It stares us all in the face.

Please, don't go.

But please... I cannot ask you to remain trapped in this prison cell your body has become.

Go to rest.

One I know I'll see again.

The other... I'm not so sure.

Oh, Lord... how long???

I had mentioned briefly that, in doing my moral inventory, I found it very, very difficult to write down the good things about myself, and good things that I have done. The bad things? Those were hard, because I hate looking at and admitting to those things, but the good things are even HARDER! Who would have thought? I guess I'm just used to thinking of myself in sort of a twighlighty sort of way-- not too bad, but not that great. Like the dusk of the day, it is neither dark nor light. Anyway, while I was at church yesterday, the family decided to compile their own list of my good qualities, to make it a little easier for me :)

1. Good at befriending people

2. Sees the positive in people (not judgmental)

3. Creative in music, crafts, photography

4. Artistic eye for photography

5. Talented in music

6. Witty

7. Loves animals/tenderhearted

8. Motivated

9. Determined

10. Adaptable/flexible

11. Balanced

12. Shows progress/determination in healing

13. Deep thinker

14. Intelligent

15. Good massager :)

16. Loves young people/desires to help them

17. Perceptive to the needs of others

18. Encouraging to others

19. Gifted speaker

20. Good communicator

21. Modest and tasteful in apparel and appearance

22. Creative in cooking

23. Energetic

While I do take issue with some of these (I have a very hard time thinking of myself as "balanced", for instance, because I see myself as so off kilter alot of times... though the family explained that they meant it as the balance I show in not being fanatical on either side of the spectrum), I agree that they fit me. I would LOVE to be the person described here! She sounds like such a great person to know. I would be her friend, for sure. She sounds... fun, yet compassionate, strong, yet not overbearing. How I would love to be that person.
I was so disappointed... and so not looking forward to resigning myself to a life of aloofness and isolation until I could escape... and still torn between trying and just giving up (orchestrated retreat hehe)... and THEN...

Another conversation, this time profitable. Both parties had their barriers down. It was all that I'd been hoping for-- a restoration of relationship. No judging. No justifying. Just honesty and acceptance.

I never meant to make them feel like failures. Are you kidding? The last thing I would want to do is hurt someone intentionally! I could if I wanted to--there are plenty of cutting, poisonous remarks that surface in my head, and right now there's enough anger to go around. But I don't, because I don't want to hurt anyone. That's a part of myself that I keep under control. Lord forbid that I cause anyone to go through anything remotely reminiscent of what I went through!!

Anyway, that's not my style. If I want to hurt you, I'll withdraw. Punishment for both of us! Hah.

It meant so much to have them come back, to try to make things right. That was more than I had expected, since I had resigned myself to the experience of the night before. It was like I was trying to reach out, and they were responding, but somehow it wasn't... right. There was still a chasm between us, and I had no idea how to bridge it. So, since my effort resulted in frustrated confusion on my end, I had decided not to try again. Why bother, if I'm just going to get hurt again? And, yes, there was anger evidenced by my previous posts.

And I don't know how to explain what happened. It's like the light came on, I guess. Most precious of all to me was the assurance, "We love you."

We love you.

God, I don't know what you did, but I'm so grateful. That is what I needed. Just to know that I am loved, that it's okay, and that they are there for me... that's what I wanted so badly. It doesn't matter how busy they are, I suppose, as long I know that there is availability. That's what I've really felt the lack of. But it's okay now. We're on the same page, more or less, and I think it's gonna be okay.

My heart is still hesitant. Is this safe to put my weight on? Can I lean on this and not be broken? I don't know, heart. But I know that they're trying, and so am I... and we're both looking to God to lead the way. So it must be okay, right?

It's not going to be easy, though. Right now, my waters are very muddied. Lots of stuff has been stirred up that I have no clue how to deal with. Like anger. What do you do with that??

Thank God for J. I'm realizing that, someday, if I ever want to replicate this situation for the benefit of others, there must be someone outside the family to talk to, to work through stuff with when it gets sticky within the family. Yeah. It's just... easier. Easier than trying to figure this stuff out while dancing around family "politics" (if that's even the word for it--I can't think of anything else at the moment).

So I'm still kinda in shock. I can't believe the situation reversed itself so quickly. I think we've all still got alot to learn. But, for now, we're all walking together, and that's a great relief to me.

Thank you, Father.

Once more.

This band, Tenth Avenue North, has alot of songs that really comfort me and encourage me. They're sure about what their hope is... and I need that right now.

On and On

On and on we go... through this maze of darkness and uncertainty...

I haven't quite given up, but I'm not sure I'm still in the running.

It's like my life is having a bad hair day.

Is it wrong that I don't want to be part of a family? I am independent--can't you see? I was on my own for years before I met you... and you think I can't survive without you? Like I need to learn at your feet? Yet here, I have food, shelter, warmth... I'd be a fool to walk away, if only for purely physical reasons. No, I'll stay... but I think you've lost me.

On and on we go... come (Lord), take my hand...
What's the point of even trying to make this work? Obviously, I'm not responsible enough, or mature enough, or independent enough, or... whatever enough. I am a continual disappointment. Do I have to keep doing this?

