A Pile of Ashes

This didn’t happen so I could document it here. ¬†Believe it or not, there are so many things I don’t share. ūüôā ¬†Intensely personal things are not for the interwebs, in my humble opinion.

However, God and I have this sort of deal. ¬†He does these amazing things and sometimes, even months later, asks me to tell whomever will listen about how capable He is to make miracles happen. ¬†You’ve read my stories of healing. ¬†You’ve heard me tell of miracles. ¬†I’ve let you know that my past wasn’t too pretty, and tried to tell how He turns every bit around in His way and in His time.

This is the story of my ultimate heart-healing completely orchestrated by One. ¬†I’m going to tell it just like I’ve told a couple of my closest friends, and let you see the beauty in the ashes for yourself.

It all began one lovely summer day last July with a motorcycle ride with my son.  One in which I launched myself from my bike, head-over-handlebars into the woods and ended up unconscious and a bit wounded.  The concussion that I acquired left me more than a little foggy for awhile and though most of it faded, what lasted several weeks was my confusion about time.  Things like how long ago events took place or what day of the week it was took me too long to process.  This is relevant to the story because when I drove a couple hours away to the airport to pick up my friend from the airport ON THE WRONG DAY!!!! it sets up my story.

I really prefer to not dwell in the past which is precisely the reason it’s taken me seven months to tell this tale. You see, I had made great strides in healing from my childhood and thought I was doing pretty well, but I lived in a land in my mind where ugly lies had become my truth. ¬†I felt like every time I looked in the mirror, or made a simple mistake, or pretty much breathed, the damage from years of ugly words spoken to me or the lack of love I experienced voiced themselves to me as self-hatred. ¬†It was oppressive. ¬†It was constant. ¬†I put a great face on things, but inwardly, I was suffering greatly. ¬†Sadly, it became my normal, and as it grew, it became harder and harder to live in a place of forgiveness specifically toward my mother. ¬†I realize that a lot of folks with beautiful mothers simply cannot relate to the idea of a mother who doesn’t love, but that is a reality for some of us and the early damage is extraordinary and because I knew only one other person in the world who could relate, I felt very isolated and lost. ¬†One day, somehow, I came across a book (I still have no idea how I ever found it) that was titled Mothers Who Can’t Love — a healing guide for daughters and, though I have rarely been able to finish a non-fiction book, I bought it and began devouring it. ¬†Never in my life had I had anyone put into words what I had been feeling my entire life. ¬†All the things I thought I had exaggerated in my mind were in print. ¬†Other women had walked this path!!!! ¬†There was hope for me to move on and I read and read, highlighting almost every page…until I got to the second half where things were about to get real — fast. ¬†The author set up exercises for working through the pain and moving into a place of healing. I saw one and shut the book. ¬†Ain’t nobody got time for that! ¬†NO way!!!

Less than ¬†a week later, I’m far from home, in a hotel with nothing but time on my hands and a set-aside 24 hours until I can pick my friend up from her flight. ¬†Coincidence? ¬†No way. ¬†I bought a journal and pen. ¬†I got dinner and breakfast and brought them to my hotel room and put on my comfy pants.

And then I balked. ¬†And stalled. ¬†And pouted. ¬†It felt like facing a giant with nothing but a slingshot. ¬†I was so alone in this and I wasn’t sure I had the courage to turn around and look at the nasty thing which had hidden under my bed for my entire life.

So I did what anyone would do and opened Facebook instead. ¬†And there I scrolled and stalled. ¬†But wouldn’t you know, God can even nudge you when you’re hiding on Facebook because there someone had posted a song by my favorite artist and though that song had no meaning for me at that moment, I was excited to buy his new album! ¬†Song one plays. ¬†I’m a puddle on the floor. ¬†The words were written for me for that moment. ¬†Song two, song three. ¬†I’m gone. ¬†My Daddy was singing over me (Zeph. 3:17) — inviting me into His arms to heal.

I began my exercises. ¬†I journaled. ¬†I sobbed. ¬†I wrote out my pain. ¬†I ended up in the bathtub broken and weeping. ¬†I found myself working through things I didn’t know I had buried in the deepest places. ¬†I forgave. ¬†I closed chapters. ¬†I literally had a funeral for the mother I would never have and had one dead daisy I found in my bag as the symbol of that memorial. ¬†Song after song played from different artists that ministered to my heart audibly all evening long.

ashesI slept some, and the next day ended up buying a balloon, a lighter, and a marker and drove myself to a cliff overlooking the lake that is my peaceful place.  Alone, in the rain, I burnt all the ugly words.  I released my truth and purpose written on a helium vehicle and sent it sailing far far away where maybe some other daughter needs to see her value.  I just dug it all up once and for all and let it all go.  And I set my phone up to take this picture to mark the moment of my freedom.

