Sunday, December 22, 2013

Opening Up: Introverts Anonymous

It seems that it’s time for me to out myself and be transparent.  
I’m reading two books at the moment that are causing quite a stir in me.  The first is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  by Susan Cain.  The other, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who you Are by Dr. Brene Brown.  I was afraid that reading these books at the same time might be counterproductive, yet it seems that they are a very good fit for me at this point in my life.  
Quiet gives a great perspective on introversion and how, although not given a lot of credit in the world today, introverts should not be ashamed of their introversion.  The other proclaims that it is ok to be yourself!  Be authentic!  Be Courageous in being yourself and connecting with people!  I heartily agree thus far (I haven’t finished the book quite yet, but so far, YAY!), except when it comes to thinking of myself acting on these principles.
So here’s the thing.  I, Whitney Lea Morse, am an introvert.  Sometimes painfully so.  Yet, I want to be what people need me to be.  Some might say here, “we need you to be yourself!”  That’s all well and good and mighty kind of you, but Lordy be!  Could you pass that along to everyone else?
As you can imagine, I am learning a lot from these two books.  I’ve been a bit emotional, teared up a few times, and gotten seriously pissed off (mostly as a defense mechanism) while reading and thinking of applying these two books to my life.  
There are quite a few areas that I see I should work on, but right now, at the forefront of my mind, one area stands out to me.  It is the section Susan Cain writes about called, “Does God Love Introverts?  An Evangelical’s Dilemma.”  TELL ME MORE!!!
My knee jerk response to this heading/question is, “DUH.  Of course God loves introverts!”  But do I really, truly think that?
Cain sets the stage: she is meeting a Protestant Evangelical pastor at one of the most extroverted church in the world, Saddleback Church, where Rick Warren, the author of the ever popular book “The Purpose Driven Life,” is pastor.  This church concentrates on evangelizing, meeting people...and yes, even...talking to people.  
The pastor that Cain is meeting is named Adam McHugh.  McHugh realized while he was being educated to become a pastor, that in the Evangelical realm of the Christian church, followers are lead down the path of extroversion.  Emphasis is put on talking to anyone and everyone about Jesus.  In McHugh’s experience as an introvert, he’s felt shame, guilt and as though he disappointed God by sometimes missing the opportunity to talk to someone.  
Oh dear! As a Christian, I’ve felt the same way!  Judgement, worthlessness, shame and regret always follow. Then without realizing it, I find myself thinking, “God should just give up on me.  I’m a failure and can’t do what He wants me to.”
This is where Dr. Brown’s book comes into the equation!  Dr. Brene Brown studies shame and guilt in an effort to help people be themselves and live a “wholehearted life.”  Dr. Brown wants people to be authentic to themselves!  Well, to an introvert like McHugh, being authentic to himself would be to work on the sidelines, yet this doesn’t seem to be an option for Evangelical Christians. 
Another area that is quite awe inspiring and amazing, is that everything about the Evangelical Church today is centered on socializing.  Services begin with greeting one’s neighbor...let me stop here.  This doesn’t seem like a big thing.  Who can’t get through a minute or two of shaking people’s hands and saying, “Hi!  I’m _____!”  Well...I’m embarrassed to say, I can hardly get through it.  I feel like burrowing down into a hole and hiding away until the preaching starts.  I may have even “accidentally” been late to church in order to completely miss this part of the service. 
Once the service starts, there’s usually a greeting by the pastor.  This may or may not include a, “I’m sorry...I didn’t hear you!  I said, GOOD MORNING EVERYONE!!” From the pastor if he doesn’t receive as exuberant a response to his first greeting as he’s looking for.  Then, when the message is over, there is usually some sort of musical worship (this can happen before the service too, liturgy is all over the place and that’s ok ;) ).  
I love singing, especially with a big group of people who are doing so to worship God, but really, that’s the whole service!  There often isn’t time for people to sit and reflect on what they’ve just heard. If there is, it’s only for maybe a minute or so and people from the worship team are usually heading back up to the stage or even starting to play their instruments.  That’s not quiiite enough time for us introverts before we’re flung into a group project again. 
After the service, a lot of people want to chitchat about life and say hi and socialize.  Please believe me when I say that there is nothing wrong with this.  Yet, over the years, I’m always irritated with this part.  When we’re greeting each other, I want to hide and cry, but after the service, I’m just sort of mad that everyone is trying to talk to me.  I understand now (honestly, just as I’m typing this), that the reason this makes me so upset, is because all I want to do is reflect.  I want to think.  I want to talk with my husband, one on one, about what he thinks.  He’s one of the few people I can share most things with and not feel stupid, and I really honor the time that we get to chat and share our views.  Going directly to socializing after the service puts me on edge and in a bad mood. 

**I feel I should put a disclaimer here.  As much as it doesn’t sound like it, I really like people.  I do!  I’m not mad when people want to talk to me.  Usually, I have a mixture of delight and unease during these times.  Delight because I want people to like me and to put their confidence in me (I really really really enjoy listening to people talk), and unease because I’m afraid that I won’t act correctly, say the right things, be what they want me to be, or that they might ask me about myself.  Nevertheless, I really do like people, but they exhaust me.**

Not only are church services full of socializing, but a huge wave in the Christian community now is COMMUNITY.  A lot of churches see this as the most important part of being a Christian.  There are small groups for everything, and Christians “should” be spending a lot of time together throughout the week.
Any Christian extroverts who are reading this, please pay attention here.  I cannot express how crucially important this is: not attending a small group (community group, whatever name you want to use) does NOT mean that someone is hiding a sin.  Let’s just let that sink in for a second.

