Captured by Pam

words and images by pam wright

Category: Addiction

Captured: Encountering a Dream Angel

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I have had encounters with angels. Several times. This is the story of one of those encounters.

Many years ago, I was just coming out of several years of heavy drinking that very nearly killed me. I was so very fragile emotionally, physically and spiritually. I started going to a 12-step program in Seoul, South Korea, where we were living at the time, and there I met a fellow alcoholic with more than 25 years of sobriety, who would have a great impact on my own recovery.

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Captured: Just Call Me ‘Caesar’

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

Francis Ware Wright, Jr. (right), better known as Caesar, with his lifelong friend, Bill Hoyer, on the waters of Lake Erie — the place where he once said he felt closest to God.

His name was Francis Ware Wright Jr., but he was better known as “Caesar.”

He was my dad.

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Captured: A Miraculous September Morn

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There is a day in my life that I will never forget.

I love South Korea very much. In a certain sense, it is my birth country because I left that county a very different person from the one who arrived. That time almost seems like a dream, a nightmare really.

When my family moved to Seoul in 1999, I was suffering from the final stages of alcoholism. My doctor later told me that had I continued drinking, I would have been dead within three months.

For many years, I was self-medicating to alleviate emotional pain, feelings of loneliness, despair and to forget some painful experiences that were no fault of my own.

That day in Korea started like so many before — waking in my my bed, bile rising in my throat, trembling from withdrawal, and trying desperately to get more alcohol into my system so I could me feel normal again.

That morning turned out to be very different, however.

I lay there watching the sparkly dust fairies in the sunlight streaming across my bed, mesmerized by the glow of the dust in the sunlight and the dance of each individual piece of sparkling dust.

Without warning, I heard the voice of God rise within me, telling me to move. It literally felt physical as I experienced a sudden revelation and conviction rise in my soul. I suddenly knew that if I didn’t do something immediately, I would die.

Fear gripped my heart as I got out of bed and dressed. I somehow managed to grab some money, get myself down the hill from our house, into a taxi and ask for a hospital.

It took an hour to get to the hospital and I thought I would die at any moment all the way there.

A few hours later, I found myself locked up in the mental ward of Samsung Hospital in Seoul. They didn’t know what to do with me. At the time, there was no such thing as a cushy rehab center for alcoholics in Korea, and the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions was still in the infancy stage.

I didn’t speak any Korean and none of the doctors seemed to speak much English. I was so scared. And let me tell you, withdrawal is as awful as you might imagine. It feels like you have bugs crawling under your skin, like you might die of fright, you can’t stop trembling. It’s just impossible to describe.

I was so sick and the pleasures of drinking had now turned on me. It wasn’t fun anymore. It never made me feel good, or cute or funny or anything but horrible. It was hell on earth. I think I understand a little bit of what hell is — what it feels like to be completely separated from God.

It is desolation.

They took everything from me and just locked me up. I had nothing but an IV in my arm and a gown on my back. I was terrified and I was completely alone. No friends. No family. My husband took my little boys to his family’s home in France and my three daughters were left home alone with the “adjumonie.”

The guilt and pain and fear was unbearable. I couldn’t stand the thought that my kids would have to tell their friends their mother had died an alcoholic, and I knew that’s exactly what would happen, and soon, if I didn’t do something. I thought I would die right there. And I sort of wanted to die right there.

My soul felt empty and my life worthless. I have never felt so powerless and lost and there were no more excuses. No where else to turn. No one to reach out to.

It was just me and God in that room. He held his hand out to me …

I fell off my bed right there in Samsung hospital, literally onto the cold floor, and gave it all to him. I gave up the fight of trying to control my life and my pain, and I surrendered. I begged him for help. I begged, begged and begged some more. It was the most heart-felt prayer I had ever offered. I was a broken, broken woman. And, although I have never felt more alone in the world, locked up in a Korean mental ward, I know Jesus was in that room holding out his hand to me, begging me to just hold out my own.