balloon

freedom

And when I looked down, there was one LIVE daisy growing at my feet.  The only flower in sight.

daisy

It’s a nice story, right? ¬†Not particularly. ¬†It was absolutely gut-wrenching and scary. ¬†The author of the book recommends a counselor to walk through this stuff with a person. ¬†I didn’t have that, but I had a divine appointment with One Who had seen it all and arranged a healing meeting with just me and Him. ¬†And let me tell you, I am a changed person. ¬†I wish you could see the difference in my mind. ¬†I wish I could have let you hear the before and the after. ¬†It’s like someone bleached the ugly and left me white and clean. ¬†All of the self-doubt and ugliness is like it was never there. ¬†I know it sounds too good to be true — I would be thinking the same thing. ¬†But I’m telling you, I was healed from the inside out. ¬†Yes, my stuff still happened, but it’s all so vague in my mind, it’s like a faded Polaroid where you can hardly make out the details. ¬†The memories are there, but they are unattached to pain.

So many of us bury our hurts. ¬†Daily, we numb out with substance or busy-ness, or just stuffing stuff so deep we are sure it can’t find us. ¬†But like a leaky tire, we know it will catch up at some point. ¬†I had a friend recently tell me that she just hasn’t grieved. ¬†She knows it’s there but she can’t look at it. ¬†Yes. ¬†That is a real truth. ¬†Who has time to peek under the bed and call that monster out?

You do, friend. ¬†You don’t have to be walking wounded. ¬†There is healing and grace to cover that pain. ¬†There is One Who longs to bear your burden (Psalm 68:19) and take it for you because you are so very loved (…casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns once and for all] on Him for He cares for you [with deepest affection and watches over you very carefully] – 1 Peter 5:7 AMP).

We aren’t meant to suffer through our days — they are, after all, so very short. ¬†There is hope and there is healing waiting for you. ¬†If you can relate, if you know it’s time to flip that bed and face that monster, may I encourage you to do so. ¬†Call someone you trust who can hold your hand and walk you through. ¬†Ask for help. ¬†But first, call on the name of One big enough to rescue you. (“No one who trusts God like this — heart and soul — will ever regret it. ¬†It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” — Romans 10:11-13)

He’s waiting.

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Recalculating Route

Alison, the passenger

Alison, the passenger

It’s true. ¬†I’ve been known to get a little anxiety about being in high-stress situations in a vehicle — these may include bad winter roads, high traffic, or unknown places which is sad because I have also driven lots of places on my own, far more than I ever dreamed I would!

Traveling with my family on my sweet man’s business trips and setting up in various cities with a determination to take my children to see the sights while he conducted meetings, tends to force a girl out of her comfort zone. ¬†When we first started road-tripping as a family, I earned my navigational chops with a rare item — you may have heard of it? ¬†It’s called a paper map. ¬†Eventually, we progressed to a GPS that suctioned to the windshield. ¬†One of those babies guided me, driving on my own with my children in the backseat) through downtown Washington DC (my most challenging driving to date). ¬†I once drove a bit on the wrong side of the road in Australia. ¬†I have navigated my husband through situations so dicey we would never want to repeat them. ¬†In those moments, when tensions run high, I promise, it helps everything when you love your navigator — and he, you.

Ironically, now we live in a place where we are literally the farthest location in the continental US from an interstate highway. ¬†Where we live, two lane roads are what we’ve got, and every route will most likely include dirt-road driving. ¬†With some of the highest snowfall in the country, winter-road-driving is an every day occurrence half of the year. ¬†Might as well settle into it.

Because though the weather might be frightening, it also provides views like this…

PIKE LAKE ROAD

Or this…

sunset

But there are still days. ¬†There are still times when my stomach is in my throat. ¬†When I have to release my grip from the passenger door. ¬†When I have to tell myself that tears won’t help the zero visibility and give myself a pep talk something like…”Chin up, buttercup! ¬†Just get home.” ¬†Or maybe, “Please, Jesus just take the wheel!” ¬†Haha.

When I look back at the path we have chosen as a family, I see it like those big cities, foreign countries, and unfamiliar roads.  There have been so many that were overwhelming, so many that felt upside-down and backwards, and so many that were so beautiful, they took my breath away.

Around the world, you find a couple different kinds of folks. ¬†You find those that are content to stay put, and those that need to see more than the world around them. ¬†Everywhere we’ve been, we find people who have always been in their hometown and have never ventured out. ¬†And then you find people like we’ve been with an insatiable desire to have our worlds expanded. ¬†I think each has a hard time imagining how the other feels.

