Letter to a hurting little girl…(and to any hurting little girls)

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Dear child,

I know the pain you’re enduring. I weep for you. I weep for how isolated and unloveable this pain makes you feel. I weep for how this pain will adversely affect the rest of your life. I weep for all the dark times ahead that you will have to endure. I weep for how broken your life will feel. How broken you will feel.

But I want you to know something: this pain is not your fault. You are not to blame. You are not to blame for the scorn of others. For the taunts of others. For the callous remarks of others. For the rejection of those who simply, in their own brokenness, didn’t know how to love you. You are so, so special, my child. You have a beautiful imagination, a keen intelligence, a sweet spirit, and a wonderfully sensitive soul. Your circumstances and trials do not define you. You are, beneath your humble exterior, a little princess. Like Sara, in one of your favorite novels, A Little Princess. She chose not to let her circumstances and the way others treated her define who she was. She held her dark, little head high, remembering that true princesses are not princesses merely on the outside, but princesses on the inside. And that is what you are as well, dear one. Remember that.

So hold on, sweet little girl. Your life will not be an easy one, and you will probably always feel a bit different from others because of the things you’ve had to endure, but never, ever let that uniqueness pull you down. Instead, embrace it, remembering your uniqueness is what uniquely qualifies you for the tasks and plans ahead. Remember that uniqueness when, one day in the future, you meet other boys and girls–and even adults–who, like you, have known tremendous pain. Your own suffering will enable you to have a greater empathy and compassion for others who suffer.

Lastly, dear child, know that you are loved. You may not feel loved, and you may feel God has abandoned you, but the truth is that His tender hands are what hold you, and for His own mysterious purposes that you currently don’t understand, and perhaps may never understand, He has allowed this pain in your life. If nothing else, He will use this pain to draw you to Himself, the only source of unfailing love, which, even if you don’t feel it, is always, always there. Hold onto Him, even when doubt and anger cloud your vision. He is holding onto you, and He loves you so, so much. One day in the future, when you hold a dirty, bedraggled little street girl in your arms, you will experience a taste of the love your Heavenly Father has for you–the kind of love that will hold you close even when you feel dirty and bedraggled. He isn’t the legalistic, perpetually angry God you’ve been exposed to since birth. I promise you. He isn’t.

One day, child, you’ll make it through all this. Don’t lose heart, though many dark days lie ahead. I know the tears you shed, and the pain you feel, for they are the same tears I shed today, and the same pain I feel today, but I know now that, though the journey through the valley of the shadow may seem endless, I do not walk it alone. You aren’t alone, dear one. He is there. And He weeps with you. He knows. He sees. And He holds you close.

So remember: no matter how others treat you, no matter how gut-wrenching your pain, you are, and always will be, a beautiful little princess. And may that enable you to hold your head just a little bit higher.

Most affectionately,

Your future self

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On singleness, cops, crying in cars & trusting God

Yesterday was a weird day. A day that ended with me sitting in my car crying and having a cute cop pull up beside me, make me roll down my window, ask me if I was ok and offer to help me.

I know I posted my “bucket list” the other day and declared I would hold onto hope for better days and dreams coming true, but sometimes it’s still hard to believe for good things when so much pain, fear and disillusionment stare one in the face. I’ve been struggling over the last few days, even though Christmas itself was filled with family, friends, good food and a good time. This past evening things just seemed to spill over after I spent what was actually an enjoyable time with a sister and a cousin at the movies, watching the second installment of the “Hobbit” trilogy. (I still can’t quite get over the fact that Peter Jackson made three movies out of a very short children’s book…although, as a Tolkien fan, I’m not complaining.)

While we waited for the movie to start, my cousin and I spent some time chatting and catching up, since we don’t see each other very often, and as is usually the case, our conversation turned to our status as single women. She and I are eight days apart, in our thirties, and still, regrettably, unmarried. She related to me how her brother made some insensitive remarks to her on Christmas day, regarding her singleness, basically telling her she was “running out of time,” and not likely to ever get married if she didn’t get her act together soon. My heart went out to her, and as much as I love her brother, if he’d been present, I’d have been tempted to smack him. Anyway, she then went on to lament her single status and wonder why only older men and creepy guys seem to ask her out. I told her I seemed to have the same problem (and occasionally guys that are way too young), and that she certainly wasn’t alone in her feelings of “What’s wrong with me? and why do other people seem to have no problem getting married?” It’s especially demoralizing when those much younger than you–like those you used to babysit as children–are now getting married and having children. I felt that acutely just the other day when I noticed on Facebook the engagement of a young man eleven years my junior that I used to think of as a little brother. Ouch. I couldn’t help but turn my gaze heavenward and say, Ok, God, when’s it my turn?

