Fool Proof Marriage

Fool Proof Marriage

Writing this post could potentially seem odd because I am not married, so some may think it obvious that an ignorant single in her twenties could write something titled, “Fool Proof Marriage”. Stay with me though. This is coming from Ephesians, and, well, Paul wasn’t married either.

Ephesians 5 and 6 have traditionally been loved and hated by many. We all love the concept of “walking in love” and “taking up the armor of God.” What fantastic imagery and an ideal reality! Then comes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ew. Don’t like that. “Children obey your parents”? No. “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters”?!?!?! Not okay. Even though pastors smoothly cover it as employees honoring their bosses and working for the Lord.

But it was Ephesians 5 I found myself reading the other day and I came across some amazing ties between codependency and Christianity.

The part that drew my attention was the section on husbands. Check this out:
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'”

We see that God placed some fool proof backups into the institution of marriage. In Genesis, God designed man and woman to become one. In so doing, a marriage could never be torn apart. And why would it? Our ego has wired us to survive. No matter how hungry you are, you won’t eat yourself. We are not prone to self-cannibalization. Ideally, you can’t do something to destroy you spouse because that, in turn, would be self-destruction.

However, the problem comes from behind the ego. The part of your subconscious you live with daily but don’t allow yourself to acknowledge. Why did Jesus say divorce had been placed into the Law? It was because of man’s hardness of heart.

How can someone love another as they love themselves if they don’t know what it means to love themselves? That was trippy. In other words, how can you love someone else if you inwardly dislike yourself?

Many of us have been shown from a very young age a distorted version of love. It may look like abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, enmeshment, or an expectation for you to behave beyond your capabilities. We take this on as normal and “love” our spouse in the same way. We shame them. We hit them. We drain them emotionally or we deprive them of emotional intimacy. We keep score of all their mistakes and hold them to a standard we could never meet ourselves. This is how we were treated and it’s what we believe we deserve.

Codependency recovery largely involves working through past shame and fear that keep you from liking yourself as a person. Knowing and believing that God loves and likes you for who you are. When we choose to step up to our past pain and unravel the shame that holds our identity in its grasp, we can begin to love God and love ourselves. It’s only then, that we can love our spouse as we love ourselves.

God created a fool proof institution that reflects the love He has for us. Living in a world that is broken emotionally and mentally, we miss the beauty of the ideal. However, it’s not impossible to gain. Change does not begin with your spouse (or for single people, your roommates), it begins with you. It begins with your relationship with God and your recovery. When two people come together and each live under the sovereign love of God, the love they can then give to each other is miraculous. It’s a mind blowing picture of the love God has for His Son and the love His Son has for us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dealing with Shame from Authority

Dealing with Shame from Authority

This week, I’m going to write about a personal experience from my childhood. The point is to show you that no memory is too insignificant to process in regards to recovery. It’s also to show that God is faithful to bring us healing when we ask.

Ever since I’ve had jobs, I dealt with anxiety towards my bosses. I’d set high expectations for myself, work hard, and feel like I was running from reprimand. The thought of doing something wrong haunted me. I would feel sick at work and obsessively think about stupid things I had done or said. If my boss asked to speak with me, I always assumed it was a bad report.

This past month, I started processing why I feel so much shame at work and I asked God to reveal to me what I needed to see.

As I was going to bed one night, a memory flashed in my head. It was a memory I hadn’t thought of in a long time. On a family vacation, in the middle of the night, I had gotten up and was scared. At home, when this would happen, I would go into my parents’ room and sleep with them. Here, we had so much family around, I wasn’t sure where everyone was sleeping. I made it to a bedroom where my grandparents were sleeping and snuggled up with them. At some point, my grandmother realized there was someone else in her bed and was somewhat startled. She startled speaking loudly, which woke me up, and by some force of nature, I ended up falling on the floor. When she realized who I was, she yelled, “Get back in your bed!” I was mortified. I ran back to the room I was staying in and dove into the covers. My desire was to never leave my new safe haven for the rest of the trip. I was humiliated and traumatized by the rejection. The next morning, my grandmother told everyone what had happened like it was hilarious. I was further mortified by the whole occurrence.

