At the Well

It’s been a long while since I really spoke of my hurt.

It occurred to me recently that many of you newer readers may not even know that much about it beyond snippets still given here and there.

A dig through the more distant reaches of my archives would enlighten, of course.

And I can make it more convenient by indicating that you may click here for perhaps the best rundown, if so inclined.

But, overall, there are reasons I resist touching too much on it.

I haven’t wanted to feel as though I am eliciting sympathy or sinking down into the past and staying there.

I also don’t want to dip into any unfair comparisons from past to present.

Insecurity has a way of painting everything in dark, foreboding shades.

What may, in fact, be unintentional on the part of a loved one now looks like the same heart-shattering experience as before when glimpsed through the lens of an oft-wounded soul.

Still, I am nothing if not honest here.

The fact is, though I speak often of “Be still and know that I am God”-something I am truly striving to live in the light of every day-there is a growing melancholy weighing on my heart at present.

A deep-seated sadness settling in that is stealing at my ability to rightly express it.

Depression has long been with me, mind you. We are certainly not strangers.

More than once, it nearly snuffed the life out of me, in fact.

Now, it is something that hovers in the background and makes itself known by turns.

Right now? It’s a “making itself known” season.

I fight to go to sleep with this heaviness these days, reawakening frequently, an unidentifiable fear cloaking me in the midslumber haze.

Where it is coming from, I can cast about a few ambiguous notions, but, where there are some aspects of my life to definitively point to as a source, I can’t necessarily call too much of it concrete.

Is it all rooted in my past, so littered as it is by abuse and abandonment?

Or is it my ever-present anxiety over signs that such pain, real or no, is or is about to revisit me?

Angry shouts do ring in my head long after they have ceased and have an unfortunate tendency to visit me in my dreams.

It’s quite the challenge to rest my soul in any “it is well” feeling, even when life is managing fairly pleasantly, let alone when it is not.

For there is the nearly constant question mark in my head:

“When’s the next time the wounding will come?”

How will it come?”

And-“Will I be able to sustain myself following it?”

Now, there are days I can rightly shove this aside and recall to myself just Who my sustainer is.

Most days, in fact.

But, other days?

Ah, other days, I find myself forgetting.

Perhaps, it is the old recordings in my head getting louder, stating in dismissive tones how try as I might, I’m still just no good.

A loser.

A wimp.

A tramp.

Unwanted.

Unworthy.

Unable.

And I know that I know that that is most emphatically not true-not in God’s eyes!

But…circumstances make my hands slow to switch off the tape sometimes.

So…what do I do?

Dig myself further in one way or another.

Either into deeper wells of sorrow, cranking up that ugly noise and feeding upon the slow death of it.

Not a good thing!

Or…the better part-

I dig in deeper to prayer.

To worship.

To His words-to me and for me.

The far superior well to spend my time in by far!

Full of Living Water ready for the drinking in.

Bread of Life to feed upon.

Brothers and sisters that come alongside and nourish you even further in encouraging words.

And, of course, The One who intimately knows sorrow to carry the burden of it beside me.

It doesn’t mean I don’t still feel what I feel.

There’s a funny little truth about hurt.

It does not disappear in a snap.

Painful memories are long and thoughts often remain reactionary.

Trust is a shaky rope bridge at best.

Time to heal is key and, even then, some scars are prominent.

But, in that gift that is time, wounds can be eased, joys resurrected, trust finds firmer feet, and life continues on…

With all its seasons of delight and grief, smooth planes and blessed bumps alike.

Not absent of hurt by any means.

But, perhaps, richer for it.

Whatever season you find yourself in, dear friends, may you find the well full of the riches of life in the Lord! Blessings and prayers! ❀

Praise You In This Storm

I feel like I am posting a lot lately, but I recall promising to share another song or two that has long lifted my heart in troubling times.

All the current turmoil seems to indicate such a thing would be welcome at this point.