Strangely enough, however, as my cousin continued to lament her singleness, and even as I commiserated with her, I tried to encourage her as well, especially when she told me she often felt angry at God over her singleness and was afraid she’d be single for the rest of her life. I told her to trust God, no matter what. To leave it in His hands. And, somehow, for her at least, I meant those words. I believed those words. And I genuinely want to see her happy and blessed with a husband. But, as I drove home, I couldn’t believe those words for myself. I’m not angry at God over my singleness like my cousin. But I am discouraged. And in a place of unwilling resignation over the fact that I may never get married. When I was younger, I had hope. But as I get older, that hope is quickly dwindling, as I realize the sad fact that men typically age better than women, and unless you’re the exception and one hot cougar, most men won’t look twice at an older woman. (If someone would like to contradict me on this assessment, I’d be happy to hear it. I’m just stating what I observe.)

So, as cruel and insensitive as my cousin’s words to his sister were, I concede there’s some truth to them. Even my other cousin, his sister, conceded that. And that’s why the words hurt so much. As women in our thirties, my cousin and I are definitely, in some ways, “running out of time.” Does that mean God can’t do the miraculous? I hope not. But, yes, a miracle is probably what it would take. Especially for someone in my situation. I actually have more hope for my cousin than myself because not only am I a woman of a certain age, but I feel led to a very specific calling in my life, one that most men wouldn’t want–or at least, all the men I’ve met so far don’t want. And it’s not something I’m willing to compromise on. As much as I want to get married, I know I wouldn’t be happy married to someone who didn’t share a similar calling/career.

So, I’m having to face the fact that, aside from divine intervention, I might very well never get married. And this thought, stirred up after my conversation with my cousin, as well as thoughts about my other current struggles, disappointments, and afflictions, eventually led to my sitting in my car in front of my house, pouring out frustrated tears to a God Who seems absolutely remote right now, and then having a cop pull up beside me, rap on my window, and shine a flashlight in my face. I looked up to see a young cop staring at me, and at his command, I rolled down my window. I couldn’t disguise the fact that I’d been crying, so he immediately asked if I was ok, and when I mumbled a “sort of,” he then proceeded to insist on helping me in some way. I expressed appreciation at this offer, but told him I lived at the house I was parked in front of, would be fine, and would be going inside momentarily. Thankfully, that seemed to assure him enough, and he left me after that. But, understandably, I was slightly embarrassed about the whole situation. It was certainly a first for me. (And it made me wonder why a cop was patrolling our street late at night.)

It also made me ponder the sad fact that most often the tears I shed are either completely unseen or seen by complete strangers. And that seems to be the story of my life. Unseen. Most of my pain and suffering have been completely hidden from those around me. And, ironically, that was one of the things I was railing against God about in my car. The fact that I’m so tired of feeling alone and unseen. Even though I have a big family and a few good friends who care about me, I just feel like I’m always floating on the fringes. That no one truly knows me. That no one has any idea of what I’m truly going through. Perhaps that’s one reason I desire marriage so much. Because if I felt truly seen and known by even one person, it would mean so much to me.

I’m trying to hold onto hope. To believe that maybe my circumstances will eventually change. To believe that God answers prayers and that some of my dreams will come true. To believe that the scary things I’m facing may not be as bad as I think they’ll be.

But sometimes I can’t help but shed frightened, frustrated tears. Because while it may be easy to tell others to simply “trust God,” trusting God myself is often the hardest thing to do.

Pressing on…no matter what

This past Saturday I had the opportunity, via my community college, to visit and take a brief tour of the university I intend, Lord willing, to transfer to next fall. The visit excited me about my future goals, but was also a much-needed wake-up call to the realities of the possible major life-changes I am facing in the near future.

