When Christmas isn’t so merry


How does one get through the holidays with so much broken in the world?

What about the military members who are spending the holiday season in inhospitable parts of the world rather than with their families? What about their families who acutely feel their absence?

What about the prisoner? And his or her family?

What about the elderly in the nursing homes?

What about the disabled in group care homes?

What about the fathers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the mothers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the children who can’t be with both of their parents at the same time because of separation or divorce?

What about the parents who can’t afford to buy their kids the gifts they want for Christmas?

What about the parents who can’t even afford to feed their children?

What about the families that will be together, but the holidays will be miserable because of addiction or alcoholism or straight up abuse?

What about the families who lost love ones during this or past holiday season who are dealing with the 1st or 3rd or 14th Christmas without?

What do you do with broken people at Christmas?

What do you do when you can’t fix what’s broken?

What do you do with the broken-hearted?

What do you do with your own broken heart?

How do you make a difference?

There is so much pain and suffering in so many people’s lives right now. Broken people who cannot be fixed by slogans and cliche. People who need more than a trite saying or Bible verse no matter how much truth is in it. It’s in these times of pain that we need our pain acknowledged as being real and complicated, and that someone is there with us. Not to try and fix us. Not to tell us we made our own bed even if our pain is due to our own making.

We need someone there to remind us that we are not alone in those dark moments where we feel utterly alone. Even if it is to just sit with us silently while we weep.

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In the mud


When I was in Kindergarten, I remember one day standing on the sidewalk, and it had been raining. Someone ran up to me right in front of me kind of in my face, and it surprised me so much that I stumbled back, and fell off the sidewalk onto my butt right in a puddle. I got significantly wet enough that a change of clothes was required.

When I got home wearing different clothes and carrying the ones I had worn to school in a bag, my dad questioned me as to what happened. I told him, and then proceeded to get a dressing down for falling down.

Naturally I fell into that puddle on purpose.

Because I was berated for falling, I began to develop a fear of accidents. That fear was reinforced over and over again throughout my childhood because I had a lot of accidents. You know, like kids do. The constant fear, however, led to a compulsive need to control my environment in order to prevent accidents and extraordinary efforts to cover up any that happened in spite of all of my careful prevention.

A life lived in constant fear is not a life lived well.

A life lived trying to anticipate what ifs is a life devoid of peace.

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6 ESV)

As a child, I lived in constant fear that was reinforced by an emotionally and mentally unsafe environment. I was always on guard because I never knew when an attack was coming nor what might precipitate one. Thus I became unwittingly and unwillingly addicted to excitement and therefore sought out ways to feed that need my body had for adrenaline.

Fear-based perpetual outrage.

Our news media makes huge profits off our need to feed our fear and anger. Social media provides us the means to instantly share and thereby stoke the anger and fears of our hundreds of friends and followers. We square off into our various tribes demonizing and dehumanizing whoever doesn’t agree with us. Because, after all, we are the enlightened ones and are therefore better than them. So we seek out more like us, and more information to back up our beliefs.

We are obsessed with being right instead of desiring to be at peace with and/or understand our neighbors.

We have convinced ourselves that we must be in absolute control of the world around us so that we can feel safe.

All the while the media profits from turning left and right against one another – brother against brother, sister against sister. So divided are we that we are losing cohesion and ultimately destroying the security we crave.

And while we are trying to control our surroundings to keep from falling in the mud, we fail to realize we are flailing around in the puddle that we fell in a long time ago.

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Onions and old wounds

“I’m so afraid of the way I feel.” – Lindsey Buckingham


Some days are rough. When they string together into a season, it really sucks. Some days I just want to stop feeling. Except I don’t. Lord knows I’ve done enough numbing.

