Sunday, July 31, 2016

When God Comes to Call

Eleven years ago, I made a decision that has changed my life in so many, many ways. Okay, I did not make the decision wholly on my own, but I am so grateful for it now.

I was a churched kid, from Sunday school to Confirmation. I liked going to Sunday school and singing in the Junior Choir, going to Sunday service and even Confirmation. I learned the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, all about the Holy Sacraments and this guy named Jesus who could do some pretty amazing things. Yet, it wasn’t enough, at least not then anyway.

I don’t recall exactly when I took an interest in witchcraft, but I did, somewhere around fifteen or sixteen years old. There was no movie or book or any real outside influence that caused me to stray that way. It was something that was inside of me, a longing or need to know more about the how-comes of the bizarre things that would happen to myself or others – dreams that would come to pass, or déjà vu and we mustn’t forget ghosts.

Once, when I was about five and half, and I was having open-heart surgery, I had a vision of what I knew was an angel. She just sort of hung out with me in the “other-world” until it was over, and then sent me home. By the time I was sixteen, she was long forgotten – sort of.

The more I started to investigate the ideology behind witches and all their “powerfulness”, the more I was pulled into the life of a witch. I decided in all my youthful wisdom that the witches were right and everyone else was wrong. Each day the knowledge I had gained as a youth became buried further and further in my brain, overtaken by the idea that I could control not only my own life, but the lives of others in a sense. It was a rocky, unbelievably weird time in my life. Lies became truth and truth was just not. At the end, I was a 2nd degree High Priestess.

Fast-forward to fifteen years ago. The Holy Mother Mary kept appearing in my life, not as a ghost or even a person, just her image. She was everywhere and it seemed like all the time. Beings that I was already in the mindset that there were higher beings than myself, I concluded that Mary was someone who could fit that logic, and perhaps she wanted to tell me something. So, I asked. I got crickets. Not a single peep from her. Yet, everywhere I went, there she was in a painting or a book, or on-line. I kid you not; this went on for an entire year. Interestingly enough, every time I would try to do something “witchy”, there she was intervening. I wasn’t all that thrilled about it either. I’m not going to lie.

When the year was coming to a close, I just knew that something was up, and shortly after the New Year, I lost my job. Five months later, I lost my home. Three months later, everything – well most everything – I owned was stolen from the storage unit where I had moved our belongings. (Interestingly enough, all my important stuff was left untouched.) One month later, I sent my kids to live with my mother. They lived with her for four months, while I was getting my behind kicked some more by the Almighty. It was not a fun year. The Good Lord had stripped me of everything. I was as homeless as a person could get.

Here’s where the story gets interesting, I had to choose. I was beaten to a bloody pulp by God himself, and he did it on purpose. You see, I was at the point in my witchdom, where I was less than a year away of having my own coven, leading others down the same treacherous road. Now, don’t think for a second that I gave up so easily, no, I had to do things the hard way. I was going to “fix” my life, using all the tricks of the trade. The more I tried, the worse it got.

One night, I got in my car, and I screamed at God at the top of my lungs, “What the hell do you want from me!?” Then I cried for a long time. I knew what He wanted. I’d known all along what He wanted. I was just being too stubborn to give it to Him. I still didn’t surrender.

I was not going to be anything either way – a witch or a Christian. I was mad at God for dragging me to my knees, and honestly, to this day I couldn’t say that I knew why, although I do now.

The next couple of years were years lived in limbo. Things didn’t get worse, but they didn’t get much better. As I said, my kids came back from my mother’s within four months. I had an apartment and a job. We just sort of coasted for a couple of years. Then one day, I started to talk to Mary. I don’t know exactly why, but I did. I remember saying to her, if God is real and God hears me and even knows I exist then prove it. Give me an unmistakable sign. I was nice about it, and had asked with sincerity. I got in my car to go to work, and the song on the radio was (dun dun dun) Willie Nelson singing, You Were Always on My Mind. It was at that moment, I knew that I had made my choice, and I haven’t looked back since. I struggled with surrendering, but that’s a whole different story. However, since that day, my life has become so amazing I can’t even begin to tell you. Most of the friends that I had when I was practicing are either dead or dying. But, not me; I’m living – in every sense of the word.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Moment of Truth

The story I am about to tell you is not a story. It’s my life. I haven’t told anyone outside of my family, with the exception of a few very close friends. In December of 2011, I stood on the ledge of life and death, contemplating the pros of cons of each choice. I was never the person who suffered from mental health issues, and I’m still not. However, there I was just the same, standing on the ledge ready to free-fall out of this world.