You got it? 
You sure?  
Ok, on we go!
The areas that I’m introverted mean that small groups are a frightening place for me.  Groups of people in general are frightening, but especially those where one or more people believe and then act as though someone is hiding a sin or doing something wrong because they don’t attend enough or any group meetings, is dangerous.  Being told, no matter what way, that you are sinning, hiding from God, running from God, or going against God’s wishes in general, because you are absent from a group that the church tells you to attend is one of the most hurtful, crushing things that can be uttered.  This has happened to me, and I’m still almost incapacitated by it.  
When I am in a group of people, especially in church groups, I am terrified.  My heart is racing, I feel cold, alone, like I’m about to be attacked, and like there is, everything wrong with me.  Some of this comes from the talks that people have had with me about my attendance, but part of it is the simple fact that I am an introvert.  No matter how much I like people, there are maybe two in the world that I can be around without feeling on guard and exhausted.  Even if we’re doing my favorite activity with my favorite people, it doesn’t matter.  That’s just how I am and I haven’t been able to figure out how to change it.
Equating how often one attends a small group to salvation and one’s relationship with Christ is complete bullshit.  I have seen this too much to be nice about it.  Even in some of these small groups, people have proclaimed that one-on-one time with God is the cornerstone of faith, which is an introvert’s paradise, yet the most emphasis is put on getting together in a group of people and asking each if they’re getting that one-on-one time in.  Yes, I agree that people are to hold each other accountable, but doesn’t this pattern seem a bit skewed?  If someone would rather spend time one-on-one with God than go to a small group, let them!
I am by no means saying that people shouldn’t meet in small groups, or that there are some people who don’t go due to hiding some sins.  This is true!  But good grief!  That doesn’t mean that you can discount the fact that there are different kinds of people out there!
Here’s, I guess, what all this comes down to for me.  I am a Christian.  I believe in Christ.  I think that meeting together for corporate worship is necessary.  I think that small groups are cool.  I believe God is fully aware of all the differences that people have.  I am an introvert.  I believe that God loves me and that He understands introversion. Part of this include the fact that I am almost delirious with frustration, over stimulation and shame when I leave church and when I even think of small groups.  I believe that the shame comes from the constant slap in the face of my “loving church community” when I disappoint them and they believe I disappoint God by how I feel about these things.  I do not believe that this shame is from God.  Yet this doesn’t keep me from thinking sometimes that everyone else is right, and God hates me for not attending small groups.  I do believe that this is absolutely wrong, and I don’t want anyone else to feel this way.  

I am left pondering: How is it possible to be authentic when places where it really counts see your personality trait as something bad, shameful and sinful?  How can I see myself as anything but worthless when people who are supposed to love me no matter what, turn on me and accuse me of things that aren’t true?  How can I love myself when all signs point to the fact that I am wrong and bad, in and of myself?

The Adam McHugh that Susan Cain met at Saddleback Church realized a while ago that he wasn’t the only Christian introvert.  As introverts tend to do, he thought, prayed, talked to other introverts and ruminated over how God really feels about His introverts.  McHugh has written a book called, Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.  Realizing the hurt, worthlessness and shame that came up while writing this post, I think I’ll be picking this book up right away. I’ll let you all know how it goes! ;)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Opening Up

I haven’t shared this with a lot of people quite yet, so here you go.  I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).  Feel free to ask me or search online for more details on what it is, but some side effects that I’m experiencing are: quick and severe weight gain (especially around the stomach), an almost impossibility of losing weight no matter how hard you try, hormone issues, insulin issues and infertility.

Through blood tests, I found out that I have high testosterone and am insulin resistant (this does NOT mean I have DIABETES).  One of the first steps to helping with these issues was going on a medication called Metformin, which is supposed to help women like myself drop weight (in a lot of cases very quickly) by helping process things as they should be.  It also helps with lady problems such as regulating menstruation. 

After taking the pills for about a month, I went back to the doctor to have a check up.  I was so excited during this time to have an actual reason (besides the assumption that I’m lazy and eat a lot) for being the size that I am and the weight that I am, on top of having difficulty getting pregnant, I did what I normally do when I’m happy; I upped my workouts and ate pretty darn well.  I just knew I would go in there and find out that I had lost five or ten pounds already.  I was actually looking forward to stepping on the scale! What actually happened?  I’d gained two pounds since the last time I was in.  

Some super sweet people would tell me that I must have gained muscle from working out more.  The thing is, when you’re the size I am, that doesn’t make sense.  I should be able to lose weight fairly quickly.  Plus, I wasn’t exercising a whole lot more than I was before.  Rather than three days a week, I was doing it four or five.  It was way more fun, thinking that it was going to finally make a difference, which was why I went more often.  Yet here I was, two pounds heavier.

On my way out of the office, I asked my doctor what she’d suggest to help with losing weight since it hadn’t happened yet.  She said that low carb diets have been known to help women with PCOS, or even going gluten free.  I hated hearing that because I had been gluten free for over a year before moving up to Portland and the freedom of not having to read every label of everything I ate was hard to think of giving up.