I am not your “typical” college student. It has taken me sixteen—sixteen!–years to figure out what I want to do with my life, and so here I am, in my thirties, pursuing a bachelor’s degree. I don’t regret many of my life choices over the last eighteen years or so–I’ve spent nearly a year living abroad, I’ve traveled to other countries, where I’ve done missionary work and volunteer work such as teaching English, and I’ve had many other life-enriching experiences. I’ve also worked at various jobs, some pleasant and rewarding, some very stressful, unpleasant and unfulfilling, which I think have made me a pretty well-rounded, versatile person. All of my experiences since graduating high school oh so many years ago have shaped who I am and have helped me discover where my passions, interests, and strengths lie, so that, finally, I can say with some degree of certainty: THIS is what I want to do with my life. I am definitely a late-bloomer. And I am ok with that.

Part of my late-blooming journey can definitely be attributed not only to my indecisiveness, but to not-so-pleasant life circumstances beyond my control, such as a major health crisis in 2007 that not only sent me spiraling into debt from medical bills, but into a mental and emotional breakdown which I am still trying to recover from. My life has not been easy. It has been characterized by setback after setback, and many physical, emotional and mental struggles, to the point where, even now, if I don’t see things improving in a very dramatic, immediate and tangible way, I am so tempted to give up. To give up on life, to give up on trying to get better, to give up believing anything good, happy, or ultimately lasting will ever come of my turbulent existence.

So my visit to the university this past Saturday left me with mixed emotions. I absolutely loved the campus–it was beautiful, with grand, old buildings, steeped in history (the university was founded by one of our first presidents), and full of a lively academic atmosphere that got my pulse racing with excitement. I could just imagine myself poring over my books in one of its spacious libraries with vaulted ceilings, strolling along its green lawns to my various classes, and just generally immersing myself in this whole new experience known as real college. I know, for most people my age, such feelings of excitement are long over, but having only attended community college so far, going to an actual, four-year university is both daunting and exhilarating at the same time to me.

But even as I pondered the exciting part of possibly going to this university, I also let myself face the inevitable challenges that would await me. I am no stranger to hopping on a plane and traveling half-way across the world completely on my own, to a place where I know no one—I’ve done it more than once, and I enjoyed it. In fact, I’d be doing it now, if I had the money. I was born a wanderer and explorer, and I love immersing myself in new environments and seeing new places. So the idea of moving to another city, only about an hour away from where I live now, to attend a university, shouldn’t frighten me. Admittedly, part of me can’t wait to move to a different city, to get out of the boring, hum-drum place I live now. But, strangely, another part of me is a bit frightened. Even with all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never faced something quite so daunting as college. On my own. In a city where I know no one. For some reason, this intimidates me more than trekking across the globe on my own (which I’d do in a heartbeat, if it was safe, and I had the money). I know part of it is that I know how awkward, alone and out-of-place I’ll feel, at least initially, amidst a throng of preppy, much-younger, partying-type college “kids.” At least at the community college I currently attend, I am not the only “older” student, and there is much more diversity over-all in the types of students that go there. So I blend in rather well. But I know the environment will be far different at the university. And I wonder how I will cope with trying to connect and form relationships with many of my fellow students. I wonder how I’ll find community in a city where I don’t know anyone. I wonder where I’ll live. If I’ll have roommates. If I’ll like my roommates. Suddenly, all these “what if” scenarios start floating through my mind, filling me with fear.

I have come a long ways from where I used to be. But I’m still struggling. I still feel fragile, faltering and unsure of myself much of the time. So this prospect of going off to a university, in a new place, while exciting, also scares me. Somehow, facing the pressures of a university environment and college life frightens me more than going to live in a country I’ve never been to before. Consequently, over the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling a bit emotionally, as I ponder not only the realities of the challenges ahead of me, but of the continued issues and hurdles I’m dealing with in my everyday life. And that’s when the dark thoughts start to push their way into my mind. You’ll never get better. You’ll never succeed. Your life will end before it’s even begun. Why bother trying. Why bother trying to get a degree. Why bother trying to change your lot in life. If you have trouble finding meaningful relationships and friendships where you are now, what makes you think it’ll be any easier in a different city? Why bother with anything? You are a failure. Yes, despite all the positive things you’ve done in your life, you are still a failure. And that’s all you’ll ever be. So give up. Just give up.

