Seasons

I admit that I’m not much of a poet like my son was, but I wrote this in 2011 after I was coming to grips with some things in my life. I shared it with a published poet (Aaron Espy) who liked it very much, so I thought it may speak to others. It was a time in which I was beginning to set new and healthier boundaries. It had been 12 years since my son’s demise.

Seasons

Each has its own

All have things in common

Some bask in the light

Shadows turn others solemn

We embrace the clear skies

Some remain in the rain

I have learned to take cover

I need to stay sane

I love all the seasons

But all embrace times

Of chaotic confusion

Some of which is sublime

They demand of us choices

Of which we decline

Keeping us prisoners

In chains that will bind

When infernal is knocking

I fall to the floor

No longer obliged

To open the door

I have made all my choices

I stand strong on the line

I have learned to embrace

Each season’s time

5/14/11

Seasons by WhiteSpiritWolf on DeviantArt

(Excerpt from ‘Gifts from the Ashes’)

(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

Grief is like a Chameleon

It’s been a rough week. The week began with the discovery that my ceiling in a downstairs bedroom had fallen in. From there, I discovered a section of the wall which was so soggy, just pushing on it left imprints. I had to turn all water off at the main, and had to make numerous calls for help. Two different workmen came out to see the damage and quoted me anywhere from $2500-$4000. I’m disabled; I can’t afford such things.

Then, I finally was able to reach my eldest. He spent two hours on the phone with me instructing me to turn off this, then that, etc. He was able to narrow the leak down somewhat and was able to get me cold water operational for the downstairs…but none upstairs and no hot water. I was very grateful for any water at this point. All of this bending and reaching caused my body to rebel and I was at the point that even the slightest movement was painful. I had to move very slowly holding on to furniture, etc., as I walked.

Yesterday, after my son had arrived and began to tear out walls and run tests…which eventually led to some repairs…I had to use our hand pump to get some water. As I moved a pot of flowers by the pump, a bright orange but pale lizard appeared. He had black spots and sat there glaring at me since I had disturbed his little home. It could have been some sort of Salamander, but I had never seen such a creature before and the way he was looking at me was alarming. He was ticked. Seeing him, however, reminded me of a pet Chameleon I had as a young child. I loved that little guy. One day, however, he escaped and because of the way he could change colors, it was impossible to find him. His ‘color change’ was both a self-preservation attribute, as well as, a detriment. I found him dead a few weeks later on a book rack. He had taken on the color of a book. His camouflage caused his demise.

Chameleons tend to show brighter colors when displaying aggressively to other chameleons, and darker colors when they submit or “give up” (Wikipedia). My little buddy had given up. Some species adjust their colors for camouflage in accordance with the vision of the specific predator by which they are being threatened.

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We who grieve become experts at changing colors. We learn to smile when our heart is breaking; we learn to put on a ‘poker face’ when we are out in public and a ‘trigger’ gets switched. Sometimes, it works for us as self-preservation. We don’t want others to see ‘us’…to see our pain and have someone ask us: “What’s wrong?”. We do it to avoid feeling embarrassed by falling apart in a place not of our choosing. Although, we need never to feel any shame about our grief, we do. Society, for the most part, simply is UN-accepting of our pain. Sometimes, those that do ‘accept’ it will also pity us…and pity is not what we either need or desire. I read an article yesterday in which the so-called experts who have never buried a child have determined that if one is grieving after a specific amount of time per their determination are then considered ‘mentally ill’. They simply lack any understanding of real Grief so they have had to come up with ‘standards’ to make sense of it for their own satisfaction.

Grieving is NOT mental illness. Drugs they prescribe perpetuating their business and promoting their necessity may assist Grievers under certain circumstances, but they do not ‘cure’ grief. What we need most is support. Yes, talking about what we are feeling and experiencing with others who ‘get it’ validates. Talking about all of it with those who do not, and who will simply ‘diagnose’ us and prescribe drugs to suppress it is nothing more than a temporary ‘fix’. We don’t ‘get over’ the tragedy of burying our beloved child. The shame of Grief belongs to a society that is UN-accepting…not to the griever. What we need are more Grievers to become counselors…folks who ‘know it’ and haven’t only read and studied it. A Griever who has lived with it has greater ability to support another Griever.

2 Corinthians 1: (VOICE)

He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles.