Sure, we can structure our lives, but will that really help? Can I schedule myself into  a competent person?

You want to see irresponsible? Oh, I can show you irresponsible. How about if I packed a bag and disappeared for a few days? That could happen. You don't know how hard I have to beat myself mentally to keep from doing just that... so often....

At least Juneaux doesn't see my flaws.

I don't want to be seen. Least of all by you.

The very medicine that was supposed to heal me has poisoned me, and I wither away... but you'll never know... 'cause I still don't want to let you in. All that talk, all those good intentions, and for what? I'm still the same person... with the same old dysfunctions. Of course I understand you. That's why it frustrates me so.

Am I selfish? Maybe. Aren't we all?

And what, really, is the point? To give yourself totally, to invest so thoroughly, to open up so completely... for what? Tonight, I saw a woman who loves her husband take his warm, unresponsive hand and weep. He was taken from her without warning, without mercy... and now she agonizes alone. What's the point?

Elderly people, once useful, productive, and cognizant... now wasted, withered, and unable to comprehend reality. They fritter the remaining dregs of their lives away... for what?

What is the point? Why should I even continue living? I'm just going to die, anyway, someday...

The car accident... yesterday was the anniversary. I am whole and (somewhat) healthy, yet other people have had almost identical experiences, and they are paralyzed from the waist down, they are unable to use their arm because of nerve damage, or... they're dead. Why am I still alive? Why am I here? Why me? And, please tell me, what is the point?

Is all that I've worked for for naught? Does it even matter? Is it that big of a deal if I live the rest of my life as I have lived the past 22? What difference will that make in the grand scheme of things?

When I hate myself, I don't want to sleep. I guess it's a way of punishing myself. I don't want to sleep tonight. I don't want to pull out my hope box. I just want to revel in the pain, to drive the sharp knife of loathing deep into my soul so that I can drown out the agony of disappointment. I want to cry until I bleed. I want to do something destructive with absolutely no (apparent) consequences.

It's times like this I'm glad I live in the country. If I lived in the city... you better believe I'd be out doing something right now, instead of sitting in my room, stewing in my juices. I suppose it would be better if I were to just sleep...

...but what's the point?
Having a computer of my own is a mixed blessing. I've spent the last 2 hours looking at absolutely pointless things on the internet... I can feel my brain cells dying. Why? Why would I endure such pointless, humorous agony? Because I'm avoiding, that's why.

I'm still going through the "searching and fearless moral inventory", and I am dreading it for some reason. I guess it's the familiar thought coming 'round again--maybe if I ignore it, it will go away? But no, it won't... and now all I have is a musty brain.

I would take a walk to clear my head, but it's in the 40's, with a very cutting, cold wind, and... my foot. I shouldn't be walking on the rough terrain of our driveway with it just yet. Last time I did that... I paid for it.

Anyway, here I am, faced with this stupid thing again. Why am I so reluctant to do this assignment? Maybe I'm afraid of hurting. It was so nice at R and J's, and I was happy. (Yes, happy! Can you believe it?) No darkness. And now, I willingly plunge back into it? What kind of madness is that? I don't want to think about this stuff! Can't I just be happy, already? Do I have to keep wading into the pitchy mires of my past?

Yes, I suppose so... for unless I clear out the garbage, it will sit in the corner and rot. Bah. Just leave me alone! Why do I have to deal with this junk? Sometimes I so wish I were someone else. Not that anyone ever escapes unscathed... I've come to realize that everyone (and that's everyone) has baggage and scars of some kind, no matter how small. We all need healing and regeneration. Just chalk it up to the simple fact that people aren't perfect, and neither is the world we live in. You're bound to get banged up a time or two. But as I look back on my life, and as I talked it over a bit with Jeanette, I think, "Really? Do I just have a sign taped to my back that says 'Take advantage of me! Use me! Abuse me! Above all, abandon me! Thank you, and have a nice day.'"

It's just... frustrating. Why should I have to pay for the sins of someone else? I'm not anyone's saviour.

I recognize this over-usage of the internet from my past, too. Another coping mechanism rears its ugly head. Especially when I was living with C and unemployed, the days just draaaaaagged, and I was so unhappy. Random internet stuff dulls my senses to the point where I don't really notice my unhappiness anymore. Now, however, I'm so unused to the feeling that it's like being drugged, or sedated, and I don't like it. It makes me feel queasy in my soul.

But, oh! I did realize today a time in my past when I was happy! (I was beginning to wonder if I would find any at all.) While I was attending Vista High, I was happy. (I think of it as the "chocolate milk" time. Because I think in pictures and sensations, I have a picture of the yard area pop into my head, and the feelings and tastes that accompanied my daily chocolate milk in the cafeteria.) I had friends, I had C, I was achieving very well academically, and I was totally free in my expression of myself through the outward appearance. It was like I was really myself for that period of time, and I was happy. And then... I went canvassing. Enter self-loathing, confusion, and people-pleasing... and a revival of depression. (I was probably depressed during the chocolate milk times too, though.)