And I did. I held out my hand.

In answer to my pleading, God sent an angel in the face of a young, Korean man. Just a few moments after begging God to save my life so I could be the mother I longed to be for my children, the man walked into my room. He didn’t seem much older than a teen.

He walked in, placed a bible in my hands without saying a single word, bowed low, and and then walked out the door. I didn’t know who he was and I never saw him again.

There I was in a Korean mental ward with nothing but an IV in my arm, a hospital gown on my back — and now a Korean-English Bible in my hand. Needless to say, it was a powerful moment — a tender, precious moment.

I eventually came to believe he was the answer to my prayer. I believe the young, Korean man was an angel sent to answer my prayer.

That’s how grace and love resurrected my life and, eventually, that of my family. All I had to do was ask. Over the course of the next few months and years of healing, God comforted me, he held me and I never want to let go of his hand again.

I see my life in two halves — before God stepped into my life in a mental ward and after that memorable day. Life is really no easier now, and it can sometimes knock me upside the head. But, it’s an entirely different way of living.

I know that God is with me, even in the loneliest of times and through the greatest difficulties and moments of grief.

Before that September morning, when I awoke to the vision of dancing dust fairies in the streaming sunlight and the voice of God, I felt entirely left on my own. Since that day, I know I am never alone and I never have to feel that way again. I rely on that truth.

The resurrected life has far-reaching consequences of its own.

Ever since that day in Seoul, I’ve prayed relentlessly to see a change in my family’s legacy of dysfunction and addiction. I prayed for years that my children would learn about a different life than the one I knew before that day in Seoul — a resurrected life, a life for God.

I am seeing those prayers being answered each and every day, and I watch my children — and their children — live out their lives centered in Christ.

It’s miraculous.

Captured: Aftermath

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No one goes through a time of trial and heartbreak without being changed…

…and I’m no different.

The past months have been difficult, beyond difficult, and now that I’m on the flip-side of pain, I can take a moment and look back at that time and look towards the future with new insight.

Some of the insights are wonderful.

I’ve learned that I am resilient, that I overcome obstacles and that nothing can destroy me completely. I’ve learned that I am loved, that I have God-given gifts and talents, and that the only voice I really need ever listen to is God’s, because no one knows me like he.

I’ve learned to be content within the moment. I’ve learned to appreciate those I love and who love me, and to stop what I’m doing to spend a moment basking in the love of family and friends.

I’ve learned just how blessed I am and that I don’t need a significant other to be complete… something that has taken me my whole life to figure out. I am happy just being…

I’ve learned that it’s not when or if, but here and now… this moment is all I will ever need to be happy.

Being without a job and home for these months taught me to be humble, to rely on others when I prided myself on being self-sufficient, and to give God control of my life.

I’m grateful that, despite the stress, I always knew that God had me… that I would be alright. My faith and hope got me through, and got me through far better than I ever imagined or anticipated.

Yes, there are some changes that bother me.

I’ve lost trust in people, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or if it’s just temporary. I have given my heart so completely in the past and I’ve been burned. I always used to cherish that part of me… that I could trust and love so quickly without ‘guarding my heart’ as so many warned me against.

I don’t really want to trust so readily anymore and I want to guard my heart above all. Yes, I want to love others, but I don’t want to lay my life into anyone’s hands but God’s. That is where disappointments lay and where hurt resides. I put too much faith in others when they are only doing the best they can.

We are all doing the best we can and we fall so, so short.

I know that I can trust God completely and that’s it. Oftentimes I’m hurt by those who don’t mean to hurt me, but as part of the human experience, we just hurt each other. I hurt people… they hurt me. It’s a sad part of living in this fallen world.

So, yes I am changed.

I am happier just being…

I am excited for the future…

I have learned to guard my heart…

I have learned to relax and let God do his thing… because when I do, he provides wonderful, unexpected surprises!!