I am forever grateful to a counselor I found who was herself a griever. Her services were offered freely through a funeral home. She helped me understand that all that I was experiencing was ‘normal’. I didn’t need drugs, I was not losing my mind as I feared, I was not ‘mentally ill’. She also happened to be a Christian Believer who shared a verse with me that I laid hold of in my time of desperation: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning” (Eccl. 7:4a). It gave me Hope. No, it didn’t magically take away the excruciating pain, however it offered me the Hope that something good could come out of all of this hell I was living in. I didn’t have to ‘give up’ as my little chameleon had. I would/will see my son again. While waiting in this temporary holding pattern, there were/are good things I could tap into. I prayed unceasingly for this gem of Wisdom that God says exists in mourning. I wanted this heart to emerge from the shattered pieces of the heart that had been broken beyond repair. James tells us in Ch. 1:5 that if we have need of Wisdom…ask…and it shall be given. Daily, I ask.

Whether I need to fix leaky pipes or need a shoulder to cry on, I have learned to ask for help. It’s humbling, it’s revealing, it may be difficult to stand against a society of shame and predators. But we won’t receive what we need if we don’t ask.

 

(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

 

Dead End

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If you’re like me, most times when you’ve seen a sign that says: ‘Dead End’ you probably have not ventured down the road ahead. There have been a few times, however, when I had to get to a specific destination and knew of no other route, I went forward anyway. I hoped that perhaps there would be some way around whatever obstruction laid ahead, especially if it also said:

Road Closed Sign: Road Closed - Local Traffic Only

Most of the time, however, I wouldn’t take the risk in going forward.

After my son died, I have given up many many times. I would reach a point when I truly believed that there was no sense going forward, that my life here had ended and I might as well simply lay down and die.; I have prayed to die. I became convinced that there was no reason to continue on; I had no more purpose left to exist. It is a point of despair.

Depression and despair, though not mutually exclusive, do differ. Depression will result in a loss of desire to even get out of bed in the morning; it will rob from you most of your desire to speak with others which causes you to isolate and adds to your depression. Despair, however, goes beyond depression. Whereas depression is more of a ‘feeling’, despair is a complete loss of Hope and any expectation; despair is a state of utter hopelessness and complete despondency. It is the belief that we cannot…will not…survive this. It can cause one to be suicidal. It’s the belief…more than a feeling…that there is absolutely no reason to go on. It is a Dead End road with no access, no way around it, no detours available, no turn around. It’s the belief that you are confronted with an insurmountable mountain with no passageway available.

Have you ever thought of the amazing feats and the insuperable circumstances those original Pilgrims faced who ventured to travel out West in their covered wagons filled with everything they owned? They had to have felt completely overwhelmed, at times. There was no ‘free sailing’ when confronted with navigating across the rough terrains and faced with crossing the Rocky Mountains. Passage over the desert land with little to no vegetation and the relentless heat must have seemed unbearable, as if they were in the pit of Hell itself. Many, most likely, gave up and turned back. The task at hand was too merciless and unyielding.

Yet, some kept moving forward.

How is it that some became completely despondent, while others vigorously ventured on? What was the almost magical ‘key’? Many must have felt depression and discouragement. Some completely despaired. Those Pilgrims were human, not some omnipotent super-human beings. The original explorers and fur traders were driven by something that others likely viewed as insanity. They must have had moments of discouragement, yet they would not quit. Even Paul when faced with numerous beatings and imprisonment, hardships that most today in America cannot even comprehend, had occasion to completely despair (1 Cor. 1:8). He said that he and his fellow sojourners ‘had the sentence of death’ within them (vs. 9).

All of these people that kept moving forward had Faith; they trusted; they had Hope in something grander and bigger than themselves. It’s not that they were indifferent to depression nor despair; they had something greater than those feelings and state of mind. Someone once stated to me years ago that: ‘a winner never quits’. In spite of what obstacles and tragedies present themselves along our journey, we who are ‘winners’…conquerors…DO NOT GIVE UP! If we run into a brick wall, we find a way around it. If we cross a passageway that is a dead end road, we look for another. We don’t sit down and throw up our hands and say: “Well, that’s it then”. As the old saying goes: ‘It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings’. We do not presume the outcome while our life is still in progress. We don’t allow our emotions to rule the day because we know that ‘feelings are not always facts’. We have Faith in something greater than ourselves and all tragedies. We Trust there is Someone out there greater than it all. Most importantly, we have Hope that this is all only temporary.