Fighting such thoughts has been very depressing. I try to give myself pep-talks, but they’re only so effective. I try to quote Scriptures to myself, but they seem to only give me temporary relief. I admit shamefacedly that I am tempted, very often, to simply listen to all those dark voices and give up. Give up on myself and give up on life.

But I’ve got to press on, no matter what those dark thoughts tell me. If there’s one thing that frightens me more than any of my other fears, it’s living a wasted, completely self-absorbed life. No matter what those familiar, dark voices of despair tell me, and even though, yes, most of the time all I can see is how far I have to go instead of how far I’ve come, I know I was meant for more than this broken life I’ve lived so far. Somewhere deep in my spirit I know. And it’s this fear of not becoming who God intended me to be that drives me forward, even when it feels like hell itself is standing against me. Perhaps one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from my current counselor, who told me I was “remarkably resilient.” This came after she discovered, in greater detail than I’ve told anyone before, exactly what I’ve been through and continue to deal with. I wonder myself sometimes, why, God, am I still here? And that’s when I know, if there is any resilience in me, I certainly can’t take credit for it.

I am super excited about the prospect of attending a university and hopefully one day acquiring my bachelor’s degree. I hope, and pray, with all my heart, that if I get that degree, I can use it to serve God on the mission field. That’s my goal. That’s my dream. But the reality of the difficulties that will cross my path as I go in that direction is ever present to me. I just hope I don’t finally cave to the feelings of discouragement and despair that so often hound me. I’ve come so, so close to caving.

I don’t want to waste my life. No matter how difficult the terrain, I must keep trekking. One foot. In front of. The other.

Don’t leave home…

I’ve had a rough few days this week. I hit some bumps in the road, sank into depression, fell apart emotionally, got super-stressed out about school, started having panic attacks, spent nearly every spare hour studying, barely slept, injured my hip yesterday, then got a migraine and temporarily lost vision in my left eye…yes, it’s been a rough week. And through it all, God has felt a million miles away.

But earlier this evening, as I drove down the interstate to go have some much-needed fun with some folks from church, I had a “moment.” Maybe some people think God only shows up in super holy ways like Scriptures, but in my experience at least, He sometimes shows up in ways we don’t really expect Him to. And for someone like me, who finds relating to this invisible God very difficult at times, I appreciate any way He chooses to speak to me. So whether that’s through the Bible, through another person, through a billboard sign (I’ve had that happen before), a talking donkey, or song lyrics, I’ll take whatever I can get.

I can’t explain it, but a song I’ve heard hundreds of times, that isn’t even a Christian song, suddenly struck me in a way it never had before, as it played in my car while I sped down the interstate. The song was “Don’t Leave Home,” by Dido. For those unfamiliar with the song, here’s a good sample:

As I listened to the lyrics, I suddenly had that distinct impression, that gentle whisper in the spirit, that seemed to say, in unison with the song, April, don’t leave home…don’t leave home…If you’re cold, I’ll keep you warm, If you’re low, just hold on, ‘Cause I will be your safety…Oh, don’t leave home.

Maybe I just imagined it all in my head. That’s a good possibility. But, as I said, I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s just crumbs. I just had the distinct impression that God was using those specific lyrics to speak to me in a very specific way, to my specific need. Granted, not all the lyrics in the song were appropriate, but the chorus–particularly the part “I will be your safety”–touched me in a very vulnerable place. I felt like God was telling me to not leave home because He was my home, and in Him there is perfect safety and security.

It’s just a song…I know. And maybe I simply have an overactive imagination. But in that moment, as I wrestled with sadness and so many other negative thoughts and emotions, those words were what I needed to hear.

I like it when God seems to show up like that. I just wish He did that more often.

The road goes ever on and on…

I’m still here.

Life has been interesting over the last few months. I finished up my summer math classes last month. I will dive back into school full time next week. Only two more semesters to go before I get my associate’s degree, and then hopefully onward and upward to the university where I hope to pursue my bachelor’s degree.

I had a birthday in July. I am officially starting to realize how old I am. Not a comforting thought.

My ESL class wraps up tomorrow night. I’ve had a fun and rewarding time teaching this class, and I’m going to miss my students, and fellow teachers, very much. Hopefully I’ll still be able to remain in touch and help out on occasion.

