Ghosts in my Head

To take off from the last post… I went away and thought about it.

As I’m (finally) embracing my life-long dream of becoming an image consultant, suddenly I don’t feel a need to read books about finding yourself.  (Still reading books about going places and the wilderness).

D’you guys have any idea the amount of guilt I have laid on myself for taking up such a frivolous occupation as image consultant?

Let’s ignore the intellectual response, that I’m very good at what I (will) do, and that image consulting gives me an opportunity to meet and spend time with more people, which means I’ll have more opportunities to be Christ to more lives.  That there’s nothing intrinsically sinful about image consulting.  That this is my gift, and that beauty is important.  My spiritual gifts are counsel and exhortation… are you kidding me?  This is so right up my alley it’s not even funny.  I am going to bless people’s socks off.  (God willing.  :) )

Let’s talk viscera, and guilt.  I can find introspection in a bowl of soup, and I can find guilt in birdsong.   I swallow shoulds for breakfast.

I have always wanted to have a stereotypical crunchy Christian life.   Had I had the opportunity, I would have dived in.  And oh, my dear readers… I would have been a self-righteous piece of work if I’d been allowed to be.   The blockades to my fantasy life have come over and over and over.  And I feel guilty for letting the side down.  For letting “them” down, like there’s some committee somewhere that tells you what “real Christian women” ought to be doing with themselves.

I like digging and making compost piles and singing off key and dressing modestly and not worrying about my skin care regime.    I make a darn fine apple pie, too, and yes – I can render fat and operate a meat grinder and do basic wound care (I turn a bit green, but I can do it).   Obviously, I can sew.

But that’s not my life.  Not my opportunity.  And I need to let that go, finally and totally.  Yeah, maybe my husband will get a job someday in Idaho (or Tennessee😉 )but probably not.   Maybe someday we’ll retire there.  But retirement is a long, long time away, and it’s time for me to move into being a different kind of helpmeet for my husband.  The kind, btw, that he’d always planned for me to be… now that our kids are older.  (While I’m addressing the Imaginary Greek Chorus, please note that I was told that we’d have two kids while we were still in HS, so you may take my fertility up with my husband, not me).

You know, it’s not evil to want to bless my husband’s socks off by bringing in some cash…

Beating myself up because the Greek chorus of “shoulds” in the back of my head doesn’t think that being an image consultant in SoCal is explicitly “Christian” enough is a waste of my energy and of whatever years God has given me on this earth.  I’m being a poor steward, and allowing condemnation the place of conviction.

So help me out – if any of  you want to tell me this is unScriptural, say it out loud and proud so I don’t have to look behind my back.  I’m pretty sure what’s back there is just ghosts… but if I’m wrong, come ’round where I can see you, okay?  :D  (I know I’m silly.  This is usually where my husband pats me on my head and tells me that I’m a gooood gurururl).

Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets to tell me how to live my life but God and my husband.  Maybe it’s time I listened to myself when I say that… instead of listening to the ghosts in my head.

The hungers that shape us

Hunger shapes us and we shape it.

Elspeth has been having a good chat about what books we don’t read, and why.

First, why do you read?  What hunger inside you is fed by words on a page?  (There are probably several).

When we talk about watching what we and our children read, I think back to my misspent youth and those hungers and the books the hungers found, and the books that fed new hungers.  After the waves of inappropriate reading receded (largely because I had a life, I wasn’t hunger incarnate, aka a young teenager), I would reliably read the same sort of book… until quite recently, which has made my reading habits a bit confused.

Mostly I read books about finding yourself and having adventures, with some romance thrown in the bargain.  There seems to be a never-ending pile of books for that!   I never could get hooked on romance minus adventure – my hunger included the hunger of doing things.  Adventure minus romance was sometimes okay, sometimes not.  (One of the things I read for is to immerse myself, so if I don’t like the protagonist, or there’s no getting into his/her head, forget it.  I’ll skip the pure plot works, thanks).   Since I live in the books, happy endings are mandatory.

Finding yourself… doing things… finding love…

All of that is still fine, but the books I want to read have established characters, who know who they are but are finding new things out about themselves or the world.  Not nearly as many books about *that*.  (Especially with characters I can bear to have live in my head).   And I have found out that I really enjoy a good travelogue.  Observing the world around you and finding out new things about it.  I’m still going places in my imagination… I just don’t have to have dragons to slay.  A journey will suffice.   I hunger for adventure, and for the wild.

Good, true, observations please me now.  I just started this book, and this paragraph describes how I substitute the beach for true wilderness, even though the author is speaking of beaches on the other side of the globe.

