Monthly Archives: December 2015

The last sunrise of the year…

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At the moment of sunrise, the eastern sky lights up a brilliant orange over the downtown Austin area. The tallest silhouetted building is the Austoinian. This panorama was captured from the Zilker Park Clubhouse just west of the city.

As I look out my window at the last sunrise of the year, I can’t help but think of all of the good stuff  of 2015 – and, of course, some of the bad stuff of 2015, that I want to change in 2016.  I always find people’s thankful lists telling. I’m a big, “love language” kinda girl.  You can usually figure out what someone’s love language is by their “thankful list.”

My Honey will usually talk about a good conversation with me or one of our kids where he felt affirmed as a dad or husband.  He might mention a great tour he had or something awesome at church when he played with the band.  All of these things have one thing in common – the words that people say to him.  His love language is words of affirmation.  Words can build him up immensely or tear him down horribly.  Caleb and Aaron have the same love language and every time we get together with them, our conversations are full of what people said to them or about them that caused them to feel great or not so great.

Hannah and I share the same primary love language and if you’ve seen my facebook posts, you probably know that quality time is how I feel most loved.  If someone is willing to make time for me, I feel loved beyond measure.  If we had any doubt about Hannah feeling the same way, it all went away when we went couch shopping a few months ago.  We were in the store looking at various designs.  Hannah kept going back to the sectional – which I felt was a bit big for the area we have in our living room.  As I explained this to her, she sat down on it and said, “I know, but I can sit right here and all of my brothers can fit on it with me and we’d all be together.”  The couch was on it’s way to our home within the hour…  How do you say “No” to that?!

Besides, I believe her secondary love language is gifts and mine is acts of service, so this was a win-win for both of us!!

So, here is my list, and the order is not indicative of the importance, but probably more about how recently it occurred or how memories come to mind when you spend time recalling a year…

I’m thank for:

-my friend, Giselle, who stored our Hannah’s trailer and loaned us their truck and encourages me and my daughter in a way that few women have in my life.  We have lunch less than a half a dozen times a year, but our conversation sustains me and lifts me for the months in between because she is a woman of honor and she chooses to be my friend and make time for me whenever I text her, “Lunch?”  I also love that her family loves my kombucha and she randomly and often leaves gifts by my front door that always come when I need them most.  I think Giselle’s love language is gifts…

-my team at work.  I have never worked with a team of teachers (there are 6 of us, btw, all women) that I have such respect for in the classroom.  I would put any of my own children in any one of their classrooms without thinking twice.  They are all committed to their students in ways that go above and beyond teacher responsibilities daily.  Everyone contributes to the whole, supports each other and steps in for anyone on our team who needs help – and we’ve all taken our turns.  I love that I can connect and laugh with anyone of them when I need to see the humor in the events of a rough day or situation.  This is such a rare dynamic and I dread the day when it ends, which it surely will.  Until then I marvel at the gift these ladies are to me and to the 1st grade students at our school.  Which leads me to my kiddos at work.  I adore them and I’m so thankful that their parents entrust them to me each year.  It is a mystery to me how precious each and every one of my babies that walks through my classroom door is, and how He gives me the capacity to treasure and adore every one of them.

-my friend, Connie, who although she lives in Michigan, still makes time for me when I call and dump my junk on her because she knows and loves my family well and she’s one of my safe people in this not-so-safe world.  I’m thankful for her husband and her children who I love right back.  I’m thankful for her sense of humor and her perspective that is always lined with grace.  I also love that she’s into all of the ferments and healthy living that I am so passionate about and we teach each other new stuff every time we get together.

-my time each morning with my Father.  I had stopped making time for several years when I first moved to Texas for all sorts of “reasons” that just seem lame now.  But, in the middle of 2014 I committed to consistently making this time a priority every day and I have for well over a year now.  As I expected, in spite of some painful things happening this past year, I walked through with the assurance that I was (usually) in His will and with the peace that knowing I had put it in His hands and that I didn’t have to carry it anymore.  My favorite part of being His child has always been having peace that passes understanding.  For me, a girl who struggles with worry, control, and insomnia, it is the stuff.

