Snowy Lenten thoughts…

So it’s late and I should totally be getting ready for bed and work tomorrow.  That’s the thing about weekends, you can’t wait for them to come but once here they disappear with a flash.  I’ve often wondered the older I get if that feeling would ever go away, much like children think the days last FOR-EEEEEEEEEEVER while we see the months just flyin’ by.  But I think not.  Weekends are like that I suppose.  Take this one for instance.  Friday night after work I went home, spent some time with my son finishing up our Yu-gi-oh card game we’d started the other night, fixed dinner and then I got together with some friends and role-played till about 1:30 in the morning or so.  Saturday I spent the day cleaning up my house and that evening I had about 12 people over for a game night, full of fun, food and board games which lasted till about 1am again, then a friend and I stayed up till about 3 watching a movie.  Sunday brought church, potluck (love our food!), then home to catch up on laundry and other cleaning up from Saturday, then roller-skating for about 90 minutes then home once more to get the kiddo ready for bed and then I settled in to watch a movie.  (Have I mentioned I really really like watching movies?)  And then this…

Where does my time go?

My son wanted to have someone over this week to come visit and as I started looking through my calender of this week it started looking something a bit like this –

Mon – Work, cook/clean, free rest of evening

Tues – Work, cook, roller-skating

Wed – Work, cook, Bible Study

Thurs – Work, cook, help at church with setting up rummage sale for sending our kids to summer church camp

Fri – Work, pick up drive-through, Game night with my friends

Sat – …..getting ready for my second IVLD day, but nothing else yet…

And I thought how amazing it was that I was the one so busy, not him.  Normally it’s the parents shuttling their children around, but this time it’s me.  But during this season of Lent we are supposed to spend the time in prayer and meditation.  Asking for forgiveness of our sins and spending time repenting.  This is a time of preparation, of getting ready to celebrate the miracle that was Easter.  But it has to start in the wilderness…away from all our business and the responsibilities of our lives.  One thing I found out this year as I was looking up some scriptures for church today was that the whole celebration of Lent arose from the scriptures in the Gospels of Jesus’ time in the wilderness before he began his ministry.  It was a time of preparation for him as well.  If Jesus needed such a time before he could go out and minister to the world around him, what does that tell us today about how important taking time away is?

And yet, can we do it voluntarily?  I celebrate my Involuntary Liberation Day the first Saturday of every March.  It’s to commemorate the day my ex-wife left me and I was liberated from the shadows of the man I was.  It’s not a celebration of my marriage ending, nor is it a celebration of the fact that she’s gone.  That’s the involuntary part.  I didn’t want it to end.  But WHEN it (my marriage) ended I was presented with the opportunity to be liberated from the mistakes of my past and the painful habits of a lifetime in a way I never would have dreamed of before.  So I celebrate the vista before me.  I have spent much of the past two years wandering in this wilderness.  Some of it has been my wanderings, other times I have allowed myself to be led.  Sometimes I have even managed to hear the voice prompting me in the direction I should be going.  It’s all been a part of my desert journey.  Moses led the Israelites in the desert for 40 years…not because they didn’t know the way, but because the generation that sinned against God had to pass from the earth before they could enter the promised land.  Those who had never known the spirit-crushing weight of slavery would be able to live and flourish in the new land God promised.  My spirit has been wandering because the parts of my life that have sinned against God must pass away before I can enter into a new covenant with Him.

I wasn’t sure I was gonna share anything about this here because as open as I’ve been on here before there are still some things I don’t like talking about…and I know some of the people who read this…of course part of it’s my own fault, I really don’t have to have this attached to my Facebook page…but this is too a part of who I am, and part of this is a public declaration of my desire to be made new in Christ’s own image and to become a better father for my son.  One of the things I am giving up for Lent is the negative images/thoughts/perceptions I have in my head of my own self-worth and of what women are like.

