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Bethany G. Paget

Midwife of words

Month

February 2014

Like a Wrecking Ball

Joking about how I don’t remember the month of March or that I have missing pieces.  Now laughing that I’m finally living the Hollywood dream of Botox is my way of making a really shitty circumstance seem pale in comparison to what the last year and half really was.

I have only shared the story of my brain surgery once and I kept it simple.  I shared mostly how I wish people would have reacted rather than what actually happened and subsequently how my life was radically altered.

In July of 2012 I was angry.  Pissed off and bitter I made sure to let everyone know that I could not believe that God was doing this to me.  I acted as if I was this prized, golden and faithful child of His that surely should have streams of gold laid before her rather than her health ripped apart.  I was angry yes, but deep I didn’t ever think I would be ready to talk about it outside the comfort of my laughable defenses.  down there was that deep seated fear that God was mad at me for not living up to His expectations and this was my punishment.

I felt like Job.

In October of 2012 I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, a brain disease in which ones cerebral tonsils are forced through the brain stem and into the cervical canal because the skull is to small.  The area becomes compacted, cutting off the flow of cerebral spinal fluid causing neurological symptoms such as unsteady gait, loss of motor skills, speech and memory difficulties.  The most common symptoms of Chiari are debilitating headaches and neck pain.  My symptoms started backwards.  I started with the neurological then once diagnosed the extreme headaches hit almost immediately.

My first visit with the neurosurgeon through Kaiser was a disaster.  He saw me all of 12 minutes, had not even looked at my MRI or chart before seeing me then proceeded to say he didn’t think I had Chiari but that he would do the surgery anyways if it would make me feel better.

Through a series of unfortunate events I was taken out of his care and moved to another doctor and hospital completely, thank God.  As angry as I was at the time I can look back now and see how it really was God that moved on my behalf even though I was so bitter about having to start the process over, with more MRI’s and a new doctor and different tests.

This whole time Abigail was home with me because before I started to get super sick I had made the choice to home school her.  The worse my health got made having her home increasingly difficult.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around I was bedridden and taking pain medicine more often than I was up and about.

The same time I was fighting this physical battle I was fighting a spiritual one as well.  I was desperately trying to cling onto these rigid, legalistic ways that had kept me safe for so long all the while God was gently working the clay of my heart into a softer, more gentle and “notsomanyrules” bound follower of Christ.

I wanted nothing to do with it.

He wasn’t only using my time in bed He was also using my work in therapy which just happened to become more intense at the same time.  It was like getting hit on all sides by these waves that felt 10 feet high and nothing I grasped onto was able to pull me high enough to get my head above them.

So I choked on the saltwater of my health, faith and my parenting until I couldn’t do that anymore and I lay in a heap on my kitchen floor, sobbing, screaming profanities and gave up.

I just couldn’t keep up anymore, with anything.  It was December by this point and I knew that in the new year I would be having surgery and that having Abigail home would make recovery difficult.  So I made the choice to put her back in school.  It felt like a death to me to make that choice, mostly because of all the criticizers I had towards homeschooling her.  It wasn’t about them though.  It was about us and what was best.

I was still walking forward in my work in therapy, showing up, working hard and not backing down.    Honestly as hard as it was to do really tough trauma work while that sick I don’t regret it because had I not I believe that my progress would have become stagnant by the surgery and recovery period.

I met with my neurosurgeon on February 13, 2013 and right away we made the decision to go forward with surgery.  He said in my case was is the best option and since my Chiari was progressing there weren’t many other options.  Though Chiari is very grey and rare and often asymptomatic in my case the symptoms were causing so many problems it needed to rectified surgically.  I was lucky enough to get a surgery date for the very next week.

As happy as I was to know that the next Thursday, February 21, 2013 it was going to be over, but then the panic set it.  Throughout the whole ordeal I had been alone.  Meaning I had been taking care of myself.  I did not (still don’t) have a very big network of people in the flesh to walk beside me and help out.  The people that were my community proved to be unreliable.  It was a stinging reminder of the neglect and abandonment that I experienced as a child.

