Sweeping up Eggshells – Life in the New Covenant

The Beggar's Bakery

shells

By: Jana Greene

“When people form their opinion about God from what they hear from contemporary legalistic religion, it’s no wonder they conclude that God is a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else. It would be easy to see how a god like that would be angry much of the time. Sadly, people who hold that view of God impose it on the Bible and interpret the Bible to present a God like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying that our God is a milquetoast, a mild-mannered god who can be managed. He’s no kitten, that for sure.”  —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Part 4 of The Seismic Seven Series

When I was a little girl, my father would often go into rages. I learned early how to walk on eggshells, as you…

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Self Care: Part I – Setting Boundaries and Letting Go

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By: Jana Greene

*Sigh*

How convenient that I’m kicking off a blog series about Self Care when just the right inspiration presented itself, and made me consider one of the most important tenants of Self Care: Setting Boundaries and Letting Go.

As of late, I’ve been dealing with a situation in which a loved one whom I’ve constructed pretty high fortifications with is lobbing cannonballs at me in the Wonderful World of Social Media.

This person has not tried to contact me in five years. Not even once.

Letting go completely of one’s own family member seems like a cold-hearted thing to do to the casual observer, but I can promise you it’s heart wrenching. It takes years (and sometimes long periods of recovery) to gain the clarity of how very toxic a person is – a person who is supposed to love you.

Preceding any true rift are innumerable fights, a scorched earth battlefield where innumerable feelings went to die, and enough hurt to quite literally kill a person – if you don’t separate yourself from the drama.

I’ve decided that – instead of lobbing cannons over in response  – I’ve drafted:

The Healthy Person’s Guide to Surviving Emotional F*ckwittage and Manipulation –

A Bill of Rights


1. You have the right to estrangement if said toxic person repeatedly oversteps (or bulldozes) boundaries you’ve asked to be respected.

2. It is NOT HONORING someone to allow them to manipulate you.

2. If it’s all about them all the time, it’s not about you having a healthy relationship.

3. You have the right to guard your sobriety (or regular old peace of mind) with everything you’ve got, and if this means stepping away from toxic people because they make you want to use / drink / pull your hair out / jump off a bridge in order to just to DEAL with their drama, so be it.

4. You have the right to pray for the toxic person every single day. I recommend it. Seriously, pray that God will bless them in unimaginable ways and that he will heal both of your wounded hearts.

5. Once you’ve decided that it is in YOUR best interest (yeah, that’s right, YOU get to determine when that is!) to stay away from a toxic person, that is reason ENOUGH. A narcissist will never give you permission, so don’t wait around for it. It ain’t coming.

6. You don’t owe a DAMN thing to anyone. Not one explanation, not one excuse. ONLY YOU know the particulars that left your heart in shards.You’ve been hurt, and it ain’t nobody’s business what/when/where/why you have severed the relationship.

Don’t let others weigh in on your self-care.

Don’t let others weigh in on your self-care.

Don’t let others weigh in on your self-care.

(S0 important, I said it thrice)

I used to worry that everyone would think I was a horrible person for protecting my boundaries. Now I no longer care. I’m not a horrible person, just someone who has learned in the most painful way possible NOT to trust someone.

7. A narcissist will ALWAYS have somebody to blame for every circumstance, relationship, or non-relationship in their lives. It is usually the one person that they are trying to destroy with their manipulations. If they had to own a single shred of responsibility, they are afraid of losing their Victim Card. This entitlement card allows the bearer to run ramshackle over the feelings of others in order to receive constant validation. It also makes it damn near impossible for you to look like any thing but a villain.

Because, as aforementioned, it’s all about them.

8. Setting boundaries, even estrangements, does not mean you stop loving that person. Oh how much easier it would be if that were the case! But love goes so many layers deep in the sediment of relationships. You will ALWAYS love this person – even if they are really bad for you. Who knows? God can do all things, including restoring relationships. But when a person has spent a lifetime cultivating an inability to own any of his / her behaviors, it may be on the other side of the Kindgom before true healing takes place.

Your feelings matter.

Your boundaries are there for a reason.

Your self care is tantamount.

 

 

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Hurts, Psalms, and Healing Balms

japanese

By: Jana Greene

A long time ago, when I had retrospectively minimalist problems, I used to read the Psalms out loud in my morning devotion time. Until recently, I’d forgotten how much power is invoked in reading them aloud.

