Rumble Strips

Every Big Change is fraught with Feelings … in Flurries and Floods

It’s just part of being human, you know.
Experience has made us all overly cautious.
And our emotions can quickly make us Default.
Pulling back again into our shame and self-protection.

Our flesh collects “evidence” that keeps us focused on fear
… painful reminders of past rejection and failure.

And thereby we play into the enemy’s pernicious plan.
He is the only one who wants us totally consumed
by hurt, sadness, fear, anger, guilt, shame.
(John 10:10)

Rumble Strips on the Roadside

In the natural, rumble strips warn us that we’re veering off course. So what if our unpleasant emotions are actually spiritual rumble strips? Signals that the enemy is trying to pull us off the very course that God wants us to take?

  • The enemy’s intention is for us to DEFAULT to freak-out mode.
    • Doubt our identity and the Goodness of God.
    • Derail. Over-correct. Drive completely off the road.
  • The Lord’s intention is for us to RESET to who we are in Christ.
    • Run toward Him as Much-Loved Children.
    • Refocus on The Father’s Love. Be restored to A Higher Calling.
The choice is ours, Friend. And it takes practice. Lots of practice!
That’s mostly what I’ve been learning these past 6 months. Tough. But so worth it!

Safe and Secure

I long for a truly safe haven. Where we’re protected and loved. Not only Spiritually. But also Physically. A Refuge from the world. Yet so much more than a hiding place. A secure base. A Fortress from which to launch brave campaigns against the enemy of our souls. And to take territory for the Kingdom of God.

Shortly before I turned 3, my mom loaded up her friend’s pale green Pontiac with clothes and stuff, tucked my older brother and me into the already-packed backseat, and headed out of town.

… while my dad was at work. He had no idea what was happening. And neither did I, of course. But it left me with a painful longing – a longing to go home – that I didn’t even begin to understand for several decades.

I missed my daddy.
But we never saw him.
And he never came for me.

All my life, I’ve longed for a real home.
I wanted to belong. But I often felt like I didn’t.

As a kid, I filled my days with school. I was good at it. At 40, I moved on to the fancier academics of college and graduate school. Always dreams of traveling. Of being someone who went places and did stuff. My goal was to be “in charge.”

Little did I know all of that would fail me.

Because it wasn’t My Deepest Desire. And because it didn’t consider my most basic needs. My emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. In fact, those seemed so impossible to meet that I tried hard to ignore them altogether. But they didn’t go away.

Today I realize more of who God created me to be.
He knows what I need. Maybe it’s what you’re looking for, too?

A Safe Haven and a Secure Base

Attachment Theory uses the terms safe haven (a place of comfort) and secure base (a place from which to explore).

But those aren’t new concepts. It’s how God made us. It’s how He made me. A long time ago, the psalmist put it this way,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91)

So Many Childhood Memories

Mom hadn’t always been depressed.

I recall happier times. Like the Fourth of July when Mom blew off her own thumbnail while teaching my older brother how to make firecrackers explode in mid-air.

The key, she explained, was in holding it for just the right amount of time after putting punk to fuse. Too much explanation. Not enough self-awareness.

Picnics in the city park next to the lily pond.

Homemade ice cream with a just-right excess of vanilla flavoring.
Fried chicken and potato salad. Corn on the cob. Croquet.

Climbing the mulberry tree in the backyard.

The scent of clean sheets fresh off the line. Sleeping outside in a homemade tent made from two old blankets pinned to the clothesline. The old neighbor who build a clubhouse out of 2 x 2’s draped with old quilts. Ah, the smell of those old quilts, moist with dew.

The clubhouse could be anything. And it was. Sometimes it was a lemonade stand. Sometimes a house. Sometimes a secret hiding place to stay out of the hot summer sun.

Earlier times were filled with other play houses. Once I created an entire home within our screened in porch, using only cardboard boxes and a box of crayons.

Fun with the neighborhood kids.

Theater skits in the old barn down the street. Barbie parties. Creating clothes and shoebox playhouses for short ugly troll dolls whose faces were frozen in hideous grins.