Once that memory popped into my mind, it surprised me how embarrassed I was about it. As an adult, I didn’t want to tell anyone. In my head, I was thinking, Surely this little incident couldn’t be affecting my work relationship with bosses… right?

I wrote a letter to God about it and read it to my counselor. She told me some very helpful elements about my story:

  1. I didn’t do anything wrong
  2. I wasn’t given appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with separation anxiety
  3. My grandmother showed me I had bad ideas and that I was wrong
  4. That led me to believe I had the potential for wrong/bad ideas
  5. This led me to doubt my abilities and fear getting in trouble for my ideas

Basically, the unprocessed shame I experienced in that moment kept me wrapped in fear, doubt, and guilt into the future.

Here’s how the scenario should’ve gone down:

When I was scared and would go to my parent’s bedroom, they should have brought me back to bed and instilled in me healthy coping mechanisms for fear and loneliness (praying, reassurance, etc.). My grandmother should’ve done the same. This would’ve validated my feeling afraid, but helped me learn how to overcome that fear by seeking God.

However, my parents and grandparents were doing the best they knew to do. They weren’t shown the proper way either. After talking through all this and asking God to remove my anxiety and shame from this memory, it was astounding how different I felt at work! I can’t express the peace and certainty that sits with me now. Can you believe it? From unpacking one, traumatic (but seemingly silly) childhood memory!

I know there’s more to my periods of anxiety at work, but God has been gracious to give me a little respite. I can tell that I feel more freedom now to be genuine with my bosses. God is in control, therefore, I don’t need to worry. I can have peace in all situations.

So, if you have a memory hanging around and it seems ridiculous, process it! See what God does with it. When we keep our shame to ourselves, it grows. When we share it with someone we trust, it is destroyed in the light.

Stop Being an Avoidant

Happy New Year! It’s crazy that I’ve had this blog for a year – that I’ve been in recovery for another year. When I met my counselor at our first session two years ago, I wasn’t sure what she would tell me. I knew that family members had been seeing her and were transforming in ways I never thought possible. I thought I was a pretty balanced person and just needed a little fine tuning. After all, they were insane and I was merely a minor case.

Was I ever wrong! I learned I was a miserable, love addict searching for what I already had.

After the first two sessions with my counselor, I left with a light of renewed hope and a joy I never thought possible. This led me to realize I’d been miserable.

Next, I was also working towards a relationship that I had been putting all my hope in for the past year and a half. Over the next five or six crucial months, I would discover I was a love addict pursuing a love avoidant. I was stuck in an endless fearful cycle of intimacy and abandonment. I’d been on an emotional roller coaster for most of my dating life.

Through all of this, I discovered that my walk with God could be opened up into an unending supply of everything I could need. His attributes are lovely, divine, and freeing. His thoughts and feelings about me are overflowing with love, acceptance, affirmation, beauty… you name your need, He has already been providing since you were born. I was finally free.

Do you know the joy of being free? I needed to be free mainly of myself. My obsessive thinking and negative beliefs about myself and how God viewed me. Being healed of that, alone, has catapulted me into a new life that I never want to be free from. I know it’s only going to get better.

I am so grateful.

A lot of ground has been covered in a fast two years and 2017 is here. In the codependency daily devotional, Letting Go, a series of questions are presented for the New Year. One of them struck me in particular: What blocks or character defects would you like to have removed?

After having devoted two years to my love addiction recovery, this year, I would like to focus on removing my love avoidance. It’s a side of myself that has received very little attention due to my out of control love addiction. This year, it’s time to take on the avoidance. Socializing, here I come! It’s time to work through my fear of intimacy and connect… omg.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Recovering from codependency comes with a lot of discovery and freedom in new areas of life. Part of my recovery has involved surrendering my people pleasing and fear of failure when it comes to the talents God has given me. I love to write, sing, and illustrate but most of my life I’ve kept these to myself due to negative thinking and fear.