I was asked out recently by a gentleman at my church, who is apparently still smitten with me and trying to “woo” me, even though I politely turned him down. Ironically, I myself have, in recent months, “fallen” for another male friend of mine, who I’m quite certain will remain strictly “friend” material. I’ve determined I’m not ready for a relationship of any kind right now anyway.

But this has been my life lately. I guess I haven’t written anything here because I haven’t really felt the need to. Nothing huge has happened to me, nothing inspirational has struck me, nor have I been in such a despondent state that I’ve felt propelled to pour out the agonies of my soul onto this blog.

And maybe that’s a good thing. But, even though my life seems to be in a steady place right now, and I’ve definitely come a long ways from where I used to be, I’m far from “out of the woods” yet. I still have days where I cry myself to sleep, I still deal with a lot of pain, and I’m still facing some obstacles I have no idea how to overcome.

But I’m pressing on. Even though I still have no idea at times where my road is leading, whether God will ever totally heal and restore me, or whether my story will have a happy ending. I have to keep going, if for no other reason than to know my life wasn’t a waste. I have to believe that there is some eternal value to my life, even in its seeming insignificance, even in the depths of pain and darkness that I have endured. I have to believe that I’m here for a reason.

So, I echo with Bilbo in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

windingpathThe Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many path and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

We never suffer alone

Sometimes just knowing one isn’t alone and that others have it even worse than you do is enough to bring comfort and hope in the midst of the deepest of deepest agonies.

Two weeks ago, feeling overwhelmed with despair at my situation, I sped down a darkened interstate after midnight, just driving and driving, crying my eyes out and pleading with God to speak to me. To at least let me know He understood and cared about my pain. I drove for over an hour to a nearby city and finally turned around and headed home, feeling sleepy…but God was silent. Or at least it seemed He was. Although I heard no voice from heaven, I did see two curious sights on my midnight journey. I drove past two crosses beside the highway. One, on the way, was lit up in front of a building; the other, which I passed on my way back, was simply a string of lights in the shape of a cross sitting near the highway. I don’t know if these were “signs” from above–God’s way of simply saying “I’m here”–but I wondered. I especially wondered the next day.

The next day I went and saw my counselor, still feeling down, and I confessed this spur-of-the-moment emotional collapse that propelled me down the interstate in the wee hours of the morning. Of course, she wanted to know what caused this breakdown. I felt that tugging again, to spill one of my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets–one that I have borne in silence my entire life, and one that has caused me excruciating pain. I told a few other people a while ago, including my last counselor, but none of these people seemed to know how to reach out to me or help me deal with it. So I feared spilling my guts once again. But, as scared as I was, I agreed to share what was troubling me one more time. Via writing. I’ll take another chance, I thought.

So I took the chance. And her reaction, like those before her, took me by surprise. There was no rejection. No judgment. Only compassion. And even admiration that I had been able to cope as long as I have with this incredible source of pain. She called me “resilient.” But more than simply showing me kindness and being a listening ear, she has begun to give me practical ideas and suggestions on how to deal with my pain. No drugs were pushed on me. No magical prayer that would supposedly “heal” me. For the first time, someone has given me more than “fluffy” or “overly spiritual” advice. She tends to be very practical, and I really like this about her. So, at her suggestion, the first thing I did was some searching on the internet, and I discovered that, wonder of wonders…I am not alone in my pain. This shocked me. It also saddened me, because, after reading some people’s horror stories, I now realize, as bad as I’ve had it, some have had it even worse.

This was such an eye-opening experience for me. To simply no longer feel alone in one’s pain–to know there are others out there who can empathize–is such an amazing comfort. One of the things that has driven to me to such feelings of despair is feeling like no one else out there could possibly relate. And it has been this feeling of “aloneness” that has led me to hide my pain for so long. I’ve always thought I was the only one. Now I know I’m not.

God hears. He sees. He knows. And for the first time in my life, I feel He has given me a concrete source of hope. I can’t explain how liberated this makes me feel. I don’t know what the next steps for me are, and I’m still a bit frightened, but I have a courage to face this I’ve never had before.

Maybe there is a way out for me. It won’t be easy. I still have many obstacles to face. But, praise God, I am no longer in this fight alone. To suffer is one thing. To suffer alone–completely alone–is a million times worse.