-the trips we took as a family this past year.  We went to Arizona, Port A, Seattle, and Portland.  Being stuck in the car with my husband and my kiddos is a dream come true for me.  I love the conversations, the cuddling, the memories, and all that goes with a long road trip with the people I most love in this world.  For me, it’s usually just as great as reaching our destination.  I am especially thankful that our kiddos made time to do these trips with us even though they’re all grown up.  This mama feels loved when her grown babies make time to be together.

-our church and our small group.  We transferred to the south Austin campus this year and our entire family feels like we’re finally home.  It has been too many years since my Honey and I served at church and we are back in the swing of things and loving every moment.  After years of trying to find a small group that was a good fit, we have found one that we both love and are growing in.  I can’t tell you what an answer to prayer this is for all of us.  We are blessed and no longer alone.

-Destiny Project brought me back to life again.  This helped me reconnect with my Heavenly father in a way I have longed to for soooooooo long and gave me my heart back again.  My marriage and my family are restored because of this ministry and what He does through it.  I’m thankful that I was able to go and my heart was open enough to allow a miracle to happen.  I’m also thankful that I made friends with some of the most beautiful women God has created.  All beautiful because of who He is to them and in their lives.

-my children and where they all are in their journeys.  I love that our kiddos are all finding their way in this world.  Some of them are taking classes to prepare for their future, some of them are creating things they are passionate about, some of them are risking it all to live the life they feel called to live, and all of them are working hard to be able to take the next step.  I am thankful that they are all healthy and pursuing their dreams.  My prayer for all of them is that they follow His lead and be in His will because He knows their hearts better than anyone and He has a plan that is perfect for their lives. – Another thing that I am thankful for!

-this place… This blog helps me keep my sanity.  He made me this way, that written words are how I best communicate and work through the junk in my head, my life, my relationships, my world.  I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made, the fears I’ve faced, the difference He’s made through me just telling my story.  I’m thankful for the grace and love I’ve received and been able to offer through this media space where I wear my heart on my sleeve and pray for mercy.

-my Honey’s (kinda) new job.  It was a huge leap of faith giving him my support to retire from teaching and switch careers at this point in our lives.  I only agreed to this when He made it very clear that He was opening this door for my husband and we needed to walk through.  Daily I received confirmation that we made the right choice when I see how happy, purposeful, and respected my husband is.  It makes for a happy life when you faithfully follow the path He has for you and I am so grateful that my husband has found his place and that he receives words of affirmation on the regular because he is where he’s supposed to be.

-my Honey.  He and I have been through it, I tell ya.  We’ve weathered storms that seemed to go on endlessly.  We spent years tripping over our own egos and trying to figure out when the other one would get their junk together.  We’ve raised LOTS of kiddos, faced serious health issues, dealt with exes, in-laws, and steps, moved across the country, lost almost everything, worked together, worked apart, purchased and sold homes, been bored, been overwhelmed, nursed each other, resented each other, adored each other, paid bills together, thanked God for each other, almost divorced each other, and here we are.  This year was the good stuff, the transparent place where we know we are completely accepted and that the other stuff is just stuff and we can get through it all because we already have.  Where we’re old enough to know to treasure the moments of laughter and love because they are fleeting and precious.  Where we agree and are in awe that we have created the most amazing people walking this earth who choose to love us and call us mom and dad.

I know there are SO many other things I have to be thankful for this past year, but once I hit 2000 words, I feel like it’s time to start winding things up so that we can all get on with our day.  I believe it’s important to focus on our blessings.  I think that it’s okay to have a rough patch and not feel guilty because you want to wallow for a bit and not put on your big girl (or boy) panties (or boxers?) until tomorrow or next month.  I’ve been so low that I just couldn’t get there and all of that anecdotal happy, joy b.s. just made me feel more isolated and alone, but I’ve also been in less low places more often when focusing on the good stuff is just what I needed to climb out of the funk and get up on my feet again.

