Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And Then Came Grace

It was early on a Sunday morning that she came into our lives.  We had eagerly anticipated her arrival but nothing could prepare us for that moment when she quietly entered our world.  I have given birth to three children but have never seen a birth, until this one.  The experience was overwhelming.  Her mother labored and her father encouraged and coached and she came.  After hours of anxious waiting, sitting by her mother's side and watching the monitors, listening to her heartbeat, and worrying about the potential for complications, she came.  A small, petite little girl with a mass of black curls and a squeaky cry--she came.  And our world will never, ever be the same.

I well remember the rush of overwhelming love that I felt when my children were born but I was frankly unprepared for the same experience with this birth.  The months leading up to her birth were incredibly painful and chaotic for our family.  I rejoiced in her impending birth but it just didn't seem real to me, until she came.  Our family had been torn apart by scandal and divorce and while I was very happy she was "in the oven," I couldn't wrap my mind around the reality of her existence.  So much had been lost, so much stripped away--maybe I was afraid to hope, afraid to believe that she was real.  Until she came.  When I saw her tiny head emerging from her mother's womb and then her entire body slid into my world, I thought my heart would explode with love and a fierce need to protect and care for this tiny little girl.  I was smitten, completely and irrevocably--she had my heart wrapped around her tiny little finger.

The cord was wrapped around her neck and had to be cut before she was fully born so rather than place her on her mommy's tummy, she was put in the infant warmer.  My son and I stood on either side of her, whispering words of comfort and welcome and soothing her kitten-cries.  She calmed instantly at the sound of her Papa's voice and wrapped her tiny fingers around his finger and his heart.  My first-born son with his first-born child and I was there to see this life-changing, dramatic moment in their lives.  Nearly 31 years after he made me a parent, I was there when he became one and it was priceless.  My own baby girl stood across the room watching and comforting her sister-in-law and I was reminded of another delivery room many miles away when she came into our lives.  And I remembered the sleepy eyes full of wonder when her two brothers were introduced to her.  Life has a way of cycling back and giving us an opportunity to re-experience key moments in another context and we celebrate the circle of life.

I learned of my impending grand-parenthood just two weeks into the most horrendous experience of my life.  Like Naomi who left her homeland with a husband and two sons and returned as a childless widow, my future had just been dramatically and tragically changed as the result of the actions of another.  As a widow without sons, Naomi's prospects for a future were bleak and she knew it.  She would be dependent upon the generosity of others for basic survival.  And like Naomi, I was at that time completely dependent upon the generosity of others for my basic survival.  So when the welcome committee came to greet Naomi by her given name, which means "pleasant," she informed them that her name had been changed to "Mara" which means "bitter."  She said, "I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back.  Why would you call me Naomi [pleasant]?" (Ruth 1:21).  I fully identified with Naomi's sentiments.

But Naomi had an ally--a faithful and loving daughter-in-law--who left her own home to accompany her mother-in-law to a strange, new land.  The bitterness of loss and impoverishment were not the end of Naomi's story.  Her daughter-in-law met a prominent man in the community, married him and gave birth to a son.  We are told that Naomi cared for the baby--that she took him in her arms, cuddled him and cooed over him--so much so that the women in the neighborhood began calling him her baby boy.  Her bitterness was once again turned to joy and the end of her life was pleasant and full of promise.  So when my precious daughter-in-law called to tell me that the pregnancy test was positive, I immediately thought of Naomi and the promise of a better end to my story sprang up.

When the ultrasound revealed that this precious promise was a little girl, her Papa announced that her name had to have "grace" in it.  Her existence was the perfect demonstration of grace to our family still reeling from such devastation.  Her chosen first name is a derivative of "Elizabeth," which means "oath of God."  It also has the connotation of joy and great happiness in Hebrew and other variations of the name refer to a noble one or one "consecrated by God."  So our tiny little girl is a consecrated promise from God that brings great joy and happiness to our hearts--she is grace personified.

The morning after her birth, I looked at my personalized daily Scripture card and read the following verse:
"Cherished Brenda, this is what the Lord who created you says, 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine.  You are precious and honored in my sight.'  The Almighty God, Your Creator, Elohim." (Isaiah 43:1-7)
My eyes welled with tears as I remembered the absolute delight and profound love I felt for Gracie the moment I saw her.  God feels this way about me and about you!  Within an hour of her birth, two lab technicians came to draw blood from her microscopic veins.  They were not successful on the first try so were desperately searching for a vein in her small hand.  I was ready to clobber them--I felt so fiercely protective of this little girl.  God feels the same way about me and about you!  And just as Gracie's name has great meaning to us, my name is known by God and has meaning to him as does yours.

