Archive for the Life Category

Let it flow

I never had a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit. I believed there is one, and I believed the doctrine of the Trinity of which the Holy Spirit is a member. But functionally, I believed in the Father, the Son, and personal effort.

To be perfectly honest, I still can’t grasp the concept of the Trinity. I don’t understand the three in one. I choose to believe anyway. It would appear on the surface to be blind faith. But it’s not, even though I can’t point to anything visibly to “prove” it. In my personal experience it has all been internal.

My daughter went to a birthday party a few years ago for one of her friends. I went and hung out with her friend’s mom and another lady while the kids hung out together without moms hovering over them. At the time, we weren’t going to church. But I saw something in Jamie’s friend’s mom when she talked about Jesus. There was such unabashed joy and gratitude that she got a little emotionally overwhelmed and had to sit down. I had never seen anything like that in person.

I wanted that.

I prayed for that.

And nothing much happened — for 6 years.

It didn’t seem like anything was happening. I went to church, I read my bible, I read Christian books, and I read Christian blogs. I looked at my theology and doctrine with “grown up” eyes challenging what I believed to make sure I really believed what I believed because I believed it was true according to scripture or because I was told it was true. Most of my beliefs remain intact, and what changed was all secondary and tertiary doctrine that have no bearing on the foundation of the Gospel.

All those years, my faith was evolving, and growing. God would give me a little taste, and I would want more. I learned to be thankful and grateful for trials because He opened my eyes finally to the truth that we grow through trials, even though it is painful growth. The trials strip away our self-sufficiency, and teach us that we can trust God. I finally reached the point that I trust enough to stop taking my anti-depressant. Just like my childhood coping skills, it served it’s purpose, but I need to let it go.

I need to feel.

I talked to my sponsor about it, and my therapist. I talked a lot more about it with my therapist than I cared to. I have a program now to help me deal with life on life’s terms. I do not wish to continue numbing, even with a prescription. I have to feel my full range of emotions if I want to be emotional healthy.

That thing I prayed for 6 years ago? About halfway through the second song this morning at church, I felt the tears start to well up as I had my hand raised and trying to belt out the song louder than Stacey as she led. The dam broke during the 3rd song and I had to get a Kleenex. The hubby looked at me and asked, “Are you crying?” I laughed and answered, “Yes. I’m off my meds.” I was destroyed before the sermon even started, but as Pastor Nate ended the sermon with prayer, it hit me.

God answered my prayer.

For the first time today, I realized that I was responding emotionally with appropriate emotion. There was a lot of crying (a lot for me), but it was the right kind of tears each time they fell.

It felt cleansing.

Things like this are why I believe the Holy Spirit is the one who does the changing in us, and not our own efforts to change. The Spirit was given to us as followers of Jesus, children of God the Father to guide and comfort us. The Spirit took me on a path I never would have chosen to have my prayer answered. Left to my own, I would still be self-medicating and wondering why nothing was changing,

John 3:8 NIV

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

You can’t put God in a box. You can’t neatly package him up. All you can really do is say like Job,

Job 42:2-3 NIV

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Let it flow.

How the dull becomes vibrant

Sometimes I can remember events from childhood as if I were there again. Not the bad things or even really good things. It’s more like ordinary things that wouldn’t be considered significant events. I can remember the brightness of the sun, or the grayness of clouds. I can almost feel the warmth or the chill. I can see the colors, and I can almost hear the sounds and smell the scents.

I didn’t realize that I had the ability at one time to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty around me. It seems like a precious gift today as I reflect on random memories.

I still have the ability.

I don’t know exactly when I stopped noticing my environment. I think it was in college. I would even go so far as to guess it happened when I began regularly numbing. I’m more convinced of that since I only started noticing and appreciating here and now moments and making mental note of them in the past year.

Could it be that appreciating the beauty in the world around me is related to my desire and/or ability to feel my emotions?

It’s ironic that in the course of self-medicating to avoid feeling pain I anesthetized myself to beauty and joy that comes from admiring dandelions blooming along the side of the road. The numbing dulled the deep and vibrant green of the spring growth in the trees and grass, the red of the clover, and the orange of those flowers that popped up “volunteer” from last year’s planting.