Now, this one begs a bit of background. It’s too beautiful not to tell, for it speaks to the way our God reaches out and holds us in the midst of our deepest sorrows.

It was summer 2005. My first husband had left in May to be with someone else. I was a stay-at-home mom wrangling two sons- a baffling toddler and a sweet, oddly mature baby- and expecting my only daughter.

I had been in the pits of despair, naturally, crying out for some sign of hope from God.

Nights were hardest. After my boys were tucked in, I felt so alone.

I would turn on the radio to go to sleep by-to try to go to sleep by, that is.

So often, this was actually more when I’d let myself cry. No kids to worry about disturbing, after all.

And in those tears was mixed my prayers, sometimes in words, more often than not just a verbal ache brought to the surface.

Oh, where was comfort?! I would wonder.

But, oh, friends, night after night, there came this song. God’s reply.

And, somehow, I could feel His wings draw around me then.

And, somehow, I would find enough rest to get through the next day.

I hadn’t thought of this song except perhaps periodically until the chaos and tragedy of this year descended, both on the world and in my own little corner of it.

May it speak to any who need its comfort. ❀ Blessings and prayers.

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part One

And now, for something totally different…

Inspired by my sweet blogging friend, Tina, over at Pippi’s Poetry and her recent wonderful posts on how she met her husband. Hello, friend! 😊

Also, honestly, further fueled by the struggles mentioned here.

I think it’s safe to say I could really do with some sharing of this piece of my story at this particular point in time.

To be reminded of His unparalleled goodness to us.

For those who have travelled with me one blog to another or read my book, this all might not be exactly different. My apologies.

Still, with each writing, there are fresh insights to be had. So…there’s that. 😏

Anyway…I have alluded in a lot of posts to having been married before.

It all figures into where I am now. Therefore, this portion impresses upon me to be told first, like it or not.

So…onto to laying the groundwork…

Husband #1 was my high school sweetheart.

The only guy I thought would ever stick around the likes of shy, dorky me.

The one I honestly assumed a lot of my identity through, as I had never felt much of my own.

I had grown up in the confusing atmosphere of a series of charismatic churches.

I had said a prayer to accept Jesus at age 5 that I didn’t really understand. No one truly helped fill in the gaps with anything more than to introduce the concept of being separately filled with the Spirit.

It was indicated such a “baptism” would bring me the “benefits” I witnessed weekly: supernatural healing, speaking a “heavenly language”, and the ability to worship in a “freer” (read: frenzied) fashion. Maybe even prophesy.

I could never figure out why none of that stuff came to me despite my sincere longing. I wilted in rejection.

At age 13, a lot of years of that later plus the abuse my mother administered at home, and I was back at the altar crying out to God to take my heart and change it.

To make me worthy. Because I sure didn’t feel much of that.

I did feel a change then, though again, there was a bundle of confusion handed to me with it when camp sponsors attempted to force me to speak in tongues.

However, older and a bit wiser, I tried to brush that aside this time and place my focus on that change I was feeling Him make within me.

I needed that change within me. I knew it was there.

Yet, I was still so unsure of His love in this process. Of any love, for that matter.

That was something, after all, so often given only to be snatched away when I proved less than pleasing, or so I thought.

I think that rampant insecurity as much as anything made it easy for me to latch onto this guy in my Drama 1 class.

He was funny. He was friendly. He said he believed in God, went to a church that was a lot simpler to understand.

And he seemed to like me.

But, it was never really what I could term as healthy. Lots of overattachment, plenty of push and pull.

Yet, I convinced myself we were destiny, as was the ministry we would unite in.

We married a year out of high school.

It proved a lot harder than anticipated. Neither of us was mature enough to sustain the necessaries of a God-centered relationship.

Children were born, responsibilities weighed, depression haunted.

And…we collapsed. Studies were abandoned and his dreams shifted another direction, with another person.

And the kids and I?

