Light in the Tunnel

You know how it is when you have done the same thing for years, and you are trying so hard to stop and do better, but you have setbacks?  It can be disheartening.  Let’s look at 2 verses, and then I have a few things to share to keep us desiring to move forward even with a tough road in recovery or really, in life. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”(Psalm 27:4-5)

I’ve been memorizing these 2 verses. My mind has been giving me more trouble than usual, and Scripture memory is the only way I can escape when my mind feels so full. Thinking about God keeping me safe and protecting me, at times from myself, is more than encouraging…it’s amazing, and so is He.

Learning to cope with the mind God has given me …without self-harm…has been more difficult than I could have ever imagined and a few days ago, God reminded me of a funny memory. When our youngest daughter, Rylee, was in middle school, one of her good friends, who had a boyfriend, became “so over him.” She just wanted to be friends.  After much thought, I’m sure, she went to break up with him.  He was surprised she wanted this split, and he asked her why.  She, in her quick defense and confidence said, “it’s not me, it’s you,” and that was it.  Now… I don’t know the particulars of the situation, but I heard both recovered rather quickly.  I have heard people say, “it’s not you, it’s me,” but this was too funny.

I so often want to tell my mind, “it’s not me…it’s you!”  I am grateful to have the mind God has given me, but it is too much for me and sometimes even for my doctors.  I’ve been so tired of the journey lately, and I know I have written mostly from past experiences, but this, this post is about the present. My mind and heart seem to heal more and more when I focus on bringing you and me encouragement which can only come from the Lord, so let’s continue to strive to get better and look to the only One who can heal us physically and spiritually.

Growing up, when I reacted wrong or messed something up,  verbal and or physical abuse came quickly. So when home left me, I continued the cycle. Now, when I am frustrated or upset with myself…those learned responses (now self-inflicted) can no longer be a “go to drug” for me, and I can feel lost. Letting God love on me when I do the wrong thing? So foreign. So gracious.

God doesn’t react to me like I react to me, and I don’t react to others like I do to myself. I don’t know…I guess the best way for me to describe my mind would be that it’s like I’m looking down a long tunnel. My mind…the way it works and shows me a situation….it’s tricky.  But some days the tunnel has light streaming through it, and some days it’s pitch black. I don’t want it to stay black. I never win when it does.

When my sister and I were little, we would take empty paper towel rolls and poke holes in them and look through one end of the roll outside.  We would cup our hand over the open end of the roll. The light couldn’t help but push its way through the holes, and it would look so cool, especially if we poked holes to make a certain design.  If we wouldn’t have poked the holes in the tubes, what would the point have been?  On the days my mind and heart start out hopeless, the tunnel is dark and without holes. There is light all around me, but until I surrender and let God “put the holes” in the tube or tunnel, I can’t see anything hopeful. The enemy wants me to believe there is no way to have hope and see light coming through because of the way my mind works.  He wants me to cut, or give up writing to you, or see only the path of destruction I have left behind.  In order to bring light into my mind so that I can see hope, I have to cope differently, and it’s extremely hard. It requires doing something that at the time seems weak and powerless when I am used to feeling empowered by restricting my food for a few days so that I can’t remember.  Or it may mean repeating the action of surrendering to God and asking Him to take away my strong desire to punish myself physically so that I won’t repeat my mistakes again. It’s new for me and I am not all that awesome at it…yet. But I’m not giving up.

It’s a waste of life to believe the lies that the world yells at you and me. It’s a waste of life to live as if the enemy is suddenly going to help us and not hurt us. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and life requires obedience to God who will only guide us to a fulfilling life on earth in order to get better. Although my brain is whole, my mind is also divided, and the same brain that fights to get better is the same brain which can hear the enemy … which can have endless flashes of vivid memories - both good and bad, and which can believe God is carrying me from the front lines of this battle. But because it’s the same brain, it  holds out mercy for you as you fight and fail and fight and triumph.  Please know that everyone doesn’t have to validate the reality of the difficulty of this journey you are on. Don’t wait to fight until everyone is on board and supportive.   When I wake up and can only see darkness, God is  ever-present to help.  This fight is real so yes…I do get down and that’s just me being honest with you. I do experience setbacks with my anorexia recovery and my mental health issues, but God is so big that if I will let Him poke a hole in the darkness of the tunnel, He will fill it with light that can only come from Him.

What does this look like for me? It looks like reading a verse from His Word,  the Bible. Then, it looks like letting Jesus give me the courage to let Him help me get my clothes on one piece at a time and get ready to go out and meet a friend who may need encouragement, or get things done at home which help  my family.  Do not compare yourself to me or anyone else.  Comparison can kill us.  Learning new ways to survive and live without doing harmful things (including ones I may not have even mentioned) is hard, and God has a personal track for each of us who desire healing.   But one step at a time God pokes light into my day, and I never regret venturing out with His help. It’s the only way to let go of the behaviors that have worked so hard to kill me…and you.  This road, for me, has been 20 years, and if it keeps me close to Jesus and if the battle reminds me to have mercy for those around me, those God has placed in my life to walk this out with - like you…I’m in. I’m all in friend.

