Category Archives: Family

Love Covers

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Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

Revelations from a weekend

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God doesn’t love us despite who we are, He adores us and delights in us because of who we are.  We are daughters (and sons) of the King who loves us without condition.

That moment when you realize that you used to do the “right” thing to set an example for your little girl and now you think of what she would do in order to do the right thing. 

We share our opinions and judgements a bunch more than His love.

Use me for Reconciliation.

Lord, pry our fingers from the earthly.

I want to do things with God, not just for Him.

Color-blind is stupid and kind of insulting.

I want to be in His will.  I want to really love like Him.  

I want to be brave enough to live in Faith.

It isn’t the BIG thing that we do that builds others up or makes a real difference for the Kingdom, but the everyday sprinklings that we take the time for daily in other people’s lives. 

Ramblings, er… Confessions of the Day

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true-confessions

Idiosyncrasies.  We all have them.

Right? 

When I look through our photos, in and out of albums, I have this urge to place my index finger and thumb on the corners to make them bigger.  I have to remind myself that I can only do that on my phone.  Modern technology has messed with my brain.

I get up extra early during the week in order to spend time with my Father and practice yoga, but I often end up looking at fb and then trying to cram God and yoga into a 20 minute space.  Other mornings, when I’m feeling grumpy or worried, I try to force myself to write something “thankful” first because some older Christian told me that was the right way to approach God a long time ago and I still feel guilty if I don’t do this.  Because God doesn’t know that I’m really thinking about the negative junk if I write “Good morning, God.  Thank You for…” before I dump the other stuff at His feet.

Sometimes I text my kids in the next room or upstairs because I’m too lazy to walk to where they are or even to the bottom of the stairs to tell them something.

When I’m overly tired I will often go to bed and look at all of my phone apps for an hour before I go to sleep and then I start the following day even more tired, determined not to be so stupid again… but I do it all over again most of the time…

I’ve been a mom and kinder/1st grade teacher for such a long time that I don’t really know how to start conversations with adults who aren’t the parents of my children’s friends or the parents of my students.

My obsessive compulsion is that I “clean” my fingers off with my other fingers and if I miss a spot, I have to start over again where I last “cleaned” completely.  

I struggle to know God as my Father who loves me unconditionally.  I struggle to believe I’m worth the work and the grace He invests in me even though I can totally believe He does this for others.  They just mostly seem so much more loveable than I am…

I have a hard time sticking up for myself.  I’ve thought about why.  You know, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  I think it’s fear of finding out no one really cares.  I have absolutely NO trouble sticking up for my children or other people I love – often when it’s not my place to do so.  So, basically I suck at defending everyone in one way or another.

Being in my 50’s freaks me out sometimes.  I finally feel more freedom to be who I am meant to be, yet it feels as if I’m running out of time and I’ve done so little with the time I’ve been given.  Mid-life crisis, much?

Sometimes I compare sins in my brain to try to feel better about myself and then I remember all of the horrible and embarrassing junk I’ve done and I feel super grateful and relieved that there is forgiveness and grace.  I also feel embarrassed that my thoughts were so horrible and arrogant.

I have a really cool Bible app on my phone that I listen to every morning and often my first reaction to the choices some people made, like Lot’s wife looking back (seriously, how simple is it NOT to turn around for a bit?!), or eating from the one lousy tree He told them not to, is to feel disgusted because I’m sure I would’ve made MUCH better decisions than those dummies…  and sometimes when my husband says what I’m thinking out loud, I don’t always say, “I KNOW, right?!”  Sometimes I just explain why we would do the same thing as those dummies and act a little like I’m superior because I’m willing to be so humble and admit I am just as dumb as the people in the Bible.

Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Grief… Observed

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grieving hands

It’s the season of thankfulness.

Have you seen the meme on social media that says something to the effect of, “We can always find something to be thankful for?”  It’s probably true, but sometimes I think that memes likes this should be taken out back and shot.  When you’ve just lost your child… when your spouse of 20 years has betrayed you…  when your mother has turned her back on you… when the diagnosis is what you’ve been dreading… when you can’t provide for your children and have nowhere to turn…  when you are spending the holiday ALL Alone…

It’s okay to grieve and not try to figure out what you have to be thankful for – for a minute.

I’m all about practicing thankfulness.  I wake up most mornings and go straight to my journal to write my Father a letter and it almost always starts with appreciation for some of the amazing ways He has blessed me.  Some mornings I start out with confession or a desperate plea for myself or someone I love.  I show up and I invest in my relationship with Him.  He’s okay that some days I’m wallowing in grief or anger and can’t get past it just yet.  He knows we’re human – He made us that way.

I know there are people who live firmly planted in the grief, the drama, the self-pity of life.  I know we can’t throw a blanket statement over people not living in “happy” and make it all go away.  I know that in my experience, when grieving people feel heard and accepted, they tend to pick up and move forward in emotional health.  I think it’s when people aren’t allowed to sit with their grief and work through their junk they end up in much worse shape later.  I believe stuffing down grief and not dealing with pain is like slowly poisoning yourself.