Something my doctor had mentioned in the same session, when talking about conceiving, was going to an acupuncturist if I felt so inclined.  I’ve gone to a few different naturopathic doctors in the past, so acupuncture wasn’t too “out there.”  I figured I’d give it a try.

Well, it took me about four months to finally set up an appointment, but I am finally seeing an acupuncturist.  We’re working together now specifically on my PCOS and infertility issues. 

While I was leaving my second visit just two weeks ago, my acupuncturist gave me a paper with dietary suggestions for women with PCOS.  I had searched online for hours trying to find something like this but had only come up with people saying to cut out carbs.  I thought there should be something more to it than that...and now I had it in my hand!  

Even though it looks like it’ll be pretty difficult getting used to, I’ve decided I’m going to follow these guidelines not only to lose weight, but to make myself healthier in general.  I’ve had a few health issues so far in my life, including cancer, and it occurs to me that it’s more important to actively do what I can to try and avoid anything else coming up than having the ease of eating something without caring what it is.  So, here’s what I’m going to try to follow.  

PCOS Diet Suggestions

-Eat foods low on the Glycemic Index such as vegetables and whole grains.  It is very important for women with PCOS to completely avoid refined carbohydrates which include:
sugar (pop and candy)
white flour
whole wheat flour and products made from them (pasta, breads, desserts, etc.)

Keep your blood sugar stable by:
-Eating every three to five hours
-Include protein and good fats (nuts and seeds, eggs, humus etc.) with each meal
(protein foods take up to five hours digest while carbs digest within 30 minutes and can spike your blood sugar).
-Eat at least five servings of vegetables including at least two leafy greens (kale, broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, cabbage, rapini, etc.)
(leafy greens contain indole-3 carbinol, which helps to regulate liver function which is 
key in glucose and hormone metabolism)
-Have a regular serving of legumes (black beans, adzuki beans mung beans black-eyed pease etc.)
(Adzuki beans are beneficial in draining “dampness” from the body).
-Eat organic meats only.
You can have up to red meat up to 3 times a week but make sure it is organic and grass 
fed because when meat has been grain fed it changes the fats from healthy omega 3 fats
to omega 6’s.
-Eat at least three daily servings of fruits like berries which are lower on the GI and high in anti-oxidants.
-Include cinnamon into your diet daily as it helps to reduce insulin resistance.
-Include bitter melon and fenugreek to help regulate blood glucose.
-Include complex carbs such as whole grain cereals, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
-Insure adequate fiber intake (should be 30g/day) by eating a lot of fresh veggies and whole grains.

-It is very important for women with PCOS to avoid all refined sugars and simple sugars which include:
refined: white and brown sugars, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup
simple: maple syrup, honey, etc.
(Why avoid simple sugars?  It helps to prevent further impaired glucose metabolism).
-No refined carbs (white bread, pasta, potatoes, white rice, most breakfast cereals, rice cakes, popcorn, or any starchy, low fiber food).
-No artificial sweeteners (they affect insulin levels the same way sugar does)
  • No sodas, fruit juice and drinks that raise blood glucose rapidly (energy drinks, Gatorade, etc.)
  • Milk and dairy products (cheese and yogurt).
They are considered a “damp’ food and will exacerbate the problem.  Try substituting unsweetened almond milk for regular milk.

Pay attention to:
-Portion sizes in order to moderate glucose loads and minimize insulin resistance.
Opt for smaller and more regular meals than bigger more spaced out meals.

To be honest, one of the hardest parts about being gluten free in the past was how everyone seemed to care so much about what I was eating.  If someone didn’t think there was such a thing as gluten intolerance, they would become irritated at me for being so careful with what I ate. Then on the other side I felt that people were watching, waiting to judge me for what I ate, or to lecture me if I didn’t give up other foods that they thought I should.  

This all came down to me thinking that God would be angry at me for eating something I wasn’t supposed to.  That eating gluten was the biggest sin to commit against God.  Now that’s pretty freaking messed up.  Where in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, does it say, “you shall sacrifice a dove, three sheep and an ox as a sin offering for eating gluten”?!?!?!  I would go around feeling like I was always pissing someone off or disappointing them or God depending on what I ate.  It was absolutely ridiculous.  I’m NOT going to do that this time.

As much as I honestly intend to follow these suggestions, I’ve also made a deal with myself.  If I decide to make an exception and eat something that I shouldn’t, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  My body will most likely take care of that for me.  Rather, I’m going to do what I can to be healthy and to nourish myself.  I’m going to learn to eat to live, not live to eat.  I’m also going to continue to work on seeing God for who He is rather than projecting my fear of people and what they think of me onto his character.  This is going to take a lot of will power, prayer, and even support from friends and family, even if the “support” is holding back any pressure on what I eat one way or the other.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Horrors of Halloween and Pink Bunny Suits

