3 small steps

Three survival tools will help you in your battle against agoraphobia. The first is taking that first step. The second is taking that first step. And the third… is taking that first step.

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I wrote this in response to this weeks Trifecta challenge. We were supposed to use this quote by Henry James as a guide. 

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
–Henry James

There were a few things that I wanted to write about, but this one seemed the most important.  Agoraphobia is a lonely existence.  Being the caretaker of an agoraphobic is hard, not because of the work of having to do everything outside the home, but because you watch your loved one suffer in the prison of their mind.  You think an agoraphobic doesn’t want to go outside? Doesn’t want to go to a doctor for help? Doesn’t want to open the blinds? Doesn’t want to go back to their job? Doesn’t want to share a trip downtown with their family to run some mindless errand?

It’s all they think about, when they watch you go out the door….

‘Lead Me’

I first heard this song in 2010. I was in a marriage that left me broken and used. The song convicted me, because I wanted so much for my husband to be a godly partner and father, to be someone who I could freely love and worship God with. I prayed for this for 17 years. It didn’t happen. After years of threats, battering, and manipulation, that marriage finally fell apart in 2011. My worst fear came true and I lost my children, but  God knew what would happen, even when no one else did, and like the ever-watchful Guardian, He’s been there since the beginning.

Two years ago, after my failed marriage, when my world was completely turned upside down, God saved me when I was drowning in sorrow.  He reunited me with my childhood friend Adam.  Adam helped my soul heal.  He didn’t know it, but he was God’s instrument.

Instrument…. that has more than one meaning to Adam.  Adam is a lifetime musician.  Since he was old enough to hold an instrument, he’s played…whatever he can get his hands on. You leave him alone with it for ten minutes and he figures it out. Well, God has left me alone with him for two years  🙂  Over 24 months I’ve seen him grow from out of his own shell, and release emotional pain that has manifested physically.  I’ve watched him survive a stroke and rebuild himself slowly, and have been extremely blessed to watch as he accepted Christ and became a baptized believer, with the conviction of a knight.  My heart was renewed that day.

The Bible says in 1st Peter 3:1, Wife, be subject to your own husband, so that even if he does not obey the word, he may be won without a word by your conduct.  My grandmother told me that verse when I was in my mid-20′s. I was newly married at the time to my (now ex) husband, and I had asked her what to do, a little bit desperate, because my husband was not Christian.  We didn’t share the same beliefs about God.  Very clearly, the Bible gave instruction. I prayed every day during our marriage (which lasted from 1995-2011), for him to be baptized, for him to share time with me reading the Bible at home everyday.  He was jealous of my relationship with God. At first, he scoffed at me for seeking out a church home,and then belittled me when I taught Sunday school, and then he came to accept my doing this, but he never condoned it.

Deep down inside, I knew that my ex-husband and I would divorce someday, not knowing the how or the when or the why, so in faith I continued to serve my husband, and love him. Sometimes that required work. I had to force myself to love him. He was cold and insensitive, and constantly spewed ugliness out of his mouth, sometimes breaking me down, which made me feel worthless.  Sometimes we even fought physically, because I would constantly fail in my husband eyes.

Faith was my strength. In God and in the verses like that one in 1st Peter.  I leaned on God.  I lived in a constant state of prayer. I believed that God was watching and protecting me and my children, even as I was attacked by my spouse, as I lost various freedoms over the years due to his jealousy of my relationships with family and friends.  And when he threw me out in 2011, when he bribed my children to stay with him instead of going with me, I still prayed and leaned on God’s understanding – which is greater than my understanding.

During this time, I’ve been surviving…. and I wanted to do more than just survive, I wanted life.  I longed for the closeness that God, and no one else, gives me.  So I grieved the loss of my children. I grieved the loss of security and self, and let it go. That was a very hard transition.  During this time, God has been building me up to prepare me for discipleship.  I do this with a humble heart.

Even though Adam and I have been a couple now for 2 years, I feel as if we are at the beginning of something beautiful, because we are now both Christians who both love God, and we want to share that with others, in celebration for all that God has done, is doing, and will do. I feel like God rewarded me for my faith all those years, for putting my trust in Him, for giving the life that was out of my control over to Him.