I know that healing is painful, and slow. I know that sometimes you have to push yourself through the pain because that is part of the healing process too. Like when I had my appendix taken out. I was sick as a dog for a week prior to the surgery. I mean, it ruptured, so, yeah. I was BAD sick by the time I had emergency surgery. It is a miracle that I wasn’t sicker. I was exhausted, hungry, and sore after the surgery. I didn’t want to do a thing except lay there drugged up wishing someone would leave a donut close enough for me to reach even though I wasn’t allowed to eat. But my mom made the nurses make me get up out of bed and walk no matter how much I complained about the pain. Not because she wanted me to hurt, but because that was just part of the healing process – getting up and moving forward.

Once upon a time, I broke my wrist. I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was a playground accident, and it was a complete accident. I would even go so far as to call it a freak accident on a seesaw. I told no one because I knew that if my dad caught wind, I would be held solely responsible for both cause and effect. Obviously it wasn’t a bad break, but I found it really hard to get through basketball practice with minimal use of my left hand. The physical pain was mild compared to the emotional pain I expected to receive. It’s probably why I have such a high tolerance for physical pain now.

Hiding an injury from a parent out of fear of punishment for getting hurt in an accident is not normal.

The kids and I were heading home from the dentist last week, and I had some road rage going on. Big surprise to anyone who’s ever had to ride in the car with me. Anyway, Jamie says, “I don’t think I have ever experienced road rage.” I said, “Good. I hope you don’t.” After a bit more discussion she said, “Well, it is a lot easier to be mad and yell at someone when you aren’t face to face with them.” Could it be that a childhood of helplessness and unresolved anger is behind my road rage?

I had to get the pimp car fixed last week. It was something I didn’t think I could fix, but the tow truck driver was confident I could have done it myself. Anyway, after fixing the harmonic balancer (fancy name for crankshaft pulley), they recommended an oil change (it was really low), and coolant flush (coolant was really dirty). I declined having them do it because 1) I already had the oil and filter purchased to change the oil, 2) I’ve flushed coolant before and can do it myself, and 3) I look for any ways I can to save some cash. Well #2 was a huge mistake. I managed to break the petcock. Not so bad that I can’t work around it, and it still works, but still. It was frustrating and I bitched to Petra who proceeded to tell me that I don’t have to do everything myself even though I am capable because I don’t have anything to prove. Um, yes, I do. It’s irrational and insane, but yes, it is almost a compulsive need to prove that I am capable of doing it all and am not “stupid” and “irresponsible.”

I’ve reached a point where I have gained back all the weight I had lost and now need to either lose some weight or buy bigger clothes. I am opting for the former. I went to the doctor Monday because I had some paperwork for him to fill out for my insurance, and I needed a couple of prescriptions redone. Especially when the nurse reminded me I have asthma and I looked at my inhaler that expired over a year ago. My doc told me not to beat myself up over the weight gain as it is a normal reaction (physically and mentally) to what has gone on over the past few months. And now I can rein myself back in and “eat an apple and go for a walk” instead of binging on carbs and sugar.

4 years ago, he suggested a 30 day no-starch diet to break my addiction to carbs. Of course, I was also running regularly then too. So I decided to put myself back on a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits. And running when the weather is nice enough. Twice in the past week I have gotten a bunch of veggies to roast. (Fiber is my friend. Seriously.) But my veggie prep time is slow. I am clumsy with a knife, so I can’t rush. My left hand has enough scars. But, I digress. Jamie decides she is hungry whenever I am doing this slow prep work and gets in the way while bitching about how slow I am and how I’m doing it wrong, and blah blah. And it really, really pisses me off.

It’s a trigger.

Once upon a time, I decided to make a bologna sandwich. I was maybe 12 or 13. Old enough to do it myself. It was during summertime so we had fresh tomatoes, and I was going to slice a tomato for my sandwich. Well, Daddy peeled everything, including tomatoes, so I proceeded to peel the tomato as that is what you do when it’s all you know. He walked in as I was doing it and had a conniption over how much of the tomato I was taking off with the peel. He went on and on and on until I melted down and just grabbed my sandwich and ran out to the barn sobbing with the sandwich I no longer wanted.

I vowed to never ever peel another tomato again.

