when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.

blessings for the broken, part two

We used to wear our grief.
Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .
To show loss.
To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.
Appearance had meaning.

We used to wear our grief. 

Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .

To show loss.

To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.

Appearance had meaning.

We treated mourners with respect. Spoke differently around them. Guarded our conversation to avoid heaping sorrow on complete strangers.

I wonder why we stopped. Why long, visible mourning has gone out of fashion. . .

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said.

In every version of the Bible, the English word, translated from Greek, is mourn. 

Grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Often . . . to weep audibly.

(Now we cover. Allow ourselves acceptable sorrow, but keep calm and carry on. Mourning is for poets. Wailing is for pagans.)

But Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to people who bore grief visibly. No makeup or drops to hide weary eyes. Faces revealed hearts. Clothes told stories.

I think, even then, mourning had lost something.

Because they used to show real grief over sin by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

In ancient times, recorded in the Old Testament, garments were torn by the grieving. Rough, dark, shapeless clothes replaced them. Ashes on heads. Ashes in which to sit.

Ashes, the remnants of sacrifice. A symbol of sorrow. A sign of humility. Of desperation. Ashes to cleanse. Israel, David, Nineveh . . .

Public displays of repentance had become a show for Pharisees. See how religious I am?

* * * * *

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10a

God knows when mourning of wrongs is just for show.

Sometimes we know, too. Or sense it.

Because addicts repent a million times. This is the last time. I’ll never do it again. And yet they do . . . and we cannot make them be sorry to the point of change. Preaching at and pleading with cannot induce real repentance.

And we are the same. We who believe we are free from destructive vices.

We repent when we are caught. In gossip. In aggression. In spending money we don’t have.  . . and at once we are consumed with self. With how can I get out of this and still save face. . .

. . . Books of mourning sit beside me on a shelf. Spiral bound pages, words poured out in tears. Sleepless nights, hollow-eyed days. Bitterness and belief intertwined. Pride shredded until I thought I had none left, but I was wrong.

Mourning isn’t pretty. Mourning feels like dying.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Jesus says.

It seems He is speaking of comforting those who have suffered tragic loss. Of wiping away every tear from our eyes.

Comfort — this one word in English means so many things in Greek. Parakaleō: to call to one’s side, to summon, to console, to admonish, to encourage, to teach. I recognize it from Bible school. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit . . .

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16

* * * * *

Mourning and comfort. Both are process. Neither can be rushed. Sowing tears and reaping joy takes time.

Comfort ye my people, God told Isaiah. And it was more than 400 years before the Comforter came . . .

Blessed are those who are broken. Who grieve deeply over their wrongs. Who feel trapped and helpless in their chemically dependent body and throw themselves at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing.

Blessed are those who are broken. Who are exhausted from trying to fix the broken people they love. Who are afraid if they stop, no one will pick up the pieces. Who grieve over the pride that keeps joy hostage.

Blessed because they receive power greater than themselves.

* * * * *

There are hidden places where grief is still worn. 

Where masks of I am fine are set aside, confessions are made, and encouragement is given. Where tears of sorrow flow freely, waiting for the Comforter to wipe them away. Some stay months, others stay years.

We confess aloud that there is a Power greater than ourselves.* 

That God exists,

that I matter to Him, and

that He has the power to help me give up addiction, pride, control . . . whatever has broken me.  * 

* * * * *

A little more about mourning and comfort: Psalm 30, Isaiah 61, Lamentations, Shattered Dreams, A Tale of Three Kings, A Grief Observed

* * * * *

blessings for the broken, part one

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.
I see it now. I saw it then.
But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

I like to be strong.Confident, competent, able.

Helen Reddy in my head since 4th grade. I am Woman . . I am invincible.

I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

Ask if I need help and I become more determined to do it myself.

I am independent to a fault.

And I will work myself into an ulcer.

* * * * *

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.

I see it now. I saw it then.