I’ve known people who encourage others to move on because they think they’re being helpful.  I’ve been the person who “helps” others move on before they’ve worked through things because I thought it was time or their stuff made me uncomfortable or I wanted to be the hero.  I’ve done it to my children more than anyone – mostly because I thought I was making everything peaceful.  It was part of my Stepford appearance routine.  It blew up in all of our faces a few years ago and I stopped doing it… mostly.

It’s still my go-to when things get ugly and uncomfortable.  It wraps it all up neatly and reasonably quickly and we can move on…  except that there’s a bomb inside the box that was wrapped up neatly and quickly and what feels like peace now is actually buried resentment, hurt, anger, rejection, and a million other kinds of schrapnel that only grow with time and lack of attention.

I know we all want to have a Norman Rockwell kind of Thanksgiving.  I know we get tired of the family members that show up and don’t always play nice and help us sweep the junk under the rug.  I have mama-moments of just wishing everyone could get along and make it through the day with no arguing.  I was raised in that life.  We rarely made it through a gathering without someone being told off or told to “get out” by one parent and then we had to move on (other parent), so I long for a “perfect” holiday with smiles on everyone’s faces, delicious food, laughter and loving, thankful conversation, and a shiny clean house.  – and while I’m at it, I wish that everyone had the day off and could come for the whole day and that the weather would be sunny and warm, but not too warm, and that we could do it at the “normal” day and time everyone else does.

But, most of that won’t happen just the way I’m picturing and yearning for right now.  – and that’s just gotta be okay.  I can find SO much to be thankful for even though I will be mourning things in my life come Thanksgiving morning – and the following day because that’s when we’ll be celebrating mostly, because of work schedules.  Our gathering will probably be more peaceful than in years past because we allow each other to grieve and be angry now.  When I tell my son my feelings are hurt, he asks me why and we talk about it.  Somehow once he asks me sincerely why I’m hurt, I can see his heart in a much better, truer light and I know it isn’t as big a deal as my mind made it.  It typically takes us all of less than 10 minutes to talk through what we both experienced before we step into peace with a hug and an “I love you.”  Sometimes we have to tell each other that we want to talk about it, but one or both of us prefers to wait until the following day – and it’s okay when you have honor between you and a record of calling or showing up the next day to revisit the tabled issue.  When my children point out something I’m doing that isn’t honoring or healthy, it takes me much less time to own it than it used to.  I still don’t like it, but now I understand that it’s okay to not be a perfect mom (or perfect anything!), but it’s NOT okay to pretend that I am (because NO one is) and get angry like my world is crashing down all around me when my children hold me accountable for my junk.

I think this year I am most thankful for the laughter and love of my children and my husband, the faithfulness, mercy and grace of God, and the gift of family and friends – both of which we will have at our Thanksgiving gathering in our messy house, on dishes with chips, and food that is amazing.  I will mourn some broken relationships and the building of walls. I will grieve for those who cannot find their way to thankfulness and pray they will in time.  I will also give thanks that this is one of the years that I am able to rejoice and be thankful because I have known days when I could not find one thing to be thankful for because my heart was broken and my life was shattered.  I am thankful for a God who wrapped His arms around me and let me grieve and work through anger rage in His silence and love and continues to walk with me as I move on, striving to love like Him.

Destiny’s Project

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desert

I’ve been in the desert for about 8 years now…

Just before we left Michigan in 2007, our church fell apart in a painful, ugly split, my family of origin began the “dysfunctional disenfranchisement” (as I fondly refer to it), our closest friends seemed to step back a bit in preparation for the upcoming 1/2 of a country away separation, and another group of women who had regularly met in my home for several years, and I counted as good friends, suddenly excluded me, hurting me deeply. Just after leaving Michigan we began making two huge house payments because we couldn’t sell our house in Michigan and we purchased a brand new, furnished home in Texas.  A year after we moved to Texas, with our finances depleted, a week after we had decided to foreclose on our Michigan home, we sold it by paying the buyer $1200!

When we arrived, we knew almost no one.  Finding a homeschool community for our kiddos was my priority for the first several months.  The kids and I spent time exploring Austin and figuring out where we could fit in.  My husband struggled to find a place to fit in musically and had a rough time of adjusting to returning to teaching in a new state, especially with his wife and children in Michigan for the first 4 months he was in Texas without us.  We would talk on the phone for 1-4 hours every night.  He was incredibly lonely and I was busy at home in Michigan packing, cramming in last visits, and as much school as possible trying to be both parents to our kiddos who missed their daddy a bunch.

The first 6 months in Texas were lonely for me, but I was busy painting the kids’ rooms, finding homeschool groups and activities for my kids, as well as getting acclimated to our new surroundings.  Sometime after that first 6 months, things began to go sour in our marriage.  My Honey couldn’t find a band to join that fit his style or his talents.  He felt like he moved to the Live Music Capital of the World to really use his gifts and then he couldn’t figure out how to get into the “scene.”  He was also in his early 40’s, suddenly making much less than he had.  He was still recovering from the beating he took for almost a decade at his previous job.  It took awhile to find a church that we all liked, and I was still licking my wounds from what had happened at our church in Michigan.  Many of my closest and oldest friendships just disintegrated once we moved here.  When I was most lonely and reaching out, my dearest friends turned away.  Our small group in Michigan was one of those rare, transparent, supportive circle of friends that some only dream of being a part of and we are blessed that a few of them have supported us and loved us, long distance, through this past 8 years.