Well, we were left largely to fend for ourselves, beyond the very occasional visit, the very occasional financial contribution.

I was dangerously near suicide, saved by the love of my children and their need for me.

And…for a long while, the foolhardy hope he’d somehow come to his senses and come home, if only I behaved dutifully and prayed hard enough.

I really thought I was hearing from God on this, even.

In the meantime, I took up a new way of life:

Raising kids, discovering their autism and developmental delays, teaching a class of toddlers, learning to lean on God as my husband in that season, drawing my strength from Him.

It was brimming with opportunities for wisdom and fraught with fountains of tears.

New ways to find His joy were latched onto.

Yet, I also held onto my hope for a restored marriage-so tight the fabric of it grew frayed.

And on that fabric was written my mantra: Just waiting on a miracle here. I neither need nor want any other man.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the abandonment, I had found myself vulnerable to the teachings of my childhood and began to swallow the charismatic line whole.

However, as time and circumstance wore on without a glimmer, the words blurred to an unrecognizable blob in my hand, the fabric I carried like a security blanket long since past its use.

Until, finally, one day, I just decided.

I looked around and admitted it. I was lonely. Desperately lonely.

And quite fed up.

He wasn’t coming home because that wasn’t God’s answer to my many prayers.

The answer was I was a fool to believe God was speaking this false hope to me!

I had wasted six years of my life in unrequited longing.

I was done.

And, so, in this moment of revelation, where I wish I could say I had laid it all at His feet, I instead snatched a major chunk of it up for myself, pulled out my mobile phone, and signed myself up for something I never imagined I would do in a million years:

Online Dating. 😳😬

And….whew. That took a lot more words than I anticipated, though I should know my tendency towards windy phrasology by now.😊

That said, I think I shall have to stop there. Seems like a good spot, anyway.

All right. So, I know it is titled, at least partially: “The How Marisa Met Joe Story”. And…we aren’t even to anyone named Joe yet. For any dangling, I am sorry.

But, I promise, he is coming!πŸ˜‰

Stay tuned. I will likely have Part Two for you by Friday. 😊

Thanks for reading! Blessings and prayers, friends! ❀

When Joy Gets Lost in the Gray

Hey, friends. I always try to come to you with raw honesty yet hope.

Not rah-rah-false-cheer, mind you.

That is just implausible.

Plus, it unhealthily glosses over troubles.

Of which, yes, I do admit to many.

But, I strive ever for that underlying joy of the Lord that rests in the heart despite hard times.

Yet…lately, I have to say I am having major struggles tapping into it.

Yes, between covid fears, grievious tension in our country, and grief striking agonizingly close to our church home, it’s not unfathomable to have reasons why.

Yet, all that I have been enduring and still finding reasons to praise.

No, the source of this growing grayness inside feels much more selfish.

However, I can no longer deny it’s there.

So, I will do what He has put inside me to do.

I will write about it and pray by the end the joy kicks in…

Eight years into my second marriage-that which I have counted despite every struggle a gift from a gracious God-I am lately feeling more and more broken.

Oh, I have had bouts of this before.

Coming together from our respective, extremely wounded pasts has not been the proverbial picnic.

Unless you count one with ants carrying your cake away. 😏

But, this. This feels deeper.

Differing ideas, differing parental tactics, differing opinions, differing desires…

Things I should be mature and wise enough to figure out how to dovetail by now!

Yet, I am finding myself at an impasse to be able to do so.

And, I can see on the other side, my husband does, too.

Perhaps, it is the sheer weariness of the deadlock.

The idea that this is indeed how it will always be.

But, really, I also think part of why this is so hard is I have been here before. The eight year mark was my last the first time.

The last and then, he was gone to another.

Eight years of hopes and dreams crumbled-though I know the crumbling began long before I could recognize it.

Long before I could acknowledge my place in it, though I no longer blame myself entirely.

At any rate, it is always such an incredibly painful place to be.

And to be abandoned in

Alone with two tiny boys and a daughter still on the way.