And when Jamie starts bitching while I’m prepping, I relive that tomato incident all over again, which of course means I am very snippy with her.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to heal from all those old wounds, not to mention how on earth do you?

You may believe that if you begin to cry you will never stop.1

I remember wondering “How broken do I have to be?” Now I am wondering just how broken I really am. I like fixing things. When I fix a light, a car, mower, or appliance, I feel empowered as if I do have some semblance of control over the world around me. There has been so much helplessness that fixing material things makes the broken parts of me not seem so terrifying. I can look at myself and say, “You know what? You’re not stupid. You can fix stuff. Not everything, but a lot of things. You pay your bills on time, and when you don’t, it’s not intentional. You’re not a failure.” And that works until I get tired from going wide open like I’m Superwoman.

That’s when I feel the wounds of that broken little girl.

That’s when the that old familiar voice starts in. “You’re in over your head. You’re a fraud. You’re about to fail big in front of everyone and they are going to point and jeer.”

I know it’s a lie. It’s just hard to fight your mind when you’re already tired and worn down – when you’re still hurt.

Psalm 13 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

1 Woititz, Janet G. (1983). Adult Children of Alcoholics. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc p198

I used to think ___ but now i think ___. #OutofSortsBook

Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, released last week. She is doing a synchroblog with a writing prompt about how and why we have evolved in our beliefs over the years. I’m all about a writing prompt, even if it takes 3 days to write. Ha!


I think so differently about so many things now, I don’t even know where to begin.

I always felt torn between 2 extremes. I either felt so utterly broken that I was beyond hope, or I felt like I had all the answers and was in the fast lane with the saints on the stairway to heaven. I think the self-righteous arrogance was a coping mechanism to deal with the massive inferiority I felt. I would find people whom I was “better than” in order to feel better about myself. Of course that was only when I was sober.

Truly, underneath any bravado I put up, I always felt less than. Not good enough. As I wrote about not too long ago, “If I couldn’t ever measure up to my dad’s standards with my behavior, how could I ever hope to measure up to God’s standard of absolute holy perfection?”

I thought I knew who God was, but I really never saw Him for who He really is.

For many years I did not consistently have someone in my life speaking truth to me about the character and nature of God. That means I definitely did not have someone reminding me of the Good News – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I forgot that I couldn’t earn my way to God.

I had neither a dramatic falling away, nor did I have a dramatic return. I had a gradual descent into a breakdown where something had to give. Things started to change from the time I realized I was having a breakdown.

I changed when I realized I needed help.

It began with a medical doctor appointment where I walked out with an antidepressant and a couple of recommendations/referrals for therapists. Then I not only picked a therapist, but started attending Al-Anon. While I was largely silent in Al-Anon for a while, I sat in that first session with my therapist and verbally vomited on her. I told her things that I had never ever said out loud. To anyone.

I learned first in my therapist’s office to be honest about both my present and my past. To talk about what happened, what was happening, and how I felt. And nothing would ever be the same, especially once one of my close friends told me I needed to quit drinking. And that’s when I had to get really honest.

When you grow up in a fundamentalist culture with an abusive father, you learn things about God that just aren’t true. Sure, I believed Jesus saved me, but I didn’t fully believe I could be and was forgiven. I had to revisit everything I thought I knew about God, and tear down a lot of false teaching of legalism. I had to work through a lot of resentment not just with the religion of my youth, but with God himself.

I used to think that God was just waiting for people to do the wrong thing in order to enact a swift and thorough punishment for the least little infraction. Therefore, I had to be on guard all the time to not mess up, and when I did (because we all do), I lived in bondage to shame and fear. For many years, my only relief came from a bottle.

But having been delivered from the compulsion to self-medicate, I now know that God is kind and loving and merciful. I now know without a doubt that Jesus is enough, and because of Him, I don’t have to try to earn my way into the Father’s good graces. I am fully known and fully loved. The Holy Spirit wasn’t the one filling me with fear and shame. Oh, no. It’s the Holy Spirit that reminds me who I really am – a beloved daughter of the Father.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

How did you learn respect


I’ve always bucked against authority, but not necessarily for the sake of being a rebel. I’ve been repeatedly labeled an instigator, and I do not (because I cannot) deny it. I’ve even been called a honey badger. Honey badger don’t care. She does what she wants! Of course, she often gets “stung” by the cobra and then has to take a nap.