It’s 4 a.m. right now. And it’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord…..standing in the need of prayer. I’ve been up all night with gargantuan aches, pains, and the like –  that seem hellbent of keeping me awake.

The Bible says that biblical David was a man after God’s own heart, but if you read the scripture, it seems that David was a bit of a whiner at best, and a real drama queen at worst. I mucked up a lot, made a lot of mistakes, and STILL God knew his deep and abiding love for him. I absolutely love Kind David. He GETS me.

Yesterday, I got some medical news that I suspected was coming. I’d warned my mind and body about it (as the symptoms had already revealed themselves to said mind and body), but my Spirit put up quite a fit upon learning what’s going on. Renal issues. Enlarged Liver issues. Chronic pain and more migraines to expect. Fatigue as the order of the day forthcoming. And leg and foot cramps that make you want to cry uncle at the top of your lungs at 2 a.m. (My poor, poor husband, I KNOW he is losing sleep…..)

Oh, and did I mention mental health issues arising from dealing with the stress of all of the above PLUS childhood trauma that has never been dealt with, and a whole lifetime of untreated depression? As I lurch forward in treatment for mental health issues, I’m feeling black-and-blue, my heart beat up badly, and bones and soul, too.

Which brings me back to the biblical David, bitcher of circumstance, beloved man after God’s own heart (is it possible to be both? I’m kind of counting on it….) Like David, I am on the cusp of digging deeper in my faith. Like David, I’m getting ready to clean out my closet and make room for fresh hope.

The Psalms are best read aloud because you can better capture biblical David’s desperation aloud. He is one of my favorite biblical characters because he can slay giants, become a mighty king, loves God with all of his heart, and seemingly and impulsively throw it away for a hot chick in a bathtub. Hey, who am I to judge?

Here is a man who knows frustration. Here is a man who gave us authentic prayer of the highest order.

Pray it aloud when you are at the end of your proverbial rope:

1-2 Please, God, no more yelling,
    no more trips to the woodshed.
Treat me nice for a change;
    I’m so starved for affection.

2-3 Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue,
    beat up badly in bones and soul?
God, how long will it take
    for you to let up?

4-5 Break in, God, and break up this fight;
    if you love me at all, get me out of here.
I’m no good to you dead, am I?
    I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed
    has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
    My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
    nearly blind, I squint and grope.

8-9 Get out of here, you Devil’s crew:
    at last God has heard my sobs.
My requests have all been granted,
    my prayers are answered.10 Cowards, my enemies disappear.
Disgraced, they turn tail and run.  Pslam 6:1-10 (MSG

Read this aloud when imploring the Lord, perhaps in times you feel forgotten:

 

13-14 Be kind to me, God;
    I’ve been kicked around long enough.
Once you’ve pulled me back
    from the gates of death,
I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs;
    on the corner of Main and First
    I’ll hold a street meeting;
I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air
    with salvation songs.” Psalm 9:1-10 (MSG)

And then this. Pray it out loud. Pray it so that the devil can hear you. Pray it so that the cells wrapped in pain in your body can know it’s true. If we don’t get healing this side of the kingdom, we get it eventually and in full, and forever! In the meantime, pray it LOUD:

And this after-God’s-own-heart, keeping it 100, plea from an authentic David to God:

“Oh, God, my Lord, step in;
    work a miracle for me—you can do it!
Get me out of here—your love is so great!—
    I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins.
I’m fading away to nothing, passing away,
    my youth gone, old before my time.
I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up,
    my body a rack of skin and bones.
I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me;
    they take one look and shake their heads.

26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God,
    save me through your wonderful love;
Then they’ll know that your hand is in this,
    that you, God, have been at work.
Let them curse all they want;
    you do the blessing.
Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up,
    followed by cheers for me, your servant.
Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame,
    discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.

30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God,
    I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds,
For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy,
    to rescue a life from the unjust judge.(Psalm 109:25-31)

And here, finally, we see the AHA moment in which David sees the light, so to speak. He is at that pivotal place we all need to find ourselves in, in order to keep running that most challenging race set before us:

“Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
    who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
    when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
    put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
    sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
    he defends the wronged,
    he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
    he gives sight to the blind,
    he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
    takes the side of orphans and widows,
    but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
    Zion’s God is God for good!
    Hallelujah!” Psalm 146:3-10

Lift up us fallen ones, Abba. We are so tired.