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak: the Lord delivers him in the times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to his foes. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:1-3) I love you and feel the joys and pains of getting better right along with you. You are precious to me, but most important, to Jesus who has given His very life to spare yours and mine. Right now…wherever you might be, please let God know you need His help in this fight to stop using the same harmful coping mechanisms and to separate yourself  from addictive behaviors. Maybe you need help dealing with the discouragement which can come from setbacks in sickness and struggle.  I encourage you and me to say to the enemy… “It’s not ME…It’s YOU. Now GO in Jesus name,” and let God show us His light today.

Love to You!

Stacee

Grace Extended

So, friend, I had a different post ready to share with you, but I’m going to need to put it away for now because God has something else in mind for me to share His love and mercy through.  How do I know?  Well, I was in bed …and now I’m not, and it’s 2am.  Although this season of cold can be difficult to get through because of limited sunshine to give us the natural vitamin D, I try to think of it also as a time of year where we seem to take longer portions of time to be together and where lingering over conversation with family and friends is coveted.  Recently, I sat across the table from a precious friend with whom I have several significant things in common. We didn’t have to explain what we felt or meant by what we were sharing, we just knew. You know the kind of friend that you can almost finish one another’s…..sentences? This gal is my friend for life. It was easy conversation, but our topic was far from that, and I just can’t seem to get it off my mind.  So my prayer is that God will reveal fresh hope to us for something that is far too familiar to so many… to my precious friend, and to Doug and me. We had only been married for a little more than a year; Doug was fully into his master’s work, we were in the ministry, and I was full throttle ahead as a new middle school teacher. We were having so much fun with friends who also were just starting out together. Doug and I knew we wanted children, but we were not wanting to rush things.  We were just getting used to sharing our lives with one another, not to mention sharing a sink.  We took the precautions necessary to prevent a pregnancy but…I still got pregnant. Although it was sooner than we had planned, we were so excited, especially with my history with anorexia. Some people cannot get pregnant because of the consequences of the beast, so I was elated to not have that issue as there had and have been other health consequences to battle as part of my chronic eating disorder.

As weeks turned into months, my check-ups were starting to show that our little guy was not very strong as he was being watched very closely by sonogram.  He was, however, still very much alive, and we believed he would get stronger, but I was strongly advised to eat more.  I wanted this baby much more than I wanted to deprive my body of food, so my eating began to increase regardless of how I felt about my deserving of food.

One morning, when I was well into my second trimester, I woke up feeling even more exhausted than usual as our little boy was taking a lot out of me at this point, so I grabbed some breakfast to eat on the way to teach school.  As I got buckled in, I noticed that my tummy was a touch harder to get the seatbelt around, and like any anorexic, I panicked for a moment, but then felt truly relieved that any growth may be taking place with our little one.  I so badly wanted to be a good mommy even before he was here.  To get to my school, I had to drive over one of the highest overpasses in the DFW metroplex, and, that morning, everyone seemed to be headed in the same direction.  I had a serious car accident.  I’d rather not get you lost in the details of the accident, but I was hit by 2 eighteen wheeler trucks at the top of the overpass. As my car bounced off the retaining walls, I could see over the railing enough to see the traffic down below. The whole scene was a living nightmare.

As I was rushed to the hospital, I remember lying there in the ambulance with tears rolling into my hair as they tried to get a heartbeat and, to all of our surprise, the paramedic said we still had a baby.  I covered my face with both hands and just cried in relief.  That’s all I wanted to hear. My injuries included a severely bruised sternum with some internal bleeding, a fracture to my left ankle and my right knee was badly bruised, but we still had a baby!  Isn’t it amazing that you don’t realize how badly you want someone until you don’t know if you still have that someone?  As a result of my sternum injury, my husband bathed me for the next few weeks because I couldn’t sit up on my own. This just made me love him more.  His actions reinforced that God chose my husband for me for so many amazing and loving reasons which have slowly unfolded over the last 20 years.  Please never underestimate the importance of God choosing your spouse or close friends.  His wisdom surpasses all we can see and imagine. We don’t know the road ahead.

The internal bleeding did not heal like my legs did.  So I only got to carry our baby boy for only a few more weeks after the accident.  The accident was too much on my body and, coupled with my low weight, this became too much for him.  In addition, this loss, for the next months, was almost too much for our young marriage. I was skinnier than ever with casts on both legs as they wheeled me past my sweet husband to do the first on two surgeries to take our son so that we could supposedly get some closure and so my body could begin to heal. But I didn’t care about healing. I wanted to be a mommy to our baby, and I didn’t want in the days ahead to hear that we would need to wait at least a year to even try to have a viable pregnancy. I wanted this baby and for the hurt to go away so that the full magnitude of pain from the loss wouldn’t have to come. I had come from hurt, and I wanted to be done with it. I wanted a new and fresh start.