As much as I bucked against and resent(ed) my strict, legalistic religious upbringing, it kept me out of so much trouble I could have gotten in given all the vices I flirted with. I absolutely do not recommend legalism to combat vice because if it really worked, I might not have flirted.

Because I was under such strict authority, I developed an unhealthy fear of authority figures. Compliance was almost always out of fear rather than respect, at least initially. As I got older I learned to distinguish between dictatorial authority and leader/teacher/mentor authority, but I had a big learning curve.


I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook that state they learned respect by getting good ass whippings as a kid. I know they are just resharing a meme, and I can’t speak for anyone else’s raising. But I know for a fact that I did not learn respect of any kind from any whipping I got as a kid. I learned from those whippings to fear punishment when I do wrong from those giving me the whipping, and nothing more.

I want to note, I am not anti-corporate punishment. I can’t say it’s never necessary, and I also cannot say that it was always given to me inappropriately. It was the berating from my dad that accompanied the whippings that did the greatest damage. Therefore, any spanking/paddling from anyone else was taken in the same manner – as punishment for not being smart enough to be good enough.

Therein lies a big problem when we try to project a meme as a cure-all when we don’t know any backstory. For all the discipline and instruction to respect elders and authority, I still carried around an unhealthy and disrespectful view of authority just waiting to spew out. A1C Nemec still gave a 2Lt the stink eye and a snotty answer over the way he asked her who gave the all clear after a simulated attack. SSgt Nemec was still openly and belligerently disrespectful to a Chief Petty Officer on multiple occasions.

Respect that is borne out of fear of punishment is not respect. It is self-preservation, and doesn’t place value on other people. Healthy respect places high value on another person regardless of that person’s position of authority.

We actually learn respect by watching others model what respect looks like. A quick glance through political posts on Facebook gives a clue as to where today’s children get their lack of respect from. “Democrats/Liberals are idiots!” “Republicans/Conservatives are stupid!” We disparage those with whom we disagree politically/ideologically/religiously and wonder why our kids are disrespectful.

I listened to my dad exalt himself above everyone my whole life and picked it right up and ran with it. It was my normal. I think this is the kind of attitude that fuels the perpetual outrage that manifests itself on Facebook through self-righteous political/religious posts demonizing, devaluing, and ultimately dehumanizing whatever group/culture/ideology/class/ethnicity/religion we disagree with. After all, we believe we have figured out what’s wrong with the world. “If only people would just listen to me…”

Most events are not clear-cut with a black-and-white clear cause and effect. People who hold different beliefs or belong to a different culture than you are not beneath you with nothing to teach you. We are all struggling with junk. When we have to tear someone else down in order to show our superiority, we are actually showing the ugliness of our own attitudes and beliefs. And that in no way exalts us above others except in our own minds.

It’s that lack of respect for other human beings that is what is wrong with our society today. And as long as we continue to perpetrate, the worse our society is going to get because where there is no respect, there is certainly no love.

So think about how you really learned respect and whether or nor you really show it.

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“and he will rule over you”

I loved the TV show Maude when I was a kid. I remember my mom telling me she could not stand Maude. I either didn’t ask her why or didn’t listen to the answer. I can watch Maude now and I understand why Mom didn’t like Maude. Since I was way too young to understand any of what was happening on the show at the time, clearly I just liked Bea Arthur. Still, Mom worked really hard to keep me from becoming a “feminist.”

I remember once in my late teens being at church (I’m pretty sure it was a business meeting) when there was a discussion about a stove. While I don’t remember the details, I do remember that it was a men’s committee that decided on the stove to purchase and then it was brought before the church for vote. It irked me that the men made the decision on a stove despite the fact it was the women who would be cooking on it. (Irony isn’t always lost on me.) I bitched to Mom (and yes, it was bitching) who gently declared that the men are to make the decisions for the church. Or something to that effect. Which, really, why even bring anything up for a vote in front of the entire congregation if only the men get a say?