It’s true…my children are still living with my ex-husband. My heart still aches for them. But my heart is healing. Adams heart is healing. What a difference it makes in your life, when you just let Jesus in! Watching Adam be baptized renewed my soul. Sharing bible time together as we both grow in Christ and allow ourselves to be molded, and praying together, is such a gift! It’s such a peaceful foundation to root and grow a relationship.

Thank you God, for everything. For convicting my heart back then, for protecting my children through all that has changed, and for convicting Adam to become a godly partner, molded by You, just for me. You are the Great Physician, and truly the Miracle Worker.

Reflections of Vietnam

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Vietnam War Memorial, Washington,D.C.  Visual credits http://www.crazywebsite.com

When the rebellion attacked our battalion, the issue wasn’t communism. They were simply people, who wanted to be left alone.  Blood oozed from my friend, and he died as the rain fell. That’s what I remember.

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That’s in response to this weekend ‘s 36 word Trifecta challenge. When I was 21 years old, I was able to visit the wall. It had been a lifelong need, to go see it. I don’t know why. I was born in 1970, and my father never fought in that war, so why would it affect me so deeply?  But it has.  The day I went to the wall,  and I touched it, I felt such loss. There were voices crying out “wronged” and souls searching for peace. When I gathered my self and was able to walk away, which took a while… I saw a vendor selling T-shirts, and the painting on it depicted exactly how I felt, so I got one. It was a copy of this same painting shown above. That was in 1991, and I still have it.

Safety

It’s something we want to always feel. It means so much to so many people.

Today’s been such an emotional day. A lifelong friend who was incarcerated two decades ago, walked out, free, and was finally reunited with his family, as of about 9 am this morning. His son, now an adult, snapped a picture of his father this morning and shared it with me. I love their entire family as if they were my own…it’s been such a blessing to have had them in my life the last 27 years.

In my friend’s eyes, I saw such pain and such relief, an almost disbelief…raw, numbness. It made me think of how a person must feel when they lose their legs. When the moment comes, immediately after the crisis is behind them, when they feel so scared because they know the ground beneath their feet will never feel quite the same. When the realization hits them, they think they can never be able to do the things the neighbor down the street with two legs – with a lifetime of never questioned certainty – can do.

I want to tell my friend, you can make it, and it’s OK to feel like you can’t move during the days ahead when you don’t know how. Half of your life has gone by and the view hasn’t changed out your window. Your legs and feet knew every step of the shadows. It must have felt like an eternity. Minutes feeling like hours, and hours feeling like days, which turned into decades, and for that eternity, your family’s love for you never changed. You have such a support system. Your family, your good friends, have never stopped praying for your safety, for your health, and your freedom. We who knew you before the dark days, wept for you then. The tears of joy are here now, across the miles!

I want to encourage you to write, to sing….to cry…to scream. Cry and scream! It will feel so good. You’ll find your feet, feel the ground in a new way, and your body will move, and your mind will free itself from the last two decades.

You’re safe now. You hear me? God’s got His arms around you. He always has. Keep your eyes forward. Don’t look back, and live everyday knowing you’re treasured.

One Soul’s Evolution

When

The

Words

finally break through the walls of fear, and turn on the powers of Love

that a lifetime in guilt, lies, and shame have hidden from you, then the

silence

becomes

music.

You’re

free

to let

Faith

Hope

and

Love

infect

your

soul.

This was written for the Trifecta Week Sixty-Nine writing challenge.

(rules below)

INFECT
1: to contaminate with a disease-producing substance or agent (as bacteria)
2a : to communicate a pathogen or a disease to
b : of a pathogenic organism : to invade (an individual or organ) usually by penetration
c : of a computer virus : to become transmitted and copied to (as a computer)
3a : contaminate, corrupt <the inflated writing that infects such stories>  
b : to work upon or seize upon so as to induce sympathy, belief, or support <trying to infect their salespeople with their enthusiasm>

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • If you know your post does not meet the requirements of the challenge, please leave your link in the comments section, not in the linkz.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.
This week’s challenge is community-judged.
  • For the 12 hours following the close of the challenge, voting will be enabled on links.
  • In order to vote, return to this post where stars will appear next to each link.  To vote, simply click the star that corresponds with your favorite post.
  • You can vote for your top three favorite posts.
  • Voting is open to everyone. Encourage your friends to vote for you, if you wish, but please don’t tell them to vote on a number.  The numbering of the posts changes regularly, as authors have the ability to delete their own links at any time.
  • You have 12 hours to vote.  It’s not much time, so be diligent! We’ll send out reminders on Twitter and Facebook.