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The numbing distorted the whole picture as well as the color, like the above picture of my mom and I. The camera and the film were cheap (and probably old), and while capturing a moment in time, it lacked the vibrancy of color. It does not accurately portray the joy I felt in that moment after finally talking Daddy into taking a picture. He even let me take my first picture that day. It is just as devoid of true color. I don’t remember that afternoon in Polaroid. I remember it bright and colorful – with cats. :)

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

This rose represents what I see now in sobriety. I took this with my iPhone at church in between services where I went to smoke. (I wasn’t hiding my smoking. I was just keeping the smoke away from others.) It was a gray, misty day that makes you want to just snuggle up in bed. But yet I was shown the beauty of the tiny raindrops on the petals and leaves of the flowers and plants.

God gives us emotions to enjoy the beauty even amid the pain.

I’m starting to believe that feeling and living through the pain makes the beauty even more beautiful.

When I realized my greatest loss

I have a way of knowing things intellectually and even believing them intellectually, but without it fully sinking in. I suspect it is a manifestation of a coping/survival skill I picked up as a child. I’ve been piecing together things through my recovery.

Who am I?

I’ve been exploring that question my whole life, and never really coming up with a satisfactory answer. My Christian friends have and do tell me that my identity is found in Christ. Yes. That’s kind of the Christian no-brainer. I’ve been adopted into the family of God because I’ve been redeemed by Jesus. But…

Who is God?

Because of my poor relationship with my dad along with a lot of hellfire and brimstone rendering of God, I had a warped view of who God is. My distorted childhood view of God (which lasted well into adulthood) was a vengeful God lacking grace. If you’re not the perfect Christian, He is going to destroy you. Sure, Jesus washes your sins away, but when he does that you’re not supposed to sin any more.

I had to learn who God really was.

Thankfully, He didn’t leave me in my ignorance, and I finally grasped the concept of sanctification that occurs between justification and glorification. I slowly understood that I can’t/didn’t/won’t earn God’s love, that it is freely given through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

I had to learn who I was

I learned I was a victim. I was a co-dependent, reality-escaping victim. I was afraid of everybody. It impacted every single area of my life. I felt trapped, and in all honesty, I was trapped. I was bound in a trap of my own making. A trap that was constructed with distorted truth and outright lies.

Identity crisis

I was at a crossroads of sorts, torn between who I’ve always thought I was and the reality of whose I am. I felt trapped between a cage that was at least familiar, and between fear of the unknown. I finally met that point in co-dependency where I asked myself who I would be if I dropped my victim status. How would I manage to live without it.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

My greatest loss was that of my old distorted and arbitrary identity. It was great not because it was good, but because it was heavy. It isn’t going away without a fight. It still screams for attention. But I have tasted something much better. Freedom. Freedom to be who I was made to be. Freedom to have purpose and worth. Freedom to be loved by my Creator not because of what I do (or don’t do). Freedom to love, as I am loved.

My greatest loss is turning out to be an amazing gift.

Dumping the junk

I don’t know if any other denomination holds confession like the Catholic church. A Google search could probably answer that, but it really doesn’t matter. I know it is a sacrament for Catholics to go to confession and confess their sins to the priest. We Protestants don’t do that because Jesus is our high priest and we can go straight and boldly to God the Father.

Having grown up in a non-confessional environment, I had no concept whatsoever of the healing nature of telling my “junk” to another person.

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs.” – Step 5, page 59, Alcoholics Anonymous

That was a hard step for me. Granted Step 4 was hard enough writing all that crap down. But it was another matter to say it out loud to another person. Things that I had never ever EVER said out loud to ANYONE. Actually, there was only one thing that nobody else knew because I never told anyone. But now, both my sponsor and my therapist know about that. Since I’ve vomited all my secrets out (that I could remember up to that point), I don’t feel such a need to keep things hidden.

The saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets,” is, at least for me, absolutely true. It was no wonder I turned to alcohol to numb. Of course, now I am dealing with the feelings from all that crap that I didn’t deal with at the time, so I am still pretty sick. But I’m getting better as I learn that feeling the anger and the hurt feelings is actually what emotionally healthy people do. They don’t stuff, suppress, and numb. They feel, work it out, let it go, and move on.