Clearly I’m still a bit perturbed about that.

I had a chat with a coworker where she stated that the major religions treat women poorly, to include Christianity. That is absolutely what you are going to get in Christianity when the men pick out the verses about women submitting and being quiet and ignore the ones where husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it. The women must obey, but the men don’t have to practice sacrificial love. As I was making my coffee (before I got into any more discussions of any kind), it occurred to me why this might be such an issue.

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” – Genesis 3:16, NIV

Could it be that the male dominance packaged as “Biblical headship” is really just part of the curse? Because that’s what Genesis 3:16 seems to say pretty plainly. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Note that it does not say “Your desire will be to rule over your husband,” or “Your desire will be for your husband’s role.” No, it says “Your desire will be for your husband.” The same desire that wants Cain in Chapter 4. I think that desire is the one where we want our husband to be completely and utterly devoted to us above all else. To be our god.

“and he will rule over you.” Guess what. He will be a god. Just not a good one. Because there is a side-effect to being taught that the man the head over his household without being taught what that really entails. He will anoint himself supreme ruler. He will start (or just continue) to believe that it’s his way or the highway. He will not take any direction because he is the man and he is in charge and therefore he knows what’s best. Without good counsel teaching him how to lead through service, he will become effectually a slave master who believes his wife exists to serve him.

I believe that is why abuse perpetuates and thrives in the more fundamentalist circles.

Paul speaks of marriage metaphorically as symbolizing the relationship between Jesus and the Church. Hence wives submit to their husbands as the Church to Jesus, and husbands love their wives even as Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for it. But I think we are missing a piece when we just leave it at that.

if we endure,
we will also reign with him. – 2 Timothy 2:12a

If we believe that Jesus is coming back for his bride, the Church, as he says, and that we will reign with him, then why wouldn’t husbands and wives not jointly rule their household? After all, in marriage, two become one, not two become master and servant. And Jesus doesn’t force his rule over his bride.


“It takes some effort to look like this!”


I had an appointment with my feelings doctor a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those where I tried really hard to direct the conversation where she wouldn’t ask me any probing questions. I failed. I should have known that I would have to leave out a significant even from the previous 3 weeks to get past that question. Heck, Petra had already asked me that question so I really didn’t want to have to answer it twice in one week. Thankfully we didn’t stay on that topic, so there was no meltdown. But she got a little more probing in another area.

She always asks me about playing with the church band, exercise, meetings, and any social time outside of those. She knows my history of anxiety and depression, and I had already disclosed a panic attack I’d had the week before. I know I am doing all the things I need to be doing to keep myself busy and not isolated. Nothing good ever comes from when I isolate. But then she asked me if I enjoy the activities I’m doing, and I said, “Yes, I really do. But it often takes a lot of effort to make myself do it.”

Someone told me once, okay multiple times, that the dread of doing something is almost always worse than actually doing it. As I told my therapist, I don’t think I should have to work so hard to make myself do something I know I will enjoy.

I think part of it is because I let myself get overwhelmed unnecessarily. Like what happened with that panic attack. Something unplanned came up that had to be taken care of right away, and was something I shouldn’t have had to take care of as it was supposed to have been taken care of 2 months ago. I was angry over a resentment that got picked at. Well, that was the evening the kids decided to both barrage me with “When are you going to teach me to _______?” That was when I walked outside, grabbed the shovel, and called my sponsor because self-talk wasn’t working and I needed someone else to tell me the same thing I was telling myself but not believing: “Stay in today.”

And, no, I didn’t bury anybody with the shovel.

But I got some probing questions which I didn’t answer. Later, though, I had a completely unrelated conversation (initially) in which I verbally vomited all over Petra, and said, “Huh. That’s what my sponsor was trying to get at earlier.” Funny how that happens.