Slowly this has begun to change. I no longer want to keep my gifts to myself. It is through these gifts that God has granted me the joy to praise Him. My life’s goal is to honor God and glorify Him. One of my professors in seminary, described praise in this way, “In the Old Testament culture, the word used in place of thanks was praise. That is, one would tell another what God had done, rather than merely saying, ‘Thank You, Lord.'” (Allen, Ronald B., And I Will Praise Him, pg. 64.) When I keep my methods of praise to myself, it’s hard for it to actually be praise. No one gets to experience the goodness of God but me!

In honor of God, recovery, and challenging my fears, I’ll be adding a new category to my blog called, For the Positive Thinker. This category will help those who struggle with negative thinking to replace those false accusations with truth. Scripture memory is a good way to begin storing up truth in your mind and heart so that you’ll have an arsenal prepared when negativity starts creeping in. The way I memorize scripture is through song. I can never remember scriptures if I memorize them in spoken word. They never stick. If you have the same issue, I invite you to take the songs I post and use them to help you begin to treasure God’s word in your heart, and at times more crucially, in your mind when obsessive or negative thinking kicks in.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to start this new category of the blog off with a Christmas Carol. Do You Hear What I Hear is one of my favorite carols and I think it holds relevancy to recovering codependents. The last verse of the song proclaims, “He will bring us goodness and light.” Jesus came to the world and became the light of men that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the Word. Every time you place God’s word in your memory, think about the light that is entering into your body and removing the darkness. Every day as you pursue God and place His word in your heart, you can see more and more how free you are in Him.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Loss of Control

I have bad weeks.

This past weekend – bad weekend. What was so bad about it? Externally, nothing. God is in control and He has blessed me with many great things. I got to go to my last class on church history for the semester on Saturday, discovered my car has an electrical problem (need to get that fixed), I got out of class early and hung out with my roommates and my dog, I went on a walk with my neighbor, and after all that went to bed. I tried a new church on Sunday (I think I’ll stick with my current church), got home before noon, hung out for awhile, and went to a Christmas show… came home with a migraine and nausea so I went right to bed. Woke up the next morning, and wanted to crawl straight back into bed and forget my existence. I was low. I was anxious. I was guilty. About what?

What I didn’t tell you in my weekend summary, is that underneath all the activity, there was a growing feel of pressure, anxiety, stress, and guilt. A nervous feeling of being in a rush and having my time stolen. What I really wanted to do all weekend was nothing. And when I say nothing, I have this image in my mind of slowly waking up with no alarm, sitting on the couch drinking coffee and staring at my Christmas tree, no time commitments, just hours of free time waiting to be filled with relaxation, reading, and creativity. There would be a couple of nice dog walks in there. Work on some manuscripts and enjoying the warmth and safety of home.

I’ve created time slots for mini versions of my day dream into my planner. At the beginning of the day, I have 30 minutes to drink coffee, sit on the couch, and write. At the end of the day, I set aside 30 minutes to sit in a chair and read whatever I’d like. I have intentional time with my dog, Tucker, for both parts of the day and it’s in these times that God refuels me to go back to work and spend the majority of my time earning money to not be homeless.

It’s a nice system I have, however, what happens when a stick gets thrown in the spokes? I mentioned I had class this Saturday. Did I mention it’s from 8-5? Yes, an all day class. Which is basically going to work for another full day. Also, did you catch that my car has an electrical problem? The turn signal, headlights, and interior dashboard lights are all not working. Yaayyyy. That means I have to find time to get to the dealership (which does not have weekend appointments). Also, I tried a new church and had a Christmas show Sunday evening. Does any of that sound like my day dream of the perfect day? No! A thousand times no!

And guess what I did all last week? I dreaded the weekend (and that was before I knew I’d be having car troubles). Last week I was tired. The work days seemed longer and I just needed some time! But I wasn’t getting any because people and institutions were taking it from me. Every week I feel robbed and I choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive of each day. And somehow, doing that leads me to feeling out of control, anxious, resentful, trapped, and guilty.

Work and rest are both important. If I spend all my time at home, how will I be an ambassador for God and have those conversations that really matter? So, my job is not just to refrain from homelessness, it’s to be a walking light of truth to those in darkness.