Something scary happened in Montana. I took a fancy to a young man. We hardly know each other, but he's good looking, nice, intelligent, etc. Scary. A threat to my precarious position of contentment in singlehood. And, as I have purposed in my heart not to manipulate men to boost my ego anymore, this makes it even more difficult because I have no clue how to relate to guys now. I don't know what to do, really... especially when I'm attracted to someone. But I gained an insight out of all this. In an effort to keep myself from being attracted to this young man, I began to severely criticize and berate myself. Cue the cycle of self-loathing--and I'm doing it on purpose! How awful! "He would never want you, anyway. Look at yourself. You're just a chubby white girl. You're not pretty enough. He would want someone more talented, someone smarter. Besides, you're so screwed up that you'd only take him down with you." (And the fact that I'm telling myself all this is case in point.)

So, now that I have caught myself doing this, it's time to stop it. I suppose that will come with time, and it's part of the process of learning to healthfully relate to others. Attacking myself to beat down attraction is not healthy.

Okay. Really. Stop avoiding, now. Blogging is good, but... you need to get this inventory done. God, help me. I don't really wanna do this, but I know it's necessary. Help me.
1.) Half of the bloggers out there are families with babies... and they're pregnant. Again.

2.) The other half are investors and businessmen, who lay everything out in painstaking, agonizing detail.

3.) I'm going to bed now. Really.

(And the 3rd half of bloggers out there seem to be Asian. I'm not sure what that means.)
There really is no question. I like sleep too much to skip it. But I've stayed up so long now that I kinda don't want to go to bed... I'm enjoying exploring my new computer, and making a movie for Kels, and I don't have to work tomorrow. It's my therapy day. So, shoot, why not stay up late? (Because it's not good for your system that you're trying to bring back into balance.) Oh... right. Heh.

My foot is broken, I'm sure. The vibrations from the car make it hurt worse, and Janelle broke the same bone a few years ago and experienced the same puzzling symptoms. Hence, I go with my initial gut instinct and proclaim it a fracture. I will endeavor to procure crutches sometime this week, and avoid bearing weight on it (since it has only seemed to get worse, and not better, as the time passes by).

And, oh, yes! I have a Macbook Pro now, completely paid off, and mine, mine, all mine! I'm excited, because God totally confirmed to me this weekend the calling to school for social work, so I know that I'll be using this baby quite a bit. I ordered a Zagg-skin to protect my investment, which I'm also excited about receiving, because I customized it so that each surface displays a different picture. The top cover has a stunning photo of the Orion nebula in lots of pinks, the wrist rest has another picture of the Orion nebula (but with a blue hue), and the bottom will display the Vulpecula nebula in all its fiery glory!

Speaking of fiery glory, the fall foliage is absolutely stunning right now. I so thoroughly enjoyed my drive to and from Montana, just because of the fall leaves.

Okay. Seriously. I'm tired. Just delaying, is all. I wonder what I'll dream about tonight?


Safe and sound in Montana, staying with my dear friends. I think this weekend will be good for me... a break from the front lines, so to speak. I'm still trying to figure out this "healthy relationship/family" stuff. Talking with J helped me to put alot of stuff into perspective, though. I really need to sit down, think it through, and get it onto paper. It's not that my new family are bad people, it's just that I'm not used to dealing with family life in a healthy, appropriate manner, and there are still some bugs to be worked out. But this I do know: isolation and withdrawal never solves anything. So, once I work through this, I think it will be a very healing thing for us to talk it through as a family and walk through this together, arm in arm. (Oh, I hope it works out that way...)

Until then, I am glad for the respite of a spare bedroom. Boundaries, how am I confused by thee? Let me count the ways...

I just finished making a GF flatbread that looks pretty good. The proof, however, is in the pudding, so I must wait until tomorrow to find out how good it actually is. :-)

Also, I saw Dr. Ferril. He says he's proud of me, that I'm looking healthy, and to remember that this is a journey (much like the emotional/spiritual journey I'm on--he didn't say that, but I drew that conclusion myself... something I do on occasion.). So, playing with the levels of the different hormones is basically what's going to be happening for a while, and, as long as I'm strict on my allergies, my GI tract will continue to heal and better absorb the hormones and nutrients of my food, further increasing my healing. It's an upward spiral!! And thank goodness. I'm so thrilled to be seeing progress in my health. Interestingly, as I delve further into my past, and the decisions I've made (as well as the decisions that've been made about me), I can understand why my body broke down in such a way. It takes so much effort to live in denial, and my poor body was under so much stress with all my baggage! *Sigh* But all that is past, now. God is in control, and I am healing. Praise be.

Time to go play guitar.
God rather forcefully insisted that I go on a walk this afternoon... He wouldn't give me any peace about it. I put it off until late evening, just before the sun was beginning to go down. I was still in turmoil and distress... and I don't think I handled it right. I went back to an old, favored crutch of mine--ebay window-shopping. It distracted me enough to calm me.

Anyway, God took me on a walk, and down the driveway we went. I asked God, "What is this all about, anyway? I'm still freaking out. What do you want to tell me?"

I'm not sure if it's just my crazy head or not, but I'm pretty positive He answered me (not audibly, of course) and said, "I want to calm your fears."

I continued walking, and found one of my favorite treasures just beyond the first bend.

A feather, of course! And, like a flash, the verses I've been memorizing came into my mind:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High 

       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, 

       my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare 

       and from the deadly pestilence.