I struggle liking myself.  I have not had a really strong positive self-image since I was a teenager.  My experience with dating tainted, in many ways, my perception of myself and of relationships with women.  I won’t go into details, but I did not do well in the dating arena and got into situations where the decisions I made had very negative consequences for a number of people.  And for most of the past two decades I have not wanted to forgive myself for those mistakes.  Hindsight is not always 20/20 and the lens through which I viewed those times because the prism that delinieated who I was, what I was allowed to do, to say and to be.  I used the guilt, my guilt, and my shame from that time to build up walls around me and in time they twisted who I wanted to be and I became the kind of person who had to have others around me constantly telling me why I was worthwhile to feel loved.  I was a broken and needy soul who hounded others for approval and acceptance because I would not grant it myself.  I turned from those who could give it to me in healthy ways and instead indulged in a lifestyle of sex and drinking that was inherantly self-destructive, even as I sought out what I thought was love and acceptance.  The arrival of my son saved my life, in so many ways… but it did not uncomplicate it, nor did it suddenly make things all better.  Because of the circumstances of his birth and my relationship with his mother, I still struggle some days with how I view him and what my relationship with him should be/can be/will be.  But these last few years I have had several wonderful, challenging, compassionate people in my life who have challenged my old way of thinking in ways that I don’t always like, or want to talk about, or even think about in my own head.  It has hurt, it has caused me discomfort, examining BOTH the good and the bad actions I’ve done in the past and finding out where the ties are that have bound me down.  I don’t claim to know all of them yet, but I am on a path, and as I’m finding them this Lent season, I am letting go…or at least offering them to God, and trying to get out of the way when God takes them.  That has been my promise to God and my challenge.

I’ve also been struggling with reshaping my views on women.  They aren’t all crazy…well, not mean spirited crazy anyway.  😉

I have been hurt many times by women who saw me as a knight out to save them and then discard when no longer needed.  I have held my partners to unrealistic standards of what one person should be responsible for, it was not their place to heal all the hurts in my soul, nor make me into a whole person.  I need to do that myself with God’s help, and then if desired I can move slowly into a healthy relationship with someone.  But I have lots of trigger points, things that make me nervous, make me mad for no appreciable reason, that all arise from old arguements…  I have used and been used by past partners and desire a new way of thinking, living, loving.  All this is part of my penitential prayer –

God,

You who are our parent, lover, friend, and companion.  You whose love and joy know no bounds.  You who run to us with open arms.

I stand before you… broken…torn…ashamed.

I have turned from you, run from you, hide from you.  I have screamed at you, thrown myself away.  Still you chose to stay close.

I fought you until my strength gave out before the patience of your peace.

Holding me, you took me into the desert.

You walk with me, change me, mold me.  Even as the clay of my life screams out in pain and agony at the process I can feel something wonderful happening inside.

I know it’s not me that’s doing it.  But you require that we agree… that we invite you in.

I don’t remember everything that came before, weariness sometimes overtakes my mind.  But I remember the day I asked you.

I asked you to break me and make me new….and so we have gone to the desert together.

But now Lord, I stand halfway.  My scouring is completed for now… the temptations facing me are almost done.  Once again, my strength falters, once again weariness and shame press close in.

I beseech thee God, wrap me up in the joy of the life you offer.  Flood the wrinkles of my soul with your love.  May the peace of You bring balance to the stormy scene inside me.

My journey is not yet done.

I begin this Lent season with me.  With my sin.  With my repentance.  With my desire to turn closer to You.  Oh Lord, let us begin, and let it begin with me, that I may find new life in You.

Amen.

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What is all this for?