But even in our sickness and sadness and end-of-our-rope-ness, we are are a people after your own Heart!

God bless us, every one.

 

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Invisible Illness Primer – (or ‘We Didn’t Choose our Bodies’)

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By: Jana Greene
For all of you Normies (normal people) out there, I hope the shines a light on what living with a chronic illness feels like. For all of you who suffer from an invisible illness, I pray this blesses you and assures you that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!
Woke up this morning feeling like Death’s younger, less apprenticed sister/ like “shit on a shingle,” as we used to say in Texas (!?) Like I  should get busy living or get busy dying (props to Shawshank Redemption), but suck at both endeavors right now and am kind of hovering around in between? Health Purgatory.
When people with a chronic illness tell you “Meh, I have good days and bad days,” they ain’t whistling Dixie. It means they have good days in which they feel manically invincible and squeeze a thousand little errands in that ONE day because they never know when a ‘bad’ day will hit, thus exhausting themselves and hastening a ‘bad’ day. On good days, you do the normalsauce stuff other people complain about having to do with great aplomb. Gleefully, almost.
  • BAD DAYS:  Every. Cell. In. Your. Body. Hurts. You feel like you could sleep for days  except your head is exploding.  Going out to the mailbox saps you. You find yourself wondering where the exhaustion ends and you begin. Bad days are weepy, sore, frustrating days of complete unproductiveness. You are down for the count.
  • GOOD DAYS: Yesterday was a GOOD day, I went about my business like a regular normal person. That’s all I want! – To have a solid week with no pain or migraine or nasty bug. Can I just give a shout out to the GOOD DAY, the one in which it doesn’t hurt to dress yourself, and you go to Trader Joes AND Food Lion in ONE day, and have the strength to carry in the groceries when you get home? I get a natural HIGH on days like these. And praise Jesus for making them possible.
  • MY IMMUNE SYSTEM IS A REAL ASSHOLE:  It is the Hostess with the Mostess, that system.Lets EVERYBODY IN – flu,  sinus infection, UTI issues, 24-hour bug…you name it. It is super hospitable. I can almost hear my autoimmune disease say to a  virus that’s finally moving on, “Ya’ll come back here, ya’ hear!?”
  • ‘BORING THING’ ENVY: I’m talking when you are so tired or in pain that you are jealous that your husband is cleaning the litter boxes, because he can do it and you cannot. When my friends on social media complain about the boringness of having to take a car to have their oil changed, and your excruciating migrained head can only WISH you could do something like that  on this sunny, beautiful day. Instead, you are laying in a dark, silent room praying that your neighbor will not decide to mow his freaking lawn outside your window for the fourth time this week.
  • WHY YES, I HAVE TRIED THE ST. JOHN’S WORT!: Peeps, I’ve  tried it. Whatever you are fixin’ to suggest,  I’ve done it. Fancy and expensive shake mixes, check. Green Superfood, check. Yoga, check. Eating clean, eating dirty, fasting, Britta water filter, meditation,  pharmaceuticals galore, and (of course) prayer. Also tried essential oils, Dialectical Behavior techniques, and good old fashion denial. I have even had a spinal tap once, to rule out MS.
  • WATCH FOR DEPRESSION: If you have too may ‘bad days’ in a row, the bedfellow of depression creeps in, because let’s face it, THIS SUCKS. Is it any wonder that the number of chronic illness sufferers who experience mild to severe depression is sky high? When you don’t feel good, YOU DON’T FEEL GOOD, and it’s a real buzzkill to your body, mind, and spirit.
  • SILLY STUPID THINGS: Cough or sneeze? Subluxated rib (ribs temporarily dislocate – it is every bit as fun as it sounds). Drive over to the Quick-E-Mart? No can do – double vision from a migraine. I once broke my ankle in two places from climbing out of bed and walking to the bathroom to pee. Torqued my leg in just the ‘right’ way, and felt my bones breaking. Turns out, it is related to the syndrome I’ve been diagnosed with. (I wonder what the odd are of harming oneself just by getting up to pee? Hmmm.)
  • HUGS ARE THE BEST: I’m not actually sure this has anything to do with chronic illness, but it surely doesn’t hurt!
  • FAITH AND HUMOR are my saving graces. How do we still smile and laugh in the midst of pain and suffering, when our bodies that betray us on the regular? Because NOT to do so would take us from our feeling like death ‘warmed over,’ and straight into death – of the spirit and mind, if not outright and altogether. Gallows humor is still HUMOR.
  • PRAISE GOD FOR YOUR HEATH AND NORMALITY. If YOU are a regular normal person whose body jovially goes along with whatever you tell it to do, get on your knees and thank your Maker. Truly. Dude, I’m so jealous of you right now.
  • INVITE US: I know we cancel plans a lot. It makes us feel unreliable, and I’m so sorry for that. It comes with the EDS, Hashimotos (or a plethora of other ‘invisible’ illnesses) and is one of the worst things about this. It isn’t that we don’t miss you and love you, it’s usually because we are in pain or chronically fatigued and simply CAN NOT. It’s not you; it’s me.
  • APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM: My Beloved (husband) has stood by in side for the past 10 years like crazy. I don’t know how he does it (I sure as hell wouldn’t be married to me!) He has never doubted my illnesses or pain. He takes tender care of me every single day. You need people around you who BELIEVE you and will never give up on you.