I love my new career and community…

I am loved and cherished…

Yep, It’s all good!

Captured: Athena

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No… that’s not Athena in the photo … that is me… a few years ago…

Yea I know…

it’s kind of something I kept quiet… scared of feeling lame, and pathetic and stupid… But, you know… it happened… it did… why hide it, why pretend… ????

The reason I share this is because I thought of this picture as I caressed my kitty, Athena, tonight as I settled in to fall asleep…

I got hurt a while ago, but I seriously think my cat was hurt worse than I … she was hit by a golf club, thrown against the wall, and so brutalized that she retreated under the bathroom cabinet… never leaving… not even to go to the bathroom… that poor cat was traumatized…

Yea… I was too… I remember one night in a hotel… just my kitty and me… scared to death of being found… scared of not living another day… it was a bad time…

But, that is now in the past…

I watch my sweet kitty, Athena, today… she has responded to love… to my caresses…. to good treatment and straight up love… I hate what happened to her… even more than I hate what happened to me… But, like Athena, I have been loved on too… I’ve been caressed and loved back to healing… not only from the people in my life who love me,  but from a greater love… my defender and the lover of my soul… ah, by Jesus!!! He has loved on me…

I KNOW that God is the greatest healer of all… I know that Athena and I were surrounded by angels on those days of despair, and pain, and unimaginable fear in California…

And, ah, my sweet, defenseless kitty… I know how I felt for my cat on those days… and I can only imagine how my savior felt for me on those same days…

Athena and I are good today and we forgive the one who hurt and scared us so…

Why???

Because he was hurt and scared, too … never, ever think that people who lash out in anger and violence are without hurt and fear themselves! I’ve prayed for this man… I forgive this man… I relate to him and empathize… and I hope that my Jesus is so loving on him!!!

Going to sleep now… remembering and thanking God for love and mercy… I share this not to garner attention to myself, but to share how GREAT is my God!!! He is AMAZING!!  And I love him so much… he who can save not only me, and my cat, but those who hurt us, as well!!!

PRAISE GOD!!

BTW, isn’t this the sweetest song ever?

Listening to it as I fall asleep…

You know, we all get hurt… and yet we all have the ability to heal by the love and grace of our savior … I’m grateful my kitty is alright today, despite what she went through…

… yea… I’m grateful I am too…

Thank you Jesus!

Here they are … Athena, and my puppy, Cosi! Happy at last… we are an AWESOME trio!! =)

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Nighty Nite…

Captured: Be Mine

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I love those little candy, Valentine hearts that say little things like ‘hug me’, ‘cute stuff’, ‘true love’. It was always so much fun to get those in the little bags we made in elementary school, decorated with lace paper and hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper. I would wait impatiently all day for the moment when we could open the bag, wondering if the boy I liked would give me one of those little, candy hearts with a cryptic message declaring his undying love for me… the beginning of a happily-ever-after love story.

I am the biggest, sappiest, girly-girl romantic on the planet and always have been. The only real dream I ever had was to fall in love and live happily ever after. I never cared about a career, or money, or success… I wanted to love and to be loved. However, I’ve never had a very good love story. I just haven’t. I’ve come so very close, but in the end, it just eludes me. It’s no one’s fault, really, and I don’t harbor resentment or blame. In fact, I’ve so often prayed that I learn to love unconditionally, without receiving anything in return for my love… well, perhaps God is just answering my prayer. Who knows??

I remember a sermon a while back, about Abraham’s willingness to offer his son as a sacrifice … the son he was promised to have, his dream, and the absolute love of his life … and the pastor asked us, ‘What are you holding back from God?’, ‘What dream are you unwilling to give up, keeping you from a fulfilling relationship with God?’ I was convicted then, and I’m convicted now… it’s my dream for a good love story here on Earth.

Ultimately, I do believe this …

God wants me to set my heart on him…

… and him alone.  And be completely satisfied in that.