I admit, fifteen years down the road, there are days the scars still twinge mightily!

Oh, but, we are not looking at that exact situation this time, I must remind myself!

Infidelity, frankly, is sometimes feared by me in my tendency to apply ugly past to present circumstances. But, it has not manifested in reality.

Divorce has not really cropped up in our conversations, though I do have disconcerting thoughts of wanting to be the one to run this time.

Not to escape so much but to provide escape to him, he who I view, rightly or wrongly, as too honorable to do so.

You see, due to my limitations-some of which we really didn’t know he was signing up for at the time-I can feel like a millstone around his neck at times.

He will usually flatly deny this verbally, but actions sometimes-honestly, more and more-say otherwise.

And, in the heat of anger, his verbal will even sometimes slip and remind me of all I seem unable to fulfill.

I can feel like a shell of a partner in those times.

Even like he got a raw deal.

But that’s not a Godly way to think of oneself, Marisa!!

Yes, I know. I also am aware after counseling galore that my abusive past from childhood on points to deep-seated self-esteem quarrels.

It’s all in my book, even.

Meaning what, exactly?

That I should be better at all this?

Yeah, I think that sometimes.

Ok. Lots of times.

And, yet, I am reminded of my humanity.

Fragile. World-worn. Just not there in the well-muscled spirituality department, though I ever long to be.

And, maybe, just maybe, that is the place to begin in.

Admittance I am just not there.

That weakness needs a Savior.

That marriage needs more than two googly-eyed people who like all the same things and do things the same way.

That marriage is not doomed to impasses even when it involves two people marked up by hurtful, hair-raising pasts.

Not if we keep remembering this key thing:

1 Peter 5:7, NIV: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

It is not an automatic grayness-lifter, to be sure.

But, as I keep casting, He keeps listening.

And as He keeps listening, I do feel less alone in these gray times.

So…am I feeling that joy that abides just yet? Has it kicked in?

Perhaps a smidge more than when I began this ramble.

Rest assured, I will be all right in His hands.

Thanks for listening today, friends. Blessings and prayers to you!

When Need Comes Knocking on Your Door

Visions of youth ministry have always played large parts in my adult life.

I think it comes of the fact that, despite my introverted ways, I longed to reach out to help those who’d hurt like me.

Now, there were several opportunities in the “traditional” molds over the years. For a while there, it seemed it would be THE mission.

Most chances were dashed to bits, however. Often the catalyst was immaturity– my marriage’s, my first husband’s, and, yes, much to my chagrin, my own. πŸ™„

Following our separation and eventual divorce, I drew big red lines through such dreams like mistaken passages in a manuscript.

Obviously, I was wrong about the call on my life. Apparently, I didn’t do anybody any good, least of all myself.

I adapted my hopes to teaching toddlers, but that was more or less so my children and I could continue to have a roof over our heads.

Ministry was no longer really on my mind then.

Though, looking back seven years after my retirement from the classroom, I see that the way God allowed me to love on those kids was, in fact, ministry…

And that brings me to the point I wish to make now. But, first, a little further background. Bear with me, folks πŸ˜‰:

Nearly eight years ago, I found myself sinking in the mire of online dating and a gripping depression I’d not experienced since the earliest days of single motherhood.

I was near to throwing out my profile and, honestly, my computer altogether when God allowed me to see one more profile-the unique and Godly man who eventually said “I do” to me and the hectic world a single mom of special needs kids naturally inhabits. Not just “I do”, really, but an “I do” replete with generosity and good humor. 😊

He, too, had seen much pain, some of it in ways similar to my own, some in ways I can never fully imagine despite the years of knowing his story ( Would love to tell it here at some point with his permission. πŸ™‚).

Anyway…safe to say the Lord came through as only He can, offering us a second chance at love!

Ah, but not just in marriage. But, also, as it turns out, in co-laborers who have a yearning to minister, especially to the young.