Once upon a time, we were doing the thing. ¬†We were living in a neighborhood and driving a minivan and we had a dog and a cat and a boy and two girls. ¬†My husband worked long hours, and I did from home as well. ¬†We went to a church and were working our way up the *life ladders,* whether social, church or corporate. Our visions for our future and our family looked much like everyone else’s. ¬†We had a 401K because everyone did. ¬†We invested more than we had into our home because we were told it was a sound investment.

We made most decisions based on how it would be perceived rather than what was authentic to who we were.

And then, one day, we were told that we were traveling too much and our kids were missing too much school. ¬†An awareness began. ¬†A feeling of unrest took root. ¬†When it was time to send my little precious people out to a freezing cold bus stop and send them to a movie day at school with their pillows and a stuffed animal, I kept them home and we watched the same movie snuggled in momma’s bed, and I realized there might be a different way. ¬†I began to research and it was within a few weeks that we quit school and our precious little people inspired a new path for our family — at home. ¬†We understood (though we had no idea the depth) that we would be different. ¬†That our children would be judged and stared at and commented upon. ¬†But we were willing to pay that price.

That price affected us greatly. ¬†We endured insults and comments and judgments. ¬†But we also road-tripped 48 states and visited several countries. ¬†We also got as close as a family can get, and beautifully, that bond endures. ¬†My children are brilliant (I wish I could take the credit but I can’t) because they had space and time to learn and grow and develop on their own. ¬†And even because of the comments and insults and judgments.

This first route change began a series of route recalculations that we could have never seen coming.  Within a few years, we would be called as a family to buck all of the systems and lay down every one of our desires to be normal and keep up with those darn Joneses.  Each time we got called out of something, we lost friends and areas of community, and each time we gained vast perspective and measures of freedom.

I heard a song recently called Different.  In it, the writer says he longs to be different.  To take the road less traveled, so to speak.  I heard those words and I wondered if he meant it.  We thought that once.  We told God we would be willing to do anything He asked us to.  We told Him we would lay it ALL down.  He listened.  He put one challenge, one obstacle course after another in front of us, and asked if we meant it.  Each time, we felt His smile and His hand guiding our every move.  But each time we had to be willing to lose to GAIN.  Perhaps the hardest part was letting go of what folks would think, but each time got easier and those voices faded into the distance.

It’s like putting a destination into your map app and seeing the shortest, easiest route and instead choosing the route with tolls and bridges and dirt roads and maybe even a ferry ride –through a blizzard.

The harder path changes you. ¬†It has to because the challenges make you dig into your grit, lean heavily into trusting something bigger than yourself even when the way is unclear, yet provides you with views and stories of which you’ve never dreamed!

Our best stories from our 13,000 mile family RV trip 8 years ago are the ones that got us to impossible moments where we reached the end of the road and our own capabilities.  Only miracles could fix the pickles in which we found ourselves.

And miracles abounded.

So here’s a question for you: let’s say you were to begin a road trip of that magnitude today with your family. ¬†Would you prefer to travel in an ancient, untested RV that got 5 miles to the gallon, beginning with $600 in your bank account with winter on your heels, OR would you pick the million dollar motorhome with all the comforts possible, unlimited funds, guaranteed safety, and perfect summer weather? ¬†I’m asking myself right this minute, and I will still say that I honestly don’t know. ¬†I did the first one and guys, it was HARD! And scary! And pushed me to my limits as a person, wife, and mother. ¬†Yet, I GREW! ¬†I left my home convinced that the place on which we had a huge mortgage was the only home I had ever known and I could never — would never — leave it. ¬†I came home from that trip having seen things that made me ready to shuck off anything and everything and go anywhere God asked me to go. ¬†I let go of all of the things I thought were important and was prepared for anything. ¬†In each *impossible* situation, my fingers were pried off of my security, one by one, ¬†and I was asked to trust in a whole new way. ¬†By the time we pulled in to palm tree-lined campground pads next to Prevosts in our Clampett-mobile a couple dozen times, we had decided that our image was something to let go of!

But friends, our dreams changed! Our scope, our perspective, our very vision grew!!  We saw our box and leaped out!!! Our lives would turn upside down, and we would be called to *different* in a way we could have never imagined in a million years.

We sit in awe these days — awe at what God did with our dreams when we set them at His feet.

He took us through storms to train us to lean in and listen through the wind and thunder for the route to be recalculated.

He drove us through deserts so we would not only know what dry felt like, but abundance when we saw it.

He took us on roads so winding that we couldn’t even see the road ahead until we popped out on top of a mountain and had our breath stolen by the view.

I say it often — you can’t surrender a little bit. ¬†Surrender to something bigger than you requires every little morsel. ¬†But when the road you’re on has signs that feel like STOP and DEAD END, it’s most likely that surrendering the route to the Navigator Who adores you, Who can see the view from every direction, will absolutely change your life.

And you wouldn’t go back for ANYTHING.