I pray you have a list of the good stuff this year.  I pray you savor it and understand that even though it will end and bad, even horrible stuff will happen at some point (and I’m so sorry if you are in the bad or horrible right now), that the good, and even fantastic stuff will come again, too.  This is true for all of us who walk this Earth.  The human condition can be a rollercoaster ride.  I have decided that I am holding on, screaming at the top of my lungs and finally throwing my hands up over my head because I don’t want to miss a minute of the click, click, click as I approach that big drop, the dips, the corkscrew spins with my barefeet dangling, or the straight-away, slow-down time before I hear the screech of the brakes pulling into the station because the ride is over.  This ride is temporary.  I don’t want to close my eyes or heart and miss what He has for me, even when I don’t want it…

Happy New Year!!  

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Slippery Slopes, Potholes & Divots

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slippery slope

A slippery slope

I remember finding out that he was coming.  I was over the moon about it.  They told me there may be two of them on their way, but after a few days of fretting about the possibility, an ultrasound revealed one perfect baby boy growing healthy in my welcoming womb.  That was almost 30 years ago.  It wasn’t my first pregnancy, but it was my first planned pregnancy and the first one I would carry to term.

Sometimes it is mind-boggling to me how much my first pregnancy affected my entire life, especially the way in which I raised my children.  When I was 19 years old and in college becoming very liberal, I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing by terminating my pregnancy.  Years later, after I gave birth to my twins, I would finally face the enormity of taking the life of my first child, and lay it down at His feet.  But from the moment I gave birth to my oldest son, I was fully aware of God’s mercy and grace, although I didn’t claim to be His follower at that point.

I remember thinking something along the lines of “I can’t believe He would allow me the privilege of raising this perfect little boy after what I’ve done,” in the hospital delivery room.  I felt like I owed God so much for blessing this unworthy girl with the biggest joy of my life, so I worked everyday to devote myself to being the most amazing and perfect mama there ever was.  Which in real talk means I became a neurotic perfectionist.

I made sure that my son felt treasured and protected from anything and everything that might cause him discomfort.  I sat up at night in the summer to be sure bugs wouldn’t land on him if a mosquito or fly was buzzing around inside our home.  I nursed him for 5 months, rocked him to sleep every night until he was almost 2, read to him whenever he’d allow it, rarely fed him store-bought baby food unless I couldn’t find time to make it myself, talked with him endlessly.  When he was older I would stay up at night to fix the periods and commas on his homework so that he wouldn’t have to feel any rejection at school.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him hurting in any way.  I had a neurotic fear that if I didn’t do things well enough, God would take him back.

I remember once when he was about 6 months old, I made one of the worst decisions I could’ve made.  I’m embarrassed as I begin to type these words, afraid of what you will think of me.  My son had been sick for several days and his father had come home very late, in no condition to help me.  I called my parents and asked them to pick up some things for my baby and they helped, but were vocal about why my husband didn’t take care of this.  He worked for them, so they were very aware of his schedule.  When we ran out of formula and the medicine my baby needed a couple of days later, I was too embarrassed to call anyone, so I bundled my little guy up, drove to the store and locked him in the car while I ran through the blustery snow to grab formula and medicine.  I was only in there for about 10 minutes, watching the car the entire time.  As I was leaving the store, a police car pulled up to mine and an angry officer came charging up to me as I hurried to the car.  He screamed at me that someone would be coming to my home later that evening to pick up my son because I was such a neglectful mother.  He asked me if I knew how much danger I had put my child in.  He told me to enjoy the next few hours because I might not have any more time with my son once a judge saw what an awful mom I was.  I drove home nearly hysterical and spent the next several hours apologizing to my baby, and trying to make the most of my last few hours with my son.

They never showed up.  I never heard from anyone ever again about any of it.  I had escaped my deserved fate twice now and I wasn’t going to test the three strike rule.

I’ve never left any of my children in the car alone for even a hot minute.  I still can’t believe I made such a terrible decision.  My only defense is that I was young, exhausted, alone and I felt desperate to get the things my baby needed and for some reason, I thought the snowstorm was more of a threat to him than being left in a car alone in a huge public parking lot.  I know…

Through the years I worked very hard to teach my son how to be giving and generous and most importantly how to love without condition.  I talked  with him about these things and I modeled it as consistently as I could as I parented him through the years.

