Posted in healing, heartache, Jesus, Life Lessons, Love, Prayer, Truth, Word, Writing

Me, Being Vulnerable

I took this picture on a beautiful night on a beach in Ventura, California. It was the only long trip I took with my husband. This is the cover of my book. It’s breathtaking. But I cannot look at it without wanting to throw up.
Why? He left. Suddenly. Had a baby with someone else.

Betrayal by someone you intimately, ultimately trusted (bio Dad, exes, friends who violently assaulted me) makes you question your worth, your decision making skill set, your whole life. It can cause you to dissociate from yourself. To cling to anyone who appears to love you while pushing them away with your actions. It causes you to feel unsafe in every single relationship you have. It’s cost me real love, and time, and closeness with people I adore.

It shuts you down, forces you to cope one way or the other. For me, I drank to numb the pain. I couldn’t handle it.

Sixteen years later I’m finally feeling it. All of it. Without the aid of any pain killers. And it’s excruciatingly hard. I’m putting in the hard work of letting myself feel and heal.

I’m realizing that every time I walk away from God, or yell at the sky “why?” and “where were you?” I’m accusing him of being guilty of what my ex, and the monsters who attacked me and the ex bf who emotionally abused me, (and even myself for staying so long) are actually guilty of. That’s also betrayal. God understands betrayal. I’ve done it to him so many times. He hates that they did this to me. He hates that I allowed it for so long. It’s scary letting God into my wounds. But he’s not a man. I can trust him. He’s safe.

So if my eyes leak when we talk, you’ll know why. I’m learning and growing and healing. It’s the bravest, hardest thing I’m doing. It will take time and tears and effort to learn to trust and love and live fully. But in the end I’ll be better.

If I have opened up with you over coffee or messenger and shared my heart, perhaps this gives you some insight into how scary that has been for me. You’ve probably wondered why I cling or put up a wall and then cling again. This is why. I have a beautiful broken heart.

Why am I being so vulnerable?
Because somewhere someone is numbing their pain instead of facing it. So this is me, finally facing more trauma than I’ll EVER share on social media, saying to YOU – if I can, you can too.

If this is you, message me. I promise I’ll pray for you.

I love you. Yes, YOU. You’re so worthy of love. You’re too precious to walk through life with a wounded heart. Be brave with me. Let Jesus heal your heart.

Love,
Melissa

Posted in healing, heartache, Letters, Life Lessons, Love, Poetry, Truth, waiting, Writing

Tear-stained Wisdom

You never really knew me until you sat across from me at coffee on a cloudy day and watched the rain fall from my eyes.

You never really understood me until you let me get past the catch in my throat that’s always there when I sit across from you.

It’s as I listen to your heart through your words that I can make sense of my own feelings, which is why I always pause and let silence stand between us for a long moment before I speak.

It’s when I make sense of my own feelings that I can process yours. Then I can give you the tear-stained wisdom that is chiseled in my soul.

I never really knew you until I sat across from you and realized that we can both as freely give as receive wisdom and love.

And I’d like to know you more.

And I’d like for you to know me more.

But texts don’t form tears, or capture the pitch when you really laugh out loud, or give a full picture of what’s inside a heart.

But it’s all we can do now.

And it’s going to be really hard to give my whole heart again to anyone else when it’s broken but still yours. But it’s going to be hard for anyone else to break my heart when it isn’t really whole because it’s still yours.

I can only let time and silence and steadfast prayer heal me.

Posted in healing, heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Uncategorized

Do You Want to Get Well?

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

John 5:6 NIV

As I type on my dimly lit phone, I’m at the emergency room with my 11-year-old son. It’s almost midnight and we’ve been here for a few hours. Around 8:30 pm he came into my bedroom and said, “Mom, will you take me to the doctor? My head hurts too bad.” At 9 pm the urgent care center sent us to the ER to be tested for meningitis. (Thank God he doesn’t have that.) He also tested negative for strep, flu, and mono, but his white blood count is elevated.

But when we got back into a room at the ER, and they were about to start an IV, he absolutely panicked. Suddenly fear took over and he began to shake and hold his arm against his chest so the nurse couldn’t get the IV in. He sat up in the bed, buried his face in my chest, and sobbed.

I reasoned with him. Reminded him he’d had an IV years ago when he broke his arm and he was fine. Nothing I said made it any better.

Sometimes our minds are our worst enemies.

Finally I put my hand under his chin, tipped his face up to look at me, and said, “Son, do you want to get well?”

“Yes. My head hurts so bad. Please make it stop.” He sobbed. “This will make it stop?” I nodded.

Then he relaxed and allowed the nurse to give him an IV. In the end he said it wasn’t so bad.