Doug and I…we grieved alone. We didn’t know how to handle things any other way, and it’s taken years for us to even talk about this difficult time  - even after our little girls came along and defied what specialists said was possible.  But I got stronger with the passing of time, and because of God’s mercy and sovereignty there was a next pregnancy.  We were pretty much scared to death with this “at risk” pregnancy, and  I had 11 ultrasounds. She arrived on her due date and was perfect.  Then 2 ½ years later God brought us through another at risk pregnancy with only 9 sonograms to give our oldest little girl a “bestie,” and they have been inseparable since day one.  God sustained them, and me, and our marriage. He is in the business of healing and restoring.  With the loss of our precious son, we still dealt with loneliness when we were together, and we felt alone when we were with our friends.  I felt like I didn’t deserve to be here if our son wasn’t, and although time can be a healer, it has been God’s mercy letting us be parents which has trumped the sadness many days.  The enemy has tried to kill me emotionally over this loss, but it has been used by God as a patient tutor to remind us that He has had a plan all along. Even on our darkest days, there is hope when we let God in, okay?

God’s mercy and love have given us two healthy and amazing girls who take our breath away.  But I want to say that grieving our son’s loss does not compromise the thankfulness we celebrate with getting to parent our girls.  God knows that one child’s life does not delete the pain of another child’s death. We have 3 kiddos in my mind. I have to say this for my own sake even if not out loud. I have to, and sometimes keeping this reality in my heart makes his life even more precious.  When we see a little boy walking around the church or a restaurant  or a store, we seem to stop and watch him as if that’s how Beau Bennett would look, forgetting he would be almost 19 now.  We forget this until we see a cute strawberry blonde young man walk by and Doug and I make eye contact with one another realizing it has hit us simultaneously. But we are okay!

As I share more of my life, please know it is so not my goal to be able to identify with everyone on everything on every level.  Believe me…I am forever thankful to be able to proclaim God has not only brought us to this place, but that He will absolutely not leave us here.  Life, however, can absolutely be tough!  And when we live in community, and share our experiences when the timing is right, God allows us to comfort one another and suddenly there is meaning to our hurt and experiences.

I am trying to believe this truth:  in my weakness, He is not disappointed in me or who I’ve become or what has happened.  In my weakness, He ushers in His strength and the amount of faith I place in Him helps to determine where He will take me.  I don’t want to miss out, but my faith can be so weak; so when I am suffering, He often shows me Himself through Scripture. It helps to focus on Him, so I read in  Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,”  to remind me that HE knows we suffer, so we will need His promises to get us through!

Living in hurt and guilt over loss is paralyzing.  It will kill us if we focus on it.  I can only live in His grace (I am so new at this - and sorta bad at it!), and can only stand on His promises.  He is God and whether you have had a miscarriage or lost a child full term or  have lost a child at any age, he or she matters and is in the company of the ultimate Father.  He wants to heal you in your loss. He wants to heal our hearts and help us to breathe deep in His presence. Loss of a child is devastating and this, God gets.

I have had the blessing of sitting next to so many precious women who have shared about their loss or losses. And maybe if we were to sit and talk, you would say that your story hasn’t played out in the way you had so hoped, and you are angry with God about the absence of children in your arms. He can handle your anger, and He can grasp your depth of sadness. But we can’t stay in that anger.  He sees our hearts, so maybe it would be good to sit with Him and give Him your anger, guilt, as in my situation, and your sadness. He is the master of meeting us right where we are.

Thank you for letting me share about our son, Beau. Many of you reading this have gone through so much in an effort to be a parent and you have experienced loss. I am so sorry. Please believe that when we come to the point of sharing what we have gone through with even one other person, we can heal a little bit more and you will find … it’s not so lonely anymore.

“Jesus… Thank you that what we go through here on earth is not in vain. You can use anything to draw us close to you if we let you which is the ultimate purpose of our being here.  You know I have been overwhelmed with guilt and sadness for many seasons in the past about how we lost our son years ago and all of the issues around him not making it. You hurt with us over  the loss of a child and you understand the devastation so well, so please, meet each of us where we are in our healing.  Thank you that loss isn’t for nothing, and that You are the ultimate comforter when a life is lost, no matter how brief the life.  Bring joy to the darkness of those hurting, please Father. Thank you for raising the children who can’t be here with us. No one is more able.   We love You!”

Love to you…

Stacee

I’ve memorized this brief verse to help me through today…so I hope you will consider memorizing it too.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, AND MY HOPE IS IN YOU ALL DAY LONG.”  Psalm 25:4-5