But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

A friend reminded me this week: we say we are concerned about what’s best for THEM, but we’re really concerned about what’s best for ME

Addicts, she means.

Addicts don’t just one day wake up and said, You know what? I’m done with this life. I’m going to be a new person now. And then the pain ends.

But we so hope they will. And we so hope it will.

We pray for them to make right choices. We pray for miraculous healing . . .

Sometimes, it takes years of prayer to finally come to see.

Because truly admitting you need help means you have to be broken.

. . . and broken involves suffering.

* * * * *

It is agonizing to watch self-destruction.

. . .  sometimes we draw hard lines . . . sometimes we tell them to suffer somewhere else . . . sometimes we are ready for them to be broken.

But sometimes, we forgive and cover and scold and give books to read and phone numbers of people to call and lecture and pray and forgive and cry and scream and flail and forgive and weep and beg and block doors and take away car keys  and suspect and make phone calls and plead and make them go to the pastor and make them sign and believe and hope and accidentally discover and confront and forgive and cry and pray and discover again and lash out and yell and beg and pray . . . Love believes. Love hopes. Love endures. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, my life.

Until we are ready to be broken. Broken more.

To throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and admit we are powerless to control.

Save me from furious rage, from appeasing, from excuse-making, from micro-managing, from holier than thou, from I can do this by myself, from this reflects so poorly on me . . . from fear of suffering.

Until  pride is stripped away and I realize. Until I admit that I am powerless to control . . .

* * * * *

 Blessed are the poor. . .* Jesus said.

Beaten-to-your-knees-by-poverty poor.* Reduced to begging.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness—who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God,” says another.*

Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.*

Blessed are the broken.

* * * * *

I prefer to forget broken.

But Jesus reminds me.

Broken is how He opened His first sermon. On a mountain, like Moses: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.* 

I did not bring myself out of Egypt. I did not bring Dave out of Egypt. I am powerless.

Broken is not a once I was. Broken is a place to come back to over and over and remember. Especially for the self-reliant. For the self-sufficient. For me.

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.Revelation 3:17-20

God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Matthew 5:3

what if we all quit being super woman

Women in War. Supercharger plant workers.
Library of Congress Collection.

Lately, I’ve been working on the uncomfortable habit of being real.

For a significant portion of my life, I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but over-committed, over-the-top, make other people’s contributions to the task look like poo kind of busy.

Being busy kept me distracted. Too much time on my hands gave me time to worry about Dave and his pain, his addiction and then his recovery.

Doing above and beyond rebuilt my self-esteem. Putting my nose to the grindstone earned me some badly needed kudos. I felt destroyed by the hand I’d been dealt in life. Work and volunteerism showed me again that I had value.

A full schedule kept me from being social. I lost the ability to entertain. At one time in my life, I felt like I had control. Over my home, my kids — even at times my husband. As that illusion wore away and was eventually shattered, I withdrew.

I was trying to make it up to the kids. I thought they’d been cheated out of an incredible life when we had to leave camp. Regular life seemed so dull without constant activity. In a quiet moment, they might miss it. And I couldn’t bear that.

And I was working toward a place where my own income would be enough in case Dave didn’t make it.

* * * * *

It’s been nearly two years since I realized I didn’t need to be like that anymore.

I was exhausted. So much so that I didn’t know it. So used to trying to keep up a frenetic pace that I had no idea what real peace looked like. So sure that because I could do something, I should do something.

Two years, but I’m just now beginning to act on it.

* * * * *

I’ve been learning to say no. Even to good things. Learning to not care what people think. Learning not to try and justify. No excuses. Just no.

Because I’ve tried the explaining. And someone always has more kids, more work, more responsibility. If you are a people pleaser or discontent with your life, it’s easy to get roped in.

And that’s the key. I’m less of a pleaser. I’m not as discontent. And though I have a long way to go, I’m on that path. And it looks different and acts different and says things people who are looking to please don’t say.