His father and I divorced when our son was almost 2 years old.  Just after he turned 3, I married his stepdad.  I acquired a stepson who is just 3 months younger than my son and I commenced attempting to become the world’s most perfect step/mom.  My husband and I decided to wait to have any more children so that our sons could be our focus and they could get a firm foundation of security in our family.  Our daughter was born the day before our 4th anniversary and I continued to be a neurotic mama.  Again, the vulnerability of losing one of our children to something caused by my neglect or oversight was just more than I could bear.  In my son’s 7 years of life I think I had only gotten more protective and controlling.  The normal relaxation that parents experience with additional children didn’t happen to me.

I was homeroom mom, PTA president, I headed up and helped with more ministries at church than I can recollect.  I was obsessed with our children having wonderful memories and raising them to be contributing members of society who were full of compassion and eager to help their fellow man and follow Christ.  The irony is that I thought it all hinged on what I did and said, while leaving very little to Christ.  I guess I didn’t model faith very well…

It backfired on me a bit.  I found that when you spend all of your time and energy on being a martyr, you raise children that are shocked and angry when you suddenly attempt to have healthy boundaries.  This was a shock to me.  I was absolutely confident that my children would want to step-up as they grew up and meet others’ needs intuitively.  I thought that they would rise up and call me blessed…

They definitely rose up…   and then things got really ugly for awhile – kind of a long while.  I reacted badly to the part where they spread their wings and leave the nest.  They dug their heels in and as I freaked out, I had a lot of alone time to analyse the situation.  First I spewed about why my ungrateful brats were completely in the wrong, then I justified why I had done nothing wrong and listed all of the marvelous (perfect) things I had done as their mama, then I beat myself up for all of it.  Finally,  I decided to close my mouth, reign in my thoughts, open my ears and my heart so that I could hear their hearts.  It was not a walk in the park.  It did not happen overnight or in a conversation or two, but somewhere along the way, I humbled myself and waded through the hurt to the truth and the amazing thing was that when I did that, my children followed my example and heard my heart.  There were lots of apologies, new perspectives and a whole bunch of grace.

pothole

He’s forgiven me for my horrible choice so many years ago.  It has been very difficult for me to accept his grace because of the magnitude of my sin and my inability to think like He does because of my human limitations.  The cool thing is that I find that as I embrace his forgiveness, I am able to have healthier boundaries with the people I care for most, including myself.  I no longer see Him as a Father who is just waiting for me to mess up so that He can punish me for not being even close to perfect.  He wants me to do the “right” things because I feel led to do it, not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t – and this isn’t news to me.  On some level I’ve always known this in my head, but wounds can cause us to live enslaved, making important choices based on fear and guilt.  The ripple effect of that can be detrimental to generations.  Sometimes the regret for all of my bad choices still overwhelms me.  I can see how it’s affected my children in their own relationships and reactions to what life deals them.  This mama’s heart struggles to not get caught up in the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”  I swear when we give birth to our first child, a “guilt” chromosome is inserted into women’s brains.  On the good days, when I’m wise,  I fall back on Him.  I focus on having  faith that He has this all in His hand and He will honor and bless my mustard seed faith.  On the bad days, I don’t have faith like I do on the good days and then I waste time worrying, making the same mistakes as before and thinking I know best and have control of things.  I wish I didn’t have bad days at all, but I still do and I’m thankful that He extends grace to me and He’s all about do-overs.  I think that before I would spiral into control mode and for the longest time, that was my slippery slope, but the field has leveled off as I’ve learned to have more faith in Him and now it’s more like a pothole or a quick detour before getting right back on the path.  I’m working toward it becoming a divot or swerve in the near future, as I don’t expect I’ll ever be perfect in this area (or any other).  I have more peace now and things work out so much better when I follow His lead, embracing whoever and whatever He blesses me with.

It only took me nearly a half a century to get here, but it’s enough…

divot

 

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

Well, it’s over.  The food has been consumed.  The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper collected, the dishes washed (for the eighth time), and the memories have been made.  This was one of the good ones.

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

I loved that every single gift that was given was perfect for the receiver.  Now, before you perhaps misunderstand, gifts are kept to a minimum in our family and have been for many years now.  I’ve worked very hard to teach my children by example that we don’t believe that Christmas is about the insanity of greed that we believe it has become in our culture, but that it is most importantly about Jesus and spending time with the people we most love in the world.  I regress…  What was so lovely to me about this part of our holiday was that it was obvious we all chose gifts that we put a lot of thought into.  There was the joy in being truly known and loved deeply around our Christmas tree.