Hide and go seek. Catching fireflies and listening to the locusts. Thunderstorms. And fans that attempted without success to cool things down enough to be able to sleep.

And I loved school.

Bluebird stickers on a poster about “Trees.”
Corduroy pants under dresses for the cold walk to school.
The smell of dry leaves in the fall and the mustiness of the ground beneath.
Christmas trees made from green construction paper and multicolored tissue paper.
Mom’s warm chocolate cookies and ice cold milk waiting for me in our steamy kitchen.

Dancing the Two-Step

One thing I’ve noticed about my life …
So far, it’s been lived all out of order.

Two steps forward.
One step back.

I left home when I was 2.
Grew up when I was 4.
Became a teacher at 6.

Christian at 8.
Outcast at 12.

Married at 18.
Became a mom at 21
and independent by 35.

Raised three sons.
Enrolled in college
and met my dad at 40.

Went away to grad school.
Became a doctor (not a real one, of course).

Started a career.
Found my vision.

Failed. Again.
And again.

Finally fell in love.

That’s my story.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Compared to other girls …

People have asked how it happens that a woman like me – who knows so much about men and romance – isn’t married.

Maybe they don’t realize that I have been married. Twice.
And divorced. Twice.

Sitting through hour after hour of marriage counseling (with me as the counselor), I’ve often envied women whose husbands were enduring so much.

Men who were fighting for their marriages.
Even when their wives were fighting so hard against them.

And I’ve thought of many women I’ve known.
Some of them have been pretty mean.
But they still have husbands.
And I don’t.

One might begin to think that being a Mean Girl is the only way to get and keep a husband. How do they do it?

Never take another woman’s advice. Never ever.

A few years back, a female acquaintance offered her advice. “Expert advice” because she once worked as a receptionist in a counselor’s office (not mine, fortunately). Therefore, she felt compelled to share her own love story as a “good example” of how to keep a man.

As a young teenager, she’d become infatuated with a boy who was several years older. He didn’t treat her well. But she hung around anyway. Like a lovesick puppy.

When all of his friends had deserted him because he was so self-centered, she was still there. And he started being kind to her. Spending all his time with her. By then, there wasn’t anybody else for him to hang out with.

Once she’d “set the hook,” however, she changed her approach. After he’d declared his love and married her, she announced – out loud, I believe – that she was going to “make him pay” for all the time he’d treated her badly when she was following him around.

She gleefully reported, “I treat him like $#@!. Then when he feels really bad, I do something really nice for him. Like cook his favorite meal. Or have sex with him. And that’s how I keep him in line. He can flirt with other women. They don’t intimidate me. I’m the one he’s always going to come home to.”

They’ve been married for nearly 30 years.
Does that mean she has it figured out?

Her husband had been dealing with some pretty serious digestive problems. He ended up in surgery. A few months after that, I was standing next to him at a talk about Victorian costuming when someone asked why they never had any workshops for men’s costumes.

He turned to me and mumbled sarcastically, “Ya. ‘How to Make Armor.'”

And I wonder if she cares that – in that same conversation – he referred to wives as “blood-suckers.”

As a psychologist, I’m convinced there’s a connection with his poor health. Being treated badly would make anyone’s stomach hurt.

On the other hand, some men have no better advice than women.

I was carpooling with a group of friends and sat next to a middle-aged single man. He was aware of my interest in the Psychology of Men and took the opportunity to tell me “an insider’s secret” about men.

“Guys don’t like to date a woman they see as too perfect. It makes them nervous that they’ll never be able to deserve her. So they’ll dump her.”

So … it seems I’ve been going about this all wrong. I should be a Mean Girl who flaunts her flaws as virtues and treats men as slaves?

I just can’t see me doing that.

And I have absolutely no desire to even try to pull that off. As a Christian, my goal is to become more like Christ. Whether any man ever loves me or not, I want to be governed by

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • gentleness
  • faithfulness
  • and self-control.