In the days since her birth, I find that I cannot get enough of her.  We frequently "fight" over who gets to hold her, although those fights disappear when it comes time to change her diaper.  But we long to hold her and love her--she cannot do a single thing for herself or for us but we still are addicted to her.  As I hold her close in my favorite rocking chair, I know without a doubt that I would gladly give my life to protect hers.  And there is absolutely nothing more important than rocking my sweet Grace.  And God feels the same about me and about you!

Gracie at 6 pounds 15 ounces is profound statement that my story does not end with disgrace, scandal and tragedy.  I have a future and it is bright with promise because grace has come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Choosing to be True

Searching for a job in a depressed economy is, well, depressing.  But this week a prospective employer asked me to do something that just did not feel right.  I wrestled briefly with the ethics of what they were asking.  It was not anything immoral or illegal but it did involve a level of deception.'

In the end, the choice was a no-brainer for me.  I chose to be true to myself.  I chose to be authentic.  I have lived with enough deception to last a lifetime.

When I was in 9th grade I won several speech contests sponsored by the Rotary Club.  The speech was to focus on the Rotarian 4-Way Test, a moral code for personal and business decisions.  The four questions of the test are:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I had forgotten the 4-Way Test until this morning when I was wrestling with the request from a potential employer.  By choosing to be true to myself--to follow my own moral compass--I am choosing myself and reconnecting with my gut.  I am honoring my own true self.  And, I got the job anyway!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love Languages, Emotional Needs & Addiction

My former husband and I tried marriage therapy once.  The therapist asked us to complete several inventories, one of which was designed to identify our primary love languages.  Dr. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages:  The Secret to Love That Lasts, identifies five primary ways that we feel loved.  He identified these "languages" after reviewing his case notes from over 12 years counseling couples with marital difficulties.  We feel loved primarily through our love language.  The difficulty we experience in a relationship comes because we tend to express love in the same way that we feel love.  For example, if my love language is quality time (which it is), I express love for my significant other when I spend time with him.  If his primary love language is words of affirmation, no matter how much time I spend with him, he is not going to feel loved, unless I "speak" his language.  Its a simplistic tool, I know, but a place to start in any relationship.

The love languages:
  1. Quality time
  2. Words of affirmation
  3. Acts of service
  4. Receiving gifts
  5. Physical touch
My friend, Dr. Kelly Flanagan wrote recently about the five core emotional needs that we enter marriage with.  These needs develop primarily from what we did not receive in our families of origin and we look to the marital relationship to have them met:
  1. Connectedness:  The desire to feel emotionally connected, engaged and intimate with our partner.
  2. Priority:  The desire to feel like our partner has made us their top priority.
  3. Affirmation:  The desire to be accepted and validated.
  4. Equality:  The desire to have equal influence and control in our relationship.
  5. Freedom:  The desire to maintain an independent identity within the marriage.
Again, two of the five jump out at me, not to diminish or dismiss the others but from a personal standpoint they are very significant.  I entered my marriage longing for connectedness--a need that was not met in my family of origin.  A close second need for me would have been priority.  My ex-partner's emotional needs were for affirmation and freedom (at least that is what I believe he would say if asked).  In a perfect world our marriage would have thrived had I affirmed and validated his worth and importance to me while giving him the freedom he needed to maintain an independent identity.  And he would have made me his top priority, spending time connecting with me on a deep emotional and spiritual level.  In a perfect world--or even a semi-perfect world.

But enter a hidden and secret dimension--one that my ex-partner defended and protected to the very end--sexual compulsions, addiction and pedophilia.

Dr. Bill Struthers has written an excellent book on the impact of pornography (adult not child) on the male brain.  From his research he found that when men watch a pornographic video, "The brain reacts in such a way as if [he] were the person engaged in the sexual act.  Viewing a pornographic movie creates a neurological experience whereby a person vicariously participates in what he is watching." (Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. 2009. P. 96).  According to Struthers, when masturbation is combined with the viewing, a new neural pathway is established without the presence of a partner and the man attaches to the image rather than to a person.  So in essence, "Pornography corrupts the ability to be intimate." (p. 45) The user has learned to substitute the quick and easy fix that pornography provides for the emotional and relational work that true intimacy requires.