An hour later, with headache meds coursing through his veins and his quiet snoring filling the room, it hit me – today I panicked just like this over something else.

I had been afraid of losing both someone and the dream of something and it caused me to sob and hold my heart in my chest where it couldn’t be touched and lash out at whomever said that letting go was the best thing for me. The fear of abandonment and loneliness and being unloved forever washed over me. I feared feeling unworthy and unlovable and useless and embarrassed and rejected and unwanted. The fear to me was just as real as the needle was to Gavin. Letting myself feel the sting of letting go that would ultimately heal me was just too scary in the moment.

It reminded me of when Jesus healed a man in the Bible, but first he asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”

Of course I want to get well. But just like my son, I have to get past the fear of the pain that will ultimately allow healing to flow through me.

Posted in Life Lessons

From the Inside, Out

Yesterday I did a rare and dangerous thing: I turned on the oven. My girls were both home from college and work and I was baking some of those flaky butter-tasting biscuits I had no business baking. You know – the ones from the refrigerated section by the rolls of iced cinnamon rolls and sugar cookie rolls that I pretend aren’t there in the store?! Those!

I kept checking on the biscuits and they were getting rather done on the outside, but the insides were as raw as if I’d just put them in there. So my 22-year-old, who is an amazing chef/baker, says:

“Uhm…Mom, you have to push the Bake button.”

“I DID push the Bake button.”

“No you didn’t. You pushed Convection Bake. See the difference? Convection Bake heats up the air around the biscuits and they get done on the outside, but stay raw in the middle. The other Bake cooks them evenly from the inside out.”

I changed the Bake setting and finished cooking some amazingly buttery, flaky biscuits. Silly Mom. Baking is for kids.

I have started seeing a new counselor lately. It’s hard to find someone who really understands you, ya know? She really gets me.

So yesterday afternoon we’re mid-counseling-session, going over some issue or another and she says something about how we spend a lot of time protecting ourselves from the outside – looking good, smiling, having the right cars and clothes and “toys,” – but we are raw and hurting on the inside.

We also discussed how people get so angry and bark, bark, bark at others for this or that or the other so that they look rugged and tough on the outside, all the while they are completely raw and hurting (and probably angry with something they’ve done themselves) on the inside.

I paused, then smiled.

“Like the biscuits.” I said out loud before I could stop myself. Then I told her the story.

I realized I am going to need to change my environment and slow down so that I am not “done” on the outside, yet raw on the inside.

After all, who wants a half-baked anything?

Posted in Life Lessons

6 Lies I Demolished on My 40 Day Journey

1. I need to be married again to be happy again. Nope. I am happy because I have life and purpose. I want to be married again someday, yes!, but if not, I have my Jesus, my kids, my books, my writing, my friends, my church, and my family that all add immeasurable joy to my life.

2. To get love I have to seek it out. False. To be loved I only have to be me. I am made in God’s image and am lovely, lovable, and loving by design. Ever tried to chase a butterfly in a field or a dog who’d escaped out the garage when you weren’t looking? I’ve learned it’s best to be still (for the butterfly) or go back inside with the back door ajar (for the dog) and they will come to me.

3. Men don’t stay. Well, some men haven’t stayed. It’s true. But my precious dad who loves me enough to adopt me stayed. My brother stayed. Some long time friends have stayed. Two things happened on this journey to drive this point home. 1. I got a call from a guy friend that my heart was afraid I’d never hear from again. When he called it was a brotherly “let’s pray together” kind of moment that I wasn’t expecting nor did I feel like I was worthy of. When this call happened I realized this was a deep lie I’d swallowed whole. When we got off the phone I recognized it as such, thanked God for revealing the truth, and have never felt unworthy day since. 2. Another guy called whom I hadn’t talked with in a while and apologized for hurting me and repented and asked forgiveness. We left the call as friends. Not every man leaves. I am learning.

4. I only find men who are emotionally unavailable. (Well, now this is true, but the reason why is because I was believing a lie.) I learned in the last 40 days that in my twisted thinking if I could get the attention of a man who was emotionally unavailable and love him well enough to make him stay, it would redeem the moment my bio-dad left and the moment my ex-husband left. In so doing I set men up to fail. Though they weren’t emotionally available (either separated aka: still married, long-distance, or just getting over an ex), I would get them to care, get them to a point that I was attached, ask them to commit (something I already knew wasn’t possible either now or ever, but wouldn’t let myself believe), then get crushed when they “broke my heart.” What a crock! I was breaking my own heart. I knew! I just didn’t want to believe it. From here on out, living in this cycle has changed. I do not chase men. I will not date anyone who is separated, long-distance, or who is emotionally unavailable. In fact, I’m okay with never dating again unless God holds up a sign pointing him out. (Whoo…the vulnerability I’m showing right now…)