I wouldn’t dare suggest mandatory confession. For one thing, there is no way to enforce it that would even be remotely healthy. But I think within the context of a local church, confession to another person would be transforming because confession tears down facades, and confession frees us from darkness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV)

We don’t want to indiscriminately confess our junk because there are “tares among the wheat” inside and outside of church, and you need to be able to talk to someone you can trust is not going to harm you. You need someone who will pray with you and for you without judging you from self-righteousness, but yet will lovingly call you out when you need it. We all have blind spots. I think that is part of true confession to another person – being willing to have your blind spots pointed out to you, and admitting them for what they are. It won’t feel good, but it’s how we grow – by humbling ourselves.

“Do you want to be healed?”

“Drop the rock. Just drop the freakin’ rock, and quit picking it back up!”

I had a little meltdown in church today. It started near the end of the sermon and lasted until a couple minutes after we were dismissed. It wasn’t one of those meltdowns like a couple of weeks ago where I heavy sobbed for an hour in the fetal position, but it was enough that I had to grab a tissue – and soaked it.

“Do you want to get well?”

The sermon text was from John 5:1-5 which is the account John gives of the healing of the man at the pool at Bethesda. The man there had been ill for 38 years. That’s a long time to be sick. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, but the man answered with the reason he hadn’t been healed as if he had given up all hope of ever being healed. Someone always beat him into the pool. As Pastor Jared put it, the man answered the question with an excuse. Jesus still healed him.

I sat there thinking, “Do I want to be healed? Do I REALLY want to be healed?” Then the tears started welling up. Pastor Jared said, “Remember who you are!” I grab a tissue because they are spilling now. I write on my teaching notes, “I am not my childhood.” As Pastor Nate wrapped up after the service, I completely soaked the tissue. I remember him praying, but not really what he prayed because I was praying about that rock I keep picking up and carrying.

With every meltdown, there is release of a little bit of the pain. It is part of the healing. But it’s not all of it. When I first got a sponsor, I am pretty sure she asked me if I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. I said, “Yes,” having no idea what that was going to mean other than completely changing the way I think about everything. I had no idea the can of worms that would open. Last week, Pastor Nate posed a question in his sermon, “When tests come, am I willing to go the distance with Jesus to experience a miracle?”

Today Pastor Jared said this:

“If you’ve never been broken/had a need, you can’t really know Jehovah Jireh – the Lord who provides.
If you’ve never been lonely, you can’t really know El Roi – the God who sees me.”

Am I willing to pick up my mat and walk? Can I drop that rock and walk away from it?

I am a miracle

We are in a sermon series at church called He Still Moves Stones. It’s an 8 week series on the miracles of Jesus that are unique to the Gospel of John. There was a point in this past Sunday’s message when Pastor Benji had each of us turn to our neighbor and say, “You are a miracle.” It came at a time when I needed to be reminded of that fact.

I had an hour-long meltdown last week. Thankfully I had it at home, but it wasn’t done in isolation because Petra was pressing on an emotional trigger point. An area of denial was brought into my consciousness where I could finally see it for what it was. A lot of pain flowed out with the tears. I think some of it just settled in my neck and shoulder because I’ve had a crick ever since. The next day, one of my co-workers looked at me and said, “You look like hell.” I felt like it, too. That evening I was telling my sponsor about the meltdown, and I told her, “You know, I didn’t want a drink.”

The miracle.

Early in my sobriety I was told to wait for the miracle. Of course, also in my early sobriety I did a whole lot of wondering what the heck these people were talking about. I could not fathom being able to function and live consistently sober. My sponsor would say to me, “I promise! It gets better!” Part of me thought that was bullshit. But another part of my hung on to her words for dear life, hoping beyond hope it was true for me like it was for her. Little by little, I began to believe, and I began to see the miracle I was told to wait for.

“The miracles of God are often time-delayed and require patience.” – Benji Kelley

I longed for deliverance throughout my childhood when I learned to shut down and dissociate. I longed for deliverance while I was numbing the pain I didn’t know I needed to face. I longed for a quick-fix, pain-free deliverance. That’s not what I’m getting, but it doesn’t make it any less of a miracle.