Patrick Carnes, the pioneer of sex addiction treatment indicates that "Addicts withhold a major portion of themselves--a pain deeply felt, but never expressed or witnessed.  They do not trust nor do they become intimate with others, especially their families." (Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, 2001. P. 6)   Furthermore, their "Secret lives become more real than their public lives." (p. 15).  He has likened cybersex (Internet pornography, instant messaging, chat rooms, etc.) to crack coccaine--all it may take is one exposure for an addiction to occur.

So what does all this have to do with love languages and emotional needs?

Simply this:  when an addiction/compulsion is present, particularly a sexual addiction, love languages and emotional needs--traditional marriage therapy, self-help books, and the relationship itself--take a backseat.  The Addiction is in the driver's seat.  And Addiction is a terrible driver and will end up killing the relationship if he/she is not stopped.  Addiction is a progressive disease and it steals connectedness, priority, affirmation, equality and freedom.  It speaks its own language and it is not one of love.

Each week in my recovery group I hear stories from men and women married to an addict and their relationship woes are so similar to mine.  It really is amazing to me because for so long, I felt alone and isolated.  But these men and women work hard to maintain good communication, to affirm, to connect with their significant other.  And the tears and sorrow they feel is because it is a losing battle.  You cannot connect with someone who is not available for connection.  And you will not be a priority when the mistress Addiction is the driver of the relationship.  She must be dealt with first and dealing with her is not pretty or clean.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Tsunami Called "Grief"

I have been mesmerized by the trailer for the movie The Impossible and actually went to see the movie today.  The scenes in the trailer linked above seem to depict a perfect metaphor for this thing we call grief.  One minute the sun is shining in our paradise and we are enjoying life, the next we are in the swirl of debris and fighting to stay afloat in the muddy waters that have suddenly and without warning enveloped us.  We survived a major earthquake--a life quake-- and now we are in the middle of a tsunami of grief.

And like a tsunami, grief rolls in rather unexpected.  When it does, I have found that there are some things I do not need.
  • I do not need a swim coach giving me instructions from the safety of higher ground.
  • I do not need a cheerleader yelling pithy cheers from the sidelines of my struggle for survival.
  • I do not need a pundit evaluating my circumstances and pointing out what caused my tsunami.
  • I do not need a "Monday morning quarterback" telling me how I could have played the game of life better to avoid the tsunami.
  • I do not need a voyeur drawn to the spectacle of human suffering, gawking at my struggle.
What I need is a mattress and presence.

  • I need someone who will jump into the muck with me and just be present.
  • I need strong arms that surround me and reassure me that if I get tired of hanging on, they will hang on for me.
  • I need someone near to whisper in my ear that this will pass; that I will survive.
  • I need someone who will cry with me--who will join my heart in grief. 
  • I need someone who will tenderly clothe me with love, hope and strength.
Yes, I know that God is with me in my grief. Yes, I know that He weeps along with me and collects my tears in His bottle.  But in the throes of pain and loss He seems so far away.  I need individuals who will allow their arms to be His, their heart to weep as His does.  I need a human presence willing to be used by the Divine Presence.

The wail of grief

  • Is it risky to offer one's self to another during a tsunami of grief?  Yes.
  • Will it hurt?  Yes.
  • Will it be difficult?  Yes.
  • Will it be time-consuming? Yes.
  • Will it take us out of our comfort zone?  Yes.
  • Will we weep?  Yes.
  • Will we be changed? Yes.
  • Will it make a difference to the one grieving?  Absolutely, yes.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Basement Called Sex Addiction

One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently about marriage as a house and pointed out that the foundation of a house is often a basement.  And in the basement of marriages are the voices of two children who are desperately seeking connection and belonging.  He suggests that "the fights in the living room are almost always about what's going on in the basement."

Of course he is right, for the most part.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, he regularly works with couples who are struggling to make their relationships work.  Any romantic relationship consists of two individuals and their families of origin, other significant relationships and those two frightened children locked in the basement.  Its a crowded bed, this thing called marriage.

But when an addiction is present in the relationship, getting to the basement of the relational issues often becomes an impossibility.  As hard as the "sober" partner tries to pry open the door, the "addict" works even harder to board it up and secure it with multiple locks.  Allowing someone into the basement is too risky--getting too close to another is far too dangerous.  After all, secrets are shared in the intimacy of a close relationship and it is just too frightening for the addict to contemplate or risk.