            As much as I love my friends who are totally into Halloween and I super enjoy their excitement about the holiday, I must admit that I hate Halloween.  I can’t remember one Halloween that I’ve actually enjoyed myself.  There have actually been quite a few where I’ve had some of the worst times of my life.  Seriously.
            What I hate the most about Halloween is figuring out a costume.  There are pictures of me from when I was little where my parents dressed both my sister and I up in witch costumes.  This included witch hats, crazy makeup and black trash bags with holes cut out for our heads and arms as our outfits.  You see, my parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea of buying costumes. They wanted to make them.  And what’s more appropriate for a late October night in Oregon than having your kids wear something that’s waterproof and also allows them to wear big coats underneath?  It seemed perfect to them, but I remember being less than thrilled with the idea.
            A few years later, when I was in kindergarten, I got the most AH-MAZING costume EVER!  My parents had bought me this super awesome pink bunny outfit that was pretty much the exact bunny pajamas that Ralphie’s relative got him in a Christmas Story.  Not only would I be adorable going trick-or-treating, but I’d be pink, fuzzy, and could even wear them as footie pajamas!  I remember going to school and being SO excited about my costume.  I bragged about it for weeks beforehand. 
            There was a tradition at our school for kids in every class to parade around in their costumes on Halloween (or the closest day to Halloween) to kind of show off.  My kindergarten teachers asked us to do a craft project where we made masks out of paper bags and paper plates and stuff, just in case some kids didn’t have costumes or weren’t allowed to wear them to school. 
            Just a little something about myself; I have been a realist for a very long time.  I’ve always known that I have been horrible at crafts, so I was usually the only unhappy kid in the class when they asked us to do crafting.  This time, I was ok.  I knew that I had the BEST costume that I’d be wearing when it was time for the parade.  So instead of taking the crafting seriously, I just found anything pink that I could including feathers and pipe cleaners and anything else, and glued them to my paper bag.  I gave myself eye holes to look out of, even though I knew I wouldn’t actually be wearing it.  I also tried to make ears so it was as close to my pink bunny costume as I could get.  Every time I’d look at it I would think “Gross.  At least I don’t have to wear it!” 
            Then came the day of the Halloween parade.  I woke up exhilarated and feeling fine!  I remember running up to my mom and asking her for my costume…and that’s when my whole world shattered.  It broke my Halloween spirit forever.  You see, I wasn’t allowed to wear my costume to school because I might get it dirty. 
            I cried all morning.  I stomped my feet (which I still find effective today), and I BEGGED to wear it. My sister watched from a distance, knowing that my pleas were for naught.
            I don’t know how she did it, but my Mom got me to school.  I found myself in my classroom with every other kid dressed up except me.  There were even a few kids who poked fun at me because I had been bragging about my costume so much over the past few weeks (I was a little obsessed).
            I’d made a decision. I would sit in the class by myself while the rest of the kids went around and did the stupid costume parade.  No one would know that I wasn’t there, and I wouldn’t have to be humiliated.  It would be better to never be seen.  But then my plan was foiled.  My teachers told me that I had to go in the parade, and not only that, I had to wear the DISGUSTING mask I’d made.
            This is where the tears started up again.  There is nothing like a kindergartener forced to wear something she thought was the stupidest thing in the world.  My teachers kept telling me that my mask was really pretty and that I’d done a good job. I’ve always been good at telling when grown-ups were lying to me. 
            And what happened?  Did one of my two teachers stay behind with the obviously distraught child while the rest had a great time doing the parade?  Of course not!  After they couldn’t convince me that I would still have a good time in my nasty mask, they tried to remind me that I was going to make the other people upset.  Well of course I knew that, but I couldn’t stop crying!  So then I felt even worse about the whole thing. I was miserable and I was ruining everyone else’s time too.  That sure made me feel more in the spirit of things!  :P
            Finally, the teachers got annoyed enough to give up on me.  The put the bag over my head, placed me in line, and had me march around the school.  Each classroom that we went to (you see, it started with the kindergarteners and moved up through the grades where each class would join at the end of the line after getting to see everyone who was already in it) got a full view of me in my freaking grotesque mask of pink random junk glued to a paper bag that I had over my head (think of it, what is more fitting in this situation than a paper bag over my head?) SOBBING as I walked.  Not just sobbing, but sobbing loudly.  It got to the point where I was hiccupping and couldn’t breathe.  But was I let out of the horror of the Halloween costume parade?  NO.  I made it all the way through the school, back into the classroom, and then to my desk where it ripped up the freakish paper bag mask that had caused so much horror.
            This is the absolute worse Halloween that I’ve ever had.  It has bread in me a fear of trying to wear the right costume.  I didn’t want to get caught in the same kind of situation again.  Alas, I can’t even remember wearing my pink bunny costume.  I never had a costume since then that I actually liked.  I am intimidated beyond belief when it comes to finding a costume and I usually give up.  It never ends up as good as I want it to, and I always feel dumb. 
            That my friends, is one of the major reasons why Halloween is not my favorite holiday.  But I do not begrudge those who can find so much joy in such a potentially wonderful day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Standard of Beauty: A Christian Wife's Confession