It was a miracle that I survived my childhood. I wasn’t in physical danger, although that was questionable during my appendix saga. But what I mean is, it was a miracle that I did not ever become suicidal. It was a miracle as an adult that I was a functioning alcoholic who could hold down a job and appear to have it all together. Now, it is a miracle that I don’t have the compulsion to continue to numb. It is an even greater miracle that I am willing and able to face facts and admit that I suffered abuse, allow myself to process the emotions, and find the deliverance I wanted so badly for so long.

I believe in miracles. I am a miracle.

I am a writer

We’ll just go ahead and call this my official coming out. Since I’ve been blogging since 2004, it’s time to make it official. I have said so many times in the past year or 2, “I can write what I can’t say.” I also have a lot of stuff to get out because I have also been saying for a while, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

I was told a few years ago that I have a gift for writing. And I was told that again by a different friend within the last year. I suppose I should believe it given the way I managed to BS my way through AP English in high school. Part of that credit goes to Kim Dixon for actually doing the reading assignments and telling Kelly what the book was about. I listened very intently to her summaries. So on that note, thank you Kim for getting me through AP English, and for being one of my few regular readers. :)

I’ve done a lot of questioning of myself. Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? I’m doing a lot of figuring out what I like to do and what I’m good at and matching those up. Also I have been looking at how I have been mentored and directed throughout my life. Too long I have lived my life doing what I thought was expected of me without giving enough thought to what I want and like and am good at. Heck, it’s taken a lot just to accept that I am good at something.

The gift of sobriety has given me a chance to live. Really live. Not the going-through-the-motions life I’ve always done, but a life lived among other people. A life of sharing of experience, strength, and hope to quote a few 12 step programs. I have been given an immeasurable amount of grace, and I want to share that journey with others. Other people who are scared of feeling, scared of taking action, scared of facing the past, and scared of what the future holds.

I’ve wanted to write a book for a while. I have several ideas, so maybe I’ll write several books. Who knows what the future holds.

On with the show

The DragonLady doesn’t like crowds. That’s why she doesn’t do concerts. Crowds freak her out. Also, she doesn’t like to pay the price concert tickets cost these days. But you know what? I went to see Fleetwood Mac last month paying way more than I wanted to pay for tickets in the rafters.

IMG_3716

Prior to the beginning of the show, I would look at that and get that feeling in my stomach as if I was going to pitch forward and fall to my death. Because I also don’t do heights.

IMG_3718

That’s my “this is too high” face. Note that we weren’t all the way at the top but close.

Once they came out and started playing, though, I did not notice the height at all. It was a heck of a good show! I sat there singing along with every single song as only someone who has spent a LOT of time listening to Fleetwood Mac can do. I screamed. I yelled. I was surprised I could talk the next day.

Dreams unwind. Love's a state of mind.

Dreams unwind. Love’s a state of mind.

Tusk

Tusk

They were so fantastic! Lindsey Buckingham didn’t leave the stage until just before the encore, and then just during the drum solo in World Turning. I know he is the youngest member of the band, but he is still mid-60’s rocking a 2.5 hour show.

IMG_3719

This was the finale, which I obviously didn’t take from the rafters. Someone with much better seats than I took this. Also, I used up my free space recording Gold Dust Woman. Which I haven’t uploaded.

Choice

It struck me in the middle of a conversation where I was sitting on my pity pot bemoaning the latest catastrophe to befall me.

Do I really trust God? Do I really trust Him?

Because it is one thing to pray and surrender everything to Him and His will, but when you’ve done that, and something happens that you didn’t anticipate, it’s another matter to follow through by walking in the faith you thought you had when you said that prayer. Talk is cheap, but living it out is going to cost something.

Clinging to control and self-sufficiency is going to cost you a lot more.

All the years I spent pushing myself and pushing myself trying to do it all and do it all perfectly exacted a heavy price. Multiple times. And I didn’t get it.

