On to The Lighter Walk

Friends,

I have moved my writing to a new blog. I have changed the direction in my writing to seeking and finding God in our environment. 

Please follow my new blog: The Lighter Walk and take the next part of my Walk with God with me!

Click here to read more. 

Thank you,

Maggie 

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Friendship Walk

It has taken me a long time to have a friendship with God. We were more the ‘casual acquaintance’ type for many years.  Oh sure, we had our moments of closeness when I cried out in despair for help, not fully expecting to receive any help. And there were those ‘ah ha’ moments on spiritual retreats when I got all caught up in emotions of the worship and the message.

Real friendship was another thing. I still remember walking to communion one Sunday as the band played a song about Jesus being my friend and I realized that I didn’t feel that way. It broke my heart that others could know him that way but I didn’t. I mean I have been a Christian all my life so how could I not feel Jesus was my friend? Friendship implies a close relationship, a sharing of secrets, a deliberate presence in each other’s lives, and time spent together through all the good and bad times.

Wasn’t that Jesus?

Continue reading

I Am Not Invisible: My Personal March

I can still remember standing in the middle of the cafeteria at The Meadows and screaming those words. I was on a perch above the lunch crowd, dutifully acting out my task for the day. At that time I was a woman who felt unseen by her family, her workplace, her church, and even the people in treatment with me.

I had come to this point because for most of  my life I felt invisible. I had learned to hide in a family with alcoholism and domestic abuse, to stay under the radar. I had been body-shamed either for developing early, being too fat, or being too skinny; so I tried not to call attention to myself. I grew up at a time when most women were not seen for their value-added in the work environment. And although I knew women in ministry areas, others frequently were held back to certain “lady-like” areas: prayer teams, women’s ministry, altar guild, and hospitality.

I understand how some women today can feel invisible or at a minimum, not heard. It took me three times of yelling out “I AM NOT INVISIBLE” before the people in the cafeteria even turned to hear me–and then they applauded my bravery. Funny thing is, they didn’t really see me after my bold action, but I saw me. I learned that I needed to stand up for myself, even if no one else was with me.

Even when we push forward and make strides as women, some still evaluate us based on our sexuality or ‘beauty.’ One of my challenges in a government position of leadership was to maintain my femininity while asserting myself in a mostly male-run environment. It was not unusual to see women take on more masculine traits to be validated while women who maintained femininity were seen as light-weights (or light-headed?). I still remember a dear friend asking me during an event at a conference: “What would a man do? He would just go right in like he belonged there, even if he didn’t get an invitation.” It was a reminder that we as women need to step up and out of our comfort zone to be seen and heard. And we need to do it for one another.

I can understand why some think that they need special treatment (i.e., legislation) to overcome the bias that continues to exist in work places. Unfortunately, there is no legislation that will change the mind (or behavior) of some individuals about women, anymore than legislation has changed the opinion some have about the LGBT community or minorities. These minds will only be changed as those of us who see the value and worth of women (and other communities) promote their merit and help secure a future for them.

All things are legitimate, but not all things are helpful. All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive and edifying. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

I know that we need to rise above the negativity and not come down to the level of those using vile language to describe and assess women. We don’t need to repeat their words to be heard – we need a new positive language that validates what we already know. We were all created in the image of God and all have the same value in his eyes and should have it in the eyes of each other. We don’t need to take terms that defile women and turn them on ourselves. Our strength will come from demonstrating and demanding respect for each other.

I have taken my own steps in that direction. I have bonded with other like-minded women and we are uplifting and encouraging one another. I have thrown my hat in the ring for leadership positions because even if I was overlooked, my name was in front of those making decisions. I am committed to building a community of single persons, especially women. I am studying ways to help them see their contribution and to stand with them as they discern their ministry or professional calling. And I am using this platform to share my story of transformation and new life to encourage others to seek out help where it is needed.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him. Romans 15:3

I am not invisible anymore. I know that I was made for purpose. My purpose, my calling, may differ from yours, and I respect that. We may view world priorities differently, and I am willing to learn from those differences in opinion. I have discovered that being happy and content in my skin may make some people uncomfortable, and that I need to step into leadership respectfully understanding that change is never easy. I will keep my one-woman march forward going, with my eyes turned upward and with the prayers and support of those that believe in my journey. I will be responsible for me and not blame others when things don’t go my way–I will find a way to make it work if I discern it is God’s will.

