The Planks We Don’t Know We Have

I was born with a lazy right eye.  It is a genetic issue from my dad’s side.  My parents did their best to correct the issue in the eighties, taking me to a specialist when I was 3.  I wore an eye patch and glasses through 1st grade.  At that point, I was deemed “cured”, as aesthetically, it was no longer noticeable, at least, most of the time.

What I didn’t know, is that this condition continued to affect me, even though I thought I was basically all better.  I still didn’t see like everyone else, and I had no idea.  My right eye shuts on and off to avoid double vision when it veers ever so slightly, which causes me to have little to no depth perception, and eye tracking is much more difficult for me than for a normal person which affects my ability to read quickly.  I have to focus much more and utilize more brain power for tasks that don’t require that for a person with normal vision.  It is the reason I was/am a day dreamer.

For years, I assumed I just wasn’t as smart as others.  I have difficulty focusing.  Reading and studying is harder for me, and I don’t enjoy it because it is so much extra work.  Although I am very musical, I have a hard time sight reading as quickly as someone with normal vision, and I always have to focus super intently to do it.  When I was in driver’s ed at 15 years old, I didn’t understand the depth perception test.  I was completely embarrassed, made a joke of it (because I ALWAYS tell jokes when I feel awkward to cope), and just assumed I was stupid.  My senior year, when I was auditioning for All-District Choir, I completely lost my place during a singing exercise and bombed my audition.  I still made All-District, but I didn’t make All-State, which I had done the year before as the top alto 1 in my district.  I was so embarrassed, but again, just assumed I wasn’t very smart, and that maybe the year before was a fluke.  I won’t even go into the issues I had during sport tryouts because I couldn’t really tell where the ball was, but again, for years, I just internalized this as I wasn’t smart enough or good enough.  Other people were just more coordinated than me, more athletic than me.

Then about 3 years ago, I scheduled a routine eye exam for me for contacts with my son’s eye specialist.  Matthew was born with bilateral strabismus, and although he had a surgery to correct his issues when he was 4, we discovered 6 years later that he was still living with difficulty due to the fact his eyes were not perfectly corrected.  His eyes were taking turns turning off and on, and  as a result, were not working together, but separately.  Dr. Adema treated him with prism glasses and vision therapy to correct his eye dysfunction as much as possible.  His eyes now work together, his eye tracking is MUCH improved, and he can actually see 3D movies, which I’ve never been able to do.  At the time, he was at a midpoint in his treatment.

Dr. Adema noticed what many other eye doctors had missed for years.  My right eye is still weaker than my left and my brain turns it off pretty regularly to avoid double vision, i.e. I have vision loss in my right eye due to a very slight lazy eye.  I have learned to function with this condition, not even knowing I had it.  He explained to me that because I was 34 at the time, fixing me would do more harm than good, because I would have to completely learn how to re-see.  He explained to me how it affects me.  He told me that I don’t have depth perception.  He told me eye tracking is difficult, and let me know that unless I memorized everything, I would not be able to feasibly pass my piano proficiency in seminary.  He told me that it affects my ability to focus.  He told me that I’m not stupid, and that I’ve had to learn how to function differently than everyone else.

I went home and cried.  I know it may seem silly to you, but for me, who had always just assumed that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough, life suddenly made more sense.  I began to notice my eyes not working correctly.  I was aware.

So why am I telling you all about my lazy eye?  Well, the main reason isn’t so you can check it out next time you see me.  Having this condition, and becoming aware of it so late in life allowed me to understand something much better than I ever had before.

Matthew 7:1-5 says this:

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Sometimes we are born with planks or specks in our eyes, and we are completely oblivious to their presence.  We learn to function with them, see around them, and don’t think for a second that we see any differently than anyone else.  This can be as a result of culture, class, race, family history, medical issues, or an as-sundry of other things.  Why do we try to remove the speck in our brother’s eye when we don’t address our own plank?  Well, sometimes it’s only because we don’t believe we have a problem.  We don’t believe we have a plank there.  But here’s the thing: as Christians, when someone lovingly or not so lovingly addresses our issue, even if it’s new information to us, we need to be humble enough to look into it, and not so quick to react negatively.  Sometimes it can be shameful, but we need to be aware of ourselves, because if we are not aware of our sin, how can we turn from it?  Truth is SO IMPORTANT.

I guess my point is, pray that God will show you your planks and lose the pride.  We have to be humble in order to follow Jesus, and none of us are perfect.  It’s okay not to be perfect, but it’s not okay to believe that we don’t need to continue to be sanctified.  None of us are there yet.  Embrace it.  Be aware of it, and use the knowledge to strive for holiness, because we are called to be set apart.