So… suddenly, there was a rebirth of old dreams, a uniting of one another’s.

Oh, it wasn’t necessarily a let’s-drop-everything-and-go-to-seminary stirring.

He was a truck driver in those days; I found myself rather quickly a stay-at-home mom out of necessity.

But, there was that knowing there was something He had for us to do together.

We didn’t know exactly how or when, but we felt sure of a call.

Many events tumbled out over the years. A blending of families, a dilapidated country home, job loss, a business begun, a lot of writing…

And yet, no definitive answer to the question of ministering seemed to show itself.

We had hopes of a property behind us being transformed into a big youth center, but lack of money and an abundance of windstorms begged to differ. πŸ™‚

Oh, we’d volunteer at children’s church, sometimes VBS.

In the last two years, we have even begun pitching in with our small community youth group.

Mostly doing the meals and clean up after, occasionally taking the opportunity to share some testimony, as well as lending our middle son to percussion for our rather modest worship time.

Doesn’t necessarily sound like everything we dreamt of.

And, yet…

What constitutes a ministry, anyway?

Is it a state-of-the-art building?

A worship band complete with strobe lights and smoke machines?

Is it crowds of teens enthralled by your words?

An activity-filled roster or a fancy camp to take them to?

Or…. is it simply meeting the ones He brings to you where they are?

Feeding the bodies of busy latch- key kiddos and listening to the anxieties of the day?

Giving them an encouragement from scripture for the week?

Supplying them a new song to sing to the Lord?

A phone number to call or an open door to knock on when those anxieties crop up beyond their capabilities to deal?

Ah. The seemingly small acts of life. πŸ™‚ But, all necessary components in His kingdom, I am learning.

For, you see, beyond the Wednesday to Wednesday, this dilapidated house of ours has become a lot less than the Green Acres it was ( literally, thanks to my handy husband ☺️) and more the place for drop-ins.

A safe space to have a cookie.

A conversation.

A cry.

Not to mention jam sessions, acting lessons, building projects, and, best of all, deep Biblical discussions. ☺️

Many things I love to be sure, but things that don’t really look like the norm of ministry or what I expected His call on us might mean.

Even a few things, despite the love I just professed, that the introverted me has had to make room for at times, to be honest!

But, suffice to say, I am finding He will direct us to the places He can use us most and equip us for the call, whatever it looks like.

When we are obedient to answer the need knocking on our door, that is. πŸ˜‰

What needs are knocking at your door, friends? I pray we can all discover what they are and seek His strength to answer. God bless!

Of Trust and Forgiveness

Thanks to my dear brother-in-Christ David Ettinger for stirring my heart on the direction to head next here…

Trust.

A very difficult matter in my soul.

Has been since I can remember.

Being a four-year-old girl and already so unsure of your world you don’t really let anyone in is not the sort of thing one likes to spend a lot of time talking over- though I have written of it in blogs and book past. πŸ™‚ ( Hello, old friends. You might remember some places where I’m going to go. I’ll try to add fresh perspective here.)

I haven’t brought it up in this venture much yet for reasons I’ve alluded to before.

But, today, in participating in a great and challenging discussion about Joseph and his brothers, my heart felt a pull towards discussing a bit more about the issues of trust and forgiveness.

Particularly, how they have manifested in my forty-plus years experience on this earth.

So, for testimony’s sake…back to that little girl. I hope I can make this concise enough. So much to tell…

I can’t quite remember the first time my mother turned on the sudden switch and took out her displeasure on me verbally and physically.

That part of my past is more a patchwork quilt of living, ragged at the edges, wild, screaming colors representative of the tough days, some muted squares for the quieter ones.

All I knew was what the proverbial eggshells felt like to walk on from an early age.

I tried very, very hard to be as good and unobtrusive as I possibly could, tucking myself away with my older brother most of the time, asking for as little as possible.