  “Men, you get your standard of beauty from your wife,” was my favorite line at church today.  It’s something that Pastor Mark brings up often in his sermons when speaking of husbands and wives.  “If she’s a brunette, you like brunettes.  If she’s think, you like thin.  If she’s formerly thin, you like formerly thin.  Whatever your wife is, that is where you get your standard of beauty.”  Part of his point here is, don’t compare your wife to other women you see.  She is who you chose to marry and she is who you will respect, love, and find attractive for the rest of your life.  
I love this.  I love that my husband is going to see me through my ups and downs, weight gain and weight loss, freckles and wrinkles, tattoos and piercings, weird hair cuts and color, and still think of me as the most beautiful woman because I am his standard of beauty.  This takes a lot of fear out of a marriage situation.  It means his eye won’t be wandering and he won’t be lusting after other women.  It isn’t a punishment for him either.  It’s something he can be glad to do.  Heck yes!  I’m soooo on this band wagon.
Aaaaand here comes my Ms. Contrary side.  How in the world can I expect that he won’t look at other women?  That’s impossible!  Have you seen the women that are out there?!  I can’t go anywhere without finding at least a handful of women that I’d gladly give my right leg (it’s my good one) to look like!  And those are real women, not just air-brushed models and actresses.  Oh wait, and I have to compete with those women too!  
Oh dear...what if I hate my hair and think I look like I was attacked by a 3-year old with a blender?  What if I gain a million gazillion pounds and end up going out like the mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?  Or heaven help me if I get even more stretch-marks if I’m ever pregnant!  There’s no way he’d still think I was attractive.  That’s total bull!
3-year-old with a blender

Ok, ok.  So I take things a little to far.  I kind of get something in my head and run with it, but life is full of so many surprises!  Let’s get back to the sermon.
You may be wondering why my pastor would bring standard of beauty up in a sermon.  Well, we were in the first chapter of the book of Esther where King Xerxes calls on his wife, Queen Vashti, to come to him in a room of men who had been partying HARD for six straight months.  He wanted her to walk in front of them either naked with just a crown on, or nearly naked.  He asked her to do so because she was known to be beautiful and he wanted to show her off to his buddies.  She was the ultimate trophy wife and he wanted to share.  Yeah, she said no.
So here, we stopped on the role of a wife.  If wives are to be obedient and submissive to their husbands as the Bible says, how could she say no?  Was she doing the wrong thing?  I happen to agree with Pastor Mark in that she did the brave and Godly thing by telling King Xerxes no. 
Here’s the thing.  It’s pretty awesome that Xerxes found Vashti so beautiful, I guess.  Husbands should find their wives beautiful.  But she wasn’t his only wife.  Not only was she not his only wife but he had a huge harem of women!  Each woman was taken because of her beauty so he could be with any of them whenever he wanted to.  This in and of itself is cruel and offensive for a husband to do.  Then on top of that, he wanted his beautiful wife to come parade herself in front of thousands of men who had been in a drunken stupor for six months.  Not only were these men drunk the entire time, but they were entertained by prostitutes to their heart’s content.  Would this be a situation you’d like to be in?  Well sure!  Heck, I’d love to walk naked in front of thousands of drunk men who’ve been having their every sexual and sinful desires met for the past six months so my husband can show what a big man he is!  That sounds great!
I kind of doubt that any one of the ladies reading this would think that.  So where can we take this from here?  Well, for a husband to be obeyed, he must be honorable.  He must act in a way a loving husband should.
But confound it, I had to ask here, what’s so wrong with being a trophy wife?  I mean, yeah, Vashti’s situation sucked.  Xerxes was being a jerk, but why would it be bad for my husband to want to show me off to his friends?  It would actually make me feel pretty good!  
Luckily, Pastor Mark had something to say about that situation.  He explained that your husband should love you more than that.  You should be his standard of beauty to the point of not having to show you off to his friends.  It is disrespectful to treat your wife as an object that you use to make yourself feel like a big man.  To show others how well you’re doing for yourself.  
Now, is it wrong or sinful for a husband to want to introduce his wife to his friends?  No, not at all! But the reason should be respectful.  It should be because he wants them to meet the love of his life, not see his arm candy.  There is a difference and one is far more respectful and loving than the other.
Ok!  Women’s rights!  Woo!
Ah, but here’s my crazy brain again, reminding me about something that has often come to my mind.  I’m actually embarrassed for my husband when he introduces me to his friends.  If I meet his friend’s wives, I’ll compare myself to them.  I’ve told him more than once that I’ve felt sorry for him that all of his best friend’s wives are much more attractive than me.  I feel he got the short end of the stick.
Aaron has never agreed with me on this way of thinking and it makes him upset, which really is the best response, I have to say.  But I really can’t shake it.  I’d love to be a trophy wife!  No matter how incredibly stupid it would be for someone to think, “poor Aaron, he got stuck with that?!” or anything along those lines, I still don’t want people to even come close to thinking that. 
So what do I do now?  I agree with Pastor Mark that your spouse is your standard of beauty, but I still want people to think that he did well with me.  Yet in this, aren’t I wanting men who are most often married to be attracted to me when their standard of beauty should be their own wives?  How horrible is that?!  Does my self esteem need such a boost that I want someone besides my husband to lust after me?  Gross!  I don’t want to be that person!  
So...what should I do?  How do I keep myself from not caring?  How can I break this sinful behavior so that the way my husband looks at me should be the only thing I care about?
Ummm...Jesus.  I see this sin, now I need to repent.  Not only to Jesus, but to Aaron.  I don’t think that this is something that’s going to be easy to change, but I do have faith that I can be lead through it.
I thank Pastor Mark for preaching on the book of Esther the way he is.  I thank him for caring so much about women in general and his wife and daughters specifically, enough to be bold and vehement about treating women respectfully.  I thank Jesus for moving him in his sermons.  I thank the Holy Spirit for working in me so that I can see this tendency of mine as the sin that it is.  I pray that He continues to move me and helps me in my repentance to truly change.  I thank Aaron for letting me be his standard of beauty and for not feeling cheated in the slightest.  
Man, what a sermon!  What a husband!  What a God!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hope From Destruction