John Eldredge’s books, Wild at Heart, Sacred Romance and Desire, and William P. Young’s, The Shack, have each had a huge impact on me about the subject of love… of true love… of God’s love story with us. God wants me to be head over heels in love with Him. He wants me to find the love and safety and comfort that I long for, in His own perfect love. He says it very plainly in Isaiah 43:2-4.

‘I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.’

I have gleaned from the Bible and the books I have mentioned that God is crazy about me. He loves me perfectly. Everything He does is to win my love, to romance me into his arms, to care for me. Everything. John Eldredge notes, ‘What he is after is us… our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our heart of hearts.’

I know how painful it is to be rejected… to have someone turn their back on you, to take another lover, to take your heart and toss it about… all of these have happened to me. John Eldredge says in Sacred Romance, ‘To make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our well-being to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.’

Oh, I do know this. However, I’m actually grateful for it (well, most of the time) because it does draw me into the comforting arms of my eternal love… the one who will never harm me and will always protect me.

I can only grasp how God must feel when we ignore Him or turn our backs on Him for stuff and people and pleasure and comfort and more stuff… idols all. He is a jealous God… not in the negative sense, but in the sense that he desires all of us in relationship, because he loves us so much. I’ve heard it said that God created males and females as a living metaphor for His relationship with us… to remind us of the love He desires to share with us.

However, because of our desire for a tangible, earthly love, we can create idols out of the very construct that should remind us of God’s love for us… the object of our affection can actually be the greatest hindrance to knowing God’s love fully. Recently, I have been reminded that this is precisely what led me away from God in the first place so many years ago. Because of my desire to be loved, I strayed away from God, chasing a worldly dream, beginning a journey filled with despair, rejection, extreme loneliness, a battle with alcoholism and very nearly death.

Eldredge says, ‘Our desire becomes insatiable because we’ve taken our longing for the Infinite and placed it upon finite things’.

Guilty. I often find myself daydreaming, longing for ‘someone’ and I can still so quickly forget that what I’m really longing for is God. Of course, we should hope for love in this life, for companionship. God says it’s not good to be alone, so yes, it’s good to hope for a love with whom we can navigate this life. But we must always be cognizant of where love truly resides and be completely satisfied in the greatest love story we’ll ever know … God’s love story with each of us.

In his book, Desire, Eldredge says,

‘God is the wellspring of everything that has ever romanced your heart…the thundering strength of a waterfall, the delicacy of a flower, the stirring capacity of music. The masculine and feminine that fill all creation come from the same heart. What we have sought, what we have tasted in part with our earthly lovers, we will come face to face with in our True Love.’

God romances me all the time and I don’t always realize it immediately… a perfect daisy along my path, a beautiful sunset, a butterfly landing on my shoulder. I remember my first solo vacation ever. I went to Thailand feeling lonely and blue. I was so reluctant to go on vacation alone and felt a bit pathetic. On the very first night, heading to Railay Beach all alone on a small, wooden, Thai boat, God romanced me with the most beautiful evening sky, filled with a gorgeous sunset, an already risen, perfect full moon and a thunderstorm on the horizon. It was so beautiful… of course, I was wishing I had someone there to share it with me, but I now see it as God romancing me, encouraging me to seek Him in the beauty of that place. I couldn’t help but be brought to my knees by such beauty. And I did. I spent the whole week with Him. It was a very meaningful, lovely vacation with ‘the lover of my soul’.

I’m also convinced that it is not the love I receive, but the love I give that enables me to even experience love at all. I want to be God’s love letter to those he places on my path and I want to love without expecting anything in return. God showed us how to love by giving us our freedom. He let us decide. He seeks us with pure love. He doesn’t force it on us because that would not be love. And he is patient with us. A quote from The Shack reminds us that…

‘So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing.’ 

I love that quote!! The more we know about a loved one… their quirks, their mannerisms, even their flaws… the more we come to love them… at least that has been my case.