Addiction thrives in the secrecy of a damp, mildew-infested basement.  No light penetrates the darkness and the "NO ADMITTANCE" sign is painted in neon red across the cellar door.  While upstairs, the fights continue about "communication" or "finances" or "time-management" or "Internet usage."  They are futile, really, and time-consuming and debilitating.  And the addict is quite adept at using just enough truth to manipulate his partner into believing his spin on the relationship, particularly about what is hidden in the basement.

The only hope for the partner, then, is to free her own inner child from the dark confines of the basement.  She can choose to bring the little girl that is her into the light and set her free to romp and play in the sunshine.  She cannot force her partner to join her anymore than she could force her way into his basement.  But she must not consign herself to the darkness and stale air of his addiction and fear of intimacy.  She must recognize that the fights that take place upstairs have everything to do with what is hidden in the basement and that gaining access is beyond her control. The only thing she can do is free herself.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Perfect Antidote to Shame

A recovery friend shared a prayer that her priest taught her yesterday.  She prays this prayer when she finds herself engaged in passing judgement or criticizing another.
You see me,
You know me,
You love me.

Such a simple prayer.  So easy to remember.  It is the perfect antidote to shame.  Because when I engage in criticizing another or judging them as less than, I am doing so out of an intense need to give them my shame.  When I feel less than, not enough, I desperately look for someone who I can judge as even more less than, than I.  Shame is way too intense to keep--it must be given away.

Reminding myself that God sees and knows me--that He knows my deepest secrets and darkest fears-- anchors me in the reality that I am loved just as I am.  In His eyes, I am enough.  He loves me in spite of my flaws and imperfections.  He sees me and loves me still; He knows me and loves me still.  This is powerful!

Living with or having lived with an individual with sexual compulsions or addictions creates tons of toxic shame for the partner.  When your significant other is looking at other women, men or children to satisfy their sexual desires rather than at you, you feel so diminished and so not enough.  And the nature of addiction demands that they pass their shame on to you.  So they blame the partner for their sexual acting out.  And so many of us just take their shame and carry it as our own.  It is a vicious cycle; it destroys connections and isolates us even further from one another and from our Higher Power.

But this simple prayer speaks truth and connection.  I am seen--for the amazing, creative, loving individual that I truly am.  I am known--fully and completely without any mask or covering.  And I am loved--just as I am.  I do not need to clean myself up in order to be loved, I already am.  I can lay down the demands of perfectionism and bask in the light of pure love.  Living loved means that I can love others as I am loved.  Simple but perfect.  I have a hunch this prayer will be on my lips much in the days ahead.

Monday, January 7, 2013

To Catch a Predator

I recall a graduate school psychology professor telling the class that he watched zombie movies as a kid to help process his fears.  I started thinking of the TV shows and/or movies that I like to watch and immediately a favorite came to mind:  Law and Order SVU.  The realization dawned that I liked crime shows precisely because they helped me process my fears about my ex-husband's foray into the world of child pornography.  And even now, after all that has happened, they are still a favorite, although watching the detectives cuff a "perp" triggers me now with painful memories of my ex-husband's arrest.

So I confess to spending the evening last night watching Dateline's To Catch a Predator. 

Some painful ideas coalesced during my marathon watching session.
  1. Sexual addiction/compulsion is not a respecter of persons.  Individuals from all walks of life are snared in the trap laid by the program.
  2. Denial, minimization and blame are immediate reactions of the perpetrators to getting caught.  These defense mechanisms are universal.
  3. Pedophiles are creative and perceptive liars.  They may justify their behavior to themselves or other like-minded individuals but when caught, they intuitively know that their behavior is socially, morally and legally unacceptable so they begin to lie.
  4. Sexual compulsions are an addictive disease and if left unchecked, will escalate.  It is a progressive disease.
  5. This disease is pervasive and impacts the entire person.  Reasonable, educated and professional men are reduced to sniffling perps, unable to cognitively understand just how sick they really are.  The notion that involvement with pornography hijacks and completely changes the male brain is profound and should inform education, prevention and law enforcement strategies to protect innocent victims.
When I was a kid, TV shows routinely depicted main characters smoking and cigarette commercials were very common.  When scientists figured out how harmful this habit was to the smoker's health, laws were passed that prevented tobacco companies from advertising on television and required them to put a warning label on each package of cigarettes.  Hollywood cooperated and consequently we do not see as many main characters smoking on the big or little screen.