What a week…or two…

It’s funny, I go from writing semi-regularly to not writing for six months to writing almost daily and now back to only semi-regularly.  Not sure why that strikes me so, just does.  Lack of sleep probably.  Life has been pretty busy lately, lots of social events, rehearsals, trying to keep my house in order, bible study, having my bathroom torn out and replaced…yeah…good times… But all in all, it has been pretty good.  I have a group of people I care very strongly about who enjoy hanging out with me, playing games, watching movies and just visiting.  I have a faith community that loves, uplifts and supports me.  All of which is very important when I think about strangling my 12 year old…well, okay, so I only occasionally think about strangling him.  He’s basically a good kid, and a fairly typical teenager.

Which is why it’s so distressing at times to see him succumb to peer pressure when it comes to things like dancing, “gay”-bashing, and telling nasty jokes.  Granted, he hasn’t done much of any of this and it’s all still in it’s nascent stages, but dealing with it is a challenge, for him and for me.  The one bright spot in the whole thing is that he doesn’t seem to buy into most of it just yet.  He’s just as likely to be confused by someone saying/doing stuff like this as he is to join in.  I hope to keep him on my side of the fence for this stuff.  Just gonna have to keep at it.

Of course lately the big thing has been dealing with the neighbor’s Nintendo DS.  My son is borrowing it on sort of a long term basis (my neighbor hasn’t really played with it in a couple years) since we do not have one of our own and it’s been a challenge at times as my son does not always remember to deal with the privilege of borrowing it the way he should.  The other day he was going to a church youth rally and my father, who was taking him, asked him three times if he had the DS with him.  My son, having just bought some new game/item for the thing, lied all three times, insisting that “No, I don’t have it with me.”  Mind you he’s not a great liar (see above paragraph about basically good), but he can be convincing enough to get away with things every now and then (also see above about typical teen).  I caught him in the lie later than evening and as a consequence have grounded him from the DS for the last several days.  We haven’t killed each other…yet.  But every day he has asked about playing the thing.  I understand struggling with patience, believe me I do.  I understand feeling like things are unjust and wanting to have my desire filled right then and there.  And I don’t always succeed where I need to.  But I want my son to be better at these things than I and until he goes at least a full day, waking to bed, without asking about it, he’s not going to get it back.

Which brings me to the topic at hand in this.  You know this whole desert thing?  This whole journey, this conversation with God, there are plenty of times I feel like my son.  That I feel like I just found something I want and I want it NOW.  But I can’t have it.  The time is not right.  I’m still too impatient myself.  I’ve asked my friends to assist me in keeping true to the promise I made of staying relationally free for a year and a day, not because there is anything magical in any sense to it (it’s a strongly traditional time for many reasons), but because without that time limit, without that boundary I know I would go out and find a relationship to get into.  And it would not necessarily be healthy or good for me or my son…but I’d do it because I suck at waiting…and I HATE being patient.  But my father challenged me this weekend.  In effect he asked me why I’d chosen the year and a day.  And he reminded me that what was important, was not the length of time, it’s just an arbitrary number, but what the time was supposed to teach me – which is to take time to let things be, don’t force things.  And give time for not just me, but my son, to get used to the idea of me dating again.  I have to be sensitive to not only my own needs but his as well, without letting either one run roughshod over the other…and balancing is really hard to do.  But what else has all this been for if not for something like this?

God did not make my previous marriage fail.  My ex and I did that well enough on our own.  But God has taken the broken pieces of my heart and my life and has promised to create from the shards a new creation in me.  If I will let Him.  If I will be patient.  If I will just let things “BE”.

I’m trying.

It’s hard.

I want more now, but I also want what I see dimly at the journey’s end.  “When [my] willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds [my] natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, [I] will become who… [I am] called to be.”

I AM afraid.  But the call is more insistent now, not any louder, but I am definitely more aware of it.  The call the change, to be reborn.  There is joy in my heart and my life such as I have rarely known.  And if it is His will, if I can let it be for now, God knows the desires of my heart, and the feelings I have for those around me.  God will not leave my side.  I pray that I stay by His.