                I was pretty sure the scratching was getting louder, but then that could just be in my mind.  It seemed like everyone was starting to go crazy by varying degrees.  Besides the constant whine of the dog, the only sound was the scratching.  But really, it did seem like it was getting louder.
                We were hunkered down in a cave that we’d almost moved past before we realized it had an opening.  There were rocks and boards inside of it that we had wedged in the open spaces, hoping they wouldn’t be able to track us.  It made it impossible to see anything, but that was almost refreshing.
                “I think we should be moving soon.” Randall whispered into the thick, tar-like darkness.  His voice seemed to be the void of noise compared to what I now thought of as the “white noise” of our little burrow.
                “I still don’t see the point.”  A voice that sounded like a hot poker grinding its way through my head sliced through the air.
                It wasn’t even because the voice was unpleasant.  In any other situation I would have enjoyed listening to it.  But, you know, there’s always one of those people who go completely bat-shit crazy when they’re in a survival situation and this guy was a total nut case.   He was the kind of guy to knock over the young ones to make a clear path to safety, or just give up and in turn force someone to save him.  I don’t understand how he’s lasted so long.  That’s probably my fault.
                Randall sighed heavily.  “The point is to keep going.  What other point do you need, Jamie?”
                “No matter where we go, they’re gonna find us.  We might as well just give up now.”
                And that was when we heard the deafening crack.  Light started streaming in.  Jamie screamed and I looked over to see him flying backward oof the mound of dirt he had been sitting on and hit his head against the cave’s granite wall.  I couldn’t hear if it cracked or not, the sound of gnashing teeth and excited scratching had accelerated.
                That’s when Marrow started barking.  He ran toward the crack in the door, meaning to do his best to protect us. 
“Marrow!  Come!”  I called with my best command voice.  There was no way I’d survive without that dog.
“We have to get out of here, now!”  I called as I turned toward the others.  Randall was on the ground next to Jamie who was now curled up against the wall.
“No!  No, I’m not going anywhere!  There’s no point!  Forget it!”  He was whining at Randall who was trying as hard as his old, gnarled bones could to pull him up and coax him away from the wall.
“You need to move Jamie.  Come on, let’s go.  You know I can’t lift you.”  He continued to try and convince him.
That’s it.  I wasn’t going to stand it anymore.  I marched toward the two with my gun in my hand and my dog at my side as the cracking continued behind me and more moonlight shined through. 
“Just leave him.”  I ordered Randall.
He looked back up at me with his withered old face contorted. “You can’t be serious!” 
“I’ve been saying it all along.  If he doesn’t want to come, he doesn’t have to.  If he’d rather die, let him.”
                I grabbed Randall’s shoulder and Marrow helped me to herd him back deeper into the cave. 
                “Wait!”  Jamie shrieked as I heard the thump of something throwing itself up against the creaking and weakening door.  “You’re actually leaving?!  How dare you!?”
                “We can’t go.  We can’t go!  We can’t leave him.  How can you leave him?”  Randall blubbered beside me.
                I rolled my eyes as we continued into the darkness.  “I’m not stopping him from coming.”  I turned around to shout behind me, "He can get up and follow us if he wants to!”
                I was pretty sure that the scuffing I heard behind us, along with a lot of sniffing and mumbling was Jamie finally moving on his own.   It didn’t sound fast enough, but it would take them a while to make a hole big enough to fit through.  I could hear their angry, guttural noises and gnashing teeth as they worked their way in.
                Trying to filter out the terrifying noise, I concentrated on moving as quickly, yet carefully as possible.  I’d heard in the past that when you’re scared enough you can build up enough adrenaline to do amazing things, but what I’ve found out in real life it that it’s all bunk.  The more scared you are, the stupider you are and the more likely you are to be killed.  End of story.
                I couldn’t believe how far the cave went back.  Randall was wheezing next to me.  His gnarled hand was now on my shoulder, hooked into it with his crooked fingers digging in for support.  He wouldn’t make it much farther.
                As that though crossed my mind, we heard the big break.  Marrow barked and started growling deeply.  The clacking and scratching on the hard wood and stone floors made my heart race and the hair on my arms and the back of my neck rise.
                I put an arm around Randall and half hoisted him onto my hip to try and carry him as I ran recklessly forward.  I should have known better because before we gained any distance my foot hit something that wasn’t quite soft, but most definitely wasn’t hard either.  Randall and I both went flying.  He landed with an oomph a foot or so away from me.  I hit face first, scraping my eyebrow and cheek on the hard ground, but the rest of me landed on something much softer.
                That’s when the groaning started and whatever it was that I landed on started to move slowly.  I could tell that there were more things about me moving as well. 
“Randall!”  I called.  “Randall?  Jamie?  You guys ok?”
“Yeah.”  Randall breathe.  He didn’t sound good, but how can you at a time like this?
“Jamie?”  As much as I’d given him a hard time, I didn’t want anything to really happen to him.
Then everything went very fast.
