that, Rosy is off to gymnastics for 6 weeks, Amy has soccer camp, and Katy has basketball camp. In our spare time - wait, what spare time?? Three kids in sports really cuts into your weekday evenings!

It's been a good distraction to watch them enjoying a sport I still enjoy playing. And these days, I'm grateful for any distraction.

Through a glass darkly

Seeing my malevolent face in the mirror, my benevolent soul shrinks back. (Mason Cooley)

They say those living in a glass house should be careful about throwing stones. If you can cast a stone with a look, my face has been dark with those looks. I can't keep my soul off my face these days.
He who has regrets cannot look at himself in the mirror. (Eric Cantona)

Paul says he saw as though in a dim mirror, waiting for heaven when his sight would be clear. Life is deceptively transparent at times, as though you could look into the future and see your fate. Yet these predictions are only that. Whether you believe life will forever cause pain or yield moments of joy, you may be right and you may be wrong. Only by walking forward will you know the truth.

The truth is, we walk into our futures armed only with hindsight. Like walking in a fog, we can only know our history and our present moment. I am working on the courage to continue walking when my history and my present drip with pain, trying to produce hope within myself that tomorrow could be different.

I cling tight to Paul's words, willing them to be true of me. Trying to force these trials into the box of "light and momentary troubles". I lift the burden from my back with muscles straining, trying to cast it onto the Lord's shoulders instead. It feels too heavy to transfer. I am pinned under it's bulk, ground into the soil by it's weight. As I lie there, finally stilling, ceasing to struggle, I inhale the dust and am comforted by those stories of the prophets, the saints who have called out to the Lord with the same desperation and hopelessness. Because, from our prostrate position, even His rescue seems unlikely.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Every moment is a fork in the road

I comfort myself with the fact that someday this day will be burned away: reduced to ashes or jewels. This crazy day. This hard day. This day of sadness and grief. This day of betrayal.

Anxiety dissipates as I recall that however this day came about - by the trickle down effect of my sin or someone else or none at all - God has either allowed it or willed it. This is the truth of trusting, that you accept your reality as it is and not how you wish it to be. You can accept what you hate, loathe, are afraid of, disagree with. Acceptance doesn't equal approval. But it does equal a modicum of peace for the soul. When you are willing to accept, you are no longer struggling to change, run from, or ignore whatever terrible or wonderful events occur.

Today is just a day, just one day in your story, and no matter what you did to get yourself in this position, it can be redeemed. The past is just that - the past: you cannot change it, only continue on the right path or turn from the wrong one. The present moment within our own selves - this is all we have control over. The past and the future elude our grip.

The light slants through the heavy hospital door: "Checks", whispers the phantom in scrubs who will be by every 15 minutes to prevent suicides. Luckily on the first night you're groggy from sedatives in the ER and you slide back into sleep like a warm blanket.

You steal a fork from your dinner tray and carefully fold it in a photo of your kids. Apparently they count the silver, too. From then on you eat in the dayroom with the TV blaring, the smells of all variety of disheveled persons and hospital food - and plastic eating utensils.

With the exception of the occasional manic bipolar patient, we are all recluses thrown together, prodded out of our rooms under protest for a litany of classes, groups, recreation. You're "voluntary" - here on your own free will, they say - so you can refuse, but on your first stay you learned that no progress means no discharge. And so you huddle, heads down, saying as few words as possible. You pitch in occasionally in a monotone, careful not to reveal emotion, say something - anything - to let the others off the hook for a moment.

Twice a day, the nurses walk in pairs, like friends, conspirators. Reporting off to the oncoming staff about your good behavior, bad behavior. You try on a plastic smile, nod, compliant - compliance is key. Most of them are helpers, but many are tired. Worn down from wrestling the aggressive ones, trying to ferret out the liars before they can hurt themselves. Always trying to be a step ahead, while still managing med passes, charting, doctor's orders, maybe a moment or two - precious moments - of compassion. They listen to your story when you need to speak of it, they smile when you need encouragement, give space when it's needed and a quick touch if it will be accepted.

It seems like a revolving door. For a while, you're in and out, then the "out" stretches longer and longer. Once and again, back you go, and some of the faces are familiar and some are new.

You do the therapy, the meditation, the thought policing, the occasional giving in. When you do, back through the metal detectors, into the ill fitting pajamas without strings, into the padded room. You worry about confidentiality. Will those who care for you and those there with you hold their tongues? Who will hear you've been here again? They say the stigma is gone, nothing like it was 30 years ago. But you've met the nurses who don't care to care for someone whose ills are self-inflicted. You've seen the looks when one of your scars is noticed. Worse perhaps are those not versed in broken brains who don't understand the social anxiety, the pauses mid-sentence, the staring over their shoulder. Those who think if they just say it long enough and loud enough, you'll change your mind: believe you're worth it.

You get to know addicts, schitzophrenics, manics and those stultifyingly depressed. Sometimes their bodies and stories are stereotypical - the bleary eyes, unkempt facade, a string of group homes and homelessness. You come to recognize the failed suicides by their dead eyes, you become familiar with the timeline of an addict's detoxification. But most are just like you - "normal". They look so normal. You wonder if you do, too. If there weren't still stigma, why have we all learned to hide so well?

The days blend together along with growing unrest to resume normalcy. Yet there's no denying it - you came in sick as a dog and about as cooperative as a cornered badger. By the time you leave, it has happened once again - the slow, incremental healing. Your nurse reports she saw you smile today. It's been days since you were restrained in lockdown. Soon you'll get your clothes back - the ones with rivets and strings. You'll walk out like an animal from hibernation, blinking in the non-fluorescent light. You look back at the brick prison with the safety glass windows they call a "behavioral health unit". The resentment fades in the fresh air.

