What is your definition of pleasure?

I have heard multiple “holy,” “religious,” people talk about Jesus offering a life of abundance, yet they are same ones who talk about carrying the burden, suffering and sacrifice as the central message of salvation.   But it is built into our human nature to avoid pain and go toward pleasure.  I think it is important that we properly define pleasure.  One definition reads:  “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.”  Some people think things will bring us that happy satisfaction that will come from stuff.  Others try to gain pleasure from people.  I think pleasure comes from having our basic human needs met.  According to Tony Robbins, we have 4 basic needs that, when they are met, mean we survive and 2 more that when they are met help us thrive and feel fulfilled in our lives.  The 4 basic needs are:  our need for certainty, our need for variety, our need for significance and our need for love.  If any of those needs aren’t met, we are in pain, so, as we are hard-wired to avoid pain, we find something to escape that pain.

My something has been food. sugar candy

Food physically helps me stop thinking how we cannot pay another bill this month, how we bounced another check, how we cannot do that thing because we have no money, how I feel when I remember some the things that were done to me.  Food has been my escape.  Food helps me takes my mind off the pain for awhile and it brings me pleasure.  So in my healing, I need to repurpose the role food has in my life.  Food is nourishment.  So the question I am asking now is “How can I enjoy providing my body the nourishment it needs while trusting even more God and His plan of sheer goodness for me?” (why not kill 2 birds with one stone?)

I USED TO THINK:  Food was the easiest, best way to escape the pain I feel in my life.

I NOW UNDERSTAND:  Food is nourishment that my body needs.  If I am feeling so much pain that I need to escape, I need to stop the pattern and figure out what I am believing that I feel my needs are not being met.

What role has food played in your life?

Different perspective

I had a conversation with a great friend yesterday and we came to an interesting revelation.  We look at things differently.  (ok- you are probably saying, “DUH!” at this point) Our history, our beliefs, our focus causes us to look at things a little differently.  We have the exact same reading/reflections from Sarah Young called “Jesus Calling” and I told her how I was reflecting on them and analyzing each reading to see what I agreed with and what I didn’t.  If I didn’t agree, I was correcting the section so I felt it was true. After all, she is writing it as if she if Jesus saying it.  My friend shared that if something didn’t resonate with her, she just shook it off and didn’t think another thing about it.  Hmmm.  Why is that?  Why, if I read something and don’t agree, I am compelled to make it truth?  If she reads something and doesn’t agree, she just moves on.  If I am sitting in church and I am uncomfortable with how a prayer is worded or something that is said in the homily, the same thing happens- I want to correct it.  I remember listening to a homily years ago about volunteering and giving our time to Lord and helping others. Having 7 small children at the time,  a couple in diapers and one nursing, I didn’t have a lot of time to volunteer. So I went to confession as I must be sinning as I didn’t do what the priest said was to be done.  He corrected me and tried to have me understand that at that point in my life, it was ok NOT to be volunteering, that at some point, that time would come.  There was no sin there.

I have done that alot in my life.  Beating myself up for things that didn’t really apply to me.  Then I began analyzing things, seeing how they apply and feeling a need to correct the situation instead of just letting it go.  One of my core values is truth, is that why I need to rectify in my mind when something doesn’t resonate with me?  But when someone says they are speaking on God’s behalf, they better get it right, right?

But I think so many get it wrong.

Everyone is human.  Everyone has “stuff.”

But when people with their stuff are in positions that violate the vulnerable, that does major damage.  It is in our human nature to avoid pain, so we need to figure out the source of the pain.  If it comes from people speaking of God on or on his behalf and we are hurt, the tendency is to reject God, or at least those speaking and acting on his behalf.  I know many, many survivors of sexual abuse who have a relationship with Jesus but want nothing to do with organized religion.  I wonder if they heard messages that didn’t resonate with them or actually reinforced their negative self images, which doesn’t make logical sense that God would mentally beat them up, so they avoid that pain.  They are drawn to God, but the church causes pain so avoid church.

One of my major gripes of one of the prayers of the Catholic Church is the 2nd verse of the Hail Mary.  I know that the first section is from the Bible, but the second part, “Pray for us sinners…”  was added by people.  Human beings with “stuff.”  Why can’t it just read “Pray for us..?”  Why do we have to call ourselves ‘sinners’ 53 times in the course of 20 minutes?  Talk about negative reinforcement.  I prefer to think of myself as ‘a child of God who sins’ instead.  Ask any psychologist and they will tell you that it can be harmful to call your child a ‘bad boy’ or ‘bad girl.’   The better expression would be to say, “you did a bad thing.”  Our identity should not be wrapped up in our behavior.  My identity is that of a child of God.  If I heard that more, perhaps it would be easier not to be branded as a sinner. If you are branded a sinner, you act like one.  Wake up people.  And that is why I avoid Mary.  Why would I want to have a relationship with someone who calls me a sinner over and over and over?