* * * * *

But I’ve been struggling lately with my inability to multi-task a million mom things. And feeling guilt about ministry and church. And I’d reached that overload point at work, yet again. Because I’m a pleaser.

And then, in lieu of narcotics for the pain in my jaw, the endodontist prescribed a steroid. Just four days of it. To get me through to the root canal.

For four days, I had a tremendous amount of energy and combined with regular pain relievers that finally helped alleviate the pain in my jaw, I felt good. I worked 53 hours in four days, flying to California and driving hours and hours each day through LA traffic without even a moment of panic.

As I was driving across the Southland to the airport to go home, I thought, I wonder if there’s something I can take all the time. 

Performance enhancing drugs for moms.

I know there are. I know plenty of moms who take them. For depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, pain . . .

An extremely (in my eyes) social friend of mine — someone to whom I’m always comparing my feeble hospitality — admitted to me recently that she had to have a glass of wine at certain events to get through the evening. And when she realized it had become a habit and decided to break it, the events suddenly became stressful and she dreaded them.

And I recall a conversation with a friend some years ago in which I confessed to her  my guilt that I didn’t think I could deal with a mutual friend who had made me miserable without going on anti-anxiety drugs. That I didn’t understand how she could be such good friends with her and what was her secret. Well . . . she said.

I’m not saying these things to judge anyone taking medications or who have a glass of wine at a party.

I’m saying them because I had been comparing myself to a false standard. Berating myself needlessly.

* * * * *

It hit me hard on Saturday. When I came home.

All my pleasing doesn’t please. It only makes me miserable.

And if Super Woman on steroids working overtime doesn’t make everyone happy and pleased with my work, I’m not going to feel guilty about what I really have to give anymore.

I wrestled all last weekend with this whole persona I’ve attempted in my own feeble way. Wrestled with my pride. Because I know I can do a lot of things. Just not all of them. I have to choose.

So I’m reclaiming my priorities of wife and mom and I’m choosing to make time for people who are going through hell because of addictions and to write about our experience for their encouragement. And that means means I have to give up a whole lot of other things. Or at least being amazing at them.

The truth is, there’s no reason for this relentless pace.

All of my former excuses — distraction, self-esteem, guilt, pleasing, fear of sudden poverty — just don’t cut it anymore. That’s not who I am now.

* * * * *

It’s a process. And I’ve had a lot of help. A lot of exposure of my flaws. A lot of learning to be okay with who I am, where I am. That I’m not anywhere near a perfect mom. Or wife. Or anything.

And I pretty much don’t care who knows it now.

Because what I’ve discovered, now that I’m not trying so hard to be amazing, is that the people in my life need me to be real more than they need me to be awesome.

And, I need me to be real. 

Being real this week has given me a totally unexpected but long-sought for answer to prayer.

What about you?  We’re not in a competition. There is no real prize.

And please read this article: Moms on Drugs: The Prescription Pill Epidemic

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have problems. And we need to make it okay for people to ask for help without making them feel like a failure.

Maybe it would be easier all quit being Super Woman at once.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

on being fragile

Brushing teeth in Brooklyn
Annette brushes her teeth.
Arthur Rothstein, Library of Congress Collection

Last year, or the year before, my dentist told me I needed gum surgeries. And I didn’t go back.

Cut gum tissue from the roof of my mouth. Sew it to my receded gums. Heal. And repeat. No thank you.

But now I’m in pain . . .

I HATE going to the dentist.

No. ReallyViolently hate.

I once stormed out of our newlywed apartment, marched furiously through our sketchy neighborhood until it was nearly dark, got home and locked myself in the bathroom until my bewildered husband apologized for his offenses.

All he’d said was you have to have a regular dental check up.

Well, he kind of insisted . . . and I would have none of it.