 He will cover you with his feathers, 

       and under his wings you will find refuge; 

       his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, 

       nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 

       nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, 

       ten thousand at your right hand, 

       but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes 

       and see the punishment of the wicked.

So anyway... I guess that storm has sorta blown over. Not that I necessarily feel any better, but... I believe that God means what He says. It is so dark... but so is the cocoon of a butterfly. It is dark under the wings of a bird. So I just have to hang on. Just hang on.

(Oh, and one more thing... I re-read my earlier post, and... I see progress. Really, I do. Yes, I'm shaken; yes, I'm desperate and despairing; yes, all these terrible things, but still, I see glimmers of hope there that I didn't know I had. That gives me yet more hope. Hope rising through stone--my stony heart.)
Okay, so not literally, but my insides feel very closely reminiscent of my poor sprained foot... Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes it doesn't, but there's always a low, nagging reminder that something's wrong... so I limp around, trying to be careful not to hurt myself again. You can't limp forever. Nor can you immobilize the offending member forever, or you'll atrophy. So what do I do? The three ingredients of healing: time, grace, and truth... which one am I lacking?

This emptiness that resounds within me, it echoes into my belly. I have no appetite in the morning, but as the day progresses, I get hollower and hollower... hungry at times, but never satisfied. Then? Then I overeat, but it still doesn't dampen the craving for more that curls coldly beneath my ribs. If I were at SOULS, they'd tell me to drink more water. So I will.

Was I happy before? I have been asking myself this question lately. I know that, once I found Jesus, I'm supposed to confess that my life before was all misery and emptiness and how unhappy I was, and now I'm so happy and fulfilled and overflowing that it's just the best thing ever and I don't know what I'd do if I hadn't met Jesus, except to crawl around on my belly being an unhappy heathen. Well, quite frankly... I can't say that. I want to cry when I think about this, but I don't think that I'm any happier now than I was before becoming a Christian. Why cry? I'm so disappointed! I mean, Jesus is supposed to make a difference, for crying out loud! So maybe I'm nicer. Maybe I eat healthier and drink more water. Maybe I know how to upsale now. But why am I still so lonely and unhappy?

Sure, there are bursts of happiness-- like fireworks in a dark sky. They are spectacular, but they don't last long. I'm looking for a bonfire, and all I can find is sparklers. Oooooh! Ahhhhh! And it's gone. I am plunged into darkness again. It never really left... But now I don't have to fake it as much.

As much. Is life about looking okay on the outside while you secretly struggle? Is that what Christianity is about?

Why am I even thinking about trying to help other people? If I have no hope to offer, then... what use can I be? I had hope, a week or two ago. I'm trying to remember what it was all about. Oh, right. I remember believing that God can change me, transform me, lift me up from the miry clay, so to speak. But it's SO SLOOOOOOOW! Great, so I don't manipulate people anymore. I'm still hurting!! I'm still empty inside! I'm still aching for something to fill this dark, roiling void within me!

And there is a voice whispering in my ear that says, "If you pray better, this will go away. If you read the Bible more consistently, this won't happen. You're hurting because you're not connected to God right. So do something. Fix it. 'Cause this is your fault."

And then my brain responds, "**** it. I don't care. If this is all I can expect, then Christianity can shove it."

And then my heart walks up and says, "(sniffle) It's okay, brain. This isn't all there is. Don't you remember how happy we were two weeks ago? I'm sure it will come again. It has to."

To which my brain responds, "Well, do we really have to endure such intense darkness in between happiness? This is exactly how it's been for the last 22 years! I was expecting something different, here."

My heart opens its mouth to respond, but then something unseen and mysterious leaps out of the darkness and runs my heart through with a sword, then dashes away unseen. My brain is left in shock to sort out this mess on its own... and becomes so overwhelmed that it shuts down and refuses to speak to me anymore.

I guess I'm just tired of hurting for no apparent reason. My life is still so unmanageable. My home, once my nourishment, has become my greatest stressor. The relational enjoyment I found so soothing now drains life from my bones. Is it me? Is it them? Is it a combination? What do I do? I'm so lonely, but my instinct is to withdraw, withdraw, withdraw. Preserve whatever strength you have left. Curl into the fetal position and weather the storm. Wait for the sun to come out. What do I do? I can't run away again. I won't leave.

God, I need you so desperately right now. I'm caught in a whirlpool that drags me down, down to the murky depths of I-know-not-what, I only know that the prospect fills me with terror. I don't want to let the darkness overcome me, yet I can't find my way to the light. I wander helplessly in a thin grey fog that obscures all traces of friendliness and warmth. God, where am I? Where are you? Don't let the adversary claim me as his. If I'm doing something wrong, then show me! But I don't know what to do, and I'm so very lonely. I can't see where to put my feet, and my hands are slipping. I'm hanging on to my life with just my fingertips, and I'm losing strength fast. Where do I turn? What do I do? What can stop this numbing pain from seeping into my very bones? I am so heavy, God. I am sinking. Lift me up, carry me away. I can't take this much longer. I don't want this to be my life. It's been too long, God, too long! 

I am living life over again, it seems. The same emotions, the same scenarios as my teen years... they come back to haunt me, almost. And yes, I recognize this sinking... I've gone through it a million times before. You think, by now, I'd know what to do.