No matter how “scary” or “intimidating” or “shameful” one’s secrets are, what I’m learning is that holding onto one’s secrets and not bringing them into the light is far more scary. It is only in the light that healing comes. Not everyone will understand. Some won’t know how to deal with your pain. Some will reject you for it. Some will give you bad advice. But persevere. Trust God. Let it into the light. Own it. Accept it. Face it.

It’s only there that healing comes. Never, ever feel like you must suffer alone. Because, in reality, none of us really does.

Asking & not receiving

I wept in agony last night in my bed.

Overcome by pain, shame, frustration and despair.

I’d been doing relatively well recently, until, over the last several days, certain triggers sent me into a downward spiral.

Last night’s breakdown was triggered by an event earlier in the day. A happy event. An event that at least made me happy for someone else. I attended the wedding of a friend, and it was one of the sweetest, most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. I was genuinely happy for my friend, for if anyone deserved the kind of happiness she’d attained, it would be her. She’s one of the sweetest, kindest, godliest women I know, and she’s been through a lot, so I could never wish anything but the best for her, and seeing her happy, with a wonderful man, made me happy as well.

But as happy as I was for her, seeing her attain what I’ve longed for for so long, and seeing the kind of person she is–the kind of person I long to be, but feel I can never be–left me reeling in pain. I told God–I’d do almost anything to be like this friend of mine. I’d do almost anything to have her character and sweetness. I’d do almost anything to one day gain the kind of happiness she’d attained. But that’s when reality sunk in. Yes, I was feeling some self-pity and envy–I won’t deny it–but more than that I felt despair. And I still feel that despair. Because, after years of struggling to find my way out of an incredibly dark valley of pain, and doing all that I can think of doing to find help toward that end, I am no closer than I was at the beginning to attaining freedom, healing, and wholeness. I feel trapped. And when I feel trapped, I lose hope.

So, overwhelmed by this sense of hopelessness over my situation, and who I am, I sat in my bed last night and wept. I wept tears that only God could see. I vented the pain that only He knows about. Desperate for comfort, I opened up my Daily Light devotional and read today’s Scriptures, and they just happened to be about asking God for things. Here’s what I read, taken from various Scriptures:

“Ye have not because ye ask not. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth…This is the confidence we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him…Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it–Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles…Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

These Scriptures sound comforting. It sounds so easy. Ask, and God will answer. Ask, and you shall receive. The problem is, what if you ask, and you don’t receive? What if you ask, and God doesn’t answer? I’m not talking about asking for materialistic, petty, selfish, and shallow things. Jesus said that the Father doesn’t give His children stones when they ask for bread. But sometimes I feel like that’s exactly what He gives me. I’ve been asking for bread–wholeness in body, mind and spirit, deeper friendships, meaningful fellowship–for a long time. But all of these still elude me. I’ve had tantalizing tastes of each, but every time it seems I come close to gaining these things, and breaking out of my darkness, I’m thrown back in, with more devastating force each time. And so I begin to question God. I begin to doubt His goodness or that He even hears my prayers. Because it seems to me that the things I’m asking for are good things. Things that any loving Father would want to give His child, especially if He wants that child to grow in holiness. So what am I doing wrong, I wonder? Am I so screwed up and sinful there’s no hope for me? Am I beyond redemption? Has God just tossed me aside?

I hope one day I can look back on what I’m writing now and say to myself, you silly fool. O you of little faith. But when you’re in the midst of pain so deep and excruciating that it feels like a knife through your soul, and God seems apathetic to your cries, it’s tempting to simply give up. Especially if you’ve been crying out for deliverance from your pain for many years.

I hope I can trudge on. I know that I’m merely venting right now. But hopelessness and despair are crushing my soul more and more often these days, and if something doesn’t happen in my life soon to bring me some hope, I’m scared of what might happen to me.

In my moments of darkest despair, I simply want to see Jesus’ face, like the sinful woman I wrote about in my previous entry. I wish I could have an encounter like hers. Because I’m just like her. I know I have the Holy Spirit. I know I have the Word of God. But the thing I long for the most, when the pain and shame are the deepest, is simply to see Jesus. Face to face. To have Him tangibly in front of me. Because sometimes walking by faith, and not by sight, is the most frustrating thing for me. I long to touch, to be touched, to feel, to know. And having a relationship with an invisible Person, Who’s often silent and distant, isn’t conducive to these longings, and is never easy, no matter what anyone says.