And this is where I analyze and correct.  I have stopped using the word ‘sinner’ when I pray the Hail Mary.  I am teaching my kids the same thing.  I believe Mary can lead me closer to her son, but alot of damage has to be healed from that wound first.  I am working on identifying myself as a child of God, loved and cherished, which is what a survivor of sexual abuse needs to hear.  That is the very reason I wrote my “Stations of Hope.

Gee, I wonder if that is why so many survivors of sexual abuse blame themselves: it was something they did, something they wore, something they said, that caused the abuse.  They are after all, a sinner.

So when we realize that the crime committed was not our fault, the place that should bring consolation and truth is the very place that crucifies us.

Can anyone else relate?

(So I looked in google pics for “sinner” and “child of God”  Definitely a different feel, right?)

the_sinnerjesus-with-a-child

 

Where’s your focus?

focus-407244_640As we go through our lives, I have heard that what we focus on, we become.  What we focus on will repeat, will manifest.  If my focus in on negative, I will continue to have negative things to experience.  If I focus on being  grateful, there seems to be so many things that I can be thankful for.  Both were always there, but what I choose to focus on is what I experience and bring more and more into my life.  It has been hard to shake of the weight of years and years of abuse, the effects that manifest, the triggers that at one point seemed to control my life, BUT SO WORTH IT.  And the Lord asks me to keep my eyes on Him on that journey.

I USED TO THINK:  I was supposed to focus on God to he can manipulate me, use me, pull my strings like a puppet, see how much I can endure and then prove my love for Him.

NOW I UNDERSTAND:  If I focus on God, I can be led to live a life that is peaceful, utilizes my gifts, satisfies my needs, wants and desires.  Just because I have peace though, doesn’t mean I am not challenged, doesn’t mean my life is boring or unfulfilled.  Quite the contrary. My needs of certainty, variety, feeling loved and significant are met AND my life has purpose as I am growing and contributing beyond myself.

That is what I want to focus on.

Has your focus changed in your life?  Still in process?

 

Not trusting is NOT an act of rebellion

So, two for two- postings that is.  Today, February 26 reflections in “Jesus Calling” start out harmless enough, but I am thankful for my ability to discern.  Just because the book is called “Jesus Calling” doesn’t mean it is His words.  She has her frame of reference that she is using to record her reflections and I do not have to buy into all of it, or any of it for that matter.  I love that the Lord is leading me step by step, as author Sarah Young says, but to say the future is flimsy? Uncertain, yes, but flimsy?  No.

She says “secret things belong to Lord” and even sights a bible verse, but then says that figuring out the future, worrying, doubting in the Lord’s promises is an act of rebellion.  I totally disagree.  She is wrong.  Dead wrong.  I know, because I am learning to trust him again.  It’s hard to trust when your life has no certainty, not a lot you can be sure of,  not knowing when he will be hiding in the closet.  Living the reality that those who are supposed to care and protect you violate you instead.  Not trusting is the only way to survive.  And we are born with that instinct to survive.

But I am safe now.  I am brave.  I am perseverance.  And I do not want to just survive, I want to live- and I know that will take trust.  So I must trust that God has a plan of sheer goodness for me.  How can I enjoy and trust even more God’s plan of sheer goodness for me?  I have been asking myself that now multiple times a day.  And I am starting to relax more and enjoy the journey.  But I am not buying into the accusation that I have been rebellious- that is the pious bull sh*&t that I have been fed that keeps people groveling with low self esteem and keeps them from leading abundant productive lives.  But not me, uh un, not this time.

My future is AMAZING- not flimsy

unwavering-faith

 

Give thanks for the bad?

I have heard my whole life that we need to be grateful in everything.  The Bible talks about it all the time- a couple of the verses read: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” Col. 4:2 and  “Give thanks for this is My will for you.” 1Thes. 5:18.  Mandisa sings about blessing the Lord at all times.  In her book, “Jesus Calling”  Sarah Young brings up in her February 25th reflection that “a grateful heart protects you from negative thinking.”

I USED TO THINK that the purpose for us being grateful was that God was God and he knew what he was doing and if life is miserable, well then a miserable life is good for us and we should thank him for that.