I want a cigarette, but I know I don't really. I just want an anaesthetic for the pain... I want what used to come with it. Mom. Long talks. Friends. Laughter. C. All the things I used to run to that took the edge off... my drugs. My music. And now? Now I still have the same broken heart, but I have nothing to take away the pain. Must I undergo surgery awake?

No. Remember. Remember. Remember. God has not ordained this season of healing for your destruction. He's doing it to help you, not to torture you. Right.

God... help me. I could write it in my own blood on the wall. Help me. Please.
Save me from myself.
I don't know what to do.

    His gloves were off now. In a gesture expressive of his frustration he lifted his hand, its creases lined with little flecks of talcum powder, and impatiently flexed its fingers. Then he looked at them intently. Which one of them had performed that operation? The index finger, perhaps, or the thumb? He laughed aloud. Of course not. They were just instruments, tools of his mind. He could ask only one thing of them, that they be responsive, sensitive, obedient to his will. Just as God asked of him...
   "That's what I am," he thought with sudden clarity, "just a finger. Or perhaps a thumb."
    Frustration? Hardly! What more could any man ask of life than the knowledge that he was a finger or thumb among other fingers, and that the hand was the hand of God?

It's so easy to idealize something when you're looking at it from the vantage point of future tense. I had totally and completely idealized my backpacking excursion to the point where, in my head, the sun was shining, my "searching and fearless moral inventory" would flow from my heart effortlessly (and in a short, painless period of time), and I would come away refreshed and spiritually revitalized.

Well, the sun did shine... in patches. It had rained for the previous two days, which made the sand bar I camped on a little damp, clingy, and not as soft as I had anticipated. It worked out, though, because I took all the pine needles I gathered when I cleared around my fire ring and made a soft little carpet under my tent. It was a beautiful drive, and a nice brisk hike about two miles down the trail to my campsite.

I did experience a few frustrations, however, one of which was the campfire (or, should I say, the lack of a fire). I tried for hours to light this stupid fire, and I would get a small flame going, only to have it fizzle out despite my best efforts. Very frustrating indeed. Finally, I gave up and settled shiveringly down to my real reason for coming--Step 4 (cue dramatic music).

"We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. (Lamentations 3:40)

This falls under principle 4:
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. 
Happy are the pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)

So, that's what I headed into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to accomplish. I got about 1/3 of my inventory done-- all the negative stuff! But at least it's out, on paper... and someday soon, in the heart of my dear friend. How I loathe the thought of sharing those things with someone else... It's like inviting a friend over for a meal, then handing them a heaping plateful of last month's rancid compost. Yuck! But, anyway, she has agreed to this willingly, praise God. At least I don't have to hogtie her. That could be rather troublesome... especially if her family caught me. Outnumbered!! Hehe.... It would be like our waterfight night all over again!

Ahem, anyway, back to reality, reminiscing, and recounting. Well, I tired out about 7 o'clock, because the sun was down and, quite frankly, you can only focus on your defects for so many hours at a time. So, I bedded down for the night, and... woke up at midnight, too cold to sleep anymore. I have a real susceptibility to cold because of my hypothyroidism (even at 70 degrees, with socks on, my feet are too cold for comfort!), and it was 43 degrees when I went to bed, and falling. Despite my 3 pairs of socks and down sleeping bag, I was C.O.L.D.

I considered packing up and going home, but I knew that I didn't want to chance running into whatever creatures rule the trails by night out there... so I started to pray.
"God, I really want a fire. I know you can make one. You did it for Elijah. You're all about fire, for crying out loud! Can you please make me a campfire?"
I prayed for some time, claiming promises ("ask, and ye shall recieve", "ye have not because ye ask not" etc.), and searching my heart to see if anything was between me and God, to make me unsafe to bless. Then, I heard a faint crackling sound. I held my breath and strained to listen, my expectation battling with my unreasonable fear that it might be a bear or wolf coming 'round for a midnight snack. I sat up and looked outside, and what do you think I saw?

A cold, empty firepit.

Not to be deterred, I lay back down (realizing that the crackling was my sleeping bag) and resumed praying with a vengeance. Time passed. I managed to contort one foot around to the back of a knee and warm it between my gloved hands enough to drift off to sleep, much to my surprise. I dreamed about the underground house churches in China, but when I startled awake, I began praying again. Dozing off and on, and praying in between times, I periodically checked the firepit, only to find it empty every time.

I couldn't understand. I was claiming promises. I had searched my heart. I was doing everything "right". Shouldn't there be a happy, crackling fire by now? God, why won't you answer me?

Then, God spoke to my heart. "Cassandra, will you still trust me if you don't get a campfire?"

What kind of question is that? I mean, I'm doing everything right, and you still won't give me a fire? That's kind of lame, don't you think? If I can't rely on you in this small thing, what about when I'm faced with that ravening bear I read about? If you won't give me a simple fire, how can I believe Psalm 91?

"Will you still trust me?"

Yikes. This isn't fair, Lord.


Yes. Okay. I'm disappointed, but I will still trust you.