A light that I hadn’t really noticed coming our way was close enough for me to start to see my surroundings.  Still on the floor, I looked directly in front of me and saw a putrid husk of what must have once been deemed a human.  Hunks of skin were missing from various area s of the body, and so was an eyeball.  I was frozen in horror until the remaining eye rolled around to look right at me and a hand missing part of a finger started reaching forward in my direction.
I jumped up, pulling away from the hand to then stumble over the leg of another one.  They were all around us.  Randall was scooting back on his hands and knees, trying to get away, his eyes huge with horror.
Then the screaming started.  Jamie had plastered himself against the wall.  Blood trickled down from his head into his face from where he had hit it earlier.  He was staring into the direction where we had come and I saw what was causing him to make the terrible noise.  It was the unicorns.  They had found us.
They were in a herd, as they always were.  They had all set their razor sharp horns to glow, which was why I could now see.  Each mouth was foaming with saliva from smelling us as we tried to escape from them. 
Poor Marrow didn’t know what to do.  He wanted to defend us from the charging unicorns, but he also felt a need to see if the other things that were groaning and starting to fumble their way to their feet were also dangerous.
Even though I wasn’t sure who to attack first, I decided I needed to do something.  Wielding my gun, I fired a shot at the oncoming unicorns, but as I was firing, I was hit from the side by Marrow and knocked over.  The shot went wild, the bullet ricocheting down the cave.  The gun slipped from my hand and slid into the moving bodies behind me.   
Morrow was next to me, ripping into one of the bodies.  He had knocked me over so I wouldn’t be attacked.  I’ve owed my life to him more than once.
Seeing a hunk of splintering wood I’d grabbed as we started down the cave lying a few feet in front of me, I grabbed it.  Brandishing the wood as a sword, I swung it around and did my best to attack the unicorn closest to me. 
As I jumped in and back, trying to stay away from the bone crunching teeth and impaling horn, I was able to get in a few good hits.  The ragged wood caught in the side of the unicorn and ripped into his skin.  He squealed with pain, then as I expected him to lunge toward me, his eyes opened wide and he started backing up. 
Screaming, he reared back and tried to run away but only managed to knock into his comrades behind him.  He fell, and as I watched, frozen in surprise, I was able to see what had caused him to scare.  The hulks of disgusting rotting flesh were closing in on the beast.  They moaned and gurgled in…excitement?  It sounded different than the noise they had made before; as if there was a happy timbre to it.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the raging animal as he and his friends were converged on.  The animated bodies began pulling at the open wound in the unicorn.  What they started to do next was enough to make me turn around and lose the very little that was in my stomach before I could try to calm myself.  It was the sight as well as the smell of the moving decay that had done it.
I was glad that show of cowardice was over by the time I looked across the cave to where I had last seen Jamie.  What was left was a mound of trampled flesh and bones.  I looked away as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t be able to recall any details.  Unfortunately, when I looked away, my eyes landed on what I could only guess was the remains of Randall.  It seemed he had been the appetizer to the feast had continued behind me.
Before the grief could hit me, I was about myself enough to know I needed to run, and I needed to run now.  But which way?  If the dead creatures had been huddled here, there was no way I was going to go farther into the cave.  I looked down at Morrow who was panting next to me, dark goop on his muzzle and chest.  His eyes were trained on the massacre.  I turned that way too.
Scanning the area, I saw a little sliver of space between the wall and a mass of feeding.  Every predator over there looked preoccupied, so now was better than later.
Taking a deep breath and almost gagging from the smell.  I coughed for a moment and tried to steady myself.  Then something rolled into my foot.  I looked down and saw a still glowing horn from one of the unicorns.  Bending over, I picked it up and clutched it in my free hand.  This would come in handy. 
Making sure to avoid the deep breath, I started to run and Marrow came with me.  He wanted to get out just as much as I did.  We had to leap over the leg of a downed unicorn.  Marrow went first and cleared it just fine.  When it was my turn I felt something squishy close around my ankle.  The break in my momentum sent me stumbling to the ground.  Luckily, I was able to land squarely on my free foot. 
Turning around to assess the situation, I saw a hand decaying as it clutched onto me.  Realizing I still had the wood in my hand, I swung as hard as I could at the head that was moving closer to me.  It caved in easily with a sickening smack.  I had to wrench the wood out of the brain and mush that it had sunk into.
I was up again and running as fast as I could, holding the horn in front of me so I could see where my feet were landing.  Morrow stayed a short distance in front of me, staying in the glow of the light.  It seemed like I was in the cave for years, yet before I knew it I was in the surrounding forest, resting and panting against a boulder with tears streaming down my face.  I hadn’t been aware of crawling out of the cave or reaching fresh air and moonlight.
Rubbing my face with the back of my hand, I came face to face with the glowing horn and it made me freeze.  Did this mean what I thought it did? 
Biting my lip, I concentrated as hard as I could and thrust the tip of the horn toward a smaller stone a few feet away.  A stream of lightning flowed from the tip before the stone disintegrated into gravel.  Morrow whined as he sat next to me.
I looked over at Morrow and felt a smile creep over my face as hope crept into my being.  “This changes everything.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