I in fact had to set extremely strict boundaries with them when I was having surgery and coming home because they were attempting to take over, make my choices for me and make my illness about them.   It felt like a slap to the face when people would ask what they could do and then not follow through.  Or ask and then back out.  When I went into the hospital for surgery I still had no idea who was going to be with me at home, who was going to help me with Abigail and I was told that I just needed to be ok with that.

I would say that in a normal circumstance with someone who is used to things working out that, that statement might not have freaked them out.  However I needed to know.  I feared coming home after brain surgery and having to take care of Abigail alone; which I didn’t but the all encompassing fear was there.

The five months leading up to surgery felt like a tug from God and a push away from people.  I sat alone in the midst of wondering why this was happening and hearing people say “Just trust God” and “He’s going to do something SO BIG with this”  Instead of having those that for so long stated they cared and loved me deeply, rally around me.

The trite, overly spiritual sentiments about God, who He was in the midst of my struggle (which was apparently known to everyone but me), were infuriating.  I didn’t want to know what they thought God was going to do, I didn’t want to ask for help only to be turned down repeatedly, bailed out on or controlled.  I wanted someone to sit next to me in bed, to weep with me or to offer to have Abigail come over so I could rest and she could play and not be bored.

I went into surgery elated.  I was ready to get this thing done and over with.  I was ready to move on, heal and start my life over.  Pain had been constant for so long I wanted to know what a pain free life was like.

I came out of surgery in pain (obviously, I’d just had my skull opened) vomiting and asking for my phone.

My hospital stay is a blur (hello Morphine, Oxycodone and Valium)

I did witness some incredible acts of Jesus with skin on which is why I said earlier that I do stand by believing  God meant for me to be moved to a different doctor and a different hospital.  The whole staff was so kind and gentle.

The nurses sat with me as I vomited from the surgery.  There was a CNA who took such good care of me.  She showered me when I couldn’t even lift my arms but needed so badly to be clean.  They answered my questions, made sure I had my meds, if they saw me looking uncomfortable while I slept they would reposition me or tell me to push the magic button (the morphine button)

Jesus showed Himself in the still whispers while I was in the hospital and in those burning bushes that I’ve often asked for.  At the time I know I couldn’t see it.  It took what was about to happen in the coming months to be able to realize just how present He was.

I carried and still do carry hurt over being afflicted with this “thing” I couldn’t have escaped because it’s congenital and sooner or later it would have reared its head.  As much as I wish that I could go back and wipe it all away and relive the last year and a half differently I really don’t believe I would.

I think my anger comes from feeling like I had my shit together before this happened.  I had a good job, was making good money and didn’t need to ask for help so much.  My relationship with God was “awesome” and I was going about my good Christian girl ways.  On the outside everything looked great.  Especially to those who wanted me to be a particular brand of Christian.  Internally there was so much chaos that I was working so hard to keep shelved, organized and pushed down.  Every time I spoke a word about God or His faithfulness it felt fake as it escaped my lips.

When I got home from Africa the end of June of 2012 and everything in my life started to fall apart that chaos started to seep out.  For appearance sake I did my best to stuff it down yet when life hit another brick wall those pretenses dropped and shit became real.

I had to say something to God that I never felt like I could say before.

WHY?

I never knew He could handle my “whys”

I had always been taught that questioning God or being angry at Him is sinful because “who are we to question the Great and Mighty God?”

As if He was more like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz; a fake little man, hiding behind a curtain.

He’s not.  He is the God of the universe and He can handle anything we say to Him, our temper tantrums and the extreme emotions that come when faced with tragedy.

I sat with the profanity I shouted at Him daily with fists raised, the flared temper and the “I really don’t like you and your ways right now but I’ll be back tomorrow”

I did not have a foundational relationship that was built on seeking my own truth about God.  Rather I took in what everyone around me told me about God, what they told me to believe and because I was so afraid of going back to who I was before I accepted their notions and beliefs.