The Trust talk at 10pm

What is it about trust that makes it so hard to pin down, hand out, survive the breaking of, etc?  Trust… it’s just a word, but what does it describe, really mean, try to explain?  I picked up my son from a Christian youth activity last night and found out, after talking to him and another of the adults there, that he had been really quiet and kind of a loner that night.  On the way home we talked about the evening and he told me that one of the songs they sang reminded him of when his step-mother left.  There was a whole can of worms opened in that conversation last night, much of it ground that has been covered before.  But one thing new came out, something that struck me very profoundly…the fact that because my son didn’t think anyone trusted him, he had pulled away from everybody so he wouldn’t trust them either.

It can be a tricky thing, this whole  parenting thing.  And words said in frustration or anger or in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants moment can last long long long after that moment is through.  My son has had to earn back some trust.  He’s lied and gone behind people’s back…but aren’t those a normal part of growing up?  Lord knows I did enough of it when I was his age.  He’s lost privaleges and suffered the consequences of his choice.  But did he deserve to hear from me (and others) that he’d lost our trust?  Trust is an emphemeral thing.  Hard to replace once lost and hard to know how to find.  It’s not that I don’t trust my son, I do.  But I struggle with this whole balancing act of trust, accountability and responsibility.  I mean c’mon, just look at this blog.  I am hardly a paragon of virtue in this department.

So we talked….struggling together with our emotions, explaining our actions…Talked, with a capitol “T,” about all the things that he’d been keeping bottled inside and that I had not done a good job of sharing with him.

I need to take my own advice and keep my mouth shut.  I can’t listen very well with my mouth open.

It was a good talk, but oh boy, not an easy one…

…Here’s to hoping he and I can have more like it.

Ghosts of memories past…

I was removing files from my old computer the other day and came across a journal entry that I had written almost 5 years ago.  I’ve posted portions of it below.  I think the thing that strikes me the most about this is that even all those years ago I already sensed at least in part, that if I didn’t open up things would get bad.  I have never found it easy to be open with people, to trust, to really be myself.  This past year as I have had to face the consequences of my actions of my late teen years and early twenties and even into my late twenties I’m ashamed to say, I have also had the opportunity to let some fears go.  And to forgive myself some of the burdens I was carrying.  It’s not that I’ve done anything criminal, never done drugs or abused someone or assulted someone or anything.  But as I say below, I’ve been arrogant, uncaring, manipulative vengeful and hurtful in my actions…and I should know better.  I was raised better than that.

I’d like to think that the face that I can even talk about this is a big step.  The fact that I can acknowledge what I have done, picked fights, dodged responsibility, undermined people around me does not make me a better person, but it gives me hope.  Hope that I can and have and will continue to change.  I can’t fix everything overnight.  There are some facets of my personality that I may never be able to get “right” if there is such a thing.  I asked God to break me…break me of my habits, behaviors and beliefs that were contrary to where God wanted me to be and contrary to who God hoped I’d become.  Part of that breaking was this – losing the comfortable facade, the public face of Me, and in return, allowing others to view me as I am, and finding out that I really can be forgiven and loved.  I chose the title of this entry on purpose.  Just like Scrooge I’ve had my Christmas Eve visitation and just like him – I hope to be able to wake on the morrow with a renewed appreciate of the wonders of creation around me, and a new found love for the people around me, all my brothers and sisters.

For those of you with whom I’ve been friends for some many years (and new ones as well!)…

Thank you.

And…

I’m sorry.  I’m glad you saw something in me worth hanging on for.  May our lives together be better for it.

I’ve burned a lot of bridges behind me.  Ones that others put up in some cases.  She once told me that “yeah, you don’t think of others a lot…what do you think about?”  How to know.  How do I tell her?  That the reason I don’t have a lot of friends is because I’m scared to let anyone too close.  That I’m ashamed … and I don’t want to have to lie to more people.  I lie.  God knows I’m ashamed of doing so…but not enough to stop.  I should beg forgiveness from the people I’ve wronged with my lies.  My fear and pride always get in the way, and I don’t…

When the person who you depend on doesn’t share your core beliefs it’s hard.  And that’s my problem.  I depend too much on someone else for the things, that any psycologist worth their salt would tell me, I need to find within myself.  I’m just too scared to look.