I’ll keep on praying, as the Scriptures urge me to do, and try not to “faint,” but I don’t know how long I can hang on, if God doesn’t answer at least one of my prayers soon. All I can hope for is that He hangs on to me when I have no strength to hang on myself.

Losing Eden

Shattered. Hollow. Fractured. Battered. Bruised.

This is me. My soul. My brain. My heart. Who is this young woman? I barely know her anymore, she’s so far removed from the young woman and little girl I used to be.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wandering through some of my childhood haunts, enjoying the peace, solitude, and beauty of a sunshiny autumn afternoon. The house I spent most of my childhood in now sits empty, victim of an unfavorable economy, and so I sauntered unhindered up the drive, my eyes scanning the place I once called home. A flood of memories washed over me….mostly good ones….ones of innocence and imagination and days spent in carefree abandon. I sat on the well in the back yard, reminiscing, remembering days gone by, in which I used to play in that back yard with my siblings. Tears slipped down my cheeks before I could help it.

Why is it we never really appreciate something till its gone? I’d give almost anything in the world to have my childhood back, to have my innocence back, to have my imagination back, to be that little girl I once was. Even with all her pain and heartache. Because my childhood was indeed painful. Often excruciatingly so. But the world was still less dark then than it is now, even with all the pain I experienced. I was naive then, not totally crushed and cynical like I am now. I coped because I could imagine my way out of my pain. I coped because I lived in an idyllic setting, out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of woods, who always beckoned me with their comforting presence whenever I needed to get away for a good cry.

Though many of those trees I once called friends have now been cut down, I greeted the ones that remained yesterday, wondering if they remembered me. Of course, that may seem silly, but to a nearly friendless child, stately trees that never mocked or abused, but simply stood still and silent and listened to my outpoured heart, were often far better friends to me than humans were. I’ve always thought how much of a kindred spirit J. R. R. Tolkien would be to me, were he alive, for he seemed to have the same view of trees. I could so easily imagine, as he did in his Lord of the Rings books, trees being alive and having personalities. In my frequent wanderings in the woods growing up, I’d always imagine I was entering a magical realm, where the trees were more than mere trees, and perhaps lurking in their shadows were elves and dwarves, trying to evade my curious eyes.misc. 043

Such was my childhood. One that, despite the painful parts, contained enough beauty and innocence and imagination that I can look back now and wish I could somehow return. There’s such a big part of me that wishes I’d never lived past my childhood. That I might’ve been spared the extra trauma and pain and descent into darkness that has characterized the last 10 to 15 years of my life. That I could’ve stayed the innocent little girl I was, instead of morphing into this hollow, fractured, cynical woman I’ve become. Quite simply, I’ve lost myself. Especially within the last 5 years. Pain too deep to even describe has shattered my mind and heart, morphing me into someone I barely recognize anymore. How much better, I muse, to have died young, than to end up where I am now. I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning and find out most of my life has merely been a bad dream.

But I keep waking up to darkness. To pain. To an overwhelming sense of loss. Where nothing makes sense anymore. Where I can no longer look at my life and believe there’s necessarily going to be a redemptive, fairy-tale ending. I used to believe that. Writing stories, believing good can eventually come from bad, helped me hang on. I could look at my life and say, things are bad, but they’ll get better. And I’ve been trying to tell myself that for over 20 years. Now, I struggle to believe that anymore.

And it’s not just my own pain and darkness that have fueled this cynicism. The increasing darkness all around me has also shattered the innocent, safe world I once knew. I now live in a world where I read a story about a little girl who was abused by her parents, then raped and killed by a predator. She had no fairy-tale ending. She never had a chance. Yesterday a young man opened fire in a school, taking the lives of twenty precious, innocent children. Those children never had a chance. No fairy-tale endings. Only darkness and tragedy.

I am not the only one shattered, fractured, battered, and bruised. It seems the world at large is careening toward the same abyss I am. I am not the same person I once was. Nor is the world the same world I once knew. Innocence has been lost. Light has been replaced by darkness. I think I understand a bit better now how Adam and Eve must’ve felt when kicked out of Eden. No matter how much they wanted to go back, to relive their innocence in that idyllic place, they were forever banished. And it feels like I too have been forever banished from the simple, innocent joys of days gone by, when life seemed a little more beautiful, and it made far more sense.