And I most certainly don’t want to be the kind of woman that makes a man feel like he needs to wear armor when he’s around her.

Compared to other girls … I need a man who has the same goal I do – to be more like Christ.


A Defiant Dandelion

No doubt, I was born to be a Tigger.
That is, God designed me to be a Optimistic Extrovert.
Of the dyed-in-the-wool variety.

Which has gotten me into lots of trouble over the years.
But we’ll get to all of that soon enough.

You could also describe me as a Defiant Dandelion.

Yes, that is a bit redundant.
Dandelions are designed to be defiant.
It’s our DNA – our definitive definition.

Redundant again. Sigh.

Dandelions remind me of the house where I lived during my last years at home with my mother. Quaint. Charming. (The house, that is. Much more so than my mother.) Yellow unpainted stucco that, seen up close, looked like thick cornbread batter, dolloped and swirled in a more-or-less uniform pattern. The oldest structure on the block, it stood out among the rows of neat white houses that lined both sides of the street. French doors led from the small veranda into the living room on one side and into the dining room on the adjacent side, adding Enchanting to its descriptors.

Our lawn was a rich green, except for the scattering of those bright yellow dandelions that always popped up in defiance – within just a few short hours of being mowed down.

That was me.
The Defiant Dandelion.
A true Diehard.

Just like me, the inside of our house told a different story. Layers and layers of ancient wallpaper that someone had tried unsuccessfully to strip away. Here and there the bare plaster revealed an old and now-ugly past … stained with yellowed paste, chipped in places, and sometimes revealing the rough surface of the lathe underneath.

Sounds familiar.

No central air. No central furnace. Only a gas stove that stood on the weathered wooden floor in the dining room. The kitchen cabinets, painted with thick ivory enamel, were no longer squarely connected with their doors. Behind the kitchen stove and the hot water heater that stood next to it, someone had attempted to pretty it all by tacking up a large piece of bright yellow linoleum trimmed with broad black stripes that made its crookedness all the more apparent. Nothing matched.

The dark hardwood floors of the living room and bedrooms no longer shined. Their varnish had worn away decades before. The bare stairs creaked. And the lighting was dim. Dark and lonely. Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter.

You know, a house is actually a pretty fragile thing.
When it’s neglected, it deteriorates
– both inside and out.

And so does a little girl.
Even if she is a Tigger by design.
Unless she also happens to be a Dandelion, that is.

And thus has been the pattern of my life so far:

Optimism. Defeat. Determination.

But we’ll get to all of that soon enough.

That is ODD. Which in the field of psychology, stands for Oppositional Defiant Disorder. (Like that’s a bad thing?)

But being ODD does tend to render the task of learning to follow a bit more complex. And that’s precisely what I’ve been instructed to do: To follow. Jesus. The man I love. To submit to their love and leadership. Even when I don’t agree with the direction they’re headed.

But we’ll get to all of that soon enough.

my favorite things

morning sunshine, movies, dark energy
thunderstorms, dove coos, Paris, road trips
giant snowflakes, Easter eggs, Rome, Seattle
irises, lilacs, Kansas City, Florence, San Francisco

new clothes, botanical gardens, London, Amsterdam
bananas, weddings, zoos, and cotton ball clouds
purple, classical music, cities, David’s statue
fresh cut grass, couples, New York, Denver

hope, Irish oatmeal, boys, New Orleans, Phoenix
desire fulfilled, bagpipes, Vermont, Albuquerque
coffee, walking, being, singing, creating, Dallas
Europe, my car, my house, reading, Atlanta

going to Boston for the weekend, writing
paying all my bills, with money left over
men, a clean bathroom, inspiring lecture
peace, shiny floors, my office, harmony

anything Apple, being slender, love, joy
bird songs, health, towels just out of the dryer
clean rugs, wealth, maid service, pleasant clients
grateful children, grandkids, newness of life in Christ

exhorting others, travel, romance
computer graphics, Disney, leather, rain
making money, bed pillows, soft sweaters
giving money away, manicures, pedicures, jeans

April 11, 2011