The sea defines us, connects us, separates us.  Most of us experience only its edges, our available wilderness on a crowded island – it’s why we call our coastal towns ‘resorts’, despite their air of decay.   And although it seems constant, it is never the same.  One day the shore will be swept clean, the next covered by weed, the shingle itself rises and falls.  Perpetually renewing and destroying, the sea proposes a beginning and an ending, an alternative to our landlocked state, an existence to which we are tethered when we might rather be set free.  (The Sea Inside – Philip Hoare)

So.  When I find books that give me truth, I cherish them.  When I read books that entertain me and give me an afternoon away from myself, I enjoy them.  When I find that the book that I’ve enjoyed has slipped behind my back and fed a hunger that hurts me in some way, I remove it from my life.  And those books that I know will feed hungers or moods that harm me, I never pick up.

Feeding yourself, whether it be food or drink or words, should be a matter of honesty with oneself.

I am the richest woman in the world

… well, at least in the way I count riches.  And I suffer from survivor guilt.   I don’t deserve my life.  I am unable to give back properly, however I try.

We’ve been talking about how our myths are shaped by our realities (and vice versa).  My reality is amazing.   I have always been surrounded by agape love.    My given name even means “beloved”.   I can honestly say that I take love for granted.   I can force my brain to consider other possibilities, but frankly I assume that you’re going to be kind to me, just because that’s how people are.

When I had my reality crashed into… when I found out that real people that I knew and loved, not just people in books, had dealt with the unimaginable… that messed with me.  How do *I* deserve to have a good life?  I don’t.  I didn’t do anything.  God chose me for this.  Why?

Speaking of being raised a certain way… I was raised so if your loved ones are hungry and you’re full, you share.  I can’t share my assumptions.  I can’t share my past.  I can share my love – I can love on as many people as come into my circle, but it never feels like enough.  It can never be enough.  My little bit can never offset my riches.  It’s impossible for me to share, and it makes me crazy sometimes.  I scramble around, frantic, trying to do enough, to somehow pour the joy and love inside of me into the people around me.  And I fail.

They call this survivor guilt, I’m told.  I don’t have some weird need to have been hurt – thanks, but no thanks.  I’ve got a few scars, don’t want any more.  But there’s no end to the need, I feel like one woman against an ocean… All my post-childhood experience has done is show me the extent of the need.

But they don’t need me.  They need Jesus.  Eh.  That’s true but pat.  Of course they need Jesus.  But aren’t we called to love our neighbor as ourselves, and is not love the sign of the Christian in truth?  What about the parable of the talents?  Yes, Hearthie will be doing some praying tonight, that’s for sure.

 

I go back and forth with the deepening of the darkness around us.  On the one hand, hypocrisy is nasty – at least now we can’t deny that our society is desperately ill.  On the other, the pretense of goodness gave a scaffolding for goodness in truth to grow unhampered.  (Conversations relevant:  https://terrysbookobsession.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/els-rabbit-trails-delicious-is-down-edition/#comments  http://buchanan.org/blog/if-god-is-dead-125152)

The ruins of our society mean that far more children are left in abject emotional and spiritual poverty.  They grow up going after the things of the now, the sparkle-pretties, because the incredible riches of love have never been communicated to them.  Sadly, it’s easy to learn to love sparkle-pretties and live for ourselves and the now, but it’s very hard to learn to live for eternity and value the people around us, and trust that they will value us in turn.

Our society has changed its assumptions.  Once upon a time, everyone pretended that they had loving families, even when they didn’t.  Everyone pretended that they’d fight for good, even if they wouldn’t.  And we all wanted to be the white hats.  That’s changed.    I know that there are people who feel like they can only trust the things they can put their hands on.  So many lies in their lives, how can they have a shield of faith?

Where does this lead the conversations we’ve been having about myths and realities?  Well, my myth is pretty nice.  Everything will always work out, and strangers will always help if you really need help.  You get up and fight as hard as you can for the cause of good, because that’s what you do.  What else would you do?  Dragons are out there, waiting to be slayed.  You’ll get knocked down but never out.  Oh wow, there are a lot of dragons.  Well, … best get busy then.  I’m a paladin at heart, I suppose.  But aren’t all my readers just the same?  I mean… right?  -sigh-

Bit of a tangled post, but it all wanted out.  Discuss.

 

Myths and Realities… what’s important to you?

Elspeth put up a video where two men are talking to a third man about their experiences of reality – about women of various races, and their priorities.  It called to mind some friends of mine who lived really awful childhoods and the girls from FACESS that I’ve interacted with.