As many of my readers know, I grew up on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in Western North Dakota. I am not Native American. Oftentimes, my thoughts would wander back to the days of my youth. I remembered the struggles of some of the families, most of whom the children were my friends. I remembered hearing the hopes and dreams for the future. In 2009, I was elated because an opportunity to truly make a difference presented itself. It didn’t happen by magic. We worked hard for that grant. Excitement filled the air and a renewed energy infiltrated the little nonprofit. It was going to be fantastic!

Nonetheless, I found myself in a battle of ethics and humanity. I put on my battle gear of Integrity, Loyalty, Honesty and Compassion. Little did I know, I was fighting a battle I could not win, because I was fighting alone. It wasn’t until I wandered in the aftermath, that I recognized that this was the same feeling of demoralization the Native Americans I knew and loved had felt their entire lives, and throughout the history of our nation.

From 2009 to mid-2011, our lives were filled with threats and intimidation, unlike I have ever experienced in my whole life. I’ve seen some ugly things in my lifetime, but nothing that compared to the demon of hate-mongering, racism, and greed all rolled into one. The saddest part was that all this terror came from within the organization itself.

I sat in several meetings where lie after lie was told about what the grant was for and how the money was supposed to be spent. I watched as benefits that were to be afforded to the new staff of the organization were somehow swept aside and denied to those who deserved them. (Sound familiar?)

Each time, I spoke up about the untruths; my voice was harshly silenced through threats and intimidation. I had never felt so powerless in my entire life. I had tried so hard to make those who were in power listen to what I had to say, but it wasn’t enough. Everyone was scared. Everyone was trying to survive the day without getting fired or blamed for things they weren’t even aware happened – if in fact they had happened at all. Truth slowly melded into paranoia and insanity. Fear was the ruler of the day, and haunted each of us in the silence of the night. The fear grew into the bitterness of betrayal. Those tasked with the stewardship of the grant had turned their backs on us, and soon after the inevitable implosion came.

When the truth of most things did come to light, through a written complaint to the board of directors, soon after (July 2011), my position was eliminated in the nonprofit. I fought the good fight. At least that’s what I told myself. I fought the good fight and lost. Game over.

One would think that once out of the fire, the heat would be gone. That is not the case with toxic stress. I jumped at the chance to start a new job, even though I could have kept the one I had until December. It was a new job, in another city. I had been running a thousand miles an hour for almost two years, in self-protection mode. The mistake that I made was not giving myself a chance to decompress, before starting something new. Not to mention moving to a community where I knew absolutely no one.

Not-so-funny side story. In my new job, there was a strict expectation of recognizing the signs of suicide. No one recognized the signs I was exhibiting.

Only one person recognized that I was in trouble, and a lot of it. He was a pastor who didn’t even know me. He knew it right away, and had the guts to say so. He couldn’t do anything about it himself, except wield the sword of truth. He will always be a hero of sorts in my book. (No pun intended.)

In December of 2011, I took the scariest step in my life. I asked for help. I reached out to a therapist I had found on-line in the town where I lived. I faced the fear of being ridiculed or labeled as crazy, and got the help I needed at the time. Looking back, this was the greatest fear that I had – being labeled by others who didn’t know my story. Didn’t understand what I had been through.

If you are struggling today, tonight or anytime, please recognize your inner-strength and just get help. It does get better. I am happier now than I have been in years. I am not crazy. I am not weird or lesser than anyone else. I am not weak. One of the greatest signs of strength is knowing when to ask for help, and then doing it. You are not alone.

Monday, July 4, 2016

My Fellow Americans

My Fellow Americans,

Today, I wish us a happy 240th birthday. We’ve been beaten and worn for some time now, but never forget that through the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, our flag, Old Glory still waves.

In spite of all our faults and flaws, we the people of the United States of America have much to be grateful for today. We have traveled a long journey together, and face an unknown future together. Over the centuries, we have come from lands all around the world to meet here, together on this day in history – our 240th birthday.

Choose to celebrate! Choose to celebrate America the Beautiful! Choose to celebrate the Grand Old Flag! Choose to celebrate; because This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land! Choose to celebrate Stars and Stripes Forever!

Choose to celebrate you and me and us! It is the people who comprise a nation. Each of us should not forget from where it is we have come. We should be grateful for the independence we share from tyranny, dictatorships, monarchies and all the likes of that.

Happy birthday to us!