I would love to say that, after I decided this, my campfire roared to life... but it didn't. I still expected to see a fire when I woke up, but nope. No fire. But I still trust God... which was an important step for this healing process I'm in. Even if things don't go the way I would really, really like them to, will I still trust God? Apparently, my answer is yes. :)

I woke early, broke camp hurriedly (and quite shiveringly) and was halfway down the trail by the time the sun came over the mountain. I finally got warm as I hiked out, but not warm enough to keep me from cranking up the heater when I got back to the car.

So, now I know I can do hard things. That trip was a challenge, due to my fear, my dislike of solitude, and my limited survival skills... and the cold, which I detest. But I did it. I survived, I triumphed, and I also learned that I will probably not enjoy winter camping!

Going camping

Spent the last week being so busy... and last evening at a birthday party. They played music that I used to be accustomed to, but after 5 hours of hip hop and rap, I was SO ready for silence. Much the same, my soul is ready for the silence of the forest and the river, of the stars and the wind and God. I can't wait.
"Are you even there??? I need you! God, can you hear me?!"

Bitter tears washed down my cheeks in great swaths, much the way a flash flood races across the dry desert floor. I stared through my window at the stars, trying to see past them to where God was, heaving sobs racking my body. I gasped for breath and curled into a tight ball. It was no use. I couldn't see past the stars. I couldn't hear God's voice at all, and thick darkness choked me as I groped for any shred of comfort. Then, I remembered--my treasure chest, containing the "feast" I had set aside for just a time such as this. Stumbling across the room, I retrieved a lone cd from the bottom of the chest and slipped it into the cd player. The cd only had one song on it, so I pressed the "repeat" button and listen to the melody rise and fall, over and over and over again. Gradually, as I listened, my tense muscles relaxed, and I drifted off into sleep, remembering that God had given me this "hug" many moons before, for just a night as this. God heard me. I could sleep again.

Why this gross darkness? C's mom came to visit. She is a sweet woman, from all appearances, but the family, who knows her better than I, assured me that it was a facade, a pretense. She lives in a fantasy world of denial, and selfishly manipulates others to maintain her own happiness. (They didn't say this in those exact words, of course... but they told me stories.) And it's not just that, it's that she refuses to acknowledge it, to own her part in the dysfunction of her family. Rather, she casts the blame on others, seeking to free herself from responsibility. 

She was sweet to me, but as I watched and listened, I saw some signs of what the family talked about. And, as they described her manipulative ways with sorrow and displeasure, I realized... that's me. I do the exact same things. I am manipulative. There. I said it. And here the family is expressing their dislike of these characteristics, not realizing that they have a serpent in their midst. Just, just, just before this (as in a day or two), I realized that I manipulate guys to make myself feel better, to have some sort of power, as an ego prop of sorts. This hit me hard, because I've operated this way my whole life. I can remember thinking this way before I even hit double digits. If I could just make a guy look my way, then I had succeeded. If I got a wolf whistle, why, even better. The goal was to see how attractive I could be, how many looks, stares, and approaches I could get. Fortunately, I also possess(ed) a natural sense of modesty, otherwise I could have turned into quite the hoochie-mama. And now, in my adult years... I like(d) to have guys like me. And, subtly but surely, I would do certain things, act certain ways, say certain things to push and pull them in just the right way so that they would "fall for my charms" while allowing me to play the part of the innocent bystander. "Oh, I can't believe so-and-so likes me. How terrible! How in the world can I thwart this?" (In my mind: "Good. I'm glad. How can I keep him like this?) Something about knowing that I could "have" that guy gave me the power...

So now, I am learning how to relate to guys from the ground up. "This is my brother in Christ. How can I honor him and his future wife? (Who is not me!!)" (And I got a chance to practice this that very weekend! How fortuitous ^_^)

Today, J and I talked about a great deal. I realized some things...
  • I'm a recovering addict, but it's not substances I abused.
  • I'm a manipulator, not just in romantic relationships, but in all relationships. Canvassing did not help.
So, unbelievably... C was my drug. He was the "next thing" that I could always escape to. When we moved in together, suddenly my escape was my reality. How do you escape from your escape? Simple--go visit the family you escaped from! And then, I escaped to SOULS... which I escaped from by going back to C whenever possible. What kind of craziness is this?! Talk about being out of control. 

God, grant me the serenity to... live one day at a time, enjoy one moment at a time, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will...

And I have made the conscious decision not to be a manipulator anymore. I want to be straight-up and forthright in my relationships. I want to honor God with all aspects of my life.

A beautiful and amazing realization came to me, which is that my life changed this week. I will never be the same again. Talk about mileposts, this is a big one!

In addition, I saw 2 things today, one of which I haven't seen for a long time, and the other I can't really recall seeing before.
1.) Progress. Praise be. Seeing God at work is incredible. It is this that leads to...
2.) Hope. I see it, and it's beautiful. God did not ordain this period of "chrysalis" for my destruction, to strike me down. No! He meant it for my good, to build me up, to strengthen and nourish me! I do feel like a gemstone in the rough, except that now, I see one shining facet--healthy relationships. (Actually, I'm beginning to tear up. Healthy relationships is something I've wanted for a very, very, very long time, and to be able to hold this hope to my heart and feel it's warmth, well... it's almost overwhelming. To love and be loved in a wholesome fashion is a coveted experience, and I am one step closer.)