NOW I UNDERSTAND that focusing on gratefulness, actually attracts more goodness.  It puts positive thoughts in my mind, helps me to focus on the bits of really good things going on, keeping my state of being upbeat and thankful, putting me in a better mood, which then attracts better experiences and even better tangible things.

When you smile, the whole world smiles with you.

But wait, I know people who offer lip service to that teaching, saying “praise the Lord”  when anything happens and their lives are not what I would consider abundant and prosperous.  So that must mean that even though the words are there, the feeling and belief is not.  There is a stronger belief and focus that keeps the negative right on coming.  A subconscious belief like, “Life is hard and then you die” or  “I don’t deserve anything good to happen to me” or  “Life is a test,” and depending on how that person’s experience with testing has played out in their life will determine how negative that metaphor’s repercussions are.

So when I smile, I need to smile inside too and let that warmth radiate out!

NOW YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY!!  Mine is already better!sunimages

Fed a line of crap?

So I am in the process of discerning everything in my life, mostly my mental chatter, beliefs, as they shape everything.  I knew it, but understanding more and more how much impact what I believe affects my actions and attitudes, which then affects my behavior, which then affects events in my life.  I must say though that it is hard to basically challenge everything that I have believed in for my life.  But then it occurred to me today that maybe it wasn’t what I was fed, it was how I interpreted it?!  How can two people experience the same circumstance and come out of it with different perceptions of what happened?  Because of our frame of reference, the state in which we experience it, our beliefs and our focus.

I process well through writing, so that is how I am going to do this then as I have been spinning for a couple of days.  One of the things I wanted to do this Lent was to write and reflect each day.  So far, 7 days into Lent and this is my first day.  That’s okay, I am doing it now.  I am on the path of truth and healing and will keep moving that way until I get to my destination.  Would you like to come along?

VICKI TOM FINALS JAN 2013-0939

How dark are your sunglasses?

I was at adoration for the first time since my mom had her stroke on September 16 pondering the whole suffering issue.

Am I allowed to be happy?

How about all the suffering saints?

Well, in my prayers, I read about being allowed to feel joy…about God having a plan of sheer goodness for me. I took off my hood and starting allowing the heaviness to lift.

You see, I have read the books, heard the sermons and I have been trying to be grateful because that is where it starts, right? Practicing gratitude, having a grateful heart. But because of my decades of sexual abuse, it hasn’t been easy.  But a couple of weeks ago, I began starting and ending the day listing specific things that I can be grateful for. This has taken YEARS mind you. YEARS. I have heard it said by author after author, speaker after speaker, homily after homily, and even have a plaque in my room as a reminder, but only after reading The Scarcity Trance by Victoria   did it finally click for me. Now, I try to list 10 things each night before I go to sleep and then 10 things before I get out of bed in the morning.

I was reflecting on all of this as I left adoration and walked outside.

sunimagesThe sun was blazing in the 30 degree sky. It occurred to me to take out my sunglasses as I squinted from the radiance. But I also remembered how Vitamin D comes from the sun and that our bodies need it and the only place we get it is from the sun. So I soaked it in as I walked and thought some more. I have been in such a habit of wearing my sunglasses that I even have been putting them on, even some days when there is no sun, which makes everything overly dark.

Hmm… overly dark. My sunglasses have the ability to change the way I see things.

So I offer this comparison. God is like the sun. Always there, even when blocked by “clouds.”   If I am always wearing my sunglasses, am I missing the blessings? Dulling the radiance?

Wouldn’t it be cool if our lives were so full of blessings that we had to put the shades on from being overwhelmed by his generosity in our lives?

So it boils down to my attitude, my perspective then.

My sunglasses.

How dark are yours?

 

I am slender and healthy

So I was given another metaphor involving plants. This one came from Louise Hay.

When we see a tomato plant with a bunch of tomatoes- you know the one- wondering if we planted enough at the beginning of May , then looking for more people to give away the ripe tomatoes to in August and September. Well, when we first plant, it is a seed, or seedling, not bearing ripe fruit at all. But when the water and sunlight enrich the roots, we are happy to see even a bit of growth.

Yet when we plant new seeds in our minds, seeds of positivity maybe, and we see just a little growth, why can’t we be encouraged like with the tomato plant?

Well, speaking for myself, I expect perfection and pretty much squash new positive growth if the “plant” isn’t instantly full grown. So I try to think positive: I am slender and healthy. Yes I have a ways to go- see right away, I am squashing my positive growth! Let me try again: I am happy to see the little sprouts- yes, I am slender and healthy.

