Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

After rereading last week's post, I am amazed at my stunning lack of gratitude. True, I get caught up in the seeming futility of life and wonder what it's all about. But then there are moments like this, sitting in our little library, wrapping paper and bows strewn about on a card table, my daughter home from grad school, reading peacefully on the couch and my husband sketching in the armchair next to the warm fire. Kate's orange tabby walks in and jumps on the couch. Victorian carols waft up from the radio. Through our window, I can see the western sky streaked with lavender and pink. In a few days, our whole family will gather to exchange gifts and love.

I don't want to sound corny by saying this is the meaning of Christmas. Maybe it's that the meaning of Christmas is the meaning of life. You know - family, home and hearth. Something I have to be thankful for every breathing minute of my life. And sometimes I forget. I think of the despairing young man I spoke to this morning. He fears the uncertainty of life, where everything you love and believe in can be snatched from you in a heartbeat. In losing The Way, I felt a small taste of that. Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind, and it's unavoidable in this life, faces that recurring possibility. Loss, birth, life, loss, birth, life and so the cycle goes on. The trick is to live each moment and be grateful for it.

My daughter took a course on happiness and the law last semester and found she scored high on the happiness scale. What distinguished her from her fellow students was and is her capacity for gratitude. She has not had an easy life, caught between the warring factions of post-cult parents. And yet, she is thankful. Thankful to have parents who love her so much to fight over her.

Peace has fallen on our households and the children are grown. We have all moved on. There is so much to be thankful for. May each of you who read my blog (and I'm exceedingly thankful for you and your kind comments) may you have a lovely holiday and have a moment to catch your breath and count the numerous blessings around and in you and the world.


Billy said...

You lost me a bit with this one. I mean, if there is a lack of gratitude in your life, I didn't see it in your pervious post. Maybe something else came to mind that I don't know about.

I agree that we should be thankful for what we have and express our gratitude, but I dont see a lack of gratitude in your life just because you took some time to think about the hows and whys.

Kristen Skedgell said...

Guess I was overreacting but my thought was how easily I despaired when there was so much good around me. That's all. Thanks, as always.

jeff said...

Hi Kristen,

I wish you and yours a great holiday season!

After reading your last post I actually regretted my previous comment and suggestion as to what you might consider tweaking in your writing. The reason I regretted my comment was because it seemed that suggesting your go for the deep emotional connection as far as spiritual/sexual abuse might be a hard thing for you to be able to do.

Your last post reminded me that folks who have seen hard things are entirely different in terms of how they need to process these events.

This post of yours has me being thankful that you are able to enjoy the blessings in your life in spite of the things you have shared with us all. I'm rooting for you, as I'm sure many are. :)


Oneperson said...

I echo Billy. :-)

And happy holiday to you as well...and to all.

I often think of my dad when I think of gratitude. He lived his last 13 years with quadriplegia. Seldom did he complain. He used to let us know he was ready to get out of bed by singing the old hymn, "Love Lifted Me." Love literally lifted him everyday of those 13 years.

There is much to be thankful for.

As Sarah McLachlin and Wilbur and Charlotte and all the farm animals remind us:
It's just another ordinary miracle today....

Merry mistletoe and snow whispers,

Billy said...

We go through times when it seems all that occupies our minds is the bad around us, and we have to remind ourselves that we have a lot to be grateful for. I guess this is what you went through after your earlier post.

I assume, well, actually I know (from some of your own posts) that you have been with and counseled people who are so deep into the bad around them that it doesn't seem to them like there is any good in their lives, and a reminder to be grateful for the good doesn't go anywhere. You know about their despair, and you have known despair in your own life (before your currently thriving times), and I guess you don't want to risk slipping even a little in that direction again. The reason I responded as I did above, though, is because I have read the gratitude you have expressed at times, in particular about those who have helped you in the past and in the present, so I didn't see any ungratefulness in your post. But then, I didn't go through what you did, and I haven't dealt directly with others' very personal hells, as you have.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, I just read your book on Kindle. As a matter of fact, I couldn't put it down. I read it in less than 24 hours. I too, was in a "chult" (not really a church, not really a cult). I was very fortunate that my chult was not as controlling and manipulative as your experience. Narcissism is a real problem in ministry based on the research I have done. There are way too many people suffering from this same kind of trauma. Thank you for speaking out and allowing your voice to be heard!

Billy said...

Dear Anonymous, The manipulation and control in the Way was not applied the same to all. This is especially true of the "masses", those "ordinary" followers who held full time jobs and whose interactions with other Way followers, including leaders, were quite wholesome appearing. At least this was true up to the mid '70s when I become involved; I believe even the "ordinary believer's" life became more controlled in years after that. Even after I entered the 8th Way Corps, the same leadership program Kristen was in, I for quite a while didn't notice a lot that wouldn't fit in with the strict but not overbearing Christian discipline that the Way Corps was supposed to be. What was happening to Kristen and others all during this time was well hidden...see Kristen's initial posts on this blog about the "lockbox" from 2007 if you haven't already; of course you have read about this already I guess in "Losing the Way".

After my first fairly innocent (from my point of view) year in the Way Corps at Emporia, things started happening in my Way Corps life which, though I didn't recognize it until later, were signs that things were going on that were not all that wholesome. One was when our leader, Wierwille, cautioned a group of us going on the field to watch ourselves sexually, NOT because of any moral principle, but because he didn't want to pay for any more abortions or see his ministry acquire a bad reputation. I don't want to start an abortion debate; just that it seemed that sexuality was being dealt with in a way that implied that sex was okay if you could avoid bringing trouble to the ministry.

Another I mentioned on a post some time ago, when during my final corps year at HQ I was subjected to a little sexual gaming by some corps women to help me "loosen up" (this phrase was used at other times.

There were other things, many of which Kristen has covered, but which I didn't recognize at the time, because despite my Way Corps status, I was still really outside the lockbox. Not believing such abuse could be happening, almost "right under my nose" at times, I could not therefore recognize signs that more recently stick out...way out, if may use that phrase. As Kristen covered in those early posts I mentioned, abusers in any environment usually take pains to hide the abuse.

I think the last sentence of your post, namely your "thank you", is right on.

Chris Cushingham, Sr. said...

Some people come into your life for a season, for a reason.
Thanks for shining a light on the unspeakable.
Life goes on...
easier with traction,
trust you've found some...
All my best.