Oh, so much, so much. All I can say is, "Praise God. I am so very tired now." Hah. Emotions will do that to you.

Coming soon to a person near you: Searching and Fearless  Moral Inventory. *gulp*
Although I'm glad to have an excuse to spend a day out on the Selway, I am leery of further revelations of my "sterling character". Heh.

My bread is finally done. Time for sleep. Glory glory hallelujah!
I remember... Summer of 2009, sitting in a sanctuary in Lake Orion, Michigan. Sebastien had just given a worship on our theme for the summer, "For Such A Time As This". He made a call to stand if we were willing to follow God, no matter what, even if it meant death, and... I stood. I meant it, too.

And now, God has brought me to this place, for such a time as this? Yes, it is death. Death of my coping mechanisms, my selfish survival tactics, my determined yet subconscious avoidance... Death. For such a time as this. Hmm.

Had a few interesting thoughts/experiences today that I need to record for posterity's sake (otherwise I'll lose them). I was picking strawberries, thinking about the sermon I'd recently given entitled, "All Strawberries Go To Heaven", and I was daydreaming about raising my own strawberries someday. Well, the thought actually brought a few twinges of panic, because trying something new inevitably opens the door to a risk of failure... and I hate failure. I instinctively shy away from the mere possibility. And then it hit me... knowing alot about strawberries and actually growing them are two different things. Similarily (sic), knowing alot about theology or present truth or what the seven trumpets actually said is different from an actual Christian walk. And, when I mentioned this thoughtlet to D, he brought out the point that you really have to just try it. You may stumble, you may fall, your berries may not grow right (right now, we have a little "cat face" going on in some of our beds--a deficiency in boron, apparently), but you get up, dust off, adjust, and keep going. That's what following Christ is like. That alternately relieves and frightens me, because a.) that means that God will not abandon me if I'm not perfect the first time around, b.) it takes away the mask and makes it "real". I mean, this is no cartoon, no masquerade ball. This is real life-- trying, tripping, getting up again and asking God to heal the scrapes (or put in stitches... or do surgery, as the case may be)... I guess. Not that I would know from experience yet, really... but I do anticipate taking these things to heart for myself. I guess that's why we need to "walk humbly" with God (Micah 6:8), because that way we won't have far to fall. :)

Second thing. I was driving to Farmer's Market this afternoon, the instruments safely nestled down into the back floorboards, a glorious bouquet chaperoning me from the passenger seat, and the strawberries happily ensconced in my trunk. I was singing, of course, and also thinking, and praying a little. "I want to be connected to you, but I don't know how right now... I'm just... befuddled by darkness." The song "In Christ Alone" came on, and I sang along without thinking. Then, like a flash, one of the verses cut through my mental fog and hit me right in the smackaroo.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me,
For I am His, and He is mine--
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

It occurred to me-- Jesus already defeated the darkness! He didn't just rot in the ground, he came back to life. If he can beat the darkness once, he can surely defy the darkness in my life. I know he can. I believe he can. What's more, I believe he will.

Third thing: Stop judging people by appearances, Cassandra. You can't know what they're thinking. Jessica, Heather, Mark, and Amber were really nice people, just like you were hoping they would be. Maybe you all can be friends? Anyway, it's not your place to judge them, remember that. And it doesn't matter if you don't look like that anymore. Don't stereotype yourself either, woman!

Oh, and I've been taking lots of pictures in the garden. *sigh* I love photography. While the fam is gone, I have the responsibility of picking produce, which makes me nervous... I don't want to pick the wrong thing, or mess anything up. I am still learning what everything is! But I do know that zucchini is by the rhubarb (if I can find that!), that berries need picking (which I already know how to do), and that tomatoes can be picked as well. I can probably get some tomatillos in as well. I also have left over produce from market today to sell. It's going to be a busy week. How glad I am for the bounty of the earth!


I have the key of promise 'round my neck.
I have a new cd to lull my heart into quietude.

Rest for my soul, Lord. That's all I want.

Perfect by nature, icons of self indulgence
Just what we all need, more lies about a world that

Never was and never will be
Have you no shame? Don't you see me?
You know you've got everybody fooled.

Look, here she comes now, bow down and stare in wonder
Oh, how we love you, no flaws when you're pretending
But now I know she never was and never will be
You don't know how you've betrayed me
And somehow you've got everybody fooled.

Without the mask, where will you hide?
Can't find yourself lost in your lies.
I know the truth now, I know who you are,
And I don't love you anymore.

It never was and never will be,
You don't know how you've betrayed me
And somehow you've got everybody fooled

It never was and never will be,
You're not real and you can't save me
And somehow now you're everybody's fool.

Wake me up inside.
I can't wake up.
Wake me up inside.
Save me.
Call my name and save me from the dark.
Wake me up.
Bid my blood to run.
I can't wake up.
Before I come undone.
Save me.
Save me from the nothing I've become.

Let Me Fly Freely

Clink, clink. Squeak. Slam. Whatever sound an engine turning over makes. Ca-chunk.

