Thursday, September 26, 2013

Encouraging Words for People Learning to Forgive

Forgiveness. Just what is it? And how does one forgive past hurts, especially when the one who hurt you is no longer alive or is alive and does not want to seek forgiveness?  How does one forgive the unforgivable?  I wish I were an expert and had an easy answer, but I'm not. 

Like anyone who has been hurt horribly by someone who had all the power, I needed help from a professional, someone who was not invested in the crime of the one who hurt me. Someone who could help me find my way through the process of discovering what forgiveness is, at least for me. 

At first, I was perfect at fighting forgiveness; struggling with forgiveness; resisting forgiveness, and hating the thought of forgiveness. That's what I understood. But I've been in therapy for a year and a half, and I'm discovering a lot about what forgiveness is NOT ~ which is essential to understanding exactly what forgiveness is, at least for me.

Let me give you an illustration. When we bought our house and land, we inherited an acre of clay and granite, and the worst turf you can imagine. Trying to create a garden was a Herculean effort. Removing the turf was bad enough, but digging out the boulders required patience. I could not simply dig out the pebbles, as I could in my South Carolina garden.  In my Virginia mountain garden pick-axes and shovels shattered on unforgiving granite rocks.  My only choice was to dig away the dirt ~ which I laughingly referred to as soil ~ from around the boulder. Some of the rocks were surprisingly small, but the trowel would hit them, and everything would stop anyway, until I dug it out and moved on.  

Trowel by trowel, pebble-by-pebble, rock-by-rock, boulder-by-boulder, my daughters and I, along with an occasional neighbor, dug our way through the years into a lovely garden, both front and back yards. With patience and understanding, and lots of faith and prayer, our unforgiving landscape became something to make a master gardener joke one day, "Stop that. You're making us look bad." That's how our garden was born and flourished.

So too, has been my journey into forgiveness. It has not been easy. I did not want to forgive. There was too much. My father for what he did. My mother for what she did and didn't do. My sister, my brothers, and later in life, a rape when I was in the military. Oh, there was so much to sift through. Heavy turf, pebbles, and boulders. Anger, rage, and outrage. Shame. My inability to forgive myself for being a victim. My inability to forgive myself for repeating my "victimhood" again and again.  However, a new day is dawning. I promise you.

This is difficult to write, but I do it because I know I am not alone. I know that there are legions of us, and we must learn to forgive, not for them, but for us, so that we can heal. But what is forgiveness? Well, in order to learn what forgiveness is, I first I had to learn what forgiveness is NOT!

Forgiveness is NOT "gosh-let's-hug-and-everything-is-all-right-now-nothing-ever-happened!" *Grin* Forgiveness is NOT glossing over the injury which has been done nor excusing the evil which someone has perpetrated. Remember it was the Savior of the World who said,

"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6

I don't profess to have the mind of God, but I do believe that He is a just, as well as a merciful, God; therefore, I believe He expects me to use the reason he gave to me.

So, what is forgiveness, after all, Jaye Lewis? Well, I believe that forgiveness is letting go. Letting go of the pain. Letting go of the hurt. Letting go of the rage. Letting go of the anger. And grabbing a hold of God's peace. Forgiveness for me is understanding that I did not do this to myself. I am a victim no longer, for I am being given the victory.

My battle to achieve the letting go; the forgiveness; the complete peace; where I can walk out of my therapist's office and say, "Thank you, my friend, but I can walk alone, now," is not over. I know. I have God beside me, but He put this good, Christian woman here to help me through the dark forest of this world for a reason, and until I need to reach out with only one hand, as I cross the hazards, I will continue to seek her help. I believe my therapist is a gift of God, and I thank Him for her.

So, now, by the grace of God, I can say, "Dad, I no longer hate you. Mom, I no longer resent you. Sister, I can let you go. Brothers, you are no longer on my back. Good-by. I place you in the hands of God, for His mercy and justice. I don't have to hate anymore." I can love myself at last and be free.

By God's grace, I am a survivor. I am also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Thank God it is a diagnosis that is recognized today. I have a ten pound Service Dog, Dixie Mae Doxie who has opened up new possibilities for me. She has made a new person of me, and I am willing, because of her, to come out of the shadows, and greet the world. I feel certain that the world wants to greet me. 

With love
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Encouraging Words to Heal the Hurts of Childhood by Jaye Lewis

I suppose that I was a cute little girl, with my half-naked self, bare feet, hungry belly, and multitude of pets, but that simply wasn't what I was told. The words "Am I pretty?" was greeted with either a long pause and a lame excuse or I was given an "Irishman's answer" which always began with a question, like, "What kind of silly question is that?" So, as to my looks, I lived in a world of doubt, and I lived that way most of my life.