The gentleman in question observed that black women asked for sparkles and that white women asked for assistance.   I thought about those women (none of whom are black) that I know who had rotten childhoods, all of whom prioritize presents very highly.

See, to me – if I don’t know you, don’t have a relationship with you, a present doesn’t mean anything.   I am that girl that will give you all the presents you gave her over a dating relationship back at the end of that relationship, or at least whatever I could find in the course of the hour that I spent thinking about it.   I wouldn’t want them without the relationship.   I would feel a chain of obligation – and I’m not about to be chained to anyone after the gig is up.  (There is actually an old etiquette rule that a lady never accepts expensive gifts from a gentleman to whom she is not related, engaged, or married.  The book suggests books or gloves as good courtship presents – gloves might be a bit odd today, perhaps a scarf?)

But why is that?  What is the difference?  Well, in my reality, in my myth… you can trust people.  Your friends and beloveds exist to help you in a mutual net of assistance and obligation.  Yes, I’ll bake you a cake for your birthday.  Whatever my skills are, are of COURSE at your service if you’re my friend/relative.  That’s simply the way things are.  And I would expect the same of you – though I’d try not to ask, because I hate to feel beholden.

In the reality that those other women grew up with, people weren’t trustworthy.  Friendship was just a word, and love may as well have been an epithet.  Sparkle-pretties, on the other hand, were forever.  You get what you can from other people.  There is no net, there is no future, there is only now.

There is no net, there is no future, there is only now.  There is only me.  There is only what I can get for myself.  Trust no one.  I can write those words, and I can shove my brain into intellectually understanding them.  But that is not my reality, and not my set of assumptions.

Which reality is real?  Both.  Let’s be honest – some people live terrible lives in which there is no such thing as trust.  And I trust easily for equally good reasons, based on my own experiences.  BUT.  How do we then shape the rest of our lives?  How do we act?  What choices do we make, going forward?

Your myths can shape your future, as your actions and attitudes shape the way you respond to the people around you, and how they, in turn, respond to you.  Expectations are shaped, and it may be pat and annoying – but it is true that expectations are often realized.

Just sharing my thinking… what does this make you think about?

The power of myth

Myths come in two forms – societal myths that we absorb as part of growing up within a culture, and personal myths – the things we tell ourselves to get through the day.

Both sorts are so sneaky that it’s hard to drag them out into the light to have a look, to see if they reflect truth, if they contribute to good, or if they’re lies that lead to death.  A good myth will stay on the downlow – a great myth will masquerade as truth, never to be questioned.

And the mythos changes, often without being noticed.  My assumptions about reality aren’t the same assumptions that a 20yo has, we grew up with different societal myths.  My assumptions about reality aren’t the same as my friends from broken homes, because I grew up assuming love as constant.

There’s no way I can cram all the thoughts I have about myths into one blog, but I’ve been thinking about how the ways in which we think, the assumptions we embrace, shape us.

When we make an assumption about reality, we base our choices on that assumption.  We take action based on that assumption.  We infect others with our assumption.

How does this related to Christianity?

Well – we’re encouraged to pray without ceasing, to ask God for things like a child asks his father, in simplicity and trust.  If, in fact, we relate to God as a good Father, this is relatively easy.    If our earthly father wasn’t trustworthy or not in our lives, trust is more difficult.  If we think of ourselves primarily as filthy sinners rather than adopted children (however unworthy) then we could find ourselves ashamed to ask at all.

This is why it is so important to search out truth.  This is why it is so important that truth is Truth, objective and reliable.    Truth is the rock upon which we stand.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

A myth can be a metaphor for Truth, a way to hold the truth in our minds and hearts, to help us understand.  A myth can lead us away from the truth.  Myths are amoral.  And myths are personal.  You hear people say, “My truth”  “His truth” “Her truth” – it would be more accurate to say, “the myth that shapes …”.  Truth cannot be shaped by the individual, truth simply is.  Gravity isn’t part of “my truth” and not part of yours, or babies would be floating into the skies every day.

Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

This is why searching the Scriptures is so important to the life of a Christian.  We know that the Bible is Truth.  We must test our myths against the Word.  We must challenge the prevailing societal myths with Truth, and in the places where society’s myths are lies, we must stand firm with Truth, repeating it, reminding ourselves of what is real, because societal myths are insidious and very strong.  Real effort is required to overcome.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

This too is where the fellowship of the brethren is beneficial.   Search, pray, know, trust, rest.   Truth belongs to all of us.