I just needed to vent.  Five minutes would have been enough.  I guess what I need to do if I am to consider staying in this relationship is to explain to her where this comes from and decide what we can do about this openly.

There are some doors that should never be opened.  I don’t know that I believe this any longer.

It certainly didn’t work so well the first time around.

Lying in wait

Last night my son and I got into another arguement.  There are few people who would disagree with the fact that my son can hold onto his side of an arguement better than a starving dog hangs onto a t-bone.  But last night was different.  Last night was about lies. 

First of all, let me say that I live in a condo with six units.  Five of these units are owned by my landlord who lives right above me and my son and I are the only people who aren’t related by blood who live in any of the five.  The sixth unit is owned by friends of my grandparents.  I love the place, but if it weren’t for my son the median age of the building would be closer to 45+ than the 30 it currently hovers around. 

So when I say I was down at my best friends place while my son was finishing cleaning his room I was a grand total of fifty feet (actual walking distance or about 12 feet floor to celing) away from him.  When I went back up after about an hour to check on his progress (also…he’s almost 11, and our building has locked entrances) I was happily surprised to see how far he had gotten.  He had cleaned up every area I had told him I wanted clean.  Which when you’re dealing with someone with ADHD is not as easy as you’d think.  Instead of choosing to come back down and hang out with the “old guys” he wanted to stay upstairs and play video games.  This has worked well in the past and I saw no reason not to trust him again, even with everything else that’s been going on lately. 

So when I went back up after another hour or so and found him playing games like he’d said he would I didn’t think anything of it.  It wasn’t until I checked my computer and found the web browser on a different site than the one that I’d left it on did I begin to wonder.  I called him over to the computer and asked him about it.  At first he tried to say that he didn’t know anything about it, then that he’d only visited there by accident. 

At this point I should point out that the site was just one for getting cheat codes online.  However, those sites very often have virus’ or spyware on them and can be very harmful to your computer.

But when I pushed him on it he admited that he’d been lying.  By this time I had started yelling at him about lying to me.  I’ve never had a particularly violent temper but I can get really loud really fast.  And I was really irritated.  The sad thing is, I’m not even sure I could tell you why besides the obvious.  But my temper seemed out of proportion to what had been done. 

He told me that the reason he’d lied to me was because he’d been afraid I’d yell at him. 

That kind of thing makes you stop and take stock of what it is you’re doing.  Which may have been the point.  But it was a valid one, regardless of whether or not he was trying to manipulate me.  I told him that the reason I yelled was because he doesn’t listen when I ask.  He tried to pout and wanted to go to his room but I made him sit in a chair facing me and we talked.  Or tried to.  He started kicking the blinds so I sent him to his room to get ready for bed.

At that point things got really interesting…

He fussed and curled up in a little ball in the corner and then started kicking at stuff and banging his head.  So I went over to him and set him up in my lap and held him in my arms in a big bear hug.  He tried to push me away but not very hard.  He’d push me just hard enough to show independence then pull me closer to comfort.  He cried.  He wished things were different, that she wasn’t gone. 

When he had calmed down enough we talked about what had happened and why I was upset.  We talked about why I yelled and what I could do differently.  We talked about what we could do differently in the future.  We talked about staying safe, trust, and how we both were feeling.  We talked about his consequence for lying and about what I need to do to keep from yelling.  We agreed to one week suspension from video/computer games and I agreed to walk away when I felt like yelling until I was able to get my temper cooled off.

We ate spinach ravioli on his bedroom floor and listened to Ella Fitzgerald singing in the background. 

It was the best meal we’ve had in quite a while…