I had such rigorous standards for myself and a “law book” of sorts that I kept for myself because that is what I thought I needed to be deemed worthy to God.  When the wrecking ball came and shattered life as I knew it I could not keep up with myself imposed rules.   Therefore my relationship with God felt distant and stagnant and then came the anger.

I desperately needed to be filled with a fresh faith; new and alive; a life giving breath from God that was my own.

There is a line in a song by Mumford and Sons and all it says is

“And I was told by Jesus all will be well.  So all must be well”

I was tired of listening to other people tell me that “all would be well” I was hungry for Jesus to tell me, directly to my face that indeed with Him, his way that we would work this out.

It wasn’t well for a long time.  As I sit here and write this, the night before the one year anniversary of my surgery, things are still not well.  Externally and circumstantially one would say they are worse.  But internally and in my faith they are better.

I have a fluid faith, a day by day faith where I know that regardless of what I go through God is with me.  Daily I am trusting that He can handle me and that I am not too much for Him.  I burned that law book and started going outside the box of rule bound, legalistic one way only religion.

I have Hope and Faith and Love.

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The Church Thinks it’s a Sin

Today I am posting over at my dear friend Victoria’s corner about my deep struggles with mental health both within and outside the church.

It’s a deep, dark and raw look into where I have been and what I have struggled to walk out of.

I hope you’ll wander over to her place and give it a look, it would mean so much.

http://victoriagracewrites.weebly.com/1/post/2014/02/the-church-thinks-its-sin-a-guest-post.html

As Always,

Bethany

Sex and Worth

I went forward at a youth gathering, a pregnant, single, new believer who was lead more by emotion and pressure (looking back) to give her sexuality to Christ.

I signed that card saying that I would remain faithful to the Lord until my wedding night.  A week later the house mom of the home I was living in bought me a purity ring.  It was a big deal that I gave my sex life over to God because according to the youth pastors I was damaged goods and a sinner.

Sex before marriage, a child out of wedlock, extreme promiscuity and WOAH if they knew what else.  Even though now I know that my sexual choices prior to Christ were not and never were sin, they were coping skills that I learned out of abuse and how I was taught to seek love and self worth.

Accepting purity at that moment seemed right and good and fitting.  I wanted to live honorable before the Lord, do the right things and make Him love me.  I wanted to follow the list of rules, check the things off I was supposed to be doing every day and keep the fear at bay that if I messed up He would leave me.

I was taught that arousal is wrong, that even thinking about sex is wrong and that you must FLEEEEEE or you will surely cave and die.  Like Eve in the garden with that damn apple.

I was living daily in a fight or flight state and believed everything that I was told because going back to drugs and Jeffrey was not an option so I soaked it up and did what I was told.

I’ve had one relationship (five years ago) with a guy I met at work, whom I knew from church and he had these really strict rules and steps we had to follow.  According to his accountability partner (who struggled with his own sexuality) we were not to pray, talk about things that were too Godly and most assuredly we were not to do devotions together until a two month “probation period” had passed.

We started going through this ancient book (read 1973) called “Choices in Relationships” that was so outdated and misogynistic that I cannot even believe it still exists.  We were mentored RIGHT AWAY by an older couple who had gotten married in their 40’s.

Obviously we both had the intention, deeply; actually built more of an idol to staying pure.  When we strayed it was automatic shame and I was usually the one, in a passive aggressive way that was blamed because I was the “experienced one”

It was a maddening experience because I was still stuck in needing self worth and love in sex and men and knowing that my beauty is defined by how much a man wants me.  So when we would fool around he would blame me.  When it finally ended he had gone to the pastor of our church and told him everything we had done.  Right down to the fact that we had both had an orgasm (even though we technically did not have sex)

I was angry and mortified and ashamed.  How dare he go behind my back and share the personal details of what we had done.  This was also the same pastor who had told us that we didn’t really need accountability, and that the bible doesn’t speak to having people hold us accountable to our actions.  He only said that we needed to have better boundaries.