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Romans 8:36-37 (NKJV)

36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

This Is Not the End of the Road

(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

 

 

 

 

 

The Paralysis of Analysis

Those who have read my Book: ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ already know of some of the tragedies that occurred in my life in the early 80’s. Over a two-three year period: my adopted son was raped at age twelve by a caretaker; my brother-in-law who was only six when I first met him had driven out to Death Valley at age nineteen and blew his head off with a shotgun; my then husband began to confess a multitude of infidelities which I coined: ‘True Confessions’. These three combined nearly destroyed all Faith I had in God; they had nearly destroyed me. It all had sent me spiraling downward into a very dark pit of despair. Upon going to a counselor for the first time as a result, she gave me a packet with what seemed like endless pages of questions to answer to give her a better understanding in her evaluation of me. After this evaluation was completed, I went to see her for a follow-up appointment. Normally in our visits, she would sit in a chair across from me and we would converse. This appointment was different, however. I sat down on the small two-seated couch as I normally did, but this time she came and sat down next to me. As she began to relay to me the outcome of those answered questions and the conclusive evaluation, her eyes began to tear up. She told me she had been in ‘the business’ for a couple of decades and had many clients who had gone through this same process of filling out all of these papers and answering all the same questions. The conclusion of mine was unique. She informed me that in all her years of practice, she had never had a client that was ‘so far off the charts’ in despair. I had gone far beyond ‘depression’; I had surpassed ‘despair’. The topper was that I thought that all I was feeling, or not feeling, was ‘normal’. This began a long desperate search on my part for answers.

I began to attend eight meetings a week, two on Sunday, in an attempt to reevaluate everything I believed in. Up to this point, I was a stay-at-home Mom raising four little boys; I made up to three hundred calls a day to businesses in order to ‘open the door’ for my husband and make appointments for him to sell his service business; I would also have a brief Bible-study with other gals daily mostly by phone. My ex had been a Pastor of a small non-denominational church and though he had essentially ‘retired’ from that position, there were still many women that I remained in contact with as having been a Pastor’s wife. In addition, I was attending college classes. I drank fourteen cups of coffee daily to keep up with things. I was a ‘good Christian girl’ and believed I was doing the right thing in meeting all these demands.

Of the many meetings I was attending, most were in 12-Step programs or at least affiliated loosely because many members in those not officially so designated were also ’12-steppers’. I had believed before these three tragedies occurred, that if I was a good Christian, bad things would not happen to me and my family. I held on to select  promises in the Scriptures and fully embraced them, completely trusting God based on my understanding of my ‘cherry-picking’ way in which I approached God’s Word. Suddenly, all that had been shaken…down to the very core. Doubts flooded my soul; questions upon questions presented themselves…and I wanted answers. How could such bad things happen to someone like me who had been so ‘good’?

One Sunday, as I was driving home from one of my meetings, it was as if the sky had opened up. I was driving probably 70 MPH on the freeway when I momentarily looked up at the sky and literally saw the clouds parting. It was then that I heard that ‘small still voice’ spoken into my heart. God told me that He had not done these things, but that He was there for me and would get me through them. Suddenly, I was then back behind the wheel driving home on the freeway. I know many today do not believe in visions nor believe that God interacts with us in such a personal and direct manner. But, He does. He is truly the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has sent us forth into this fallen world as His ambassadors. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and told us that once the Holy Spirit fell upon us we would do even greater works than those.

I have spent the past seven+ years in the wilderness, literally, for a good part of this time. I have had to work though a number of things with my Lord; I have fought often against the goads. That Sunday is when my questions were answered. That Sunday my foundation which was in shambles began to be rebuilt. I then understood that we live in a very fallen world. I learned that although God is Sovereign, He will not always intervene in man’s lives and choices because to do so would violate the gift of freewill which God gave unto all of us. I learned that although well-intended, my Faith had been based more on my good works than on the Goodness of God.

When my son was killed in ’99, my Faith was now well-established; my foundation could no longer be shaken. It had now been built by God, not me. It stood on a Rock…The Rock. I still struggled with times of anger; trust did become a great issue, but not an insurmountable one. I had learned to listen for that ‘still small voice’. I had learned to not read the scriptures as a textbook in which I was studying for some sort of exam that I needed to pass. I learned that my Faith is rooted in a relationship with my Creator, a very living and powerful God Who is my Saviour, my Lord, my King. I no longer had to succumb to the ‘paralysis of analysis’. I had to learn to tell my soul to ‘be quiet’ as King David did.