. . .  I’m sure I’ll have to have a teeth cleaning, also known as torture . . .

the gag reflex awakened by Xray cards that bore holes in my mouth, the electric shock of hitting a nerve on my intensively sensitive exposed roots,the stabbing of my inflamed gums, the tugging at the tartar behind my front teeth until it feels like they’re being yanked out, the inevitable lecture on flossing . . .

I don’t stay with dentists for long.

As soon as they expect me to keep regular appointments, I disappear.

* * * * *

But I go . . . more than a little ashamed I waited so long.

And I repeat to myself: it’s not chemo. And I picture my sister, a cancer survivor and my “patron saint” of all things I think will kill me.

And I take my nine-year-old for moral support . . .

I am sure there are notes in my chart. About how I clench my jaw when they clean my teeth. About how I don’ t keep appointments. About the time I grabbed that other hygienist’s hand away from my mouth and begged her to be more gentle . . . Or maybe the notes just say be careful.

How long has this pain been going on? the dental clinician asks.

An embarrassingly long time, I tell her. I am compelled to apologize.

She kindly assures me it’s okay. And does not dismiss or chide my fears of infection.

The dentist says kind things about my receding gums — that I know are notably worse — calling me an “over-achiever” in my tooth brushing, a perfectionist.

She pokes around my mouth and does not send me through the roof. She is always like this, my dentist. But usually I have to endure the torture before I see her, so I forget how kind she is.

She tells me about the hole in my exposed root. She tells me there’s more now than just gum surgery. And she takes my tight face in her hands and looks me in the eyes and says, I know. I had gum surgery, too. But you have to do this. 

And I feel better. So much that I call to make all the appointments as soon as I leave her office.

* * * * *

A few weeks back, on a Sunday morning, I started a post all about how much I hate going to the dentist. (My teeth have been achy for quite a while.)

I wrote and wrote. Dave left to do his Sunday duties. The kids waited in the car for me instead of me for them. And we pulled into church nearly a half an hour late.

We rushed through the foyer, still full of first-service social stragglers, and my eyes landed on my favorite church greeter.

Seeing his face brought back the years when going to church was painful. 

Years of wanting to be there to sing the songs that were an ointment to my heart. To pray. To hear sermons of grace that gave me hope as though written just for me.

But I didn’t want to see all the people. To talk to them. To answer questions.

To hear about marriage and homeschooling and all the ways my life could not measure up.

Not every time. But enough.

I just wanted to slip in and out quietly and unnoticed back then. Not to be early and not make a grand entrance.

The days migraines or withdrawals kept Dave at home in bed. Or we’d had a fight. Or I was on the verge of breaking. Or I was overwhelmed with managing the children alone.

I heard Where’s your husband? Or We haven’t seen you in a while.

Or had a dreadful march to the front row where there are lots of seats.

Later, when the healing began, but I still hurt. I was late to church on purpose. To avoid.

And I felt guilty because I knew I was wrong.

But my favorite greeter has never said those things. And he’s never seated me up front.

Whether I’m ten minutes late or thirty, he gives me a big smile, hands me a bulletin, opens wide the door to the sanctuary and says:

You’re just in time.

Simple words that always make me feel welcome — just as I am.

* * * * *

There’s no chart at Church. No notes.

Nothing to say this one is hurting.

We don’t even wear a color to signify mourning anymore.

But there are people just like me coming to church in desperation.

Because it finally hurts so much they’ll endure small tortures just so they can be healed. 

Healed by Jesus — who they forgot is always kind and gentle.

Some haven’t been in a while. Hoping no one notices it’s been so long. Maybe apologetic.

The notes are written on the face. In the eyes . . .

. . . I’m fragile.

Sometimes it takes a while. To trust.

Do we speak simple words that encourage them to come back?

Or do we use the tools? Questions. Comments. Statements.

Do they leave strengthened to do the hard thing they have to do next?