I hated my red hair and my freckles. I hated my white skin and my amber eyes. I mean, who has amber eyes, besides wolves and certain dogs? And more than anything, I hated my smile. Of course, every flaw of my being was pointed out or made up. Ridicule was the order of the day, and that was the good news. Abuse abounded in the houses where I grew up.

Quite frankly, today it is not so important to me what happened. Of course, the things that took place never should have. No child should ever have to live like that. Every child should have a full stomach. Each child should live in a safe home, with safe parents who love and shelter them. For me, as with many who read this, that was never the case.

So, how does one forgive the past? How does one heal? And in forgiving and healing, does that mean all is well? Everything is okay now? What's done is done? No. Never. What I mean is this. My past does not deserve the time to haunt me any more, and in forgiving, I let go of those who have hurt me, and I place them into the hands of God, where I am safe, and they can be forgotten. I don't have to love them or hate them anymore.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies. Do good to those who have hurt you." Well, I've done that. I have loved them, and I did good to them. I forgave them seventy times seven, just as Jesus commanded, even though they never once said, "I'm sorry." The thing I forgot, is that Jesus was a reasonable human, and He is an even more just God. He does not expect us to be a fool. Nor does he expect us to put ourselves in harms way. Remember, it was Jesus who said in Matthew 18:6  

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

To put things very bluntly, it amazes me how much of a push-over, we often believe Jesus was. He wasn't. Read those words in the Bible. If you do nothing else, read the words in red, just the words of Jesus. His words are filled with truth, passion, compassion, and everything we ever need to know about human behavior.

I have been in therapy for over a year. I have PTSD because of the things that happened to me as a child. Only within recent years has that diagnosis been truly accepted in psychiatry. My little Dixie Mae Doxie is my service dog. No, she is not a therapy dog. She is my Service Dog. She is the reason I can go out into the world, instead of hiding in the house. I lived in fear, until this little ten pound dog came into my life.

I have a wonderful therapist ~ a woman. I tell her how thankful I am for how much she has helped me, while she tells me how I have done all the work. It's a therapy thing. I just know this. I could not have done this alone. Nor could I have done this with a friend, a family member, a pastor or a priest. I needed someone who is able to maintain a professional distance in a warm and personable way. She is all that rolled into one.

The only time I've ever gotten angry with her is when she told me that I needed to forgive. At that particular moment, I wanted to dig my father up and scatter his bones. You might say I was very angry. But I have grown. I have learned that my unforgiveness meant I would carry my father's bones with me, on my back, forever.

Forgiving my past, while not making excuses for anyone who abused me, has set me free. I don't have to hate anymore. I can leave my father's bones where they belong, in the grave, forgotten, along with him. I can love the living and the loving.

A little ten pound Service Dog, who carries a bullet meant to kill, right above her heart and near her spine, loves me unconditionally. She loves her Daddy, her Sissies, and her sister dogs. She was over-bred and under-fed. She has seizures. By all accounts this is the dog who should bite, but this is a tiny dog with a big heart. Dixie Mae Doxie, through her love and service has forgiven her past. How can I do any less?

I have learned from a compassionate therapist, that forgiveness is possible. My therapist has taught me that change is desirable.   However a little, gentle, tap-dancing doxie, who loves squeaky toys and playing "boxie-paws" has taught me that forgiveness is more than possible, it's the best thing that life has to offer! Dixie Mae has healed and changed my heart.

Am I perfect? No. But if anyone on this earth is perfect, Dixie Mae Doxie is.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, September 16, 2013

Encouraging Words for People Considering Cataract Surgery

Hello friends. Some may wonder why this blog post is in larger type. Well, I am vision impaired. Not only do I have some retina problems, but I am facing cataract surgery very soon. I should have made this decision a long time ago.

The first time that I noticed something was wrong with my vision, actually, was about eight years ago, when my vision began to be cloudy. Realizing that I needed new glasses, I expected to put on my new glasses and have the whole world jump out at me ~ clearer, sharper, and in focus. No such luck. I put on my new glasses, and nothing happened. Not even my bifocals made a difference. To say I was incensed doesn't even describe my reaction. I felt robbed! I demanded my money back, and I went to another doctor.