I have lost my Eden. I have lost myself. And though I can revisit my old haunts, and those haunts can conjure up sweet memories from the past, all I’m left with is a tantalizing taste, and not the real thing. I can never go back. No matter how hard I try.

I’m heartbroken.

To other lives of silent despair

How many other lives are out there, pieces of silent wreckage floating in storm-tossed seas, their hearts, minds and bodies broken seemingly beyond repair, and no one sees? They put on their brave faces, not wanting others to see their pain, all the while feeling as if their whole world is crashing down on them. Or perhaps, their whole lives have been spent in “hiding,” masking the agonizing pain they endure, day in and day out, because they know unmasking that pain might mean utter humiliation. Or even when they try, in their own feeble way, to get help, to share that pain with others, they are misunderstood, dismissed, and ultimately forgotten. And so, the hiding continues. The pain continues. And one’s life often feels like a nightmare one wishes one could wake up from. One feels helpless, trapped in a soundproof glass cage, screaming in agony and despair, while everyone else simply walks by, blind and deaf to the cries of the tormented.

I know there must be other people out there who know what this feels like. I know I can’t be the only one. I wish I could meet these people. I hope, some day, if I ever get out of my valley, and God delivers me from the wreckage that is my life, I could minister to these people. That my pain would not be in vain. That is one of my most frequent prayers. There has to be some purpose to what I’m going through and have gone through. I can accept my pain if I know it will ultimately bring about good. It’s on the days when it feels like there is no rhyme or reason to my broken and battered life that I want to give up. That I want to end it all. Because who I am and what I’ve been through make absolutely no sense.

It’s no surprise to me when I hear of those who “unexpectedly” take their own lives, while friends and family shake their heads in dismay, wondering what would prompt someone who “seemed” happy and ok with their life to do such a thing. My advice: never, ever assume someone is ok or happy just because they act that way around you. The so-called “experts” say there are always clues to look for in someone’s behavior that should indicate depression and suicidal tendencies, but I would argue this is not always the case. Some of us can be extraordinarily gifted in hiding and masking our pain. And I think it has less to do with personality than it does with simply living in a Western culture where the weak and broken are marginalized. Where strength, good looks, power, self-confidence and other superficial qualities are esteemed. And sadly—and here I go again in my thoughts on the church—even the Western church, as a whole, seems to esteem the superficial and the strong. So it’s no wonder to me when someone “unexpectedly” takes their life. We are too blind and self-absorbed to see those around us who might be suffering in silence. And those suffering in silence, when they can finally no longer handle the weight that they carry, choose to end their pain by ending their lives.

Despite the despair I often feel, I don’t intend to end my life. I choose, against all odds, to believe something good will come out of all my agony. That God will keep His promise to bring me out of my Valley of Achor. But I know there must be others out there in this wide world that are also suffering in silence and believe they’ll never escape their pain. I wish I knew such people. The tragedy is that those of us who are suffering in silence are separated by that very silence. I wish that could change. So that no one will ever feel compelled to take their life “unexpectedly.”

So this is life….

How far I have fallen.

How far away God seems right now.

How much my soul hurts.

How much my body needs healing.

How much my mind needs healing.

How full of anger and frustration I am.

What has happened to me?

Why does my valley of Achor seem endless?

I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.

Hopeless and hurting, I’ve almost given up completely. On God. On life. On everything.

I feel as if I’m simply drifting along aimlessly.

Last night I lay in bed shaking and clenching my fists at God, weeping, feeling such an intense agony inside that I felt like smashing things in order to release all the pent-up words, feelings, frustration, and sheer hopelessness inside me.

How have I come to this.

Is there any meaning and purpose to life?

How can one truly know God?

Am I going to end up in a mental institution after all?—my greatest fear of losing my mind growing ever more and more of a possible reality?

Why am I stuck here?

Why can’t I simply GO???

Why did God create me, when He knew what pain I would endure, and what a screwed-up person I would turn out to be? What is the point of my existence?

I know I’m wallowing in self-pity right now, but I don’t care. I just need to vent. Because I have no one to vent to. No one but a God Who doesn’t say much in response, and this blog.

God, help.

God, speak.

God, save me.