Striving and not

I’ve been pretty straight with y’all that striving and grasping are two of my major areas of sin/temptation.  I’m forever trying to go things alone, to stride forth in my own strength, and yelling at myself when I’m not on schedule (preferably ahead-of-schedule) with reaching my goals.

I set pretty high personal goals this year.  And then I cc’d my pastor (well, he did ask), so I feel super accountable to be making progress all the time.

Guess it was time for a little attitude adjustment.  I spent half of February and a good chunk of March sick as a dog.   Too sick to work out.  Too sick to think or write most of the time.  Just floppy.  And I was going *insane*.  Not only does it bug me when I can’t think or move, I wasn’t making any progress!  I was letting my people at the gym down!  I couldn’t possibly make my goals if I DIDN’T WORK!

But I didn’t get where I am on my own.  I didn’t find crossfit on my own – why am I going crazy ’cause I’m not training?   Why am I driving myself insane ’cause … well.  Why?

Because I’m all about doing things on my own.

Is that how I’m supposed to live, in my own strength?  Oh, that’s prideful.

I see this when I counsel.  If I pray before I counsel, the words come.  Sometimes some very specific words come (that’s word-of-wisdom) and there’s a pressure to say those words very much like the pressure of being under conviction of sin.  It would be a sin not to say whatever it is that I need to say.   And folks come back and say, “this really helped” and I’m thinking, “Oh yeah, but that soooo wasn’t me, I didn’t even want to say that”.

And that’s good.  I like that.  But I’m such a dork.  Even when I’m having awesome counsel, I can’t just *shut up* and stop talking when I’m not given words.  Because I have to add stuff to be relateable (this is tots my worst counselling sin) or fill the silence or … just “have I said enough”?   And then I worry that I said the wrong thing… because I was leaning on ME.

To whom much has been given, much is required.  And I want to do well.  I want to do stuff.  Lots of stuff.  I *like* striving.

But it’s not my gig.  Strive in the moment, when I’m given the job to do?  Yes.  Plan the week ahead with more work than five women could do?  No.

The lesson to learn is to respond to God, to respond to the opportunities that He has given me.  And boy howdy has He set opportunities to reach even the most microscopic of my goals in front of me lately.  BUT – I’m not supposed to hunt, stalk, and pounce those opportunities for myself.

Does that make sense?  To accept the gift when it is given, to take the step that is in front of me, to say the word that’s on my lips, to pray as I’m directed… but not to grasp or strive for any of that, just to rest in the Lord.  Not very Western thinking.

Talk to me.

Why this isn’t a “how to wife” blog

  1. Because my gifts are encouragement and counsel, not teaching.  This blog is all about the exhortation.
  2. It’s been done.  Done well.  I don’t think I have anything new to contribute to the voices of good wives elsewhere.
  3. It doesn’t interest me en masse.  If you want helpful hints, ask.

And the big one – if your vertical relationship with God is right and tight, then all you need is tools and instruction, and your horizontal relationships will be as good as your efforts can manage.    Because if you love God, then you’re obeying Him, and you’re loving (agape) your fellow believer, which would include your spouse.   You might need some practical hints, but you’re willing to do the work, whatever it is, to be rightly related to them and thus obedient to God.

I don’t have anything NEW to say about wifing.  Mostly my advice boils down to “don’t be a brat”.  Only because I don’t swear, or it would be a different word that starts with b.  Honor your commitments to God in how you honor your commitment to your husband.  If you really take that concept and run with it – maybe you need a practical hint (use the hammer, not the screwdriver!) but you won’t need much to get and stay sorted.

And that’s *when* my marriage went from troubled to tight.  When I really got obedient to God, when I got that vertical relationship right… everything else (eventually, sometimes painfully) fell into place.

I’m happy to give you advice if you need some tools.   But if you aren’t right with God, if you don’t really want to obey Him and do right by your husband, I can’t help you.  Not that I *won’t* – I can’t.  I’ve come across some awesome tools in my day.  But they’re just tools.

I read “good wife” stuff from time to time.  I read guys’ blogs from time to time.  It’s all about maintenance and getting fresh ideas and reminded about stuff I’d rather  forget.  I appreciate the art, I just don’t participate.  Not my gig.

I’d rather encourage you to have an awesome relationship with God.  And just babble about whatever theological tangle comes to mind, hoping that folks will come and comment and help me untangle myself or peel me off the ceiling, as appropriate.   This is meant as a mixed sex blog.   Y’all just come and hang out and talk.  Argue with me or agree with me or show me a facet that I’ve missed or … whatevs.  Iron sharpeneth iron.  Throw coconut cream pies at me for all I care.  We’re family here.

Anyway.  That’s why this isn’t another wife blog.