Oh, I really liked the next Optometrist. She examined my eyes, carefully, and almost as an afterthought, she said, "Hmmmh. Yes, early cataracts. Nothing to worry about." What? Well, tears sprung to my eyes, and I begged for answers. Oh no, I was told. This was normal. Even children can develop early cataracts. Perfectly normal. My vision was 20/30, and correctable, so I could see "perfectly fine." Except I couldn't see "perfectly fine." This went on and on for, well, eight years.

In the meantime, I developed a condition that has NOTHING to do with cataracts ~ NOTHING to do with the lens of the eye at all. It has to do with the retina. It's called Central Serous Retinopathy (CSR). I awoke one morning, looked at the face of my daughter, and she was a lovely orange. It scared me, scared my Optometrist, scared the first Opthamologist, and finally I wound up with a Retinologist, who is a specialized Opthamologist. He did every test under the rainbow, and we waited six months. Finally, thank God, the CSR went into remission, and it has been in remission ever since. However, my cloudy vision got worse.

My next visit, about a year later with the Retinologist was a case study in, what I call, doctor-gibberish (A-plus-plus-this and B-plus-plus-that). I was confused, intimidated, and when he mentioned a "low-vision specialist" and "if I felt I wanted it" cataract surgery, as though I were shopping at Walmart for a purse, I believed I was going blind. No human information that could possibly be understood by anyone who did NOT have a degree in Retinology.

I went home devastated. The next day, I got a call from my ex-Optometrist ~ who by this time I had grown disgusted with ~ and she let me know that she had gotten a "private" message from my Retinologist, whereby he had discussed me, and if I was EVER considering CATARACT surgery, SHE WOULD BE THE FINAL JUDGE! What?! Stunned. Appalled. Hurt. Confused. Intimidated. I hung up.

The next day, I ranted and raved all over the house. Then I called the low-vision specialist for an appointment. Then I waited, and waited, and waited all-summer-long. I did nothing but watch TV through eyes that became cloudier and cloudier. Finally, in August, I had the best eye exam I've ever had, and I got the best glasses I've ever gotten. Wow. I could see and sew!! It was great! For about eight months. Then the clouds formed again, worse than ever.

You see, my friends, the clouds do not go away. They just get thicker, and all the glasses in the world will not penetrate those clouds. Red colors take on orangey-brown tones, greens become grayish, and blues??? Well, you know.

If you do not understand cataracts, walk around for a day with wax-paper taped to your sun glasses, or try to make out the landscape through a dirty window during a huge downpour. Try to see the road through the fog, and try to read street signs through a misty rain. The absolute worst experience for me, was to not recognize the features of my husband's face when I was in the living room and he was in the kitchen.  For a writer like me, to no longer be able to finish a novel; for a seamstress, to no longer be able to sew; for an artist to no longer be able to draw; for a photographer, to no longer be able to take a photo; to no longer recognize birds or the critters in my yard, or my neighbors when they speak to me.  You have no idea how difficult it is just to finish this blog post.

Persons with cataracts injure themselves and call themselves clumsy; they fall and laugh at their inability to put one foot in front of the other; they cannot comprehend simple things and wonder why they are so stupid. No more!

First of all, let me give some painfully learned advice. With no intent to hurt, an Optometrist is NOT a Medical Doctor. An Opthamologist IS a Medical Doctor, but (and I only recently became painfully aware of this) NOT ALL OPTHAMOLOGISTS ARE SURGEONS!! If you have been to your Optometrist and been fitted for glasses, and you still cannot see, ask the Optician who fitted your glasses for a recommendation for a qualified Opthamologist, M.D. Most likely someone at your Optician store has had cataract surgery. That is where I received my recommendation from those who had successful cataract surgeries. You'll want a top surgeon who is Board Certified ~ one who believes in full sight. Not a surgeon who believes that 20/40 vision is "good enough." Really? You cut a tomato with that vision!

Choosing cataract surgery in the United States, with a Board Certified Surgeon; who has been recommended by people you trust; who has high marks on Healthgrades Ratings; and one who does the most trusted techniques (do your research) is a serious, yet joyful experience. At least it has been so for me. Since I made my decision, I have discovered that I am way behind the times. Just about everyone I know near my age has had successful cataract surgery, and they recommend it highly.

My cataract surgery on my left eye is scheduled for October 2, and my right eye is scheduled for October 30. I have a wonderful surgeon, and I can't wait! There is much to see in this beautiful world, and I do not want to miss the smallest thing!  Remember, seeing is believing! Stay tuned. There will be updates! 
With love, Jaye Lewis