I'm honored to have Elizabeth Esther here today to share about her memoir , a book I read in three days (Right before my book was about to release! When I should have been sleeping!) because I couldn't stop myself. Her story is captivating and heartbreaking and deeply brave. I'm honored to call her a friend and I can't wait to give her book away to three of you lucky commenters/tweeters. Click on the Rafflecopter beneath this post to enter the giveaway!
I know this fear intimately. Its shadow creeps through my nightmares: will I become what I hate? Will I repeat the cycle of abuse? Will the abused become the abuser? It requires constant vigilance, a determination to act and live differently. And even then, sometimes this Dark Me leaks out in a sudden flick of judgmental tongue, a harshly critical word, a callous dismissal. I was raised in condemnation. My greatest challenge is to receive grace--and to give it.
You don't learn to ride a bike by thinking about it. You learn by doing. By feeling your way through it.
This is what my twins teach me on the first morning of a New Year--that riding a bike without training wheels is terrifying at first but once you get going, the movement moves you out of fear and into the flow--suddenly, without thinking about it, you are simply riding. You are riding a bike.
Jasiel gets this intuitively. She's always been the feeler. She thrills to the wind in her hair, little legs pumping pedals and within minutes she is tearing across the park: "Look, Mama! I'm RIDING!"
Jorai is frustrated. Before she tries, she wants to know the process, the method, the 1-2-3 of bike riding. I try to explain. But it's useless.
You don't learn to ride a bike by thinking about it. You learn by doing it. It stops me short.
I'm speaking to her, yes, but I'm also speaking to me. The way into grace is a way of living. A way of doing. I don't learn to live by grace by thinking about it.
I learn it by surrender, by receiving it, by feeling my way into this new way of being.
"It's like flying," she says.
It's like freedom. Jorai--the little Overthinker--has cast aside her thinking and is simply flying. She leaps over and over and over, landing on soft sand dune in the wan sunshine of a Pacific winter. She is unafraid, even when she crash-lands a few times. She rolls and shakes it off. This jumping into a life free of condemnation, it's a controlled falling.
There are some crash landings and mistakes. I'm learning to be OK with my failures because they teach me humility. They remind me of my humanity. I'm learning to exercise empathy for myself, to be tender and kind with my humanness.
Being raised in condemnation makes for a harshness towards self. Until I learn kindness toward me, I can't extend true kindness to others. My children teach me how to be kind to myself.
Jorai falls in the sand and pops up laughing. "Sometimes you fall and that's OK!" she says.
Yes. Sometimes we fall and that's OK. It's the getting up and doing differently that matters.
Do you remember what it felt like to run and not grow weary? How, as a child, you ran everywhere--that running was normal, instinctive? You didn't walk, you ran. Running is easier when you're lighter, when you're not carrying Shame. My twins are natural runners, easy runners. I am not. I am awkward, hunched, wheezy.
And yet, when we run together I catch a glimpse of what it means to let go of all that and just run with confidence the race set before me. My twins teach me to laugh when I run. To run through the pain and burst out on the other side where laughter and lightness of being reside.
Yes, I have that Dark Me inside but I also have the Light Me. My race in life is to live in the Light. To run toward the light. And to laugh.
--my story of being raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult and escaping to create a new life for myself--released into the world a few weeks ago.
I was terrified. I was hopeful. I was exhausted. And I was utterly spent. I broke open my heart bled onto the paper. For you. For me. For my children. And for yours. I did my very best and now, I surrender it to you. I surrender to grace.
By God's grace, I have broken the cycle. By God's grace I will continue to break it and live free.
Elizabeth Esther is a mother of five and author of “Girl at The End of The World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future.” She blogs at .
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