5. All people are friends and I should be an open book. No! Just NO. I had a crash course in this just a week or so ago. I was open with someone about a situation I’ve been walking through, but didn’t realize I was being used to get access to a friend they wanted to be close to until it was too late. My being too open opened a door to hurt for myself, for my good friend they wanted access to, and for this “trusted” person whom I unknowingly enabled to continue her cycle of whatever it is that makes her feel good. Now I pass everyone through a “level of intimacy scale” that my counselor showed me and I don’t trust so easily anymore. Life feels safer.

6. I will always be chosen last, if at all. My Bible reading shows me in Jeremiah 1, Psalm 139, and Ephesians 1 that I am chosen, created for a purpose, and adopted by God himself. If that weren’t clear enough, I was chosen, given a purpose, and adopted in real life just so God could drive this point home to me.

So there are some of the deep-seated lies I believed. Most of these I had no idea I was living in til I slowed down and began asking God why I’m hurting so badly and how I can stop hurting and really start living again.

I realize some of my posts may seem too vulnerable or even make you feel you’re intruding on my life. Believe me, as deep as all this is, my heart is about 70 levels deeper and this is just the surface. I don’t show many people the true depths of my heart.

I was called to be vulnerable and to write from a vulnerable place and will continue to do so until God directs me otherwise.

Posted in family, Friends, healing, Life Lessons

I Am Created. I Am Chosen.

“I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.”
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13

You may not think about being in your mother’s womb, but I do. I have thought about the chaos that must have surrounded my mom as her then husband, my bio-dad, left for parts unknown while she prepared her life for me 44 years ago. I don’t usually speak out about this, because my mom is quiet about it; but my mother really is a beautiful example of what it’s like to be committed to loving someone (as she has done with me all my life). Her beauty lies in her quiet strength. I felt this same quiet strength as I prepared my life for having my son without a father present – 11 years ago. I believe God resides closely in single pregnant mothers.

Think about this for a moment: think about what it was like for your mother when she was pregnant with you. For some of you I know this may be a hard task I’m asking of you. For some of you I know for sure your mother was addicted, or she’d been violated and you were the beautiful result of a violent act. For some of you it’s a pleasant thought – your mom and dad loved you and were preparing a nursery for you. For some of you it’s hard because you cannot have a child. For some of you it’s very difficult to think about because your mother isn’t with you daily anymore, and no amount of knowing you’ll see her again in heaven helps the ache in your heart.
I know. I see you.

Whatever your circumstance, here’s what I know about every single one of us – God created us. He created us uniquely, undeniably in his image.

Until just a few weeks ago, I looked on this time in my life – the time I was in the womb – with discomfort and spite. The most consistent negative thought I’ve had throughout my life is: I wish I had never been born.

This thought has woven a theme through my relationships, my friendships, and even my own heart. I thought: They probably wish I had never been born.

I never wanted to die, I just never thought I was good enough to live. So I haven’t. Not really. But something happened recently that changed all of that.

I went to see my bio-dad after 44 years – and he couldn’t wait to see me. He was waiting for me with his eyes fixed on the road hoping I’d hurry up and arrive. He wanted to see me after all. And over a dinner conversation I came to realize that it wasn’t that I wasn’t wanted, it was that he didn’t have the capacity to raise me at that point in his life. He didn’t protect me or my mom or my brother. For whatever reason, he just didn’t. And it was not my fault. As I thought back on my life on my 7-hour drive home, God began dismantling that stronghold – that recurring thought pattern – and all of the sudden I am so very glad that I have life.

I had a conversation tonight with someone who I’ve chosen not to keep walking with. She said some hurtful things, but she said something that at first hurt my heart, then helped me realize how big of a lie it is and how this has been the enemy’s refrain over my life for too long. She said, “Why would you choose him anyway, knowing that he will never choose you.”
She was talking about a mutual friend, but I realized in this moment that I have accepted this as truth over and over and over. About men. About friends. About so many things. I have swallowed the lie that no matter how much I choose someone, they will never choose me back, because I am not worthy of being chosen.
This is a bold lie.
I am chosen. I am worthy of being chosen.