None of this dissolves the excruciating pain of my grief nor diminishes the ‘missing’ of my son’s physical presence in this world. What it has done, however, is allow me to grieve with Hope…and that Hope makes all the difference in my grief. I don’t simply ‘believe’ that I will see my son again; I KNOW I will see my son again. He is in God’s Kingdom now, and Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom is not of this world. I thank God it is not. I thank God that I belong to His Kingdom. I thank God that this place is not my Home and that I am only passing through for a season. I will be here for as long as He chooses, and will go Home when it is His time for me to do so.

1 Thessalonians 4: (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

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(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

Childhood Emotional Abuse

Childhood Emotional Abuse

by Jude Gibbs     Friday, 16th June 2017

Normally, I write articles in regards to the Grief I live with daily because of my son’s demise. Childhood Emotional Abuse is a different type of grief, but grief nevertheless. Quite honestly, I don’t know where to begin. Should I tell you about getting the belt swung across the back of my legs? No, that would fall more under the category of physical abuse, though it harmed me emotionally, as well. Perhaps, I should speak of the times I watched my brother being thrown up against the wall because he was unable to spell a word correctly. That most definitely caused me emotional abuse. It left me with feelings of unfounded guilt. However, for the sake of brevity, I will speak of two that caused me the most long term harm.

My dad was a LT. Detective, as well as, a teacher. He was a brilliant man who accomplished much in his careers. As a teacher, he taught eighteen subjects and his students highly praised him, even as adults. As an officer, he was a hero. His picture once covered two-thirds of the front page of a newspaper in a major city. He had walked down into the middle of some riots that were taking place, unarmed, and simply began speaking with folks. He essentially put an end to all the chaos and violence. In doing so, he was widely honored, as a result. However, because of his profession, he was extremely over-protective of me to my detriment. I never learned to establish my own healthy boundaries; I never learned to defend myself. There was never a need to do so because he was always there to establish such things on my behalf. The ramifications, however, left me vulnerable as I matured.

The most damaging began when I was ten years old. One day, I awoke and walked out into our living room to discover that all the furniture was gone. I soon learned that my Mom and three siblings were also gone. In the midst of this new void and emptiness in my life, as well as, in my home…there was a note. It had been written by my dad informing me that they had all moved out, he was at work, but he’d call me later. Apparently, I somehow slept through all of the ‘moving’. No one had prepared me in any way for any of this. I was never told the reason ‘why’; I only assumed they felt it to be unnecessary or not beneficial because of my young age. This was how I learned that my parents had divorced; my mom took with her my three siblings from her previous marriage; my dad had obtained custody of me in the negotiations.

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I, for the most part, was now on my own. My dad was rarely around because he was working his two full-time positions. Often, two-three days would pass before I saw him. I did visit with my Mom on the weekends, but during the week it was just me in this three-bedroom typical suburban house…which was no longer a home. I got myself up in the morning, made breakfast some days, and walked to the bus stop to catch the school bus. However, there were some days when the weather was nice that I would not take the bus home. Instead, I would walk the five miles alone. I knew I’d be going to an empty house so I wasn’t in any hurry. I spoke of this to no one. I had been warned not to by my dad. He told me if folks found out that I was in the house alone, ‘someone’ would come and take me away from him. He definitely made that option sound like it would be something I definitely did not want to occur. So, I had only one other option: to raise myself. I was forced to be ‘the adult’ in my life at age ten. Once, I had a kitchen grease fire when I was attempting to cook up some bacon. Though quite frightened, I did handle it myself by throwing the pan down onto the linoleum kitchen floor that left quite a large burn mark in the center of the room.

Living like this, and being told I must not speak of it, caused me to withdraw from my friends. Secrets cause isolation. However, this only compounded my ‘aloneness’. It opened a door into a world of ‘silence’ in which I would abide for decades.

I will be sixty-four this year. After two failed marriages and raising six children, I am once again alone. It’s as if my life has come full-circle. It is not my preference for sure. Yet, in some odd way my early life prepared me for the latter. I’m still sad that this was the way my life was orchestrated by my parents when I was such a young child. As much as I would prefer to not be alone, I am also grateful that I’m not afraid to be alone. The good that came from all of it is that I learned to be very responsible at a very young age. However, I do find it sad that my childhood ended at age ten. I, however, had no say or choice in the matter. I learned at a young age to pray and depend on my God. He became my best Friend, and for that I am now grateful.