This week’s word is infect.

Healing through the camera lens

Since January 14th, I’ve been going through cycles of feeling stuck, and feeling happy to be alive.  Part of me is still in that river.  I don’t know what part that is quite yet…. Adam feels the same way.  I can see it in his eyes. He’s got that same drawn out look.  We’re waiting for whatever happens next, and at the same time, we’re not wasting a single moment – because we know how fast life and everything in it can be taken from you.

Through the last week, we’ve been witness to some amazing and spontaneous acts of grace.  A few people have gone out of their way to make sure we had what we needed not only to replace what was lost, but to make us feel safe and secure, and loved.  Our friends in another county, some sixty miles from us, welcomed us into their home and fed us, gave us clothes and shoes. The Red Cross dispatched someone to us from a hundred miles away, just to make sure we had enough food, gas, propane, clothing, and shelter.  Someone 250 miles away offered to help Adam replace any music or recording equipment we lost in the flood.  It’s been surreal.

Another thing I’ve realized as we have watched all of this unfold, is that for some reason, people who have close to nothing are more willing to give you (literally) the clothes off their backs than rich people are. Rich people tend to look at you with apprehension, not knowing what to say or how to act.  Just an FYI thing – for anyone out there who maybe in a position to help others who are in dire straights, the people who need help after a natural disaster, or something along those lines, won’t have the strength to even ask for it. When we were flooded out of our home and had only minutes to decide what to grab before we dove in the water, the future was the last thing on our minds.  Your numb after an event like that, and time stops for days. This was what amazed me the most. When we were unable to think or move, or know what to do next, that was when our truest friends, and the emergency services of the Red Cross, jumped in with us – and dragged us out, giving us hope and direction.

While we were retreating from the soaked earth, we stayed with our friends sixty miles away.  Their home, also known as Sunshine Stables, is a place filled wall to wall, and acre to acre, with love.  Even their animals love you, which is a simple reflection of the hearts of their “people”.  The beauty and the vibes of the place inspired me to start taking pictures.  Adam was up for it, so we started inside the house and made our way out to the barn.

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rooftop_zpsfce1f5d7

If there’s one lesson we can walk away from this with, it’s that you can be gone before you have time to blink.

So live it now, and love it.

The healing power of dignity

This morning I’ve been reflecting on things that have changed within the past month. There’s been a lot of good happening around me and Adam lately. When I look at all of them – job changes, Adam healing since his teeth were extracted and him having to get acquainted with a denture and his new smile – I see a common theme resurfacing over and over. Dignity.

Adam said something profound the other day when we were visiting with some friends who own a horse stable. It’s no surprise to get a call from them every weekend with the invitation to share in some smoked barbecue and outdoor music. This past weekend, we were asked to come out, and a visit was long overdue, so we went and soaked in the energy of all the animals and friends. Every trip down the road to visit this place feels better than a vacation hundreds of miles away – good energy, good people, unconditional love…you don’t want to leave. On this day we were watching how the farrier, the husband of my friend who teaches riding lessons, was handling one of the horses. This one was a rescue that we’ve blessed to watch from afar as this couple brought him back from deaths door, to be the healthy, spunky soul he is now. When he first arrived last summer, he was withered away – a skin-and-bones animal. He had lost his spirit and was dragging his head, almost lifeless. It’s hard to believe that just three months ago, the same creature we were watching had no life behind his eyes. Now he is full of life, full of energy, personality, and all he needs is a gentle hand to train him to be ridden. It’s a process that begins and never ends with love. Adam and me were leaning against the ring, watching as the farrier let the horse get used to the weight of the saddle and reins while being led on a long lead rope, and then after some time, the farrier mounted, and the magic of that unspoken communication became visible. “Horses are just like people. It’s amazing what a little dignity can do,” he said.