And yet, adult pornography is routinely depicted as a harmless and maybe even a spicy alternative to boring monogamous sex.  My ex-husband's "Christian therapist" even suggested soft porn as a way to re-energize our failing marriage.  Of course, this is the same charlatan who encouraged my ex-husband's experimentation with child pornography.  Child pornography is still considered taboo in Hollywood, although one could argue that some of the films produced do dance too close to that invisible line defining what is pornographic and what is not.  My ex was thrilled with the movie "Blue Lagoon" when it was first introduced and it was a film that pushed the limits on child sexuality.

But if we really want to protect children and women, it is time we become as progressive about the issue of pornography--adult and child--as we did about cigarette smoking.  It is time for Hollywood to stop using sex to sell movies and to stop depicting adult porn as normal and healthy.  It is time for advertisers to stop objectifying and sexualizing women and children to sell their products.  It is time for Congress to come up with a warning label that should be affixed to any product, commercial or movie that depicts pornography in a positive light.  It worked for smoking; its worth a try with porn addictions.  This needs to become a national campaign!  It is not just a personal issue--it infects every part of our society--much like cigarette smoke lingers long after the smoker has snuffed out the flame.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How the Bleep Did I Marry a Pedophile?

In the wake of the devastation of my ex-husband's arrest for possession of child pornography and his subsequent diagnosis as a pedophile, this question has haunted me.  No one ever purposes to marry an abuser, addict or pedophile and yet it happens over and over again.  We think we are marrying our Prince Charming and are shocked when we discover that he is a frog with warts.  We feel tricked, betrayed and confused.  It is surreal; not what we signed up for, not what we expected.

Two friends and I were discussing this very question after our recovery meeting when I blurted out something that I had heard my grandmother say repeatedly of my grandfather.  And in quoting her, I realized the answer to my question.  My paternal grandparents were from the hills of Kentucky and though they moved to the Midwest, they never lost their Appalachian roots.  Grandma often said that Grandpa would "screw a snake if it would hold still long enough." I don't remember what I thought or felt about this as a child but do recall the whispers about Grandpa's other family--the kids he fathered with another woman on the other side of the mountain.

And things weren't much better on my mother's side of the family.  I recall the stories of her father's sexual exploits--his having sex with women upstairs while his wife lay dying of leukemia in the bedroom below.  My grandmother, as the story goes, would change the dirty bed linens and throw away the used condoms the morning after.  But both grandmothers stayed; both put up with men behaving badly; both wore the familiar mask of martyrdom and "suffered through."  And that's how I ended up married to a pedophile.

In a graduate class on substance abuse, I wrote a research paper detailing predictors for substance use or abuse, particularly focusing on the quality of the parental marriage as a risk factor.  I drew a genogram of both families and since their roots were in Appalachia called them the "Hatfields" and the "McCoys."  Because addictions, even those related to substance use, are often hidden I identified anyone with a smoking habit as a potential addict.  I analyzed four generations of two very large families and what I found was shocking.  There was not a solid marital relationship on either side of the family in generations one (my grandparents) and two (my parents) and those prone to addictions far outnumbered those with no visible addiction present.
The McCoys

The Hatfields

I realize that the above graphics are hard to read but suffice it to say that any red mark indicates a troubled marital relationship and any yellow indicates an addiction-prone individual.  My family tree is riddled with individuals struggling with addiction, infidelity, molestation and secret-keeping.  This is my heritage--the one no one wants to talk about at family reunions.  But it is in refusing to talk about it, in the pervasive silence on the issue that the disease is able to grow and is transmitted from one generation to another.  I am breaking the silence because I want it to stop with my generation.  I look at my precious daughter and granddaughter and want a different future for them.  In order for that to happen, though, I have to be willing to face the hard things, to speak them in the daylight, to give voice to this horrendous history.  Hear me roar, "This stops with me!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Will You Trust Me to be Your Provider?"

New Year's Day--a time of retrospection and reflection as well as a time of looking forward with hope and a bit of trepidation.  Our world has big problems and there does not seem to be a simple or easy solution to any one of them.  From the fiscal cliff, which I guess we have now gone over in this country, to famine, wars, genocide, disease and natural disasters--it is easy to face this New Year with fear and anxiety.  On a personal level, continued unemployment with its attendant financial concerns as well as being a newly divorced woman gives me legitimate reason to face the future with hesitancy.

But for as long as I can remember, anxiety and fear have been constant companions.  I was not raised in a family that generated a sense of well-being and a belief that I would be cared for.  Chaos, conflict and neglect were the norms in my family of origin.  Love was conditional, acceptance based on performance and provision for basic needs erratic.  Family rules dictated that I ignore my own needs, keep secrets and work hard for love and acceptance.  When they were given, I rejoiced; when they were withdrawn, I accepted full responsibility.

