Unashamed: Christine Caine

Shame… prompts us to toss away the good gifts we are given…

Hiding my feelings had already become a way of life for me [as a child]. Shame does that. It teaches us to hide ourselves… Shame… pushes you down and prevents you from becoming all you could be…

When you are abused, at first you are ashamed of what is happening to you. Over time, though, you begin to think it is because of you that it is happening…

…I thought, there must be something very wrong with me. I must be at fault. I must be a bad person. I am not worth protecting. God must not love me. I guess I’m not worth His attention. Shame does that: it whispers lies to your soul…

I had no concept of the difference between the shame of what was being done to me and the shame of my own actions… I worked hard to be sure that all those frightening feelings were locked away and invisible… 

I was a child damaged by shame, shackled to it, and I dragged it with me from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood. Most likely, you have done the same…

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

This is a rather large set of quotes to put in a single blog post, but I do hope Christine Caine will forgive me(!). I bought this audiobook last week. I sensed that I needed to read it. In just one chapter I have recognised so much of the broken parts of myself that I am in awe. Christine does not share the exact same past as me. Our stories are different, yet everything that I’ve quoted above was so descriptive of my situation that I felt I could have written it. Much of it consists of things I never knew how to put into words. Even now, with all the hard work I’ve done as part of my recovery, I also realise that some of these things – well, I thought it was just me who thought like that. Shame does that: makes you think you’re the only one because you’re somehow responsible, even when you know that, logically, you’re not. Which shows I still have a way to go, because I thought I had changed these negative beliefs.

This is what I think God is trying to tell me (and who knows – maybe He’s needing you to know it, too): humility is good. Humility looks like Jesus. Humility is not the same as feeling worthless or useless. That’s not humility; that’s shame. Shame has no place on the shoulders of one who belongs to the King of Kings.

God be praised for His perfect timing.  I can’t wait to hear more!

Reblog: Twitter sheds light on non-physical forms of abuse

Abuse has many faces. For many years I stayed with the highly abusive man who was my first husband because of teachings like this (see video below). My children learned that it was ok to be nasty to mummy. They were being brought up in a miserable, soul-destroying home. It is not the abuse towards me that breaks my heart to recall, it is the fact that they were there too. I have no words to describe the abject horror of the seemingly innocuous words from John Piper on this issue. This teaching is not just wrong, it is wicked.

The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors

The Twitter handle #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, started by the BBC, has given victims of emotional, spiritual, financial and other forms of abuse a platform to share a glimpse into their experiences.

Often, the pain and trauma of non-physical abuse is dismissed or ignored.  Because the bruising to a victim’s psyche and soul are not visible, they do not receive the help and healing needed or the support to leave.  Slowly, they are beaten down to a place of low self-esteem and self-doubt and they begin to believe the lies of their abuser.  They experience symptoms of PTSD or anxiety or other conditions from their distress and this gives their abuser the added ammunition to claim they are the crazy one, they are the cause of the abuse.

Sadly, these types of abuse are very common in…

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Limiting Beliefs

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Self-preservation is an understandable human instinct. My sister once jumped out of an aeroplane. I don’t think she will ever repeat the experience, but it gave her something far longer lasting.

Sometimes I test your faith, daughter, because it develops perseverance in you, which you need to be mature and complete, not lacking in anything… I know how much you hurt for these children. I hurt for them more. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world… 

~ from  Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

It takes courage to trust God with everything. It’s so simple, yet so unbelievably difficult. But take heart: God is good, and God never changes.

I have been listening to a self-hypnosis mp3 aimed at discovering and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. A self-limiting belief is one where you, consciously or unconsciously, tell yourself you cannot do something that you can, in fact, do. The narrator puts it like this: it is truthful to say ‘I can’t speak Japanese’, but if I say I can’t learn Japanese, that would be a self-limiting belief.

“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you may face persecution, but take courage; I have conquered the world!”

John 16:33 (NRSVA)

As I wrote last week, I use hypnosis as a tool, and I use it prayerfully. One thing that has struck me after listening to yesterday’s session, and after hearing Katie’s words above, is that often I have what could be called God-limiting beliefs. My faith, and my opinion of myself, is such that I can accept – or perhaps gloss over – self-limiting beliefs, but God-limiting beliefs? That’s not good.

What self-limiting or God-limiting beliefs have you had?