I recognized the miracle of gentle nudges and guidance this animal was getting. I felt the same from Adam, and from my family, and God, as I recovered last year from the emotional and physical scars that were left after I escaped my abusive ex-husband. As I leaned on that horse ring and watched the horse breathing in and out, nostrils flaring and anxious sweat pouring, learning to trust a human being again after having been so betrayed…so hurt in the past….I knew. I remember a time just two years ago, that I would break out into an anxious sweat if I entered a store, or had to look a man in the eye. I remember what it was like to want to trust someone that much, yet being terrified of doing it…but then doing it any way, coaxed and encouraged by the people who loved me.

As I was leaning on that horse ring next to my life partner and best friend, I understood the depth of what a gift it is to look beyond what we see and simply love someone. I looked at Adam and had to smile, because I saw our miracle.

It’s so easy to be fearful if we look at someone’s past and judge them based on it. It’s a divine show of respect, to give someone the right to be loved. It takes just as much courage for us not to judge the lonely and the scarred as it does for them to step out into the world. It’s character building, to trust someone before they have earned it.  That is what it’s like to give dignity to one of God’s creatures.

A letter to my 17-year old self

This is inspired by the Brad Paisley song Letter To Me.

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Hey Karo…. You probably don’t recognize me yet, but you will one day, because you’re going to be me.  You’re so full of life! I know there are times when you feel like you can’t go on another day, because some people you love don’t understand you…believe me when I say, your family will do anything they can to protect you if you just let them.  You don’t feel like it right now, but they’ve got your back. Your Dad loves you more than he can say. Trust me, in about 25 years, you will find out how much. Your Mom was your age once, and she admires you for being so strong and brave – even for your recklessness.

You see, passion doesn’t come easy to some, but you’re hungry for it, so you walk without fear of the consequences,  where some angels fear to tread. I’m not just talking about you being an EMT in the rescue squad. I know, some of the places you go in the ambulance are in the worst parts of town, but I’m not talking about patching up gunshot victims or doing CPR countless times only to learn that God takes us when He wants us, and we don’t have the means to change that….I’m talking about boys…about sneaking out at night – which your mother knows about, don’t be fooled by her unconditional love and acceptance.

I know you’ve been writing stories since you were 10 years old. I’ll tell you now – don’t stop!  People may like them or they may think what you’re writing is stupid, but it doesn’t matter… you’re going to get better.  Keep an open mind, keep using your imagination, and use that ability you have to remember every word in a conversation. You’re going to lock the important details in your mind, and one day what you write is going to help a lot of people.

You don’t know it yet, but you’ve already met three of your future life partners!  One you only knew briefly when you were in the 4th grade….I wish I could tell you his name so you could avoid him, but you have three beautiful children by him… and I wouldn’t change that for anything. The other two live within walking distance of your house. They are as opposite to each other as the night is compared to the day.   The one who people see as descent and good, because he doesn’t do drugs or get into trouble…to the outside world he’s good, but when the chips are down, when things get dicey….he’s going to leave you stranded.  It’s the “bad boy” that no one expects to amount to anything, because he gets into all kinds of mischief,  who will surprise everyone by stepping in….and without hesitation, or expectation, he will walk beside you where angels fear to tread. You’re going to reconnect at a time when you need each other the most…and he will be the one who will love you faithfully, with more loyalty and regal appreciation than anyone else can. I wish I could tell you his name…. so you could avoid two decades of heart break. But if I did, your children wouldn’t be who they are, and they are perfect.

If you get this today in 1987, its a Thursday and you’re going to school at CHHS. It’s your senior year. You’re first class of the day is Choir, with Mr. Clements, and you’re going to stay after school to practice on the flag team for the upcoming Christmas parade. You have a project in Chemistry, and your football-jock lab partner will want you and the other smart partner to do everything, but go easy on him. There’s only a minor explosion when the beaker is corked and then heated, and the rubber cork gets lodged in the ceiling. Spend some extra time with that tall, skinny boy at the bus stop every morning, and give him a smile when you see him.  You don’t know it, but he needs your smile, and he loves you and your small family more than you know. He’s going to be very important to you one day.  He’s going to move away soon…he may have already told you by now and you’re wondering if you’ll ever see him again. Trust me, you will. And he will change your world in the best way.