I felt so blessed to have 2 days full of yummy food, and that much of it was healthy and lots was not, but all of it was delicious.  We are a foodie family, which means that great food and drink are the foundation on which we build our time together.  It brings a satisfaction to everything when we are assembled.  Shrimp diablos, a lazy susan overrun with cheese of various origins, ribeyes on the grill, smoothies, shrimp cocktail, smashed redskins, broiled asparagus, lime bars, quiche, peanut butter kisses, oatmeal brulee’ with granny smith apples & cranberries, dark fudge with walnuts, Christmas sangria, veggies in every color imaginable, eggnog, guacamole, frappuccino, pico de gallo, monkey bread with fresh raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries, and of course, green bean casserole.

Opening gifts on Christmas eve, sleeping in on Christmas morning, green & red oatmeal brulee’, stockings in the morning, grazing all afternoon while watching A Christmas Story in comfy clothes and no makeup, piled all over each other, with cell phones turned off.

Listening to our children laugh uproariously late on Christmas eve because they’re making a video of one of them dancing with abandon while I lie in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks praising Him for this undeserved moment of heavenly joy.

Being reminded of days gone by when our “baby” still wakes up a little grumpy because he’s (ALWAYS) hungry, another wakes up looking, just for a moment, like the little imp you held each morning so many years ago (or was that yesterday?), and yet another practically glows because her love language is quality time and she knows she still has a full day of it with the people she loves most in this world.

There’s something about great conversation.  It feeds my soul in a way not a lot of other things do.  I find it interesting that some of my best nourishment comes from conversations with my adult children.  They are some of the rare people I’ve experienced quality exchanges with.  We have varying opinions about some topics that many people avoid – politics, religion, homosexuality, abortion, etc. – and we have this beautiful way of hearing each other.  Sometimes it gets heated and we don’t always do this perfectly, but when we have one of our really beautiful exchanges of words, it just blesses me right down to the core of my being.  There is something about acceptance and respect that is highly underrated, in my opinion.  It’s a gift to have multiple opinions vying to be heard and not have anyone feel the need to “play devil’s advocate” just to feel superior or not have anyone make up “facts” from the articles they can’t recall the name of, but they swear they’ve read to backup their argument, and it’s especially wonderful to not have anyone take cheap, disrespectful shots when they aren’t “winning” the “argument.” (All things I’ve experienced with less rare people who I’ve had not-so-quality exchanges with.)  It’s freeing when you realize that your objective isn’t to sway others to your own opinion, but to be heard and understood as well as hear and understand.  It’s also more than a little difficult when you first realize your children no longer follow your beliefs blindly, but have their own opinions and some of them may go directly against what you value deeply.  Don’t get me wrong… It’s glorious, too, witnessing your offspring come into his/her own, but dealing with this growth in your child, nudges you to (somewhat painfully) grow a bit, too.

I woke up two days ago and asked Him to help me focus on all of my blessings and to have peace about the decisions others have made that have affected me painfully.  Holidays have not typically been something I’ve looked forward to in the past.  I’ve had a bunch of those ones that people make memes about, dark comedic movies about or SNL skits about. But this year was different, because I had a really wonderful Christmas.  I received gifts from my husband and children that screamed, “You are known and loved.”  He gave me joy, peace and love in abundance.  He gave me a slew of memories that I will continue to be blessed by, day after day and year after year.  I feel like I grew a little because I am learning that holidays don’t look the same to everyone and what ruins those special days for me isn’t that the days are bad, it’s that they don’t look like my mind expects them to – and that if I allow Him to lead the way, the day looks exactly like it should and that’s much better than what my mind expected.  This Christmas was more than I could’ve hoped for and definitely much more than I deserve.

 

James Code

James is one of my very favorite books of the Bible and this was my husband’s gift to me.