 

The Ultimate Upcycler

‘When you’re first abused, you’re filled with shame about what is happening to you. When it happens over a long period of time, you then begin to think it’s happening because of who you are…

When you’re abused, you shut down and think you’re used goods. You think God could never really do anything with your life. You can hear a thousand sermons on destiny and purpose and God having a plan for your life – plans for good and not for evil – but if you come at that with a shame-based nature, then deep down you can never believe God could use you. It has certainly been the fight of my life to get to the place of trusting God to redeem the broken pieces of my past for his glory.’

~ Christine Caine

This thing about it being ‘who you are’ is what gets missed. It’s what other people least seem to understand. Christine has put into words (and very succinctly) that which I have struggled with for much of my life. I’m not sure if I don’t still believe it, at least partially; I’ve come a long way on this journey! Do you know what the biggest miracle has been, as I see it? My dear husband. How did he see past the layers of shame and self-loathing to not only who I was, but also to who I could be? Every day he sees the best in me. How is this possible? God surely knew what He was doing when He gave us to one another. I am so very thankful.

On a slightly different note, I am very much into recycling, renewables, etc., having studied the Environment and climate change as part of my degree (currently on hold). I love the idea of upcycling. Upcycling is repurposing a previously used item so that it can be used again instead of undergoing recycling (which does add to greenhouse gases) or being thrown away. Upcycling is creative and fun. It’s thrifty and it benefits the environment. Upcycling is the ability to see potential in junk and turn it into something new and useful. Recently I have been turning cardboard boxes into storage boxes by carefully covering them with colourful duct tape (this makes them both more attractive and more durable). I now use these in the kitchen and in my wardrobe. Very useful.

What’s the connection between the quote from Christine Caine and the rest of it? It’s this: I do struggle still with the idea of being useless, unwanted and ‘used goods’. But maybe God’s good at upcycling. Maybe, in fact, He is the original Master Upcycler. I think that might just be so. Upcycling can take some time and effort. For a while the thing still looks a lot like junk, but eventually, eventually… there is the practical equivalent of a metamorphosis. A redemption, if you will.

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The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
    because God anointed me.
He sent me to… care for the needs of all who mourn… 
    [to] give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

extract from Isaiah 61:1-3 (The Message)

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Post script: please pray for our dear Prince. He’s still in a lot of pain and the doctors don’t know what’s wrong. He has a procedure under general anaesthetic booked for next week. Please pray this goes smoothly and we get some answers. Please also pray that Prince understands what is happening and is able to control his anxiety. It’s hard enough having autism without all this in addition.

Boundaries

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Another trip to Accident & Emergency last night. I’m sure all parents can relate. We used to go several times a year because at least one child would have injured themselves falling off a skateboard, jumping off a swing, or hurtling down the stairs. I wonder if children in families with restricted television go to A&E more often, statistically speaking, than whose for whom telly/social media is unrestricted?

It wouldn’t be so bad but the nearest A&E is a 30-40 minute drive and it wears me out, so no church this morning (also 30 minutes away). Fluff’s friends, Pippa and Caitlyn (aka The Twins), came with us because they were already with us for a sleepover, so it made for a rather raucous rabble entering the hospital (in a way that only 13-year-old girls can be). I was glad, in some ways, because they kept Fluff entertained and even carried her from the car to the hospital entrance.

Fluff and Chip did their first ever show jumping yesterday afternoon and Fluff’s horse stood on her foot. When the foot turned blue and swollen later I didn’t want to risk not going to hospital. But I really miss it when we don’t go to church. We didn’t go last week either because Fluff was at Pippa and Caitlyn’s for a sleepover and I had to pick her up.

If you have children, do you sometimes get the impression that your role is chiefly that of general dogsbody and/or chauffeur? My life seems to exist as a sideshow to that of my kids, especially because I end up wearing myself out doing it all, so have no ‘spoons’ (see Spoon Theory) left over.

So what are you going to do about it? That’s what I’d like to know… ~ Paul Simon

Christ calls us to be servants, and this is why I do serve, but I have begun to wonder if I am actually indulging my children in my ‘serving’. So I have ordered a copy of Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by John Townsend, who also co-wrote the life-changing Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life. The latter should be required reading for anyone who has experienced abuse or co-dependency, or who grew up in a dysfunctional home. Many who have not experienced these sorts of problems don’t realise quite how much ‘self’ is lost, or how incredibly damaging that is. I didn’t even know that I could make boundaries between myself and other people before I read this book. I had the vaguest idea because I’d heard other people talking about it, but because childhood abuse (particularly sexual abuse but not exclusively) robs the victim of personal boundaries, people could impinge on me with impunity and I didn’t even know they were doing it. No wonder I ended up in an abusive first marriage. I just thank God that He eventually put a stop to it all.