These conditions set me up to marry a man who could not possibly love or accept me, though I believe he tried hard to do both.  His unnamed and hidden disease made it impossible to have a truly intimate physical, spiritual and emotional connection.  He was unavailable to me, much as my parents had been.  But shortly after our marriage, we negotiated a contract of sorts:  as a couple we would focus on his career while I would focus on making and maintaining a home and caring for our children.  For a while, the contract worked.  His career flourished and our children grew up to be responsible, hard-working and loving individuals.

But then, the marriage broke due in great part to his addiction and disease.  But I still had a firm belief that the contract we made would serve me well in the divorce process.  I was eligible for permanent maintenance (alimony) due to the longevity of the marriage and the fact that for most of it he was the primary breadwinner.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  The judge ruled against me in the financial settlement, citing the fact that my ex-husband's arrest had destroyed his career and any hopes he had for a return to full-time employment.  Our assets were roughly split 50/50 but in actuality, his take was greater than mine due to my exorbitant legal fees.  At one point, my ex-husband snarled at me, "I earned this money so it is mine."  I guess the contract I thought we had was one-sided.  So in middle age, I am starting over--remaking myself, and my old friends--fear and anxiety--have been constant companions.

Several weeks ago in church, I heard God whisper gently, "Will you trust Me to be your Provider?"  This does not normally happen to me, even in church. My heart's reply was an immediate and firm "Yes!"  This was new for me because trust is so hard, even of God.  I have thought of that whisper much in the past weeks and ask myself, "What does it mean to trust?  Who is trustworthy? What does provision mean?"  This is an attempt to flesh these questions out.

What does it mean to trust?

Webster defines "trust" as a "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something."  Trust involves two things:  a personal belief in someone as well as that individual's ability, strength and reliability.  When I cross a bridge, I believe that the bridge is strong and safe and that it won't collapse under its own weight as well as that of the cars and trucks traversing it.  But my belief must be based on a set of facts about the bridge-- that it has met minimum construction criteria, that it has been maintained adequately, that the engineering was sound, materials of good quality and inspections thorough.

Who is trustworthy?

Again, my friend Webster has something to say in response to this question.  Someone is trustworthy who is "able to be relied on as honest and truthful."  I thought my ex-husband was trustworthy but have since learned that he is not honest or truthful.  From the beginning of our relationship, he misrepresented himself to me.  Deception destroys the foundation of any relationship and creates enormous anxiety and fear.  We see it in our culture, in families and in politics.  Who can we trust?  Who is entirely honest and truthful?  Distortion of facts, biases and airbrushed photography are routine in our world.  How could this not infect our relationships?  How could they not make it nearly impossible to trust?

What does provision mean?
Grandpa's wagon

To provide is to "Make available for use; to supply."  The Latin root of the word means to "attend to"  "Provision" calls to mind wagon trains stocking supplies of food, drink and equipment in preparation for the long journey West.  It required intentional thinking and planning to supply the provisions needed for such a journey--it required "attending to" the details of the trip and the potential for unanticipated needs.  Provision involves planning but also requires relying on the ability of another to supply what is needed.  Even the independent pioneers acknowledged that they could not possibly provide for themselves everything they needed for the arduous journey.  They had to rely on outposts where they could re-supply, or on the blacksmith to re-shoe their horse or help repair a broken wagon wheel.

So I face the New Year with a resolve to believe in the reliability, ability, truth and strength of God; to ever remind myself that He can be relied upon; that He is trustworthy to attend to me and supply what I need for the journey.  Obviously financial provision is a key concern but there are many other needs that I anticipate in the days ahead--spiritually, emotionally and relationally.  My heart whispered "Yes!" to the question--yes, You are trustworthy.  Yes, You are able to provide.  Yes, I believe you will.  I must remember and remind myself of this resolve when the white-knuckle days arrive--when I sense the provisions are getting low, when I can't see a re-supply outpost on the horizon or find a blacksmith to fix my broken wagon wheel.  Yes.  He is able and I can trust Him.

During the early hours of 2012 when I knew my marriage was over, I named the year:  "Never Alone 2012."  I regularly reminded myself through the long, lonely hours of grief, trauma and adjustment that I was not alone.  And I wasn't.  So this day, the first of 2013, I am naming my year "Provision."  I believe there will be enough for my journey and that a completely trustworthy and capable Higher Power provides for me.  This is my Year of Provision.