WE DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS FOR OUR BODIES. WE DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS FOR OUR LIVES:

Thank you for your understanding, Normies. We need your support to survive this thing.

God bless us, every one.

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The Fierceness of Facing Age

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Ugh. It was really hard to put this picture up on the blog. No make-up, no filters. Photo filters are increasingly becoming my very best friend, to be honest….

 

By: Jana Greene

About that ageing gracefully thing….

Let me just preface this with a nod to those more spiritually evolved than myself, who will remind me that old age is an honor, and that silver hair a crown of glory, and that women are like fine wine and only get better with age (I never understood that one, but I drank only wine that came in a box before I got sober 15 years ago.)

You are right, yes. I get it! But some days, plain old regular vanity kicks in and sucks all the platitudes right out of getting older.Sometimes it’s just helpful to hear, “You, too?”

Remember those first wrinkles you discovered around your eyes in your early thirties? The ones that snapped you out of the delusion that wrinkles weren’t going to happen to you? The ones that spurred you on to buy that expensive sunblock at the Clinique counter? Doesn’t that seem wildly over-reactive and optimistic now?

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel like Father Time has been walking on my face wearing soccer cleats and things on my body (including my face) are forever getting softer, lower, and unable to ‘snap back.’ Can we just be honest about it?

I was musing about this on Facebook one day, and I invited my women friends to weigh in on their processes of ageing AND accepting that the process is a thing.

Crepey neck skin, bags under my eyes – who said “getting old is for sissies”? Is there a meat clever around? I’ll give em sissies!

Ah, the crepey skin. Just when I’d finally learned how to properly apply eye shadow, it disappears into the crepey folds of eye lid.  (Take care to take your eye makeup off without rubbing, young ones! You will thank me later on.)

Another sister really just kind of summed it up thus: (If ever there were an occasion to use multiple emoticons, it is here. Mid-life is ONE LONG EMOTICON, I’m finding.)

Hello death to the metabolism… Moment of silence please …… Ok, no need to expound there … Attack of weird skin issues. All things saggy , crepey, spotted, super dry, moles, veins veins, veins..did I mention veins ? Hormones that go up and down, like the rides at the county fair …. One minute I want to devour my husband, and another I want to zap him with a stun gun!  😍😘🔥😱😁😂 😊… Let’s just Changing sleep patterns can not be a good thing 😱😁💤😴💤😵😵😵and so begins The Strangeness … Memory ? Oh yeah what was I saying ? Why did I come In this room again? … I don’t feel like doing a darn thing ..life takes too much energy…

And…

Inside there is this 20 year old thinking she can still do what she used to. Then someone decided we need mirrors over every stinking bathroom sink and BAM! I see that the outside is not a 20 year old any longer.
How did that happen?
Wrinkles? Seriously? They are coming folks and it doesn’t matter how much cream or moisturizer you apply, they are coming.
I think the hardest part is the wisdom streaks that seem to be popping up everywhere. Anywhere there is hair.  Sheesh.  Gray…… thank God for this wonderful invention of color. We really can be anything we want to be. Not a blond? Not a brunette? Not a red head? No problem, there’s a color to suit your every whim.
For me, well, I’ll try to continue to do this aging thing gracefully but I’m just not ready to show all of my wisdom to the world just yet. Maybe in another 20 or 30 years. Maybe by then, I won’t be bothered by those pesky, lying bathroom mirrors anymore.
In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

Dang, that’s good.