 

 

 

Brainstorm

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brainstorm

 

Usually when I post on my blog it’s because He’s put something on my heart to share in hopes that others who struggle with the same junk will be encouraged, or at the very least, not feel so alone.  Today I’m just feeling like I need to push myself to write because it’s good for my soul.  I’m a little nervous about just writing and putting it out there without a well organized agenda.  I’ve written plenty of posts whose main purpose was to help me work through painful junk in my life, but I couldn’t actually post them because they may have been seen as an attack on the person who had caused me pain.  I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I wanted to lash out with my words, but (so far) I’ve behaved myself.

I’m tired.  I’m ready for some changes in my life – some big, some not so big.  I’m trying to be sure that the changes I decide to move ahead with are chosen because He’s leading me that way and not just because of my emotions about the status quo of those situations.  I’m trying to be careful because of the “Unraveling” that entering my 50’s has caused.  I don’t want to make major life decisions, and then have my family (or me) live with bad consequences because of my choices.

There’s a part of me that keeps trying to figure out what happened to the past 25 years of my life.  I mean, I remember it.  I even remembering savoring every last drop of the time I had with my children.  I remember trying to make every holiday special so that they would look back and feel treasured.  Pool parties with all of the neighborhood kids, reading book after book, cuddling, trips to museums, water parks, visiting relatives, friends – these were all part of our time together.  The funny thing is that I still wonder how it went so fast.  I question how I could’ve done it all better, made it more special, been more present, created a stronger bond…

It’s one of the most painful and truly wonderful experiences in the entire everything; being a mom.  It’s a common theme in our culture.  Mom sacrifices it all to raise her kiddos well.  She gives up her career, her interests and social life for a while, and her dignity now and again, all for the sake of investing in other human beings that will buck her authority, break multiple valuables in her home, put the kibosh on her sex life, embarrass her in public, become bipolar in their teens and cause her to lose her mind waiting for them to come home safely once they have a driver’s license.  We’re more than happy to do it because we absolutely ADORE our little monsters and no sacrifice is too great.

and then they move out and move on.  Now, if we’re played this thing out smart, we still have friendships we’ve cultivated through the years, we can return to a career we love if we choose, our marriage is still intact because we’ve nurtured our relationship through the years.  If we haven’t, we may be in for a HUGE unraveling.  I find that I’m somewhere in the middle of this whole thing.  *Disclaimer:  I believe it’s a rare woman who escapes the unraveling completely.

I have returned to my career.  My marriage is intact.  I’ve several close friends in Michigan, but very few in Texas.

Unfortunately, the unraveling can cause your feelings of dissatisfaction to grow exponentially and it’s been my experience that it’s hard to tell when the feelings are really from Him and true, or when I’m allowing emotions and worldly junk to cloud my vision.  I’m just being honest… Sometimes I panic a little and think, “Holy crap!  This is how old I am and I probably don’t have much time left.  What have I done with the time He’s given me?!” – and then I feel trapped in a house I just want to move out of, a career I feel disrespected in (mostly), a life I feel is steeped in mediocrity, and the clock just keeps on ticking.

I also have moments when I can’t believe how blessed I am, but the unraveling is almost always there now, reminding me that time is slipping away and in the big picture I am not content with where I’ve been or how far I’ve come.  None of this has to do with my gratefulness for all He has blessed me with.  It has everything to do with what I’ve done with the life He’s blessed me with.  I get stuck in between that place of not being content in where I’m at, along with feeling like I’m a bad Christian if I long for more, and being confident that He’s the one who placed the unrest in me so that I will be more in His will.  I’m just not always sure I know which path He’s leading me down, so then I stall and wait and worry that I’m wasting more precious time because I’m not even a good enough Christian to know if it’s God or me that’s nudging me to move…

I wonder if other people feel this way.  I wish I could see into the future and know what decisions I will choose to move ahead with and if I will be any more in His will than I am now.

– Who doesn’t?!

So… there’s my ramble for the day.  This is me being transparent and raw, not wanting any well-meaning Christians to throw anecdotal Christianity at my struggle.  My hope is that I will hear/see/feel clearly what He desires for me and then very obviously open the doors He wants me to walk through.  I’m a hammer on the head kinda girl…  He knows that.  He created me that way.

Rambling brainstorm over… for now.