Sometimes I forget that I am going through a very difficult season. That’s when I wonder why it is so difficult to get out of bed in the morning and get ready. Many times I sit on the edge of my bed trying to work up the motivation to get dressed for work. It’s not that I don’t want to go to work. At least not really, because I normally enjoy being at work once I’m there. I work with really great people who made me laugh and laugh hard.

There is something to be said for the effort of putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing when I don’t want to. It is, after all, what grown ups do. When I enjoy the activity that I have to put so much effort into making myself do, it is worth the effort.

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#medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

This is it people. Two prescriptions to maintain this crazy. Wish me luck.

A photo posted by @muthalovinautism on

That is my friend Erin Jones. Her story has just blown up over the last few weeks. It’s a story about hitting bottom, and getting help back up. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook and/or check out her blog at Mutha Lovin’ Autism. Her story is shedding light on mental health, and seeks to break the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’m standing with her.

#medicatedandmighty Standing with my friend Erin @muthalovinautism and sharing my story of needing help, and before and after pics. I might have been running regularly in 2012 and looking ok on the outside, but I was trapped in a cycle of self-medication and denial. Midway through 2013, I hit a bottom, and started getting help. 5 months after I started taking an antidepressant, I stopped drinking. 17 months later, I stopped smoking (again). 18 months later, I put on makeup and a skirt, and told my story to a room full of people. 20 months later, I weaned off the antidepressant because it gave me the emotional reset I needed along with my program to feel my feelings without fear of them and without being consumed by them and work through the pain if the issues I stuffed, suppressed, and numbed for most of my life. #throwbackthursday #tbt

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The last time I posted, I mentioned wrestling over sharing my unsanitized story. Since then, I have added My Story to the menu above (below on mobile). Because I have reached the point that I am ready to share it. Because one thing I have learned in recovery is that I am not alone and someone else has done or experienced something I have. Which means, there is someone out there who thinks that no one can possibly understand what he or she has been through.

It’s what my Manifesto is about. It’s about letting just one other person know they are not alone. And someone cares.

And there is hope.

I may or may not be on the autism spectrum. I don’t have a diagnosis, but I show a lot of signs. I’m still not convinced that I developed symptoms that would be considered on the spectrum due to trying to cope and survive the abuse as a child. Regardless, I have never felt “normal” and came up with my own coping skills which work well for a child, but not so much as an adult. I am certain that the abuse and all the methods I used to cope contributed to my own mental illness – namely depression and anxiety.

Y’all, you can’t function “normally” when you are bouncing between the 2. Self-medicating will prolong the inevitable breakdown. Stuffing and suppressing will only last for so long before you blow up. And the isolation will slowly wear you down until you want to die. Whether by your own hand – quickly or slowly – or through recklessness, without professional help, you will find yourself in such a depressive state that death looks like the only viable option.

And I know firsthand, you can’t just pray that away.

No, you need people who have been there and back and will walk with you or just sit with you without blaming you or trying to fix you. If you have been struggling with depression and/or anxiety, you probably do have a chemical imbalance which will require medication. Years and years of stress will throw the chemical balance off because your body has been on alert for so long it doesn’t know how to not be on alert.

It absolutely is a physical, mental, and spiritual sickness. You can’t just treat one area and expect the other areas to recover also.

And you absolutely cannot fix yourself.

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When we share our junk


I have a page sitting in draft. It’s my story – the condensed version. I’m in a big debate with myself whether or not to publish it. Because it would make me really vulnerable which is why I haven’t shared it with very many people.

I read a post by Sarah Bessey the other day titled The Sanitized Stories We Tell which got me thinking about my story again. Early in the year I told my story at a speaker meeting. In front of a room full of people and into a microphone.

And I told a sanitized version.

See there were things that happened that affected me in a massive way, but I was just, shall we say, collateral damage. It is much easier to tell what happened to me personally than to tell that other junk and how it affected me.