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:19

the truth heals, part two

Dorthea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress Collection


The blog post today is written by Dave. In the previous post, I wrote about letting go of Dave’s recovery. My prayer in the last few years of his addiction finally became a simple, “If he’s lying, please don’t let him get away with it.” I still pray that prayer — for Dave and even for my kids. Lies destroy relationships. The truth heals.

* * * * *

My addiction to pills caused a lot of damage. Every part of my life was hurt.

Financially I wasted thousands. Physically I was wracked through the withdrawal and detoxification process. Mentally I am not as sharp as I was before I was on Ultram. Spiritually I seared my conscience and distanced myself from God.

The most evident damage, however, was the wreckage I brought on my relationships. My wife. My children. My parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, anyone I met. And almost all that damage was a direct result of lies.

When I was using, I lied about it. Over and over and over.  I lied all the time to hide and minimize my sin. I had an entire life to hide.

I could not sleep.  Guilt and fear that weighed on me and my mind raced from one lie to another and one manipulative scheme to another.  I would lay at night wide awake in the dark, while Deb slept soundly next to me, with pills in my system — afraid I might die. Not because I was afraid of death or even that my family would be left without me. (By that point I had decided they would be sad, but most likely better off without me.)

I was afraid of dying because all my secrets would be laid bare without my constant vigilance to keep them hidden.

It was a full-time job just keeping the lies straight.

Where did I say I was when I was at a doctor? What could I make up to explain the money spent at the pharmacy? Who did I tell what?

Keeping those lies up and my sin in the dark was draining, exhausting and terrifying. I was terrified of discovery.

Earning trust

When I was asked to resign from my ministry job it all came out. The lies were laid bare. My nightmare came true. And it was the beginning of freedom.

The problem was, even if I told the truth now, no one trusted me. I had lied for so long and so well that all the words and all the tears and all the declarations of innocence had been heard before and were eventually proven false.

At times in those first months I nearly despaired that I could ever rebuild trust with my wife, my family and anyone who knew me.

I quickly learned that I needed to be OK with suspicion.

Deb wanted to believe I had changed and was clean and willing to truly walk with God, but she had been to that place over and over and had been hurt. Not just hurt, but violated to her core.

Today we have rebuilt most of that trust. Not completely healed. There are still scars that will always linger. She still needs to be able to ask me if I am taking drugs, if I am hiding anything.

Rebuilding trust was painfully obvious but painfully slow.

The best and only way to earn trust is to have nothing to hide. Just as the damage was caused by lies over and over, I needed to be honest and clean for a long time. Over and over.

Rather than trying to convince Deb that I was being good, I needed to just let the evidence of my recovery and changed life be enough.

I needed to stop manipulating. Stop minimizing. Stop deflecting. Stop seeking instant and controllable pleasure.

I needed to stop trying and hoping and wishing it was different and realize I was powerless over my addiction and needed to turn my will and life over to the care of God. Rock bottom propelled me. But at some point, I had to actually stop and surrender myself to God.

And then I could start… start. Start to seek God and simple pleasures of a real life. Start honesty. Start trusting. Start loving. Start accepting responsibility.

I love that I have earned some trust back from my wife. That we can grow together. I love that honesty and a clean conscience means I can speak and lead and help without the nagging doubts of a blatant fraud.

Another thing has changed . . .

Tonight I will lie down to go to sleep and I will… sleep. I will be OUT in a few minutes. I sleep like a baby, or a log . . . Honesty and a clean conscience have given me peace and rest like I had not known for years.

— Dave

* * * * *

If you are a recovering addict, you need to realize that restoring the trust you’ve broken takes time — there will have to be a lot of truth-telling before you see signs of hope. For Dave, it has been a long and humbling road.  Are you committed to being truthful even if you are not believed? Can you tell the truth longer than you lied? There is hope. 