I am reminded that the Bible tells us that God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. He knows everything we will ever do or think or feel. If love is the ‘skin of knowing’, then I can’t really even grasp how much he loves me. My knowledge of love is SO limited. And no one could ever even come close to loving me like he does. It reminds me how critical it is that I pursue him like he pursues me … to know Him, to spend time with Him and to seek Him.

Lately, a favorite Bebo Norman song, How You Love Me, has been the background music playing in my head as I go through my day. The lyrics say:

And should my dreams fall through
I will be safe with you
And with every breath I can breathe
I’ll sing about how you love me
I’ll sing about how you love me

Yes, God romances me … declaring His undying and unfailing love…offering little candy, Valentine Hearts that say ever so simply … but with such longing…

‘Be Mine’

 

 

Captured: Shut Your Mouth

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I mentioned in my post yesterday that my fear has been replaced with confidence. Not confidence in myself, but confidence in God.

With the loss of fear comes the loss of worrying about what others might think of me. God has been teaching me that the only opinion that matters is His and I KNOW his opinion of me. He thinks I’m awesome, and beautiful, and talented…

… and HIS!

Not so long ago, I worried about fully divulging my testimony. I worried that the ‘sordid details’ of my past might influence how others view me. I’ve suffered greatly in the past from that incessant malady known as ‘people-pleasing’. I wanted everyone to like me, and the fear that someone would find out too much about me was debilitating.

But, I’ve come to realize it’s not debilitating to me, but debilitating to God. And I’m becoming less concerned about whether people will like me and more concerned about whether they love God!

Satan has been telling me over the years to shut my mouth! The last thing he wants is for God’s Glory to be revealed in my life. He’d much rather keep me in the dark, mouth closed, muddling through a life enslaved to him in chains of shame, regret, fear and guilt.

I spent years revealing only parts of my testimony… the parts I felt safe to share. I taught in a Christian high school and I would share my testimony, but always with the caveat to keep it quiet. I was afraid that they’d tell others about my alcoholism without the part about what God did in my life. I was afraid I could lose my job, or worse, be judged. So, I hesitated and balked at sharing just how powerfully God has moved in my life. I stifled God.

I shut my mouth.

There is nothing worse than keeping secrets. The stress of trying to keep details about your life from coming out is the worst kind of bondage. And Satan knows it. He’s well aware that fear will keep us from bringing things into the light, so he whispers those things we dread…

… you’re a loser!

… you have no right to say anything to anyone!

… what will people think?

… If anyone ever knew the truth about you…

I’ve been thinking about my situation right now and all the losses I’ve incurred. I know they are not of God, but I also know that God will allow circumstances to happen… He allows Satan to mess with me if it’s for my good and for God’s plan. And I have to chuckle because Satan’s tricks have worked on me before. Many times, he’s gotten me to a place where I was completely ineffective for God… shut down, shut out, with my mouth SHUT! That’s his greatest desire and tool: preventing the power, and glory, and love of God to shine in this world through the testimony and lives of God’s children. Satan works day and night to make sure we are quiet… through shame, through guilt, through regret.

It didn’t work this time with me! I will not shut up. I will not hide. I will not keep my life secret. Because if I do… I’m turning my back on God!

‘If God is for me, who can be against me?’ (Romans 8:31)

So too bad for you, Satan… your little scheme backfired. And I can hear God chuckling right along with me, and the angels are singing and high-fiving each other… because their girl, Pam, will not shut her mouth!

Instead, I say to Satan, and all his little friends…

… you Shut YOUR mouth!!

Captured: The Death of Fear

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Just 6 months ago, all of my dreams seemed to be coming true. Everything was wonderful. I was engaged to a wonderful man and I believed it was an eternal love, ordained by God. I taught high school English and coached. I had a beautiful home and was soon to move into a new home with my new husband. I had a sufficient income, although it was always a struggle on a private teacher’s salary.

I was really happy. I felt safe. I was excited about the future.