Rarely, do I ever think of those younger days and even less often do I ever speak of them. Such things were not really considered ‘abuse’ at that time in History. Neglect, yes…but not abuse. But it was…and thinking about those days still brings tears to my eyes. It was a different world, a different time. Few of my peers had divorced parents so few understood. I was ostracized by many and most parents would not allow their children to befriend a child of a divorced family. The stigma that existed brought me great shame, so I learned to keep my head down.

I have chosen to allow God to redeem such things in my life. I choose to dwell on the strengths that developed within me as a result. It made me more resilient. It developed in me a quick response in an emergency situation since it was necessary to have one. After all, there was no one else to turn to for assistance. I developed the ability to be independent, looking only to God for my help. People’s negative opinions of me, though hurt deeply when first encountered, I quickly bounce back from… so they do not have power over me. Obviously, I would not have chosen this childhood abuse as my preferred teaching tool. I am glad to know, though, that good can come from bad. It has fostered a Hope deep within that something good can come from even the worst circumstances. It rooted a Faith in things not yet seen.

(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author
of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:

Barnes & Noble and
DeeperShopping.
Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728
http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   
Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y
Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/
Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

Grieving Mom to NON-Grieving Mom

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. - C. S. Lewis

When my boys were little, we had a Motor-Home that we frequently took trips in. Even if we could only get away for a weekend, it was good family time to simply drive less than an hour to a camping ground. One time, we took a week to enjoy a longer vacation time together. Friends lived about twelve hours away so we went to visit with them. Once we had arrived in their city, we needed to stop at a local store and pick up some basic supplies.

My youngest son was less than one year old, the next just under three, the eldest less than five. I decided to stay in the Motor-Home because the baby was sleeping and I knew he might wake up now that we had stopped driving. The ‘just under three’ son wanted to go into the store. He was always the inquisitive one.

It wasn’t long before my then husband came running out to the camper looking quite frightened and frantic. He started yelling as he approached us: “I can’t find Roddy!!!”.

Dear Non-Grieving Mom, has that ever happened to you? Have you ever been in a store, at a park, in a crowded area filled with strangers and turned around to suddenly realize that your child has disappeared? Do you know the feeling of panic that ensues? Are you familiar with that terror? That ‘aloneness’? That horror? The utter confusion that envelops you? The trepidation that is felt in every fiber of your body? That momentary feeling that your heart simply forgot its next beat? The initial denial that is suddenly transformed into terrifying anguish?

I yelled at my husband to ‘watch the boys’ and ran as fast as I could into that store. I started yelling immediately as I went through those doors: “RODDY!  RODDY! RODDY!”. I went from one end of the store to the other, and it was a large store like a Walmart. In-between yelling for my son, I would periodically implore a passer-by: “Have you seen a little boy…he has blonde hair…he’s little????”. 

Please, Non-Grieving Mom, if possible…just for a moment…walk in my shoes if you can. If you can relate to this, then imagine it continuing on for hours, days, weeks, months, years…. Imagine being forever lost in this endless torment of crying out with every fiber of your being for your child that has disappeared. If you are able to relate to this for even a moment, you have for this moment, tried on my shoes.

Some kind elderly gentleman heard my pleas and located my inquisitive little boy that day. My son was checking out something that caught his eye which for the moment fascinated him. I use to call him my ‘space cadet’ because once something of interest grabbed his attention, 100% of his focus became absorbed in that object. His quest for knowledge was insatiable. All worked out well on that day, except for my anger toward my irresponsible mate.

My son, my space-cadet, is dead now. I still, after all these years, sometimes look for him in once familiar places. That ‘moment’ of terror I can still taste, and it is anything but pleasant. There are still days when my heart is in my throat and I cry out: “RODDY, RODDY, RODDY!!!”. I know where he is; I know I will see him again; I know we will find one another. But until that time comes, I will have those moments of tormenting panic.

That is the best I can do to attempt to help you understand what I live with, and who I now am.