People who you think are your friends now…most of them won’t stick around.  You feel it in your heart though – who your real friends are. The world is going to change in so many ways… but thankfully those people won’t.  You’re going to lose your faith one day, after being hurt one too many times, but you’ll find it again.  Remember to be open minded, and don’t be afraid of your intuition. You’re going to use it in many ways.  Right now you are wondering if you should quit the rescue squad. You think you’ve done so little that your time is not worth it…you’ll quit when you have to, but you’ll remember every face of every patient… and there will be a day when you will need to use everything you’re learning now in order to help people in ways you can’t imagine, and I can’t tell you because that would be saying too much.

I’ll close this with a gentle reminder…. to keep loving.  Learn as much as you can from your Mom about Type 1 Diabetes…spend as much time as you can with your Great-Grandma N., and listen to every word that your Grandma B. says…

Love, Carolyn…. 2012.

Letting love be the voice…

A week ago, Adam endured major facial surgery. He had all of his top teeth removed (8 surgically and 5 simple extractions).  It was something that needed to be done for a very long time, and the time was finally right for him to take off from work and do it.

In the days prior, I remember being worried about the long term affects – how losing his natural smile would change his voice, his ability to sing, and if it would hinder his self confidence. I worried about his immediate needs – diet, mostly.  One thing that never occurred to me was how we would communicate that first day, after he woke up from surgery. Maybe it’s because we have an unspoken communication. It’s something that we never put much thought into, before last week, and when the surgery was over and Adam’s mouth was full of gauze, it kicked in. Like everything else with us, it was natural.

One thing I’ve always been able to do with him, that I’ve never been able to do with anyone else in my life, is look him in the eye and pay close attention.  I think that comes from missing him for twenty years. Now that we’re together and I wake up next to him every day, I’m afraid if I blink, I’ll miss something!  Maybe beyond that, is a small amount of intuition that stems from loving each other for so long. I’m not talking about the passionate love we share now. I’m talking about the contentment your soul feels when you’ve found a missing piece of yourself in an instant best friend –  when you “recognize” someone the second you meet them, and life is better after that moment just because that person is in it. You finish each others sentences, you breathe deeper because you can feel their heartbeat even when that person is far away…and you don’t need to speak out loud to communicate basic needs, wants, worries, concerns, or pleasure.

We became closer the day of the surgery.  We held each other one last time at the door of the dental office, kissing each other one last time knowing that kisses would be different from then on. I felt his heart beating inside of his chest and prayed that the surgery would not be an unbearable shock to his body – for his blood pressure to stay normal. He breathed me into him. We listened to the birds chirping in the trees behind the office, and then we walked in – both ready.

When I stepped in and smelled the distinctive smells of the dentist office and I saw the chair, suddenly nothing else mattered to me except Adam’s health. That’s why he was going through with this after all – to remove bad teeth so his overall health could be better. I could have cared less about whether or not he sang ever again. I just wanted him to be OK.  I saw how nervous he was in the chair right before he was numbed up, so I started to focus on calm energy. The plants in the room, the painting on the wall – anything to calm me down so that Adam might feel it.

The way the room was arranged enabled me to stay in eyesight of Adam during the entire procedure without being in the way.  This was good. He didn’t want me to be far away, and I didn’t want to leave him alone. As with any crisis, when the surgery began , priorities started to get in order. No more worrying about bills. You could feel it in the air. All we have is each other. Thank you for being here.  An unspoken thought, sent and received by both of us simultaneously.

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An hour and a half later, it was done.  His blood pressure was fine. Relief washed over me as he stood up and walked with me to the car. The worst part of his part of the ordeal was over. My work had just begun. I knew the best thing for him was to get him home where I could take good care of him. It was during the car ride home that the old intuition kicked in. Entire conversations were given in quick, deep glances. A look and a nod said what needed to be said. Hand me some more gauze please. I’m thirsty. Did the numbing stuff wear off yet? I love you. Thank you. 

By the next day Adam was able to talk again (and I was able to understand him). The swelling took four days for most of it to go away. His face never bruised. The doctor had done a wonderful job.  There were many things to be thankful for in this Journey.  Mostly that Adam was going to have a chance to live a longer life, because the decayed teeth that had caused him so many physical ailments were now gone.

I’ll never forget this experience.  I learned so much about true love when Love spoke for us that day.