Sweet 16

Sixteen years ago today, June 13, 2001, I walked into Finish Line in Springfield, IL and set eyes on my future husband for the first time.  He was 6 feet tall, skinny, with bleach blonde hair and a dark goatee.  He was 22 years old, and I was 20.  We were both a mess, mentally and spiritually.  It was an odd time for God to show up, but His timing is always not what we expect.

I’m convinced he thought I was a psycho, but he tells me he thought I was hot and I guess that makes boys lose their better judgement.  I wasn’t looking for anything serious, mostly because I’d lost faith in it.  Our first few interactions were filled with odd conversations and strange statements, which I was sure would either intrigue him or scare him away, and at that point in my life, I really didn’t care which one.  We kept running into each other around Springfield, however, and one night at Walmart when I had left work early because of a panic attack and I didn’t want to go home to my empty apartment and his alarm clock broke out of nowhere, we ran into each other again.  He asked me out, and we agreed to meet at the mall because I didn’t want him to know where I lived.

Our first date on June 30 was just as quirky.  I asked him question after question after question.  I think I was probably trying to avoid talking about me, since I had been raped in the wee hours of June 14, just 2 weeks prior and the night after we met, and I wasn’t processing that well.  We stayed out that night until around 3 AM, just driving around and talking after dinner, and I confessed to him what was going on with me.  We talked about all sorts of things that probably weren’t typical first date material.  We both confessed we had a call to ministry, but were just not in a place to pursue it.  The next morning, I told my friend, Clayton, that I was sure I’d scared him off.  Bryan didn’t call me again for a week, and in my mind, in the several days in between, I probably was never going to hear from him again, and I started dating someone else, because in all honesty, that’s how I dealt with rejection at the time.  There were too many guys out there to get upset about one not liking you.

And for anyone who knows us, it didn’t take that long for us to work through the initial mess.  In August, we became “officially” a couple, and two days later, he asked me to marry him.  We quickly planned a wedding, and got married on November 17, 2001.

I look back, and neither of us had any idea about what we were doing or getting ourselves into.  We were very naive, and have walked through some tough journeys together as a result.  But God’s plans are so much better than our own, and He has blessed us immensely over the almost 16 years we’ve stuck it out together.  There is absolutely no one who could have loved me like Bryan has, and our story still makes me shake my head on how it could have possibly come to be, but God.

So today, even though some tough memories are also attached to this time, I am so grateful for the blessing of meeting that tall, skinny, bleach blonde dude who had just moved to Springfield.  I adore him so much, and I’m so happy to spend this crazy life with him!  Thanks for putting up with me, Bryan.

My Assignments

So I started seeing a counselor a couple weeks ago.  I’ve never really sought out counseling, despite having a dysfunctional past in many respects.  I probably should have taken the opportunity to utilize counseling services while we were in seminary, but I also didn’t want to be that transparent with counseling students.  I just wasn’t comfortable with the scenario, but after a rocky month of feeling more triggered by old situations than I wanted to admit, I finally sought out some help to conquer some of my driving anxieties.  While I feel in many ways “back to normal”, I also became painfully aware that my normal, probably wasn’t normal at all, so I’m looking at this time as an opportunity to strive for a healthier existence.

Tonight, C and I discussed 2 goals that she would like me to be able to achieve:

  1. Being able to go places alone
  2. Making new friends

I have a lot of fear about going anywhere solo.  Being married to a man that likes me and wants to go with me any chance he gets is something I absolutely love.  It helps me deal with unknown situations and provides me a feeling of safety in numbers.  If my husband is not there, my kids usually are, so I rarely have to confront this too head on.  I told C that I know this isn’t rational, but she reminded me that because of my past, it’s normal for my situation, so I was assigned to try to walk the block alone or try to find a small task to do by myself as I try to gradually confront and break this ever present anxiety.  For those of you reading this, I am asking for your prayers, and maybe one of these days, I can go to the grocery store alone.  Baby steps.

