i love you more

Tucked into the corner of the bedroom, cross legged on the floor with my journal and Bible sprawled open. Cup full of colorful pens and a stack of index cards to the side. Bright sticky notes in various shapes and sizes. The light brown bookshelf caddy cornered filled with romance novels and inspirational stories. Golden light shines brightly from the antique lamp. This is my retreat, my safe haven.

The monster has captivated me hostage for the past couple weeks. Drawing me deeper into an endless hole, like my feet slipping away in gooey quicksand. Trapped with no escape. Crawling out of bed has become more difficult and nights have grown restless. My emotions walking on a tightrope, ready to break at any given moment.

After long, stress filled work days I come and rest comfortably in the safety of my cozy corner. The single place where my undivided attention is centralized on Jesus. A place where the Holy Spirit is alive and present and the enemy is unwelcomed. I’ve cried tears of thanksgiving and also desperation in this space. Worship music has floated effortlessly in the environment but I’ve also basked in the utter silence. Only allowing conversion between my Father and I here. Freshly painted finger nailed hands lifted high absorbing His presence. Kneeling in prayer and pressing into The Truth. This is my “war room.”

Lies cultivated by the enemy fill my already vulnerable brain. Unworthy. Alone. Unwanted. Broken. Impossible to love. Each slowly stripping away any signs of life. The fear of shutting down struck my mind. This is what the enemy wants but I can’t allow myself back down a treacherous trail. Jesus is my lifeline.

Clinging to Him, I reach for my purple pen ready to spill my mind and heart out. Something catches my attention. Looking down, my tattoo seems to move to the forefront of my mind. My mind easily gets distracted and sometimes it’s hard to remember the truth behind it. An alluring butterfly on my right wrist. The same wrist I would attempt using a stick or scissors to numb the pain momentarily. An elegant design created by my art therapist at the time. The body, a semicolon, representing the life I chose to continue living. Wings spread to remind me that the life of a caterpillar was nice but living as a butterfly is incomparable. The most valued part of all, the words “I love you more” curve up the one wing.

I love you more. Four simple words with an immense power. At times the monster’s voice is louder than usual distorting my thoughts and reality. These four words speak truth and wisdom. I remember that my Heavenly Father loves me more than I can imagine. My sisters and family pop into view. All of my treatment team from Atlanta. The sweet circle of sisterhood and even daily interactions with complete strangers. A concoction of such a diverse yet pure cluster of souls reminding me of a wonderful gift.

Various bible verses pop in mind. Jesus’ love like a warm cup of tea and a thick snuggly blanket on a dreary winter morning. First, Romans 5:8. He has loved me at my darkest. In the black hole, vegetable state; He still loved me. Zechariah 2:5, “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” Jesus protects and shields me from the enemy. Also, Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Wow. Let all of that sink in. Jesus takes me exactly as I am. Flawed yet still worthy. He loves and takes me for who I am, the authentic Maddie Rae. Not what society thinks I am or what the monster tries to tell me who I am. Jesus takes the raw, no makeup, messy bun, cluttered brain Maddie and still loves me for more than I can fathom.

He loves me more.

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dear ________,

dear ________,

Using your name seems unnatural but it seems even more unnatural to say, “dear dad.” I’ve never considered you as a father figure. You were never there. Even if you were psychically there it still didn’t mean you were actually there. We could be in the same building but couldn’t be farther apart. It was like two separate worlds.

Disappointment and anger are my mind’s instant reaction. There’s a buildup of hurt and deep pain. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what would posses someone to do the things that you did. How can someone be so self centered and loveless?

For so long I’ve craved a sweet relationship with a Daddy. A daddy to dress up elegantly and escort me to daddy/daughter dances. A daddy to build the perfect little tree house so I could play family with my baby dolls and have campouts under the starry black night. A daddy to eat snow like powdered donuts with surrounded by other cool dads at “Donuts for Dad.” A daddy to practice sports with me on Saturday mornings then share warm fluffy pancakes for breakfast. A daddy to carry me to bed when I had fallen asleep on the couch and tuck me in with sweet forehead kisses. A daddy who would be there to wipe salty kisses away with every breakup and heartache. A daddy to protect me like a knight looking after his castle. A daddy to be a role model and instill good morals into my heart. A daddy to love me unconditionally and wholeheartedly. A daddy to kneel beside me as we leaned against the bed, hands clasped together reciting our prayers.

Growing up the enemy had blinded my heart and corrupted me with corrosive thoughts. I was deprived from The Truth. Ed, the monster and of course the enemy all joined forces to team up against me. It was like a jet black filter that only allowed the negative to seep through. I began to believe that all men were monsters. You were a monster in my head.

Trust issues arise. Neglect and unworthiness. A wave of isolation and emptiness. Slight pinch of disgust. Hatred and shame entangled in. How could one person cause so much emotion to arise? You let me down. Every standard for how a daddy should be completely thrown at the window. Effort to mend a broken relationship wasted. You are the most egocentric and sadistic person to ever step into my life.

Because of you, I had reoccurring nightmares that for so long my brain couldn’t make the connection it was you. Because of you, I faced severe ptsd that took years for me to seek the truth. Because of you, I spent part of my freshman year of high school and entire summer unable to stay home alone because I was terrified you would show up. Because of you, I almost didn’t go to my cousin’s wedding because you’re her uncle and I was certain you would be in attendance. Because of you, my relationships with males tend to fail. I could probably continue to trail the list on but at this point there’s no reason to.

Despite the unpleasant interactions and disgusting memories, there also came beauty. I never thought I would pair those two together but as I’ve continued to travel on this journey of recovery I never fail to surprise myself. You haven’t physically been in the picture for many, many years but there’s still been a sense of control. My life is better without you.