‘Boundaries…’ is full of sound, practical advice and the authors are devout Christians so each part is linked to the bible and the wisdom within. An excellent and life changing book, I also have high hopes for the ‘Boundaries with Teens’ version.

Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Courage isn’t courage unless you’re afraid

Courage is not courage unless you’re afraid. Courage is being afraid, but trying anyway. Have you ever been afraid? I have. A lot. It left me scarred.

Ann Voskamp has a post today entitled ‘When loving your enemies, the stranger & your neighbor feels way too risky‘ (it is an excellent post; please click to read it). What could be riskier, when you’ve been betrayed in the worst possible ways by those you loved? Never mind loving your enemies, what could be riskier than loving your friends? Especially when it was those who were supposed to love you, to protect you, who hurt you most. They took advantage of your vulnerability so that in every small thing your loss was their gain. If you can call it gain. In the end it’s torture for them, too. That I can see, now. Healing brings clarity. It doesn’t make it any better, though, and it doesn’t stop the past from jumping up and shouting ‘”BOO!” even though, praise God, EMDR lessens the intensity.

And yet, by grace, five years ago, pre-EMDR, I stood at the front of the church and said “I do” to this other man – this man who would be my rescuer, my lover, my surest friend. Friendships are risky, whatever form they take, especially if you’ve been hurt too often to count.

Count. I like counting. That’s why I love maths – because it has no emotions. It’s a relief. We played Countdown last night. I bought the DVD version from the charity shop and four of us, Frank, Fluff, Chip and I, we sat and we made words from letters and sums from numbers. It was good. We made sense out of nonsense, a workable whole from the fractured parts. Isn’t that what following Christ is all about?

 

‘Everything we do in life either brings us closer to God or takes us further away; there are no neutral activities.’

Longing for God, Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe

 

Relationships, friendships: what I most desire… in some ways. And what scares me, in many ways. How do you let someone in without letting too much of yourself out? How do you love without hurting?

I don’t suppose you do – seeing as they’re human. Seeing as I’m human. By grace, we do it anyway.

*’As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

*The above verse is also, incidentally, my baptismal verse. I get goosebumps thinking about it. There is not one other verse in the whole of God’s wonderful Word that is more ‘for me’ and my life. I remember looking at the pastor as he gave it to me. He seemed surprised. I wasn’t. It seemed perfectly right. The whole moment seemed ‘right’, as if we were fulfilling a beautiful, divinely conceived idea. Providence indeed. Thank you, Lord.

Smudges on the Mirror

I was feeling low. Feeling useless (lies from the past still creep up on me post-EMDR, even if not as much as they used to). This led to me succumbing to temptation. I sinned. Then I beat myself up over it. I felt like what on earth -or under heaven – is the point in being a Christian if I just carry on sinning? I couldn’t, at that point, see the work God has done in me, by grace, all I could see was this great big useless blobby blot of sin. My prayers, such as they were, were a tangled mess along the lines of ‘I don’t know why you bother with me, God, I’m useless. You might as well not have bothered with the crucifixion and everything because I just go and throw it back in Your face and sin.’ I trudged upstairs.

The mirror in the bathroom was really nasty. Smeared with toothpaste and goodness knows what. I fetched the bottle of white vinegar and squirted it onto the mirror. I wiped a few times. It was still smudgy. Luckily, I already knew that the trick to cleaning with vinegar is to keep wiping and wiping, turning the cloth over so that you’re always wiping with a dry spot. After a minute or two – hey, presto! – it gleams.

All of a sudden I could see myself clearly. It was as if God said, “Hey! You! Yes, you are useless on your own. But that’s ok. So’s everyone else. Bunch of numpties, the lot of ’em. But I love you, so as long as you keep seeking the truth, keep aiming for shiny, all you have to do is show up; let me do the rest. If you try to go it alone you just end up with smudges. You can try wiping them, but you’ll just get more smudges. With me, I make it all new and shiny, and you can see clearly again.”

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“Mirror” by Cgs – English Wikipedia

Oh, yeah…

‘Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”’

Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)

 

Lessons from housework. Who knew? I am reminded of God’s beautiful blessing for the Israelites:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

Numbers 6:24-26

Cathy, Come Home

One of my favourite scenes of any novel that I have ever read comes from Wuthering Heights, that dark, brooding tale of obsession and death (why anyone would think it’s romantic is beyond me but that’s not the focus of this post). It is one of very few novels where the main characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are utterly unlikeable yet remain genuinely compelling. Emily Brontë was a genius. This is the scene of which I speak:

This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!’ ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. ‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! ‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’ ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ 

I have felt like that voice in the desperate darkness. Sometimes I have felt like I’ve been wandering, desolate and lost on the moors for so many years that I’ve forgotten what home is like. That cry of “twenty years!” strikes at my soul.