My prayer for you today therefore is that you become willing to take action to be seen and heard where you are called to be an instrument of change. I pray that you will seek God’s will for your life and step forward with courage. I pray that you will go high when others go low, that they may see up from where they stand. I pray that you will sow seeds of encouragement and that you will be a vessel of compassion for those less fortunate for you. I pray you will go with God wherever he takes you.

For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught. Proverbs 3:26

The photo used for this post is the ‘invisible’ stealth carrier.

 

The Darkness of Singleness

Living alone often can amplify the negative voices in our head because we have no one to counter them. Our feelings of discouragement, sadness, or incompleteness may overcome us at times. Being honest about our struggles isn’t always easy, especially if we already feel alone and unwanted. It may be difficult to believe that we are capable of change or that our lives will improve. We may be afraid to admit  to someone else what is going on because we fear judgement, when in reality; the people around us already know something isn’t quite right.  They may not know how to tell us, or they have tried to tell us and we couldn’t get what they were saying. We thought—you don’t know how lonely I am, you don’t know what it is like to not have that special person, you don’t know….fill in the blank. Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Pain

There are a number of reasons I am skipping the Fifty Shades movie. Yes, I read part of the book, until it became too sad and painful to continue. I am not a prude. I love sex; good fun adventurous sex. I, however, abhor abuse. I abhor someone taking advantage of my vulnerabilities. I abhor pain inflicted in the name of love–physical or verbal.

I was raped as a young girl. I was raped as a young woman. I was battered in the name of love by two of my husbands. I was verbally abused and talked into things I wish I could undo. It was not fun. It didn’t get easier the more I complied. I also was in a number of emotionally twisted relationships that evolved into the kind of sex in this movie. It was not fun. I was not happy. I was naive and wanted to be loved and so I went along with it. A movie that replicates and romanticizes a similar abusive relationship rips off the scars that have taken many of us years to heal. And it sends a message to women still in these kinds of hurtful relationships that it is a good thing.

We watch with outrage as sports figures and their abusive relationships are paraded in front of us. Celebrities take to the screen to say “no more,” while they line up to endorse the same sad harmful relationships played out on screen. Real people are fired for what this man does to this young woman. Nowhere in this book or movie do we hear this is wrong—that this destroys women’s self-esteem and sense of worth. Rather TV show after TV show glorifies the bondage toys that are flooding our market and laugh that although they would never do this; they can’t wait to see some other women be emotionally and physically tortured.

The kind of relationships I was trapped in made me feel like I belonged as they left me in fear that I would be alone if I didn’t comply. I won’t go into vivid details here but I can tell you that those men manipulated me, they broke my spirt, and they caused me to make decisions that I regret. I regret allowing sex to take the place of love. I regret allowing men in power to make me think I had no choice. I regret staying in these situations far longer than I should have and for thinking this was the best I deserved. I allowed them to use me for their perverse need to be in power and control.

Today I am free of that bondage. I was freed from sexual and love addiction with the help of the good people at The Meadows. More importantly, I was set free through my understanding that Jesus loves me far more than these hurtful men. I was made new and able to leave the past in the past and forgive myself for my behavior. I was able to accept God’s forgiveness for believing when others told me that I was not important to him. I came to believe that I have worth and value on this planet. God transformed me into a person who respects herself and has earned the respect of others through this healing process. I learned to say “no” and to protect myself.

If you are in a relationship where you find your partner making demands on you that leave you troubled–tell someone. I didn’t for many years. If you find yourself searching for sex in the hopes that someone will love you, find a counselor who will help you to see your value. You are valuable! If you are afraid your partner will leave you if you say no to what he/she is asking–leave before you are hurt. Don’t allow the secrets they ask you to keep about your relationship destroy who you really are. You ARE stronger and more powerful when you walk away.

As women we need to encourage each other to look for and to expect the best in all of our relationships. As Christian women we need to pray for each other and to inspire each other to seek the face of Jesus in our relationships. As humans, we need to remember that we are created in the image of God and to treat one another as valuable treasures. We need to turn our hearts and our minds to the things that motivate us toward that which is positive and purposeful. We need to speak truth to each other and to listen to the words that might change our lives. We need to speak the truth to one another and we need to listen when we hear words that could change our lives.