If you’re married to someone who has started on this “road to recovery,” your journey will also be long. Remember that the habit of lies doesn’t die quickly.  If your goal and hope is restoration, give them time to tell you the truth. Pray that God will catch them when they lie and convict them. He knows and He sees. Encourage honesty. Pray for wisdom. There is hope.

. . . So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes . . .

For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities:
rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
turning our backs on our God,
inciting revolt and oppression,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found . . . .

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

 . . . I am the Lord;
in its time I will do this swiftly.”

Isaiah 59-60

the truth heals, part one

Rebuilding a house
Rebuilding a house carried out of the Santee-Cooper Basin
Jack Delano, 1941

How did you rebuild trust? someone recently asked me.

How did you make it from the lies to now.

I thought I could give a one post answer. But it’s not that simple.

So I write. And I think. And I pray.

And I ask God to give me words to say to people who feel as though their hearts have been ripped from their bodies. Who are hollow and broken, limping cautiously across a minefield knowing that no matter how lightly they step, eventually there will be an explosion.

I remember how it was to plead with God for an answer.

Should I stay, God? Should I leave? Should I trust him? Should I make rules?

Wrestling. Weighing.

* * * * *

It took me a long time to really understand that Dave had to own his recovery.

As much as I wanted to help, as much as our future was dependent on the outcome and as much as I felt like I deserved to have answers, ultimately my determination had nothing to do with it.

I had to let go of this. This control.

Every time Dave was caught in lies, I had a meltdown. And then I made a plan. Steps Dave could follow to regain my trust.

He’d do them for a while. But too often he was doing it just to please me.

And he really needed to be doing it for himself.

There was nothing. Nothing I could do to fix Dave. Nothing.

No agreement. No counseling. No contracts. No threats. No intervention. No violence.

God had to get ME to a place where I would let HIM work on Dave.

I had to decide if I was willing for God to do the fixing.

* * * * *

I heard it on the radio yesterday — this dilemma.

“You can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed,” I heard one preacher say yesterday. And I know it’s true.

Addicts have to get to that horrible place we try so hard to shield them from. For them, but mostly for us.

And you can’t rebuild trust with someone who doesn’t really intend to be honest.

Then another preacher says, “The love that forgives and restores . . . there is something precious in that Christ-like love.”

And I know this hard, hard thing is true.

That a love that endures involves suffering. 

False starts. Relapse. Repentance. Fights. Being lied to.

So my answer to the hard questions is a thing I don’t want to say.

* * * * *

We won’t know, until we look back, where the healing really began.

From the day Dave first confessed his addiction to the day he really did hit “rock bottom” more than three and a half years passed.

It took years for God to pry my fingers off Dave’s recovery. And God did not always do things the way I wanted Him to do them.

If you are married to an addict, ask yourself these questions:

Do I really want restoration? Or do I just want out?

Listen to what God is telling you about your marriage.

It is not for me to say if you should walk away.  I can only say what we did.

* * * * *

For us, restoring trust took time. Years.

I haven’t just been learning to trust Dave. I am learning to trust God. 

Over the next posts Dave is going to join me.  Because he had to earn trust from everyone in his life — not just me — and only  he can tell you how hard that was.

Because when he looks back, he sees the day he began telling me the truth. Being accountable. Living honestly.

But it was a very long time before I really did trust him.

And even now, I am reminded that it isn’t about me trusting Dave. Because in moments of weakness, the years come back.

And I’m reminded: It’s about me trusting God to make Dave the man He wants him to be. With or without my trust.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.

The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.

Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For You have rescued my soul from death,

My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling.

I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living.

I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”

I said in my alarm, “ All men are liars.”

Psalm 116:5-11

If the foundations are destroyed

Walker Evans, March 1936, near Jackson MS

“Honesty is such a lonely word

everyone is so untrue

honesty is hardly ever heard

and mostly what I need from you.”

— Billy Joel

* * * * *

The path to the beach cuts through the woods near our house. At the edge of the cliffs, roots of lofty pines and cedars clinging to a wall of dirt above their fallen companions. Tree tops, immersed in sand.