See, not only did God form me – uniquely, precisely, exactly Melissa – he chose me. He set me apart for this life before I was born. He chose the Dad who would adopt me. I heard today from my friend The Donna Miller that when you’re a natural born child with parents who signed your birth certificate, you can be disowned, but when you’re adopted, you cannot. I am adopted. Permanently. I have a Daddy who loved me enough to adopt me. And it wasn’t just that he had married my mom when I was 5. He married her, then he chose to adopt me. This was two separate decisions/transactions. I haven’t ever really let this fact in to my heart. My mind, maybe, but my heart had to shut everyone and everything out when I was young to protect itself. I had to protect my own heart because one of the main people who should have protected my heart – didn’t.

I got home tonight to a letter in the mail from a friend who said she’s missed my posts on Facebook while I’ve been mostly gone from social media this month. Her card had a picture in it that says, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. (Esther 4:14)” This is exactly what God’s refrain over my life is these days.

I got another card in the mail from my pastor and his wife – who wanted me to know that they noticed and appreciated my ministry at church last week. I got a text this week from another friend who just wanted me to know she’d missed my posts as well. This has happened a number of times over the last 37 days.

From the meeting with my bio-dad to the cards and letters and texts, God is teaching me who I am and what I’m called to do. He chose me – for this family, for this online ministry, for mentoring women, for this moment, for this generation, with these skills as a writer, and mother, and poet.

Truth is – I’m exactly who God has made me to be, in the exact place he knew I’d be right now, and he is in the middle of my heartache working it for my good. It makes me think of the picture my other friend Donna had recently – of a wound covered with a band-aid and God’s hand holding a needle and stitching the wound closed – but from the inside.

I asked God to go back with me to the womb. I believe our souls have memories that far back. I asked him to show me where he was when I was in my mother’s womb, and he showed me a picture he had sketched of a little blonde-haired, blue eyed girl. He was looking at the sketch while excitedly, diligently working on carrying out his design plan for me – one day at a time. Beside the sketch he had written out these words: creative; poetic; carefree; writer; mom; wife; friend; daughter; sister; kind; tender-hearted; smart; strong; loving; beautiful; loyal; encouraging.

You may not think about being in your mother’s womb, but I do.
I am so grateful he chose me and created me.
I am more grateful still that he chooses me daily and is still in his workshop – looking at the sketch and creating me.

Posted in healing, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Girl, Lift Your Face

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I look in the mirror in the mornings. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women usually did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why she was there alone. She felt shame. She was hiding.

Hiding from other women. From society. From her soiled reputation.

Guilt will always point out what I’ve done (which is healthy), but shame sneaks in and replaces my own name.

Hello, my name is (fill-in-the-blank).

  • Adulteress
  • Fat girl
  • Single Mom
  • Divorced
  • Lonely
  • Heart-broken
  • Insecure
  • Flawed
  • Unwanted
  • Ugly
  • Annoying
  • Unworthy
  • Useless
  • Stupid
  • Unlovable

Has shame ever replaced your name with something else?

It has replaced every one of the above names for my name at times throughout my life.

So there she was – sneaking away to get water, and that’s when she met Jesus – the man who would change the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m (fill-in-the-blank).” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

How many times over the past 16 years have I been asked to go get my husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows I don’t have one? By a mean girl? I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of my trembling mouth. My eyes glance down, or away.
I, I… have no husband. He left me for someone else he got pregnant.

Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”

Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here.

Can I just be honest? Every time I read this story I put myself in her place, but I imagine Jesus’ answer to me would be more like, “You’re right – since your husband left you’ve had 2 other women’s husbands and 2 boyfriends you let act like a husband.”

The fact that Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life always astounds me. He did this same thing for me when I was in a similar place as that woman.

Forgiveness heals.

I want to address something else shame has done to me over the years. Because I was sexually assaulted, shame has said I’m damaged – permanently.

I hope you’ve never endured a sexual assault of any kind, but something tells me someone reading right now either has or knows someone who has.

It was not your fault. It wasn’t.

Shame likes to whisper that it was. Shame likes to whisper that if I just wouldn’t have opened the door it wouldn’t have happened.

That’s a lie.

Girl, lift your face.

Enter Jesus who replaced my name with who he says I am.

My name is:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Righteousness
  • Beautiful
  • Daughter
  • Lovely
  • Loved
  • Lovable
  • Pure

The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus gave me back my hope and strength and dignity. And he wants to do the same for you.

I had to stop going back to the places I thought would give me the love I want so badly. It just made me thirsty for more so I just kept going back.

But I was never satisfied, because that was not love.

My Jesus met me where I was – even though I was trying to hide my shame from everyone. He gave me all the love I’ll ever want.

Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh darling, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity. THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes, I absolutely do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Drink up, sister. Drink deeply of His love. Nothing else will ever satisfy.

Hello, my name is: Melissa, Loved, Beautiful, Hand-crafted, Adored, Poetess, Daughter of God.