And then, within a matter of weeks…

… No fiancé.

… No job.

… No home.

… No income.

All of the fears that I have harbored for most of my life came to pass all in one fell swoop. I was devastated. Heartbreak, panic, and utter disbelief flooded my whole being with a power that was more frightening than anything I have ever experienced. Honestly, I tear up just thinking about it.

I did the only thing I knew to do… I sought God. Whenever the pain became too great I would scream, begging God to do something.

… and he never failed to do something.

He never fails to do something…

He performs the miraculous in my life. He calms the storm within.  He provides just what I need the exact moment I need it. He has bound up my broken heart. He has filled the spaces occupied by loss and heartbreak and fear, with bounty and hope and joy and confidence.

And guess what? I didn’t crumbled. I didn’t break into a thousand pieces. I didn’t succumbed to depression and despair. I didn’t completely disintegrated. All the things I imagined would happen when I found myself in the midst of this Job-like experience didn’t happen.

I realize today that all of these things that happened, that I thought were going to destroy me, were really only answer to my prayers. In my prayers, I offered every part of my life to God… into His hands so that he could transform me… I prayed and prayed for God to mold and conform me into the woman he created me to be. And he answered my prayer through these losses, these trials.

I know this because I AM being transformed.

… by God’s UNFAILING LOVE!!

Today, my being is utterly consumed with hope instead of despair, with trust instead of panic, and with certainty instead of all the doubts that I knew only weeks ago.

Next weekend I will be moving in with my gracious daughter and son-in-law until I can get back on my feet and I am so very grateful for their love and generosity. Having to move in with my daughter at my age isn’t bothering me in the least. Six months ago, however, I would have been horrified at the thought of having nothing and needing to rely on others for my wellbeing. I’m grateful because God is replacing so much pride that I’ve harbored within me with humility, and His strength is replacing my weaknesses. And because I am ‘jobless’, I am in a position to pursue the gifts that God instilled in me and for which I am passionate … writing about His Glorious Name and revealing the beauty of His creation through photography.

Above all, God has dealt with me directly about my fear. His perfect love has cast that from me… I fear nothing. Honestly, I fear nothing. I lost my fear of death years ago because Heaven awaits me. And yet, I’ve struggled with fear over my time here on Earth. But, you know what? I’ve been through everything here. I’ve lived through the death of loved ones. I’ve been through the hell of addiction. I’ve been through emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual assault. I’ve lost the love of a man. I’ve lost my income and my home. And I’ve been through many, many other difficult experiences.

But, I HAVE GOD!!!

… And that’s ALL I need.

Not that long ago I would have been mortified to reveal my circumstances and my ‘failures’ to close friends, let alone to the world, but what matters is not if I’m ‘proud’ of my life or my experiences. NO! I am just SO very, very proud of my God … at what He has done and can do with this little life he gave to me.

It’s not about me!

It’s about God!!

Everything is and should be about God! However, it’s through my experiences and my hurts and my trials that God’s power and unfailing love can be revealed! And I want that!! I want to show him off to anyone who will listen!!

THIS IS MY GOD!!! Check him OUT!!

I no longer question God about the trials I face. I don’t question the trials any of us face. Yes, I need to be compassionate, empathetic and BE the loving arms of Christ to show His love to those who are going through the storms, like so many did for me. However, I don’t pity those in the midst of storms. I don’t pity myself. I know what can come and how God can transform and truly bring roses from ashes. Instead, I ‘consider it pure joy to face trials of many kinds’, as Paul reminded James.

God still has a lot of molding and transforming to do in me and I know that trials will come… but that’s cool! I’ll be all right!! I won’t crumble. I won’t succumb to despair. I won’t disintegrate. God has me under the shelter of his wings, in the arms of His son and in His heart forever… He truly is my eternal love!

So, I say in response:

… Adieu Despair

… Adieu Doubt

… Adieu Fear

Rest in Peace!

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