I remember having a conversation once about people giving their testimonies and why that had stopped. It was said that they stopped doing them so as not to “glorify sin.” I have never heard anyone glorifying sin while giving their testimony. I wondered how anyone could even make that leap, but I think I know how. That is the kind of attitude that comes from growing up in a rigid fundamentalist legalistic religious culture that confuses behavior modification with heart change.

That attitude is uncomfortable when people talk about how bad they were. That attitude produces people who say when a brother or sister has a public moral failure that they must not have ever been saved. They become uncomfortable because they have never broken any of the no-no sins like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, cussing, or having sex outside of marriage. They weren’t rebellious or troublemakers, always doing what they were told, and always putting up a nice looking facade.

Are they uncomfortable because it defies thier legalistic rigid religion? Because God shows grace where we don’t/can’t/won’t? Where we weren’t given grace?

We play a seriously flawed and deadly game when we wear a facade of righteousness. If we are able to keep all the right rules, what do we need Jesus for? Why did he have to die? When we put forth this appearance that we have God now and everything is always okay and we have our life together, we set other people up for failure. The truth is that we are all epic failures. But we don’t have to be defined by our failure.

We absolutely do not have to feel like we are alone in our failure nor in the failures of our loved ones.

And that is why I want to share my story. So someone out there with a similar story will know that they are not alone, and that there is hope.

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The effect of focus

I’m afraid of heights. I’m not sure when I developed it because I did not have it when I was a kid. I first realized it one year when my mom and I went out to the old house at Birdtown to winter prep it. We had to cover the attic vents which required carrying the covers up a ladder and hammering them in. I got up the ladder and freaked. I couldn’t do it. Mom had to manhandle the vent on the ladder.

I didn’t get any better with ladders though I did get to a point where I could climb a ladder and do stuff, but barely, and I was terrified and hyperventilating the whole time. I had to face my ladder fear this weekend.

Half of the living room had been repainted, but didn’t get finished. Like most of the projects around the house. I finally tired of being pissed off about it and decided there was nothing stopping me from just finishing it. I had gotten more paint, and kudos to the lady at the Pittsboro Lowes who did an outstanding job of matching that paint. Labor day, I intended just to paint the one wall so I could move the TV, but it went so quickly that I did all of the room except for that small bit on one wall that is technically on the 2nd floor.


That was going to involve getting on a ladder and painting at the same time.

Some of it I was able to cut in from the 2nd floor landing, and thankfully that was the highest part. But still, I was going to have to get really high up on that 8 foot ladder with a paint bucket and brush…and actually paint.

There I stood, 2 rungs from the top, paint in one hand, brush in the other. I dipped the brush, wiped off some of the excess paint, and put the brush to the top edge of the wall underneath the molding. No tape. “Just hold the brush steady and cut the line.” I took a deep breath, and that’s what I did. I focused on cutting a straight line, and kept the fact that I was on a ladder secondary.

And it worked.


I think in life we have a tendency to get so caught up in secondary issues that we are unable to do what we need to be doing. We get overwhelmed by things that are largely outside of our control so that we can’t focus on what is within our sphere of influence. It wasn’t that I ignored the fact that I was on a ladder. My safety depended on my awareness of standing on a very small surface 6ft off the floor. But my primary task was to paint a straight line, and as long as I focused on that task, I was able to do it without fear of falling.

I also had to have faith that the ladder would work as designed.

I made sure the ladder was solidly level and steady before I ever climbed it. I did not climb above the recommended highest safe rung, and stayed a rung below it. I made sure to lean my shins and knees against the 2 top rungs to steady myself. I am prone to vertigo so ensuring I had my body supported as much as I could helped to stave off that feeling of pitching. I did what was in my control, and left the rest to the ladder to not collapse.

I took the appropriate safety measures with the ladder because they were within my sphere of influence. Then I let that go and focused on the task itself not allowing myself to stew on what-ifs or if-onlys.


Focus on the task at hand. Just do the next right thing. Be aware, but do what is yours to do and do it well without grumbling and without fear.

And don’t live in fear over things that you have no control over.

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