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(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))

 

 

“All the world’s a stage”

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(William Shakespeare’s As You Like It)

“The word “hypocrite” is an interesting word. Literally and historically it refers to “play actors;” that is, actors on a stage who changed masks to become different people. When the word is brought into the religious realm, as Jesus uses it, it becomes a negative word. When we put on masks—pretend to be people we are not—we are hypocrites.” (Tautges)

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Those of us who have lived in a world of grief are often the ‘Great Pretenders’. We are not ‘hypocrites’ in the negative sense; we are ‘play actors’. We don’t feel ‘safe’ being ‘real’, being who we are. We feel the need to hide, mostly because of reactions we have received from others when we dared to be honest and straightforward with how we really feel. There are days I take on an ‘attitude’. Yes, I’m human, too. I don’t want to deal with any ‘crap’. I don’t feel like smiling. I don’t want to put on the mask. …And those days ain’t pretty. I don’t have the energy to dance the dance. Instead, I cut through the mustard ruthlessly and relentlessly without blinking an eyelash. There are days when I see a spider and “EEK!”. Other days, I take my hand and smack the living daylight out of it. I actually prefer the latter, but it is unacceptable to those around me…it’s messy.

I have a friend I met over a year ago on a grief site which removed us both for completely opposing reasons. I was removed for sharing Scripture; she was removed for her bluntness and choice of vocabulary. Whereas others perceived me as a ‘religious fanatic’, she was perceived as a wild crazy woman. For whatever reason, we seemed to take an immediate liking toward one another and have remained friends. Both of us are straightforward, but we choose different venues. Yet, we both where masks periodically. We know that many cannot handle the real ‘me’ we have inside of us. There are days when I know I am surrounded by others all wearing masks, and having a person in my life who is willing to bear face it is refreshing; it’s a stabilizer when my ship is out on a very choppy sea.

Next month will be the 24th anniversary of when the man I was married to for 24 years put a knife to my throat. Thankfully, my eldest (16 at the time) ran in and saved my life. After the ex was then permanently out of the house, myself and four children were strapped financially. Myself and the three teenage boys all went to work…and we worked hard. We were determined to survive because our lives centered around my little girl who was only three at the time. She was our motivator; if not for ourselves, for her we had to survive. She became the center of our universe. In addition to working 60-70 hours a week, I knocked on doors for whatever assistance we could get. A kind woman took up a donation for Christmas gifts for our family. One day, she turned to me as we were standing in my house chatting, and leaned into me to whisper: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re in need”. Shhh! It’s a secret. I didn’t understand ‘why’. Later, I did. Folks have ‘clicks’. One is either ‘one of them’, or they are an outsider. If you happen to be an outsider, you are often treated as ‘less than’; and by some, disdained.

I love Jesus for many reasons. Mainly because He first loved me and chose to willingly suffer and die for me. In addition, I like Him. I look at who He befriended and how He lived while on this earth as the Son of Man. He never wore any masks. He called it as He saw it every time. He was gentle and kind, yet bold and forthright. He was impeccable in the balance. He did not hesitate to confront the religious leaders of His day and boldly called them: “Hypocrites!”. He ate and drank wine with prostitutes, tax collectors, and everyday fishermen. He put on airs for no one. He reached out to the despised and rejected lepers. He healed the lame, blind, and deaf. He even raised his friend from the grave. Fearless and bold, gentle and compassionate. Yes, Jesus is my Hero in more ways than one. I’m not like Him, but I want to be. I can’t be like Him through my own strength, but I can permit Him to be Him through me. Because He is Who He is, they crucified Him.

Isaiah 53: (KJV)

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

He warned us upfront that if we choose to be like Him, we will be hated as He was hated (MT. 10:22; John 15:18). Yet, when we are, He calls us Blessed (Lk. 6:22). It doesn’t ‘feel’ that way, though. So, we resort to putting on our masks. We desire man’s acceptance over man’s rejections. We want to ‘fit in’, rather than ‘fit out’. We fear man more than we fear God.

I, for one, have chosen to take off the masks…most days. As a result, I have made myself a target of sorts. But I’m learning to find my comfort zone in it. I’m learning that the more I am attacked for not wearing my mask, the more I take comfort in the One Who went before me. I am learning to draw on His strength. I am letting Him fight more of my battles. I am finding that when someone ‘takes on’ me, they are taking on my God. Not because of who I am, but because of Who He is. I will not place my trust in man.

Psalm 20: (KJV)

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

So, I will make a point of taking off my selection of masks that others prefer before I enter Shakespeare’s final stage. I freely give them all away to anyone who wants them.  If I need to cry, I shall; if I need to yell and wail in my grief, I will. Yes, I will pray for Wisdom when I do; I won’t intentionally offend. At the same time, I won’t pussyfoot around when it comes to honesty and Truth. However, I will attempt to do so in Love (Eph. 4:15), for the Truth does set one free (John 8:32).

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(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon PressAmazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728   Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))