Secondly, making friends has never been an easy task for me.  I feel like I have lots of baggage and I’m a little complicated.  It’s easier for me to keep my friends that I’ve had forever (i.e. Bethany and Abby) and not really try to make new close relationships so I don’t have to explain myself to anyone because my past is kind of messy.  I’m also an INFP, which means small talk is hard for me and I desire deep relationships, which take a ton of work and are not just automatic, which annoys me.  I’ve always said, it was a good thing Bryan asked me to marry him right away, because I was never very good at the shallow dating stage.  I know I scared a few men off early on by not really masking my imperfections right away because I value being genuine with people.  If you want a good laugh, you should ask my husband about our first date (i.e. that time I interrogated him because I was in a weird mood).  I was sure I’d scared him off too.  Anyway, back on topic, making new friends is tough!  In a lot of ways, it’s exactly like dating, and like I said, I sucked at that too.  My best friends have known me since preschool or before, but as a church planting family, I have to get over this.  I’ve been assigned to try to initiate conversations with people and try to follow up with them.  I know this is just something I need to do as a missionary, but it’s also something I need to do as a human.  We all need friends.  Please pray that I find mine in Chicago.

So anyway, for those of you who read my last post and were wondering if I’m still suffering with crippling anxiety, I’m not, but I know I still need to heal, and that’s going to take some work.  Thanks for caring enough to read this…

 

I Desperately Need Your Prayers.

I’ve been swirling with anxiety lately, and I desperately need your prayers.  I recently blogged in vague terms about the man who raped me on June 14, 2001, who was charged and later plead down to misdemeanor battery charge in lieu of going to trial and risking prison time.  I had seen his name in an NBC news article a few weeks ago, and then the google searches ensued, upon which I found out way more than I wanted to know about him and the lies he has spewed about me since the ending of the court case in 2007.  My head was right back to where I was at trial’s end, and it wasn’t pretty.  I’ve been struggling with anxiety more than I want to admit these past few weeks.

5 years ago, on April 13, 2012 I wrote this excerpt on a private blog, acknowledging my first sexual assault for the very first time, not only to myself, but also to my husband.  This incident occurred in October 1999, when I was 19 years old and a sophomore at Greenville College, but I didn’t recognize it as what it was until I was already in my 30’s:

“I’ve been sexually assaulted multiple times, but until I started reading the book, “Rid of My Disgrace”, only the 2 rapes had registered with me.  I was almost 19 before I ever even kissed a boy…and then shortly after, something happened.  Something I really never talked about.  Something I blamed myself for, and it’s only by looking back on it as a woman in my 30’s and talking about it with Bryan, that I fully understand the inappropriateness of that situation.  It was in that moment with “DH”, who years later is a pastor, that I broke.  I was in shock and ashamed, and I never really told anyone fully about it, except for my husband 2 days ago.  I knew I still had extreme distaste, even hatred for him, but I didn’t understand why until recently.”

Because my anxiety was hard at work again yesterday, and I ended up googling “DH“.  I know I shouldn’t have.  I’ve joked that I need to have my internet privileges revoked for now, but like I said, I’m struggling…badly.  I haven’t googled or thought about him much for the last 4 or 5 years, and I was completely taken aback by what I saw.

He was convicted in 2015 of sexual contact with a minor, and is currently serving a 26 year sentence for his crimes.

I was in horrified shock.  I texted a college girlfriend and asked her if she’d heard about it, but she hadn’t.  She was horrified as well, before knowing what he did to me, because it wasn’t something I even told my closest friends.

I’m absolutely heartbroken for the victim and her family.  I can’t imagine what his wife and kids are feeling.

I don’t even know exactly what I’m feeling, but a lot of me just feels less crazy.  It really wasn’t me.  It was him.  I broke down and wept last night.  My kids wanted to know what was wrong, and I told them, “There were some people who did some very bad things to mommy when she was young.  Most of the time it doesn’t bother me anymore, but sometimes it still does.”  They both hugged me for a long time.

Please pray for me and my family as we work through these struggles one more time, and pray that it is all used for God’s glory.  God is moving so much as we are striving to plant a new church in our community, and even though I really need to work through these issues, I don’t always feel like I have enough time to do so.  Pray that I finally make this a priority, because it still unfortunately affects me and my family too.  Thank you.

 

Blindsided

Bryan and I are getting so close to planting.  His apprenticeship with the North American Mission Board will officially end in May, and he will officially be a Chicago North American Mission Board Missionary and Lead Planter in the new church, Sow Chicago.  We’re excited, overwhelmed, and ready all at once.  God is going to do some amazing things, and we know it.

But I’m here to tell you all, spiritual warfare is no joke.  Satan knows precisely where your weaknesses are, and he will exploit them, especially when God is on the move.  His desire is to break you and render you useless, because you’re less effective if you’re blindsided.

I was blindsided last week.  Silly me, who had actually thought for a moment, that I had no idea how Satan could attack us.  I wondered if he would attack our marriage, our boys, our income?  I just couldn’t be sure, but I was sure that our past had been resolved and it had to be something new that I hadn’t seen before…but it wasn’t.