I left that church.

I beat myself up both in the metaphorical sense of self loathing and inward shame where I condemned myself for messing around with him and letting God down.  Obviously how could I stack my “Make God love me list up” now that I had fallen short in the purity department.

I would also go to the gym and work out like crazy.  Then I would sit in the sauna or the steam room and sweat, hoping that the sin would come out of my pores.  I wanted it gone.  I felt like a whore again.  Like the whore my mother called me when I remarked that I boy was cute at my 21st birthday party.

After that passed I held my purity at an even higher standard.  My legalistic ideas and thoughts were driven even deeper into my core.  I would not allow that to happen again.  I would not be the cause of some other guy to stumble.  I refused to let God down.  I also became extremely judgmental of others and their sexual choices.  I thought that what I knew and did was the only way.

My lists of how to make Him love me more became longer and I became more rigid.

Then life happened and I began to re-evaluate God and my faith and what I believe to be true.  I let go of believing what other people were telling me about God and started to seek Him out for myself.  I broke down those barriers to Him, burnt those lists and threw that purity ring in the trash (literally)

I have read blog post after blog post on sex and still have not come to a conclusion on what it means to have sex outside of the marriage bed (not talking about infidelity)

I still don’t know. What I do know is that I cannot have sex and leave it at sex.

Fast forward to now.  I met this guy.  Our daughters are best friends and I knew for awhile before he admitted it that he was attracted to me and it felt nice to know.  He was pretty obvious in his attraction but waited a long time before he came right out and started flirting with me.  I reciprocated but was unsure because I had not really been in any type of male/female situation (I don’t even know what to call it) since the last guy and that was 2009.

We had sex right away, after so long of not being needed or wanted it felt nice to know that he wanted me, that his attraction to me was intense and that as an adult I could make the choice to have sex.  Those binding ropes of purity were gone and I was free.

Except I did not feel free; I felt let down, alone and like I had hurt those within me that have been wounded by sex in the past.

Sex had always been a commodity; used to get something I needed ie: drugs, attention, worth or to feel needed and beautiful.

This time it wasn’t a commodity but there was no intimacy.  It was just sex but not just sex.

Because I couldn’t hide the fact that there was no intimacy and that is what I had truly been looking for.  Intimacy is a word that I have always struggled with and never known what it looks like.   Over the last couple of years as I have grown and processed I have built intimacy in different relationships but not in a sexual, interpersonal relationship way.

This is where the lines in my head got crossed and my confusion set in.  I really wanted this to be different.   I have longed for intimacy in the bedroom since I first realized that was a real thing.   Not like sex in the movies but that deep, soul connection that you have with someone you know that builds and burns like a fire when your bodies meet.

I thought we could have that.

But I did not know him and he did not know me.

I think that what I have learned is that if I separate the actual act of sex from what intimacy in the bedroom looks like I can get a clearer picture of what I desire.  I have to be careful of not leading myself up to making sex like something in the movies because it’s not.

No slow moving, glistening bodies, no Top Gun like experience, no slow motion camera pan.

I think that what I realized as I wrote this out in my journal that it starts with looking into your partners eyes and seeing their soul; in knowing them to their very core.  In the knowledge that they love you, that they know you deeply on an emotional, spiritual and physical level.

Separate from the two bodies coming together.

I do believe there has to be intimacy for sex to mean something.  Not for it to just be an act that happens to excite, arouse and fill a void.

Being that Jeffrey was extremely sexually abusive to me I wanted the next man to be the exact opposite.  I had long ago thought that it would be my husband but after eight years of being single I think I gave up and let my standards down and went for the first man that was genuinely attracted to me and wanted me.

I wanted to use my sex super powers to have control and be the sex goddess so that he couldn’t hurt me and I could in fact get that void filled and deep in my heart I wanted it to mean something intimate but it didn’t.

Half of the time my mind wasn’t even there.

Intimacy void.