I know things need to change, but it’s going to be so, so hard. I do love my resentments and I do love possessing my time and working towards that day dream. There are three forms of codependency going on with this part of my life: fear, control, and fantasizing.

To start, I’ll write a letter to God and describe in detail all the things that are bothering me. I’ll surrender them to God and ask Him to remove the feelings of anxiety, fear, resentfulness, and guilt. I’ll ask Him to replace them with His characteristics and to forgive me for idolizing my schedule, my dog, and my dreams over Him. I’ll thank Him for the good work He is going to do. I look forward to it! He’s always done me right in the past and I know for certain He won’t stop now.

Anger: A Coping Mechanism for Something Deeper

I know most of you don’t know me or the looks of me, but believe me when I say the idea of me being angry is hard to accept. Most of the time, I am very chill, joyful, and easy going. However, there are the days… the last straw days… where everything is terrible. And the world and all its incompetencies have aimed their ridiculous arrows at my innocent, productive life.

A last straw day can include any of the following (and more):

Family members disappointing you and they have done it for the very last time, terrible drivers that make you late to work… for the very last time, coworkers that can’t seem to get a clue… and today is the last day you’re going to put up with it. The handle to your purse gets caught in the doorknob and jerks you backwards… the doorknob is toast. It’s the Day of Last Straws.

The Day of Last Straws doesn’t begin like this. It starts with an off feeling. I know I don’t feel right but I can’t put my finger on why. Then something will happen to spark the impending blaze.

For me, it can look like this:

In the morning, I’ll walk into the kitchen, and behold, piles of other people’s dirty dishes from last night! I’ll open the dishwasher to put a glass in there. Behold! An empty dishwasher that all those dishes could be in!

Now, on a normal day, I don’t mind either putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher or just leaving them for whoever it is to take care of… but on last straw days? No, no, no. On those days, leaving dishes out when there’s an empty dishwasher is a murderous crime to my being and it was done with malicious intent and planning. Sparks of righteous indignation clash together from my toes and ignite into a rage that surges to my face.

After the fire is lit, it doesn’t matter what happens next… it’s annoying and an outrage. Someone could walk wrong, breathe wrong, eat wrong, say something – anything, and I’m beyond irritated.

Usually, I’m able to get out of the house without saying anything stupid while I’m in this emotion. But the car… oh, the car. The moment I pull into traffic, I’m in a sea of incompetency that could refill the Mediterranean if need be. The feelings of rage are at peak, the dialogue in my head is running about all the injustices being done to me today, and then – I open my mouth. Expletives, accusations, and slander fly out of my mouth into a thick cloud of anger, all inside the compact box that is my car. Then, I’ll feel horrible and put on some Christian music to try and turn this weird surge of anger around. I’ll be singing along and then shout an obscenity at someone going 20 miles under the speed limit (why do they do this?). This is some serious James 3 stuff right here.

By the time I pull into work, I feel horrible and basically, the cure is going to bed that night and waking up to a new day.

I’ve been experiencing more of these bouts of anger the past couple of months than I can remember ever before. Usually what this means is that God wants me to face something and work through it. When we move into our pain and seek healing, God is gracious and walks with us in the midst. I’ve found that when I am willing to step into the hurt to discover the depths of what’s there, the ongoing misery I’ve been feeling (for most of my life) releases. Living life without those pieces of misery is phenomenal. It’s so worth taking a look into the stuff we want to run and hide from.

So, if you have a Last Straw Day, here are a few tips I received from my counselor on how to work through the misery in the moment.

First, when you feel angry and the dialogue has started in your head, pause.

Anger comes from shame. There is something about yourself that you don’t like, and your ego is blocking you from the shame by placing it on others. The reason your ego does this is because it’s crucial to your survival for you to like yourself. If you didn’t, what’s motivating you to live? We take what we dislike about ourselves and we throw it away from us. It’s time to take it back and own it.

After you pause, ask yourself, what is it that I don’t like about myself right now? If you can’t think of anything, ask God to show you in His divine, perfect will. This is a small, but important step towards overcoming rage.

Godspeed and know I’ll be doing the same!