We don’t often go to the beach in the winter. It’s cold. The way is muddy. . .

But in spring, we go. Carefully. Mom first. Checking the path for danger and sucking the joy out of the adventure with warnings and lectures.

We reach the sand and look back at the path we’ve descended. The wall has been cut away by waves, downpours, and the trickle of a seasonal stream. How long, I wonder, til our path is gone?

Longer than I think. That’s what I realize. I am always surprised to see the path still there, at the edge of the cliff. But the tree roots are stubborn. And erosion takes years.

* * * * *

Truth is the foundation of everything good.

 . . . of faith: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . . of freedom: We hold these Truths to be self-evident . . . of justice:  swear to tell the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth . . . 

There is beauty in Truth. Security in Truth.

And there is nothing so destructive, so undermining, so shattering as being lied to.

* * * * *

Every six months something hit. A phone call. A letter. A bounced check or seven. My first response was always anger. Lashing out about irresponsibility. Frantic fixing. And then an aching confusion . . .

I was afraid you’d be mad, he’d say. Or, I know I told you that. My mind and heart whirling, trying to be strong.

Eventually, in an effort to preserve myself from these seasons of deep pain, I would become a watchdog. Determined not to be deceived again. Protecting myself. Thinking if I spotted the lies coming, they wouldn’t hurt so bad. Driving myself crazy in a futile effort to prevent feeling crazy.

And I felt crazy. I didn’t know what to believe.

I wanted to believe it would never happen again.

* * * * *

It’s in our nature to be deceived.  So, so easily.

Eve. The serpent. An apple.

But I wasn’t the only one being deceived. Dave had bought plenty of lies himself.

The shocking truth . . .

devastated by the truth . . .

the truth hurts . . .

Lies to make Truth sound like it is an enemy that will ruin your life. That truth is to be avoided at all costs, to preserve a relationship . . . to protect ourselves. So we are afraid to reveal who we really are. Or what we’ve done.

But the pain of hearing the truth is nothing next to the revelation you’ve been deceived. Lied to for years. No, lies are the real enemy. Truth sets you free.

The pills were bad, Dave will tell you, the addiction was bad, but lying did most of the damage.

It’s true. I could handle the Truth. I couldn’t handle being lied to.

But I was too proud to admit my marriage wasn’t perfect. I allowed myself to be deceived for years and never let another person in. I dealt with deception alone.

Lies eroded me and left me unstable.

There is nothing so destructive to a relationship as lying and nothing so hard to regain as trust.

* * * * *

I need to say thank you to Dave for encouraging me to tell these things. He knows I’m writing about the lies this week and stops to say once again that he’s so sorry for the years of them.

I read my journal to him from fifteen years ago and tell him I am amazed. Because I can see so clearly now where the lies and deception began to erode our marriage.

But it doesn’t hurt to write this today, I’m no longer worried about the eroding path. I am on the beach looking back at the cliff. And my roots are clinging to something stronger than man — made of dirt, of clay. And though this world is full of seasonal streams — and sometimes floods — of lies that threaten my stability, they will not destroy me.

Because no matter how awful it may seem, the Truth heals. 

And there have been years of Truth now . . . but that is for the next post.

In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me . . . .“ When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” . . . . for the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face. Psalm 11

twenty years and counting

Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer.There’s a little romance in playing pioneer.

Like Ma and Pa Ingalls, leaving their family in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and travelling west to settle on the prairies of Minnesota.

Pa chops down trees, hauls and hews logs, hoists them (with a little help from Ma), building a house for his family in the middle of nowhere and clearing the land for farming with the help of an ox.

Ma plants a garden, makes satisfying meals from scratch for her family, sets aside stores for the winter, keeps house and fights prairie fires.

Such a simple life . . .  I’ve dreamed about it ever since my dad read the “Little House” series to us when I was nine.