After all, it did help. You've agreed to life again.

Can you live these days shut up in the hospital for the glory of God? Does mental illness somehow disable His grace? You learn to find small ways to join life: share a verse with someone crying; a look of knowing with the man who says he feels caged. You practice repentance whenever the dark thoughts take over - turning away and walking away from death and toward life.

Isn't this the essence of the Christian life? Lived out in the minutiae of depression? We are all turning from death toward life all day long. When you choose to serve; when you choose to pray; when you choose to agree to this day; when you take joy; when you pour out your sorrow; when you love and when you live and when you return to what is right.

May it all be for precious stones, may we trade the wood, hay and stubble of our own stubborn path for acceptance of the truth of our lives.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.   (I Corinthians 3:11-15)

Surviving 5 years

Mother prayers

You who have been safe your whole life, you children yet to meet the evil of this world, you're sassy and free. I am learning what a child of 7, 8, 9 is like without scars. You believe in those big hands of Grandpa's - they would protect you, they would threaten anyone who threatened you.

You don't know that evil is insidious. It comes dressed in friend's clothing, it comes in the shape of your heroes, it comes along with love and it comes along with joy. It is a silent companion, a shadow like a panther creeping closer when those big hands aren't around to protect you.

You dream when you are alone. I don't know what dreams fill your little head, but I know they aren't nightmares. I know your nightmares, and they aren't of people you love turning evil, or of being awoken in the night by a terrible face that used to show only love. Your nightmares are amorphous - lightening storms and monsters. But when you wake, I can comfort you. You haven't wet the bed in fear. You don't hide your nightmares from me, afraid I'll discover the truth.

And maybe life can be as simple as growing up and falling in love and living with joy. It is the hope of mothers everywhere - that their children have a happy life. Do some mothers dream of their children having a childhood just like theirs? I pray you have the joy of siblings, the love of parents, the wings for your dreams - but not the torment and the secrets and the caustic burn of wrongdoing in the night that feels as though it somehow leaked through the innocence of your own little soul.

I pray that when someone says they love you, they really do. I pray that when someone says they'll always be there for you, they will be there. I pray you never face a turncoat or a frenemy or a two-faced liar. I hope you never discover one of those amongst your friends. I pray you keep your innocence, that the world doesn't rip it from you with the truth that evil is here along with good. I hope you can watch from the sidelines when pain is afoot. I pray you are His, and hedged about, and free and believing and gullible and na├»ve.

Be the shining face that believes in the power of good. Be the innocent soul that encourages and gathers groups to carry out your big dreams. Be the kind voice that speaks of Christ's love, unadulterated by the knowledge of exactly what His love has saved us from.

Be that kind of person.

Don't be me.

Unchosen scars

Oh, to be a lotus flower. To feel the water below, and the wind above, and to be neither. To be totally sure of one's purpose and form. To be peaceful no matter what dark skies may gather or what flood might push petals adrift.

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I took your hand because you offered it. I trusted you because you seemed trustworthy. I had never met someone with two faces before, and so I thought the face I saw in the daylight would be the face I would always see when I looked at you. I had never seen "menacing", "cruel", "sadistic".

And I had never felt lost. Grief. Broken. Alone.
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Taking back what's yours means radically accepting reality. You don't look, act, smell, think, or live like the child that was lost decades ago. There is all kinds of bad and ugly mixed up with the good. Like water washing over a rock ledge, soul erosion follows the blows of trauma and changes you forever.
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Why me? Why then? Why that? I set aside my mountain of questions and hold instead my broken soul. My words are drenched in sadness as they flow from me to the God who has always seemed so far away.

Started first with confiding
I didn’t know I was too young
to hear secrets of deeds after dark.
Mixed sensations, mixed emotions
No one teaches how to fight evil when
enemies come dressed as friends
Every good thing soured
Every bad thing my fault

Heart too broken to shed tears
Days and months become years
Lies tangle up the real you
And you become just who she said you’d be.
Sure of wickedness
Wary of professed innocence
Every good thing undeserved
Every bad thing punishment.

Addicted to the feeling
Of flesh ripping, peeling,
Places tender grew strong
Places strong now unprotected
She no longer needed
To wield her weapons, demons
You’d do it for her
Knife drawn across flesh.
Because the worst of it was
that she made you believe:

you are rotten
you are filthy
you are defiled
you are shameful
you are rejected
you are worthless
you are beaten
you deserve it
you are a toilet
you are a toy
you are to be tortured
you are not a girl and not a boy

Every bad thing accepted
Every good thing selfish

Only saving grace is the music
Of a life is never one chord
Bittersweet melodies
Violent mysteries
Felt and grieved for,
And hope springs from the ashes
All those million lashes
Are the scars we carry
- the scars He carried away -
Dissonance highlights harmony
In this beautiful symphony.
Every bad thing just a bad thing
Every good thing His gift.

Letting the light in

I spoke of things this week that I never thought would cross my tongue. Childhood hurts locked away tight and buried after all these years of avoidance. I am nudged - gently - to sift through the secrets and unlock the padlocks and let someone in. To this most horrible part of my self. I shy away, trying to trust.

It is difficult to say "yes" to grief. Especially if that thing you're grieving is nearly 30 years old. Why bother now, I ask in desperation? My friend, my therapist - she says it's important to let the light in. That the truth will set me free. That my fear of the thing is bigger now than the thing itself.

So I open, tentative as a blossom in April, and invite her in. Tears fall, sadness wells up in the throat, water from the lip of a petal. Soft and quiet and aching. For a moment, what was unholiest about me feels holy - sacred ground that was trespassed upon. And for that moment, I see myself as He saw me so long ago - His beautiful child in pain. Only by the power of Christ have I held this pain and all His glory and emerged, somehow, whole.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. ~Washington Irving