An old wound was gauged open again.  It started with my morning routine, catching up on the day’s news.  I caught a name I recognized in an NBC article, and the wind was knocked out of me…no, not him…

My nerves immediately became shot and my brain started spinning.  I couldn’t even imagine this guy gaining notoriety, especially from people in the White House.  The google searches ensued.  My anxiety levels hit highs I haven’t seen in years as I read article after article of a man who practically broke me.  He’s published falsehoods and lies about me on his blogs and given interviews calling me a feminist liar without naming me.  My fears of him eventually hurting me or my family were re-imagined, and I was a mess once again.

Blindsided.  I didn’t see this one coming…

But as I walk through this pain and anxiety again, I have learned to rely on God.  This week I’ve been finding comfort in Psalm 62, knowing that I am not the only one who has ever been unjustly attacked:

Psalm 62

Trust in God Alone

“1 I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.
How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack[a]
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before him.
God is our refuge. Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,

they weigh less than[b] a vapor.
10 Place no trust in oppression,
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.
11 God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
strength belongs to God,
12 and faithful love belongs to you, Lord.
For you repay each according to his works.”

Scripture.
Prayer.
Perspective.

and breathe… God has this.  I don’t have to.  Though anxiety and seeing his name and even having one of my seminary professors endorse him as “a name he can trust” makes everything seem so very real, this was all resolved in court almost 10 years ago.  Just because someone spews lies about you, doesn’t make them true, not even close.  I don’t have to defend myself.  God will do that for me, but please, pray for us.

Christians: Your Vote Doesn’t Matter, But Your Integrity Does

2016 is a crazy year in politics.  Much of me is glad I have somewhat shielded my oldest from much of the insanity, and my youngest will have no way of recalling this later, unless he has some freakish 2 year old brain I am not yet aware of.

Yet here we are in the middle of the most ridiculous Presidential race that I can personally remember in my 36 years, and I can honestly say, I’m jaded.  We look at the 2 main party candidates, and most of us are in a situation where we’re trying to pick the one that offends us the least.  I heard one person say that it’s a contest between everything that is wrong with our culture versus everything that is wrong with our political system.  Morally, who’s to say which is worse?  I’m guessing your personal values would determine your answer.

I was raised to believe that voting is my civic duty.  My parents, but especially my dad, are heavily Republican, and every election year my dad would tell me how the Democratic candidate was possibly the “anti-Christ”.  It started with Bill Clinton, and then it was Al Gore, and then Barrack Obama.  I get the feeling he’s pretty anti Hillary Clinton as well.  Making abortion illegal was the absolute end all  reason to vote for a candidate, and that issue needed to trump all others.  And to be completely honest, up until this election season, I’ve never once not voted Pro-Life or considered not voting Pro-Life.

The 2016 Presidential Election is 27 days away, and my Facebook feed, much like yours, is filled with a barrage of hateful and intense political discussion, and all I can think about is a 2004 episode of South Park where the kids had to choose between a “Turd Sandwich” and a “Giant Douche” for their school mascot.  I’d put a link in here, but despite being totally spot on, it’s pretty vulgar.

It’s very easy to be angry, upset, and disgusted at what is going on.  It’s easy to get offended with our friends and family when they vocalize support for the candidate who offends you the most.  It’s easy to get irritated when friends and family post an array of memes that make no logical sense and hatefully bash someone for holding a position different than theirs.  It’s equally tempting to comment on shared articles from non-reputable news sites which share subjective conjecture and lies when you feel you must share your righteous point.  But here’s the thing: we are literally choosing between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich.  To stake your identity and integrity on either one is a completely foolish waste.  Let’s not get pulled into that mess.

I came across a 2008 article from NBC last night as I was up pondering why I was so upset about everything (like many people are), and it gave me quite a bit of peace.  While the right to vote matters, my vote statistically does not.  Neither does yours.  That may or may not give you peace, but it reminds me that I’m not in control.  God is.  Whew!  That’s great news to me.

As Christians, our integrity matters, not who’s name we toss into a ballot box or select on an electronic screen.  It isn’t my Christian duty to vote.  I don’t recall any place in scripture where Jesus said “Vote or Die”.  I’m pretty sure that was P. Diddy, and he’s also abandoned that movement.  It’s my right to vote, and that also means I have a right not to vote, and so do you.  I am not trying to encourage anyone one way or the other.  Vote if you want to.  Don’t vote if you don’t.  Like I said, your vote really doesn’t matter, so I’m not going to get mad at you one way or the other regardless of what or who you choose.