The lack of relationship with an earthly father provided me a key to an even sweeter connection with my Heavenly Father. All of those times I craved to have you there He was far more present. My desire to be closer to Him only grew stronger as you continued to fade. Thank you for that. Without Jesus, I don’t think I would’ve made it this far. He has been the only stability in my ever changing journey. Regardless of the heartache you caused me, I don’t think I would’ve changed anything.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I forgive you. In order for me to press on I must put this chapter behind. This was part of His plan all along. He opened my eyes to see the kind of strength I carried to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry and accept an apology I’ll never receive. There’s only one person who holds the title of Maddie Rae’s daddy and that’s Jesus. I’m sorry you missed the opportunity to love and grow with two exceptional young ladies. But you can’t help the way you are. I pray that one day you will come to know Him and unfollow the enemy. I pray that my little half brother doesn’t ever experience the same trauma as I did. I pray that my heart will continue to heal and forgive. I pray that I continue to chase my Daddy and love Him unconditionally. My worth is only found in Jesus.

Sincerely,

Madeline

her evergrowing tribe

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” – Desmond Tutu

{tribe:// any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community or customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc}

Golden sunflowers. Pastel colored lavender. Champagne and baby pink zinnias. Fiery red coneflowers. Multicolor dahlias. Petite white daisies and tiny buttercups. Potent eucalyptus seeds. Sprigs of caspia bent every which way. All dancing gaily in the wind. Buzzing bumblebees gliding from one nectar home to the other. Fuzzy caterpillars slowly advancing across the ridged emerald green leaves. Butterflies fluttering across the fields. Lightening bugs floating on a breeze. It was near time for sunset. A unique blend of colors smeared across the once blue canvas. Tangerine orange with a splash of purple. Cotton candy colors swirled in the mix. Cool air was settling in. Replacing the humid, sticky feel of a typical summer day. There was a slight breeze drifting in and out which made the night slightly more refreshing. The dark cedar pergola sat at the top of the hill overlooking the luscious garden. Hearty veggies on one side and rows of perennials to the other. Vintage bulb string lights intertwined tiger orange marigold garland creating a canopy of twinkling stars. Buckets of freshly picked flowers scattered around in the newly cut grass. An elderly barn off in the distance. Faint animal noises could still be heard. Dogs running around wagging their tails. Their happiness couldn’t be tamed after waiting a week to play with their other puppy friends. The long whitewashed farm table with extended bench seats placed under the canopy just so. Intricately designed cloth napkins placed delicately atop the statement colored plates. Simple arrangements in various colored bottles and mason jars line the center of the table. Even a few cacti and succulents mixed in. A Mexican style table runner directly down the center. There was a plethora of color.

It was taco Tuesday. Her favorite day of the week. Crunchy corn taco shells and creamy white queso. Freshly made guacamole and slightly spicy salsa made recently picked veggies and herbs. Warm tortilla chips recently removed from the oven. The aroma of ground beef and shredded chicken tickling the hungry young girl’s nose. Shredded cheese and snow white sour cream. Crunchy leafy lettuce and vine ripen tomatoes. Pitchers of freshly brewed tea and recently squeezed lemonade. All the basic mega Mexican fiesta essentials. Scattered across the table. Of course with every hearty meal, sweet decadent treats followed as a cherry on top of a mountainous ice cream sunday.

Taco tuesday not only meant delicious food but exquisite friends. Precious, spirit filled souls congregated around the extended table. Before each meal hands were linked taking turns asking the blessing. The young girls catch up on the week’s events and discuss any exciting upcoming news. Pure sunshine radiating from their faces while laughing uncontrollably. Of course the typical silly faced pictures were taken and corny jokes were shared. Before the sun tucked in to sleep, each girl picked up their plastic buckets and woven baskets to pluck the week’s harvest. It was always a joyous occasion.

Soaking up all the vivacious vibes, the young girl is reminded of the numerous blessings her Heavenly Father graced her with. She had prayed and prayed and prayed. God had far exceeded her expectations when He placed these special people in the young girl’s life. Each of these precious souls have been such a blessing and a huge part of the young girl’s recovery and life.

Jordan Dooley seemed to sum it up perfectly for the young girl. “I admire and love these women so much. Their bold hearts for the Lord, humble spirits, and tender love for others pours out from every single angle of their souls. I’m so grateful for weekends full of love and community. Getting to do life with people where the Spirit is always active, present and welcome, where laughter and dance parties are never in short supply, and where real, messy and simple life is lived and loved with such overflowing joy and gratitude is an absolute gift. This is church. This is the kind of church that we so desperately need — the kind that reaches out, invites in, and always makes room in the circle… the kind that sits together, shares together, eats together, and celebrates each other.” This is the life the young girl’s Father is teaching her to embrace.

Growing up, her momma always said, “it takes a village,” and she never fully understood what it meant until she was older. The countless mother figures and added siblings creating a dysfunctional family. Friendships coming and going through various chapters of life. Separate states proving that love has no boundaries. Hardships and glorious celebrations. Tragedy and disastrous moments. Light of new beginnings and hope for what the future holds. Every element contributing to the person she is. Throughout her journey Jesus has been evident even in the darkest of moments.

The historic African proverb states, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Looking around at the exquisite environment Jesus had created, she was grasping how the proverb fit into her life. One earthly person couldn’t even begin to instil so much wisdom and truth into another’s life. Her Heavenly Father brings each discipline to the young girl to teach her, love her, support her or even hurt her. Positive outcomes or not each person continues to shape, mold, and reveal to the young girl who Jesus created her to be.

This was her tribe.