White Red Black

          Everyone had always commented about her skin.  It had always been creamy in its darkness.  She rarely ever had a blemish, and scars never stayed for long. 
          She took off her jeans, tossing them in the hamper, and sat down on the towel she had neatly placed on the floor.  Cleanliness was always a habit for her.  She couldn’t allow things to become messy.
          Running her hand down her inner thigh, she inspected the skin.  It wasn’t quite as smooth as the rest of her body, the color was a little off as well, but that was the only evidence.  It helped that she never did it in the same spot.  Yet years of release meant that she was running out of space. 
          Turning and reaching under the bed, she pulled out a pink jewelry box covered in sparkles.  Her father had given it to her when she was little, when she was still whole; before the blood in her veins had started to choke her.  It was something she couldn’t explain to anyone, not even her grief counselor. 
Her father had passed away from cancer when she was in fifth grade.  His death had of course devastated the entire family.  They all did the healthy thing and went to grief counselors and “felt much better” for it.  Everyone was healing and they were all healthy.  Healthy healthy healthy!
          Then in early high school, she started feeling odd; somehow compressed; like she would explode. She had no idea what to do.
          One day she just found herself staring in the mirror.  It seemed that her head was full of flames and her body felt swollen, ready to split.  Yet she looked just fine from the outside. 
          She stared for a long time, just looking at herself, disgusted.  What started as studying her entire body then narrowed to separate parts; her arm, her hand, and eventually just her thigh.  The thought, “what beautiful skin!” passed through her mind.  An echo of praise she’d heard her whole life.  It disgusted her.  That was it.
          She left the bathroom.  Her little brother than up and gave her a hug as she made her way to the kitchen.  The house smelled of the pancakes and bacon her mother was cooking for their Saturday morning feast.  She stopped to ruffle her dog’s fur, and was given an attack kiss on the cheek from her mother.  They were all so happy and healthy!  Happy happy happy!
          She wasn’t afraid when he mother asked her what she needed the knife for.  It was a steak knife with a white handle and serrated edge.  Of course it was just for a “school project” she was working on.  Her mother wouldn’t be surprised that she needed a tool like that.  She was known for her brilliant science projects, dioramas, and everything else scholastic.  Whatever she needed to flex her scholastic muscle was given to her.
          As she walked back to the bathroom and grabbed a dark blue towel, her mother called after her that breakfast was almost ready.  “The brain needs to be fed,” was one of her mother’s favorite saying.  This was especially after her father had died and she had struggled to keep any food down.  Food still made her sick, but she chewed and swallowed with the best of them, keeping a smile on her face the whole time.
          Laying out the towel as she would at the beach, she sat down and looked at her arm.  Her very exposed arm.  All of the sports she played had short sleeved uniforms.  That won’t work.  Then she looked at her inner thigh.  It was as pristine as the rest of her skin.  It even had a bit more flesh.  Less dangerous.
          So for the first time, she sank the tip of the white handled knife into her skin…just the tip…and held it there.  Instantly her brain slowed down and acted like normal.  Her body no longer felt like it was about to burst from the inside out.  She sighed with relief.  The little trickle of blood that dripped out seemed inconsequential.  It was absolutely worth the relief.  She didn’t go any farther that time, but each release seemed to require the cut to be a little bit longer. 
People commented about how easy going and calm she was after that.  Great skin, great grades, great family, great athlete, great great great!  Healthy healthy healthy!  And this time she felt that it was true.
          And now it was today.  It was this time.  It was now.  She opened the jewelry box that smelled like aging felt.  The ballerina that used to twirl ever so slowly each time the cover was lifted still sprang up, but had run out of music to dance to and working gears to guide her. 
She still felt a little nervous, but then very calm and peaceful each time she held the knife.  The blade still pristine and white from all the scrubbings it had been given.
          She found a spot that was still clean and smooth.  The color was still perfect and creamy, deep and dark.  She slowly placed the tip in and stopped for a moment, taking three deep breaths so that she could concentrate on the relief rather than the pain.  She then dragged it a little further, feeling the weight on the tip as it opened her skin.  It felt so wonderful.  So good and clean.  The pressure was escaping.  Her head was calm. 
          Then a dark but tempting thought revealed itself from the depths of her mind.  She could just keep pushing.  If this felt good, then it wouldn’t hurt for the knife to go in farther. 
With giddy delight she closed her eyes and pushed down harder on the knife, breathing out with a long sigh.  She was oblivious to her surroundings, including  her dog who had nosed his way into her room to check on her.  She wasn’t expecting it when he placed his snout on her foot in a friendly and comfortable way.
          She jerked, and felt real pain for the first time in years.  Letting go of the knife, she looked down and saw the white handle sticking out of her brown flesh, the blade in up to the hilt.  There was thick line of blood spilling out of what was now the sagging flesh from her thigh.  The small cut was turning into a gaping hole.  She’d gone too far, but before the thought had sunk in, she became mesmerized by what she had made; the beauty of the dissected muscle, the pure red of the blood.  She watched it flow while her head was overcome with a fuzzy sense of being. 
          She didn’t notice that she was slumping over until she’d slid onto the floor.  Her vision was focused on the blood that was flowing past the edges of her towel.  Briefly, she thought that she would need to clean that up first.  But then even that didn’t matter; when everything went from red to black.