* * * * *

Dave and I got married on February 29, 1992 — twenty years ago now — and we honeymooned at Lake Tahoe, high in the Sierra Nevada.

One of our favorite stops was Emigrant Gap from which you can see Donner Summit. Such a romantic vista . . . a great spot for pictures . . . and the  scene of the worst possible horrors of pioneer life.

The charming childhood stories fade briefly there as reality hits: Pioneer life was hard and terrible.

And I would never have made it.

The Donner Party story is notorious, disturbing, and morbidly fascinating. And  yet, if you look closer there is a painful, beautiful picture of survival.

James Reed, banished from the party before they were fatally trapped in the mountains, barely made it to Sutter’s Fort alive and then hiked back into the mountains — a treacherous 7 day journey — TWICE to rescue all of his starving family and their remaining travelling companions.

Margaret, his wife, was only 32 at the time. She endured four months of that winter alone, caring for her children and elderly mother, fighting for survival among people who most likely blamed her husband — who not only had made bad route choices but had also murdered one of the party — for their predicament.

Those months stranded in the mountains must have seemed an eternity.

An unimaginable nightmare: snow, starvation, death, cannibalism . . . rescue at last — and then an agonizing decision for Margaret and James to leave two of their small children behind for the next relief party.

Half the Donner party died. Margaret and James Reed and their children were one of only two families to make it through the journey to California intact.

There have been many studies over the years attempting to determine why some survived the months stranded in the deep snow and some didn’t, but this family defies the odds. And some believe they may have been the only ones to not resort to cannibalism.

Maybe the Reeds had more body fat.

Maybe the separation from her husband gave Margaret determination to see him again.

Maybe they had hidden stores of food.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, they survived by the hand of Providence.

I wonder how many weary pioneer women heading to California after 1847 said to themselves, If Margaret Reed can do it, so can I . . .

And I wonder how many men chose to follow James Reed’s example of perseverance. Unwilling to let his family die, he didn’t give up. His family was worth the fight. He raised up relief parties of men who risked their lives for strangers.

The Reed family made it. And even rescued some people along the way.

* * * * * *

I’ve spent hours and hours searching the internet for statistics on addictions and the toll they take on a marriage. Somewhere I read that 90% of all marriages that battle with addiction end in divorce, but I haven’t been able to find it again. In other places I’ve seen that we’re four times more likely to go through divorce than anyone else. Whatever the numbers, the situation isn’t very promising.

Dave and I don’t have any special secrets to making it twenty years. Only simple words like: endurance, hope, trust, and forgiveness.

There were days, months and years when neither of us thought we’d make it. The death grip of addiction led Dave to despair of ever having victory. Loneliness and fear haunted me.

But we didn’t give up.

* * * * *

Writing about our life sometimes feels like I’m trying to trudge through snow that keeps getting deeper.

The  scars of years of dysfunction don’t disappear overnight. It’s tempting to despair. To look at the mess around me . . . in my life, in the world and just pull the covers over my head.

I feel tired. And I wonder who am I to speak about these things? I certainly don’t have life figured out.

But when I lift my eyes from my own poor feet — like last night with a few friends — I see a few foolhardy companions beside me who are just as weary and just as determined to succeed.

We remember what God has brought us through and that though we don’t know the way over the mountains, He does.

The endurance of my companions gives me hope.

* * * * *

Certainly, pioneers who came after the Reeds learned what not to do.

I think maybe if Margaret was giving advice to later pioneers she might have said, “Keep going through the valley even if it seems harder to go on . . . don’t stop or you’ll regret it . . .and never give up.”

I guess that’s how I feel about blogging about addiction. And even if it’s just learning what not to do, I hope our experience encourages others along the way.

Ours is not a charming “Little House” story. And it’s not completely written. But there is a beautiful picture if you look hard enough. And by God’s grace, it’s a good one.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters,  about the trouble we went through . . . We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9