Desire without Knowledge

Desire without Knowledge

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” -Proverbs 19:2

Have you ever made an impulsive relationship decision? I have. Many, many times and over again. Usually it is in response to my obsessive thinking.

Obsessive thinking begins with a desire. The desire could be seeking a cure for loneliness, pleasing someone, it might be to solve a problem… something to make your life better than it currently is. Desires are natural. We are wired to satiate our needs and that’s not bad. It’s how we seek to satisfy those needs that can get us into trouble.

For example, in college, there was a guy I was friends with. He was a great guy but I had never liked him in a romantic fashion. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot and was waiting for me to come around. I knew this even though he hadn’t communicated it to me. Guys can be so annoyingly obvious (when you don’t want them to be).

One night, I was in my apartment and felt this strong need to connect on an intimate level with a guy. I wanted to be associated with someone. I didn’t want to be single anymore. I wanted to have “that someone” I could talk to. I felt so warm and sure about this feeling. It was definitely time to make that happen. Well, who do you think popped in my mind to fill that longing? My friend who liked me, of course!

I lovingly texted him that night (because who talks about serious things on the phone anymore?) and confessed to him that I really did like him as more than a friend. He was very excited about this news and felt that his waiting was finally paying off. We set a time to go on a real, official date. I went to bed that night feeling satisfied. The obsessive thoughts and the feeling of being incomplete now over.

Guess how I woke up? Terrified.

The romance of a lonely night being over, the reality set in of what I’d done. I’d told a guy that really liked me that I liked him back… when on reflection, I realized I didn’t like him like that at all. I felt better in the morning. Not so alone. But now I had a serious problem. I had let a guy on that I cared about. He was thrilled thinking that we were off to a romantic journey that would end with us getting married and having a lovely family (is this true? I didn’t know because he had never said that, but it was what I assumed he was thinking – another bad trait of living in a fantasy world and not reality).

This is how it ended with this guy and how most of my relationships played out: I tried to stick with the relationship and hope that my feelings would grow for the person I had roped myself into dating. It never worked and usually within two weeks, I was breaking up with the guy, he was confused, and our friendship was over. He was hurt… and so was I.

“Desire without knowledge is not good.” In Proverbs, Solomon teaches that knowledge, wisdom, discernment all come from God. If you are not including God in your decision making, you’ve only got half the brains… maybe less. The second part of that psalm states, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

I lost my way repeatedly because I was reacting to my desires and leaving knowledge (reality and God’s will) out of it. Losing my way caused the guys I dated to feel lost, as well. We ended up with hurt and confusion.

If you struggle with love addiction, it’s important to let the fit pass before making a decision. Wait at least a week before making big decisions, especially when it involves another person.

It’s easy to believe that only a significant other can satisfy your desires. If that were true, God would not be as awesome as He says He is. The great thing about God is that He always does the unexpected. You think you know how He is going to answer a prayer and then He does something you could have never dreamed and it’s way better than you could have imagined.

When you feel lonely, tell God and ask Him to remove the feeling of loneliness and replace it with His love, contentment, and companionship. Ask Him to heal your feeling of loneliness in the way He deems best. Let Him know that you look forward to seeing how He does it. If there is a person you have in mind that you would like to fulfill that need, let God know but be open to His way of doing things.

Through my recovery, I am now beginning to see the patterns of my emotions and thoughts. By slowing down and making myself wait to act on my desires, it’s helping me gain discernment on areas of my life that are unhealthy. I’m learning to go to God and surrender my desires and seek His will on an issue. This is so much better than falling prey to my desires which have no foundation, minus my fantasies.

Bottom line: wait on God. His will is best and He knows better than you do what you need to fulfill the desires He has given you.

Exercise: If you struggle with impulsively acting on your desires, pause. When you’re obsessively thinking, stop and write out your desire in detail. Surrender it to God. Ask Him to satisfy your desire in the way He deems best. Thank Him for what He’s going to do. Then, wait. Don’t make a decision for a week. Surrender your desire to God as many times as you need. Remember, you’re in no hurry. Allow time for prayer, reflection, and hindsight. Embrace your desires (meaning, it’s okay to feel lonely for a little bit. You’re not going to die.). Wait on God and He will answer.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!