My keys clink against the side of my purse as I make my way to the garage, intent on one thing only-- I must not be late. The door squeaks slightly as it opens, and slams satisfyingly shut, assuring me that it will not open in mid-drive (an small, albeit unreasonable fear of mine). The key turns smoothly and Shenandoah wakes from her idle sleep. Ca-chunk. The transmission falls into gear, and together we roll backward, out of the mellow warmth of the dim garage, into the bright light of the afternoon.

The rutted gravel driveway jerks and shakes me, but I am not deterred by such a small inconvenience, and it soon gives way to a smooth carpet of asphalt. I must not be late. Even the rich tapestry of blossoming fall colors cannot entice me to stop and marvel at the soft yellow that gently dusts the foliage about me. The wind sighs and hisses through my partially open windows, tousling my curls and muting the music that I near-obsessively surround myself with. Reaching for the volume, I sing along without thinking, falling into harmonies long since learned, my mind in another place and time.

I drift back to the past, to childhood memories, and I try to recreate my life as it was. Why are there so many holes in my memory? I can't say. I also cannot say whether things were as happy as I perceived them to be. The full man hates the thought of food, but to a starving person, every bitter thing is sweet.

My mind wanders forward, to the near future, and my mind begins to methodically and compulsively sort the coming week. That provides little challenge, for I have traveled this mental road a thousand times, and I know the waymarks well. My thoughts turn to finances, and I again sort and plot, until I realized I have stopped singing.

Click. Buzz. A new cd. Maybe that will help me focus on the task at hand--the road beneath my humming tires. After all, I must not be late, and if I do not pay attention, I may hit a deer, another driver, a skunk... the possibilities are endless.

Late? Late for what? Any number of things. And, usually, I make it by the skin of my teeth...or maybe not. But it is when I drive that I really have time to think. The only problem is, my thoughts are so jumbled and circular, it really goes better when I have someone to talk to. I come to so many realizations when I am talking to someone, rather than just thinking it out on my own. Or, say, when I have a blog to type away on. If only I could regurgitate my thoughts out onto a page of paper, then sort of stir them around until they make sense... a surgery of sorts.

Why, why, WHY do I continually feel as though life is too much for me to handle? No matter what insignificant fragment I whittle my life down to, I can hardly bear it. Is it me? Or am I really doing "too much"? Am I depressed? Quite possibly. What do I have to be depressed about? Nothing. Yet I know that these thoughts and feelings and this tiredness and overwhelmedness have a root somewhere. I am not a mental hypochondriac, but I know that every symptom has a root, even if it's not what we might expect.

Can I just quit my life for a week or so? Just bow out of every commitment I've made and learn to simply exist? Maybe I could go camping for a week. That would be amazing. You know, I just might do that. I mean, why not? There are lots of places around here that are ripe for the (temporary) settling. It doesn't even have to be in the remote wilderness. Just a campground somewhere will do. Probably car camping. I'm still a novice when it comes to backpacking. Also, since I'd be by myself, I ought to be somewhere near people, in case anything goes wrong.

BAM! There goes my imaginary fist into a fictitious wall. I feel like I'm out of control. I also find this situation slightly amusing, since one of the ways to "control" my life is to schedule it into oblivion, and when I accomplish that schedule, I am a good person. I have achieved. I have not failed. I am worth... something. And yet, the more I schedule, the more I fall apart. A suspension bridge of glass am I. The tension holds me up, yet at any moment threatens to shatter me and send the pieces hurtling into the chasm below. The chasm where Failure lives, with his roommate Resentment, along with their freeloading cousins Pain, Humiliation, Insecurity, and Isolation. Also, I have reason to believe that G lived there at one point in time. It might just be his vacation home. Or his birthplace. I'm not sure which.

And don't you think, hypothetical person who is in reality not hypothetical at all but who I choose not to name for the sake of the greater good, that I would enjoy this good thing that you are well-meaningly pressuring me into? Yes, it is good! Yes, I see this! Yes, I want to support you! But I can't. Or won't. I'm not sure about that one, either. But all I know is that, if I don't take some steps to guard what little emotional sanity I have left, I may not be around for much longer to take part in said good activity anyway. My body may be here, but my mind and my heart will be lying in a sepulcher of my own craftsmanship.

Blub, glub, splutter... the sound my mind makes as it is drowning in my personal sea of apathy. And yet, it is not entirely apathy, because I do care, and I want to care, and I want to just... be better. Be whole. Be a better person that people can rely on, who doesn't dread the commitments she so enthusiastically espouses. Bah. I am a brussel sprout. Stinky. Aphid infested. Immobile. But, when cooked the right way, maybe I, too, can be delicious and nutritious.

I don't know how to say all that I want to say. I desire a cleansing of the heart, a purging of the mind. I thought that blogging would help, and it has... some. Infinitesimally. Well, slightly more than that. Not as much as I had hoped. In the past, I would have gone and done something... gone with C to a movie, or to a friend's house, or... something, anything to gloss over this infernal restlessness. But now? Now, I have nothing. My coping mechanisms have been stripped away, and I find myself yearning for I-know-not-what, and I have no idea how to achieve that blessed peace that has so long eluded me.

Maybe another cup of tea? I doubt it.

Oh Jesus, help me now. This is one of those times, and I don't know what to do. Give me peace, Lord, give me peace.