These things are totally temporary.  The gospel is not, and it should be our priority.  Ephesians 4:17-32 (NIV) says this:

Instructions for Christian Living

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands,that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Don’t let this election be a distraction from what really matters.  Pray for our nation and its leaders, but don’t for a second believe that either will save you.

When “Pro-Lifers” Support Abuse of Half of Humanity

My blood has been boiling for a couple days now.  My nerves are shot and my patience is gone.  That’s not a good place to be as a stay at home mom  The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, had a media leak from 11 years ago, and an unknown hot mic caught him saying some disgusting remarks about his propensity to violate women sexually without their consent.  Although I’ve been disenchanted with him for some time now and he has never had my vote, the defense of his comments as locker room talk from other supporters and Republicans has made me sick and furious all at the same time.

To a victim and survivor of sexual assault, justifying his comments as anything but what they are, perpetuating rape culture, kicks me in the gut.  This kind of “locker room talk” dehumanizes women and makes us into sexual objects with no other value than eye candy and sexual pleasure to men.  You say all men do this?  You claim this is common and we shouldn’t come down on him because everyone does it?  If you really believe that is an appropriate excuse, you are part of the problem, and our culture needs a rehaul.

Multiple assaults on a single victim are very common, and much more common than you might think.  (If you want a good Christian perspective on this issue, get a copy of Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  It’s a sad and eye opening perspective to the effects of sexual assault and how we should handle the issues as Christians.)  Between 1999 and 2001, I was sexually assaulted 3 times in total.  You might be thinking, “what was she doing to bring this on herself?”, but if you are, again, you’re part of the problem.  (On a side note, I didn’t even kiss a boy until I was 19 years old.  I was pretty innocent up until this time.  So innocent, in fact, that the first assault didn’t register to me that I was assaulted until 10 years later while telling my husband the story.  I blamed myself and just thought I was a slut, and as a result, my behavior and view of myself changed drastically.)  When I dropped out of college in 2000 because my anxiety levels were too insane to function, I had an exit interview with the Dean of Students in which the he twisted my words when explaining what had gone on, and told me that I had done some things that I regretted, and I couldn’t handle it.  Rape culture.

Years later, when fighting a sexual assault case in court that occurred in June 2001 because I actually pressed charges against that guy, my husband kept telling me to let it go the longer the trial drug on.  Even he didn’t see it as a big deal, because he’d known several guys in high school who had sex with women while they were passed out at parties, and I just needed to move on.  It happens all the time.  Rape culture.  (I tell you this story about my husband as a younger man who has since changed his perspective on this issue since surrendering to Christ, and he would genuinely apologize and tell you the same.)

Men, this is not acceptable behavior.  Just because behavior is common, does not mean it isn’t destructive and wrong.  It doesn’t mean that it isn’t illegal.

We have a devastating problem in our culture.  Many men do not respect or protect women.  They do not understand our pain and view us as weak, and so they disregard it.  They victim shame and blame, and are more concerned with the consequences if a woman exercises her legal right to press charges than the consequences a woman experiences being victimized in such a fashion.  They see no problem with their “locker room talk”, and fail to recognize their responsibility in the devastating effects of the prevalent rape culture they want to deny exists.  Empathy for another’s pain is not foolishness or weakness.  Jesus empathized with the downtrodden, the ones who could not protect themselves because of the biases in the structure of society.

What does this have to do with abortion, someone might ask?  It has to do with abortion because the only candidate claiming to be pro-life has a ridiculously long history of disrespecting women publicly and viewing them as sexual objects, not people.  While abortion is an enormous concern of mine and I don’t recall a time in my life I have voted for a pro-choice candidate, my perspective is changing, but not on the atrocity of what abortion is mind you.  Please hear that.  We live in a “free” country.  This freedom makes it difficult to legislate morality, especially when there is a disagreement on what morality is in several given situations.  Our responsibility as Christ followers is not to change the laws and boycott the businesses to force people to live the way we think they should.  Our responsibility as Christ followers is to love God with our entire beings and love our neighbors as ourselves.

So many times, we hold tight to the rights we want, and expect others to surrender theirs because we don’t think they should have them.  Instead of focusing so much on changing the laws, focus on preaching the gospel.  Focus on loving others.  Focus on sharing your testimony.  As Christians, quit expecting people in government to champion our issues.  They won’t.  Quit expecting the government will save America.  It won’t.  Pray for your nation and your community, and invest yourself in this extensive mission field.  Christ, not our government, is our only hope.

…And please, for the sake of me and millions of other rape survivors out there, stop making excuses for idiotic people perpetuating rape culture.  It’s wrong, and when you do it, so are you.