I knew it had to end because I was only hurting the one that wanted the void filled.  As I write this now and I know it’s over, that it was nothing but a booty call I ache.

Because without a man I do not feel seen, heard, loved or understood.

I was groomed to believe that my body is how I receive love and my worth lies in how much someone wants me.

I no longer want to believe that and the sweet little Bethany inside me that bears those wound feels alone today and longing for someone to wrap their arms around her and hold her, tell her she’s worth more than cheap sex at midnight.

I know I AM NOT cheap.  I have worth, a God who sees me and loves me, loves her who needs sex to make her feel better.

She doesn’t know that though.  She’s young and scared and still lives in fear that she will remain unloved for the rest of her life.

This man, he never had any intention of being someone more than filling the other side of my bed when I called.

I don’t want that.  I want intimacy.  What I know in my core that intimacy is.  I want someone to look deep into my core and know every single piece of me, every scar, wound and healed ache and combine that with what sex is.

I don’t want to be a booty call.

I am worth more than that.

But I need someone to keep telling me that…………

As Always,

Bethany

Ribs

Is my body not my own?

Yes

Though am I the one that formed it?

It was not I who breathed His very life into something yet unformed but not unknown

Seen

Always, Always seen

He breathed into a womb that would later discard this body, this soul and life that He created

My body knows Him as He knows my body

His breath rushed over my breasts as they gave nourishment to a girl He always knew I would have

He knows the womb that carried her, that loved her and longs to love again

He knows each scar

Each wound

The deep cuts made

If not by me; by another

He knows, loves and aches over the body that is degenerating

That has stopped functioning

His breath encapsulated the room where the team mapped out the delicate surgery

He was there

He had to be

When they took away bone that He laid; muscle and ligament gone

To protect, to heal

He cried

Pieces of me that in a struggle I long to have back

Somehow wish them back

Yet does He not know?

Does He not watch my every aching move and painful sob for this thing to go away

Does He not sob with me?

Skin I live in, that I possess feels lost to me

Yet not lost to Him

As Always,

Bethany

An Invitation

This post came out of our story sessions write in this morning.  It goes deep for me at a time when acceptance runs low and the well is dry.

Hope.

There is hope coming.

Beckoning me.

Arising out of the depths of my soul; slamming out of the depths of things all around me.

As I was reading Rilke this morning I was struck by this line:

“am I a falcon, a storm or a great song”

A great song is what I want to be.  I want my life to sing.  To “live in widening circles, that reach across the world”

My world, their world, her world.

Hope that can be something bigger

Hope that is and will always be in front of me; reaching towards me and showing me the way.

Showing me the way to……..

Freedom

Not “take this bible study and you’ll be free” kind of freedom.

That’s the only way to their “Promised Land”

I don’t want the conference or women’s retreat freedom.

Those are empty words and emotion driven actions.

I want freedom to say who I am and know it changes nothing.

I desire, above all the freedom to be loved in my messiness because as Jennifer Lawrence’s character in “Silver Linings Playbook” says:

“There is a part of me that will always be messy and dirty and I like that”

My fingers long to dig deep in the dirt be okay with accepting every single ugly part of my past.  To grasp the mud of the most painful and the ones that give me nightmares and SCREAM freedom and beauty over them.

I am terrified to speak of the ones that have shame smeared on my face and scars left on my arms.  To speak those to the ones I love feels forbidden because of the “what if’s”

Freedom from the “what if’s”

I ache for the freedom of sitting with Jesus at the well.  It the heat of the day knowing that to some close minded onlookers that He shouldn’t be seen with me.

But He is seen with me.

And He sees me.

He gives me the freedom to accept being called Beloved.  His freedom means acceptance goes so deep that even though the ink of the word landed on my wrist when I did not truly know Him; the word is there now and I see it daily.

When He looks at me and says “You have a new name.  You are no longer called —— but Beulah”

As Always,

Bethany

*Poetry quotes from Rilke in the Book of Hours*

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