They cut down the burning bushes!

burning-bushI am a perennial gardener.  Not the best but pretty good.  One of my desires is to have a burning bush in my yard. But I feel the Lord is telling me to wait until we build our addition.  So I am waiting.  In the meantime, I get “burning-bush-envy” in the fall.  The amazing ruby vibrancy shines forth in the previous boring green leaves.

Well there is this one house a few blocks from our home that has a group of four burning bushes that I love to look at this time of year.  The landscaping needs a rescue but the beauty of that perennial can still be enjoyed.  Until today that is.  I just drove by and they were cut down!  Brutally hacked in an attempt to clean up that wasteland on the corner.

But it got me thinking.  The Burning Bushes didn’t need to be cut down.  Just the weeds around it needed to be removed, the ground expanded and edged underneath this quadruple of plant radiance.  It literally made me sick thinking such beauty was wasted in an attempt to start fixing up the property.

I think that happens with people too.  Instead of cutting away the parts around, we hack away at our core and leave the weeds, thinking that is what is needed.  But instead, all that remains is barren destruction.  So next time “yard work” needs to be done, let’s look past the jumble of long sprigs and envision how we can be by getting rid of the negative, distracting influences.  Trim off what doesn’t belong, not God’s original creation.

Our Identity comes from “I AM” statements

I woke up this morning thinking about my post from last night.  I cannot stop thinking about this.  In my years of healing from sexual abuse, one of the many things I have learned is – who we are comes from what we believe about ourselves, whether those thoughts are true or not.

So I am on a quest for truth!

This thing with being labeled a sinner has really affected me. Being Catholic, in case you haven’t figured that out yet, I looked up information about the Hail Mary prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church hoping for some guidance.  Sure enough the first section is from the first chapter of Luke.  But when I got to the part that talks about “Pray for us sinners…”  the explanation in the Catechism was interesting.  According to section 2677, “By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy’….May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing and lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.”

I’d like her assistance leading me to her son, but whoa, whoa, whoa…I need to repeatedly acknowledge myself as a poor sinner….Hmm. I am a poor sinner.  That is to be my identity?  Let’s play out the mind games on this shall we?

My identity… A sinner.  Someone who continually screws up.  Someone who is only saved by God’s grace.  A sinner.  A poor sinner.  I don’t deserve to stand up straight.  I don’t deserve anything.  I am keenly aware that only God in his grace can save me, a poor sinner. Well, then, I must work to be better, ( if I haven’t already just embraced the sinner identity and decided to stop fighting the temptation and just keep sinning)  So I must work hard to try not to sin, but that is impossible, as I AM a poor sinner so I must make up for it then.  I will volunteer, I will help at church…  No one else is volunteering so I will help more… My attitude doesn’t matter, I am a sinner… No one wants to help me, so I’ll just pick up the slack, bearing more burdens for everyone….  I am a sinner after all.

I’ve seen these people, been one of them at times, but I cannot reconcile this in my mind anymore.  Last year our women’s group did we did a study by Fr. Robert Baron and one of the precepts that he built his teaching on was that God has a plan of sheer goodness for me.  WHAT?!?  ME?  A POOR SINNER?  That was a new fascinating concept for me.  Almost 50 years old, been through catholic school, RE classes and multiple bible studies and classes as an adult and this was the first time I was hearing the message that God had a plan of sheer goodness for me?

Wait, maybe it was told, but I never heard it because of the SINNER GUILT MANTRA that was molded into the neuro pathways of my brain.  Good ole catholic guilt.

So I researched that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Did you know the message Fr. Baron spoke about was article #1?  ARTICLE NUMBER 1!

I would like to print it here verbatim in case some of you might like to be enlightened as I was.

“1.  God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.  For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man.  He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.  He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church.  To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior.  In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs to his blessed life.”

WOW!  WOW!  WOW!   Anybody else speechless like I was?  Heirs to his Blessed life?  Are you kidding me?  A Blessed life of pain and suffering?  But wait, maybe, because of the the redemptive work of his Son, we can have a life without all the pain and suffering?  But sinners deserve a life of pain and suffering don’t we?  If it doesn’t come upon me, then maybe, just maybe I am subconsciously making more suffering than needs to be, because if my identity is that of a POOR SINNER, it must be proven true.

But maybe, just maybe if my identity is that of a CHILD OF GOD who sins, why then I can stand tall.  I can look up to Him.  I can own my birthright of an heir to the kingdom.  I can attract positive things, good things, things other than pain and suffering.  And that would reinforce my identity as a Child of God.  Which would help reinforce those neuro pathways in my brain, helping me to smile and rest in his LOVING arms. Yup, that is my choice.

I AM A CHILD OF GOD.

Who are you?