Dancing lightly around the edges of the days she poured out unexpected affection, taking it as a momentary relief, but being sure to remind myself it wouldn’t last.

In the midst of all this, my dad was on the road working, home some weekends, very much aware of us and yet…not.

They’d take us to church a lot of Sundays, various non-denominational gatherings that leaned heavily on “experiential” services.

Somewhere in there I did hear about Jesus loving me. I prayed a sinner’s prayer once with a Sunday School teacher, a prayer I didn’t fully grasp then, other than that I was full of intense longing for this unconditional love thing they spoke of.

And wondering how it could possibly be real.

There wasn’t much discipleship to assist with that, honestly. Mostly, a confusing jumble of “laying on hands”, urging for the further “baptism in the spirit”, and the occasional Bible story from my dad when he could be home.

I wanted to believe this Jesus was doing a work in me, but, like most of my world, my understanding was just…unsure.

So, that is how I grew up, mostly ducking in the shadows. Not much changed for quite some time. By middle school, church was something fading from our world after a sour experience at our last go-around with attendance.

Sometimes, my dad would play a B.J. Thomas or Sandi Patti record and I’d hear God’s name. I’d remember He was supposed to love me. But, honestly, I struggled to feel it in the midst of the pain.

Thoughts of suicide crept in, though I can’t say courage to carry it out then was there. I really just wanted someone to see me. Anyone.

Then, low and behold, my parents started to go to a new church. Still very much in the charismatic vein, but, they didn’t make my brother and I go this time.

And something in those services resonated with my mom. We never sat down for a big conversation in those days, but, by the time I hit high school, the abuse began to fade away.

It was surprising, to say the least. Yet, I remained wary. The other shoe always, always dropped. If I put my guard down, she could blindside me.

However, my dad did finally persuade me to attend a few services for myself, hoping, I think, that this would help us all heal. My brother, for his part, was having none of it. Felt weird to break from my loyalest friend, but go I did.

Yet, where I so wanted this to be it for me, I couldn’t find my fit. Between the heartfelt worship still came too many unusual practices I could not figure out for the life of me.

Maybe it was doing my mom and dad good, I thought at the time, but not me ( Charismania is a whole other ball of wax for another post, by the way. I’ll delve into it further down the blogging road for any wanting a more detailed perspective.).

So, out of that came my “pinball” years, ricocheting from that bewilderment into the relationship that would become my first marriage, attending a few different types of churches with him, in some still feeling a disconnect, but one in which I can say Jesus did become real to me at last, thanks to some very loving mentors.

Forever grateful for the tender way they took a wounded girl and showed her the grace of the cross in a way no one ever had.

But, still, the man who’d be my first husband and I were prone to drifting and, honestly, dragging each other down. Egos and lack of trust kept getting in the way of growth in the Lord and in our relationship.

Eventually, after a few bounces, we began to give heart and soul into his desire for youth ministry, hoping that would give us much-needed stability.

But, three kids (one still in the womb) and nearly complete studies later, the strains of our all-too-often emotionally stunted existence had collapsed us.

He found comfort in someone else’s arms and the kids and I were left behind.

And a lance stabbed through my ability to trust in love once again.

Suicide’s dark spector revisited in earnest, but, blessedly, not for long. Because, Jesus was there, too. Only a whispered prayer away.

My desperate prayers, yes.

But not mine alone!

My mother and father were on their knees, too.

As well as by my side, scooping up the grandkids and me with more overwhelming love than I had ever known from them.

My wariness took time, but, finally, it began to melt away and forgiveness began to bloom.

Need has a way of threading together healing in broken hearts.

On this point, the story of Joseph and his brothers resonates with me.

“Though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…” Gen. 50:20

For it was need that circled all the pain of those years back around and knit that family back together, too.

All those thousands of years ago, and God is still the same.

Still about the business of reconciliation-when we give our hurt over to Him.

If you find yourself hurting and just need someone to pray with you, send me an e-mail via the info page.

God bless you!