Twenty years ago my friends all went off to university. I didn’t. I was ill. Three years later I went away to college with a view to moving onto university after a year. Two weeks after that I had the utter misfortune to meet my first boyfriend, 12 years my senior. 18 months after we met he had coerced me not only out of my long-held dreams of studying but into a controlling marriage and even motherhood. I found myself mother to an autistic child (not that I knew that then, of course, but there were signs), living in a council flat with a jobless, manipulative psycho. What the **** happened? I spent so many years feeling like… like a cockroach. Waiting to be squashed. Disgusting and despised.

Nowadays… I sometimes just wish – I wish I could feel like I had achieved something. I wish I didn’t feel so different to everyone else. Last week I received a certificate of participation for a course I studied via Future Learn. For me, this was a big deal. Straight away I wanted to go out and get a frame so I could put it on the wall. I don’t have any certificates other than my rather pathetic 6 GCSEs. It doesn’t matter that I taught myself in order to pass them (I was too poorly to go to school most of the time). I didn’t do A-levels. I didn’t get the degree. I didn’t have a career. I didn’t do all the other stuff my contemporaries did. I never ‘fulfilled my potential’. So for me, this certificate from Future Learn meant – well, quite a lot, actually. But even my own husband made a joke about it. He didn’t mean to cause upset and I wouldn’t take to the blogwaves to complain about my spouse, that’s really not my point. It’s just that, well, sometimes I’m fed up of being different. I’m fed up of people who have led really good lives and they don’t even know it, who live like kings and don’t see it.

Don’t worry. This is not going to be a great long wallow in self-pity. There’s just one thing that I would like to say to the blogosphere in general: if you had the chance at education, at making choices, at being a ‘normal’ Western teenager, a ‘normal’ young adult – just recognise how lucky you were. Please. And if in your life you have been granted more than enough, whether it be materially or spiritually, in friendship or in love – please take it as your God-imbued duty to be thankful, to be accountable for what you do with what you have been given, and to share.

Actually, make that two things. There are two things I’d like to say. The second is to please try your very best to make the disaffected welcome. Especially in churches. Churches aren’t supposed to be full of well-fed, content middle-class people. More often than not they are. They’re supposed to be home to the movers and the shakers and the sinners and the broken – one big messy family, made holy in Christ. Last week I was brave enough to share with someone at church that I’d been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She just frowned at me.

Churches must wake up to the broken within their walls, as well as the broken without. It’s not ok to exclude people because you don’t understand them or because they scare you. It’s not ok to not make an effort to include someone, however unappealing they may be. Ask yourself: who is my neighbour? What does that really mean?

Jesus never excluded anyone. In fact, He always did the opposite… and that knowledge always cheers me up no end. I know that if Jesus were to sit here with me, He’d say that I have been given gifts beyond measure. He’d point out that I’m just about to begin my next module with the Open University. He’d point out all the wonderful things I’ve been able to do with my family. He’d even remind me that, no matter how tough EMDR was, I’ve reaped the benefits in the past few months. Jesus would show me again my wonderful husband, and my super children. He’d say that I’ve found the most important thing in my love for Him. With Jesus there is no lost wandering on the moor. There is no desolation or despair. Jesus says, “Cathy, come home.”

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This post was prompted in part by a post over at Sacred Wrightings, which is a very good blog if you ever have the chance to take a look. The author, Terry, is much more learned than I and I have learned a lot from reading what he has to say. He’s also quite funny.

Reblog: An artist’s view of trash, a God-perspective of damaged people

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Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Laura Droege's blog

Saturday morning my daughter had a soccer game. Pollen permeated the air, my need for caffeine consumed me, and the urge to write itched in my fingers, so I sought refuge at a nearby fast food restaurant. This is an expensive area of town, and, predictably, even the local Chick-fil-A was tastefully decorated.

A large wooden table stood in the middle of the dining area. It was about waist-high and long enough for ten or more people to gather. The wooden legs were rough-looking: discolorations, nail holes, paint streaks. Yet they were polished smooth, their ends capped with steel. The ends of the wood tabletop were painted, emphasizing the grain.

A plaque at the end of the table reads,

This table was built by artisans from A Better Way Ministries. The materials used were salvaged from unwanted and abandoned homes. The hands that built it belong to a person who…

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