I hope that in sharing our stories we will bring truth to what this movie really represents—violence against women. Were we to hear this woman’s story in the news I doubt we would celebrate what happened to her. This is not a story to celebrate—it is NOT entertainment. It is glorifying what many of us have spent years fighting against—oppression of women. Let us stand as survivors and encourage and celebrate healthy relationships. The kind of relationships where the love is great and so too is the sex. Let us honor the joy of sexual pleasure rather than sexual bondage.

Today I pray you will skip the popular movie and spend and evening encouraging and loving on good friends. I pray you will know true love and joy. I pray you will seek the best God has for you in all your relationships.

Will the Real Me Please Step Forward??

Are you a different person with your friends, your colleagues at work, and the people at church? How do does your personality change as you shift from environment to environment? Do you put on facades with friends so you fit in, doing things you wouldn’t do say if you were around church folk? Do you use language with them that you would never use in front of a pastor? Do you treat people at church nicer than you treat the people you encounter in the grocery store? Is the person at work a reflection of the person God wants you to be and whom you want to be?

When we are inspired to transform our lives we need to look at all aspects of our life. People will be watching to see if we really are who we say we are. The change in our character and our behaviors might not happen overnight; however, if we are committed to change, each day should bring us closer to who we desire to be. This journey of change is just that—a lifelong journey that hopefully draws us closer to the image of God in which we were created. It’s a committed journey of transformation inspired by the Holy Spirit.

What behaviors or personality traits are you hanging on to? For me it is my language. I grew up in a house where swearing, in multiple languages, was part of the vernacular. Those tapes of swear words are engrained in the recesses of my brain and try as I might, they still bubble out. Additionally, those words have become part of everyday American language, which reinforces my use of them. They are, however, not the same words I would use at church or around ministers, or people whom I respect.

As part of my acting out from the sexual abuse, I was an unashamed flirt. It got me in trouble. It was the way I had learned to communicate and often it was how I got my way. It was also how I ended up in damaging relationships and with a huge lack of self-respect. It took a while to realize what was happening and when I did, I sought help to change who I was and what I did. The Meadows turned my life around. It taught me to set boundaries and to respect those boundaries. Over the years I have found how to carry myself as a professional, capable, and respected woman. It has changed everything about who I am today. Transformation is a good thing!!

I want to be the same person on Sunday that I am the rest of the week. I need to commit this desire for change to prayer. I need to pay attention to what I say and work harder not to say the words my brain pops in my mouth. I have been working on this for many many months—ok let’s be honest—my friends would say years! I keep trying. I want this change. I want people to see I am a Christian by my actions and behavior.

There, I said it aloud. I am motivated to change this character flaw and I need your prayers to do it.

What areas in your life are you clinging to and refusing to let God change? What steps can you take to begin the transformation journey? What does the Bible say and how could that become your verse of inspiration? Find it, pray it, do it!

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1 The Message)

Shamed

“Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.” Psalm 15:2

As a young woman, I carried the shame of being sexually abused with me into nearly everything I did. Pia Mellody, founder of The Meadows, developed the concept of “carried shame,” that which we bring into our adult life from events that occurred in your childhood. These are the events over which we had no power and that sets the stage for negative behavior in our adulthood. Until we can acknowledge this shame, we are somewhat powerless over our behavior. Without validation for what has happened to us, we may think we are worthless and therefore not allowed to be in respected or valued.

The shame I carried with me stemmed from my abuse and the reaction of those who knew back when it occurred. My memories are fuzzy, but I do know that in that era the victim was usually held at least partially responsible for what happened. It didn’t matter that I was only 8 years old. And there was nothing really done to the perpetrator other than to separate them from the child. To this day I am not sure if anyone really understood, including myself. I do know that I went from being one of the girls that the neighborhood boys treated like a princess to the butt of their jokes and sexual harassment. From then on I came to believe my body and my life was of little value. And for the next 40 years I acted that way too.

And then, at The Meadows I found out that this was not my fault. I was not protected by the people who should have protected me. I was a naïve young girl, desperate for someone to notice me, who was noticed and taken advantage of by someone we all trusted and admired. I did not understand how that period of time had polluted my thinking about myself. And in the desert of Arizona I found that God loved me and would rescue me from the shame others inflicted upon me. I could make the decision right then and there to accept God’s love as an incredible gift and to remove the hooks that held me to this carried shame. The shame was that of the man who hurt me. It was the shame of the parents who neglected me. It was the shame of the friends who turned their back on me. It was not mine anymore. God created a new person that day. I began to walk without shame, having sought forgiveness for my own behavior and a willingness to live a different lifestyle.

I was freed.

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