I have the best girlfriends in the world, ya’ll.

Arthritis in the back. I love being active and that reminds me every time that I am not at young as I used to be. Not that it is stopping me now. I just fear it will some day!

Fear is a big thing with us, but we need to let that go. We ARE all still 20 year-olds, we are just driving classic cars now. Costly, sputtering, high-maintence, they-don’t-make-’em-like-that-anymore classics. We’ve survived this long, Baby.

Suck it, Fear. (I say that now….wait 5 minutes for mood to change, and we’ll re-assess.)

Several friends mentioned the dreaded and slow-morphing phenomenon that is ‘turkey neck,’ which deserves it’s very own blog post. Seriously, it needs a blog post all it’s own.

But then this:

I like me more emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. So things drag a bit…and the skin is drier, and there are things I never had before–moles, skin tags, hairy face….I am good with me. I love this stage of life.

OMG, I love this stage in my life, too. I really do!  I can be authentic without feeling like I need to apologize for being who I am.  The younger me wanted to people please 24/7, and was always worried about making herself small.  Part of authenticity is being honest about grieving the loss of the season, while still being cognizant of the honor that comes with age.

As the Facebook thread bemoaning our collective youth kept moving along, the posts got more positive. Like we all needed to just SAY IT – admit our struggles in gory detail – and find camaraderie with one another.And then we could entertain the awesomeness of mid-life.

We are all women who love God and know that silver hair is a crown of glory. But sometimes we bitch about getting older anyway, and grace fills in the cracks in our vanity like the wrinkle creams promised to do for our faces. Grace-fully.

Slowly, the sentiment became – yes, our bodies, faces and minds carry the wear and tear – but our spirits have never been so vibrant! Getting older ain’t for sissies, but that’s okay. We ain’t sissies.

We’re FIERCE, friends!

I wouldn’t take all the young, taught skin and youthful energy in the world for the relationship I have with The Father now – it took a lifetime to learn how to ACCEPT His love. My earlier years were so focused on earning it, I forgot to accept it.

I laugh more, share more, love more, taste more, savor more, give more. In the end, I suppose vanity aims to squash down the ‘more-ness.’ Don’t let it take your MORE!

If there’s a damn wrinkle cream on the planet that works, I haven’t found it. And there are a thousand things about ageing I sincerely do not appreciate. I would like my metabolism back, pretty please. Also, I’m very sorry I didn’t appreciate estrogen when I had tons of it…in retrospect, it was rad. I wish I still only equated ‘crepey’ with French foods, and thought only of giblets when I consider the ‘turkey neck.’

About that ageing gracefully thing again….to re-quote a fabulous friend of mine:

….In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

You, too?

Amen, Sister.

Amen.

 

(**Side note: If you are a woman in mid-life and have not read Nora Ephron’s book “I feel Bad about my Neck, and other thoughts on being a Woman,” please do. You will relate and likely be brought to tears from laughter. Which may bring more smile lines, but honey, it’s WORTH it. Laughter is ALWAYS worth it!**)

 

 

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The Dream-Maker’s Daughters – Women stepping out in mid-life

The Beggar's Bakery

wish“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.

She even wrote a few.

She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on…

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Learning to Love the Common Cat

From the archives, just for fun🙂

The Beggar's Bakery

It’s true that The Beggar’s Bakery is a blog heavy on the substance abuse recovery material. That’s my passion. But through the ages (the nearly three years I’ve been blogging) I like to mix things up a little on occasion. I am also a “recovering” cat hater. Truly.

Recovery is my passion, but it’s not my ONLY passion. There is also my family, and the kitty cats – animals of all kinds, really – and chocolate, and music, and clothes with elastic waistbands.

Here is one from a blog I maintained for, um….about two posts. But I’m re-posting it because sometimes you just need to write a little, er….FLUFF to go along with the heavier issues.

What’s fluffier than kitties?

This is Catsby, the first cat I've ever heard that is truly mine, a Mama's Boy through-and-through. This is Catsby, the first cat I’ve ever had that is truly mine (Bob claims him, too, but he is a  Mama’s Boy through-and-through!)

I used to have a funny…

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