A few years ago I asked “Just how broken do I have to be?” I knew at the time. Completely. I just didn’t really know what that means exactly. I have a much better idea now. It’s whatever it takes until I become completely dependent upon God and quit trying to do everything (and do everything perfectly) in my own power in effort to be good enough.

Ah, but there’s more.

I was talking with a friend earlier this week and we got on the subject of legalism in the church. Since we both grew up Baptist, we were generally talking about Baptist churches since that’s what we have had the most experience with. I don’t know where it came from (I probably read it somewhere), but in response to discussing the logical though flawed thinking behind legalism, I said, “Grace is scary because grace can’t be controlled.”

If you can spot it, you got it.

The control freak in me doesn’t want to go down without a fight. She’s been calling the shots for decades because she has to head off every possible problem and either prevent it from happening or fix it before anyone finds out she messed up. Every time she thinks she’s hit bottom, it turns out to be a ledge, and she rolls right off over and over.

Can I really do this? Can I give up my control and self-sufficiency and really really surrender my will and my life over to the care of God?

Am I going to just admit where my best thinking has gotten me and just trust Him?

Am I going to accept the grace I can’t control?

IMG_3561

“…and the wind won’t stop”

Pain is baffling. It is pretty dang frustrating to spend several years trying to get healthy, changing my entire lifestyle through exercise and a healthy diet – and then getting sober – to find myself struggling with chronic pain. I even went so far as to question my sanity. After all, how many health issues can I share with Petra before I begin to wonder how much is in my head. On the other hand, when I really think about it, I can see that the issues started way before we ever met. And since I don’t believe in coincidence, there must be a reason why we were put in each other’s lives. And yeah, I over-think and tend to over-dramatize. Whatevs.

Talking to a couple of friends last week, I wondered aloud if maybe I’ve had this pain for a while and just didn’t know it because I was self-medicating. It was pointed out to me that because I have been sober for over a year now that I would naturally be more attuned to what is going on with my body. So I started thinking back trying to find a time in my life when I was dealing with a lot of pain, and in my very late 20’s and very early 30’s, I had a lot of knee, back, and wrist pain. The Air Force doctors and physical therapists couldn’t find a reason for any of the pain, though it was said that the wrist pain was likely pre-carpal tunnel. I realized that I stopped having so much widespread pain when my drinking ramped back up.

I did a little internet research and a study was done on a connection between fibromyalgia with depression and alcohol use. While the study was not to be taken completely conclusively, it showed that low and moderate use of alcohol tended to lesson the fibromyalgia pain. I went back and forth between high moderate and low heavy drinking. This could have had an impact on my pain level. Petra says my symptoms scream fibromyalgia, and I had some pain last week that definitely fit that category.

My dad claimed to have nearly every disease or disorder known to man. I know he had allergy problems and Type II diabetes. I remember a couple of times hearing him say, “I think I have depression.” I do not doubt that at all. I also have heard him talking about his recovery from his ruptured appendix, and he described an incident that sounded exactly like I feel when I have a panic attack. He also claimed to have “myalgia.” It’s a broadstroke disorder of muscle pain. Fibromyalgia falls under that broad disorder. And as I connect dots again, my mother-in-law told me that he had a problem with pills for a while. If he had pain like I have pain, I’m sure he did have a pain pill addiction because at that time he had a highly technical and physical job that would be hard to do while in chronic widespread pain.

Last week I found out something about my dad’s childhood that I never knew. I didn’t get great detail nor did I ask for more detail. I learned what I needed to know which explained why he acted the way he did. He had a really rough childhood. The one aspect of it I never knew was the one that I was able to take and finally feel connected to him. Sadly, nearly 8 years after his death, but I understand. I have friends, family, programs, and mental health support that he didn’t have. Not that he didn’t have support of friends and family. Especially family. But I have been granted awareness that he was either never granted or chose to remain in denial. And so, I think it is no coincidence that I find all this out now – after I’m sober. I know where I stand with fibromyalgia if that is indeed the reason for my pain. I also am acutely aware of my self-destructive and addictive tendencies. Okay, maybe not acutely. But aware. I don’t want pain management. I want pain elimination. If elimination is not possible, well, I suppose that will be another blow to my self-reliance. ;)