For the first time in our marriage, I was unable to hold everything together.  I was completely and utterly broken.  Too many things had gone wrong and I was so very alone… and, honestly, I could only be a Stepford wife for so many years before the facade came crashing down around me.  So, it did…  and I mean, BUT GOOD!!!

I was in the worst place emotionally I had ever been in.  I spent several weeks meticulously planning my suicide.  My only requirement was that I didn’t look too horrific if my children found me – you know, because there’s a good way for your kids to find you dead by your own hand…  I isolated myself almost completely.  I had no one close enough in Texas to confide in and I didn’t feel like I could reach out to any of my loved ones in Michigan because that’s who I was…  Helping others, never asking for help.  Not only because I truly love to help people, but also because I hope others will come to love me if I offer them enough (because I’m not) and because I have a deep fear that if I ask for help or support when I’m weak, I will find that no one cares enough to help me, so I wear my armor almost always.  It’s one of the things I most dislike about myself and one of the things I am working hardest to change… daily…

Well, a bunch of particulars happened during this time, but they’re not important to this story.  Suffice it to say that we decided to go to counseling – both separately and together – and our marriage improved immensely over the course of a year or two.  My husband began to treasure me and for the first time he truly saw me – because I allowed him to.

Things seemed to be going in the right direction for a few years.  We began teaching together, we argued less than ever, we went to church every week together, and we talked constantly.  My husband was forever trying to be who I needed him to be.  I slowly became more and more bitter as time passed.  I just felt so angry with him and almost all of the wonderful things about him didn’t mean much for very long if he did anything else not perfectly.  I cringe when I think of how ugly my behavior became over a few years.  Our children tried to point out that I was not treating their dad with respect, especially since I had worked very hard to instill in them a godly picture of what a Christian wife should be and act like.  I hardly listened to them.  I felt justified in my resentment and even more so when I felt my children were choosing their father over me.  Each time he would hurt or offend me, I would deposit my animosity into my bank of bitterness and my account collected interest exponentially.  My former arrogance is my present shame…

I made very few good friendships in 8 years of living here.  The ones I did make didn’t go too far, mostly because of the mistrust I had developed in recent years piled on top of the lovely martyr complex designed to keep me “safe” and because I didn’t really have anyone to confide in, I was terrified that I would vomit all over someone if I started to talk, so my walls were now thicker than ever.

I had some sunny days here and there, but I had started to feel that 8 years in the desert deep in my core.  I was accepting that there was really nothing to like about me since no one seemed to want to truly know me here.  I was almost complacent, it seemed.  I think the pain of accepting that was almost more than I could bear, so I became numb. I know now that I was moving toward believing God felt the same way about me and even toward not believing He existed at all.  I prayed, I read my Bible, I listened to praise music, I went to Bible studies, and I attended small group, and church.  I even watched some of those terrible over-acted Christian movies!  I just felt more and more lost or forgotten or punished…

We started attending a small group – the 4th one because I just couldn’t feel comfortable in the three before this one. One of the leaders there mentioned a women’s retreat that she was attending after being asked repeatedly to go to over the previous year.  I immediately looked the retreat up on my phone.  It was pricey, I’m not gonna lie.  Something in me (God?) told me that I had to go.  So, I got online, signed up, payed the deposit and emailed my list of questions to the leader.

I almost canceled daily, but He made it clear to me that I had  to go.  I hadn’t heard Him in such a long time that I was NOT going to blow this!  I spent many hours talking myself out of the fear of disappointment.  I was prepared to face that I didn’t matter and the little hope I had left would be completely gone if this was not at the very least a life-changing event for me.  I worried that I would emotionally vomit all over these unsuspecting women who didn’t even know me.  I worried my roommate(s) wouldn’t like me, the food would be unhealthy and filled with gmo’s, I wouldn’t be Christian enough, my clothes would be wrong, etc., etc.  – and then I started my period the day before I left, and now a days, this is no small matter!  Seriously?!

So, I drove 4 hours to get there and ate dinner with 12 strangers.  I was wrapped tighter than a Baptist minister’s wife’s girdle!  (Come on!  That was funny…)  I was in the abyss between desperately (truly desperately) needing to share my story, having human connection, finding some hope, and making a complete fool of myself and being rejected.  So, when the time came to share the “why” of our attendance, both of the women before me, who were in my age group, spoke of how wonderful their marriages and husbands were.  I remember thinking, “OMG, I feel like such a loser.”  I was truly terrified of how to tell my story, so, I vomited and became as vulnerable as I could because I felt like it was my last chance.  I had also paid several hundred bucks and the “frugal” part of me couldn’t live with not giving my money’s worth!

It was exhausting, unbelievably emotional, embarrassing, and somewhat freeing… only somewhat…

For the rest of the evening I was reasonably silent.  I felt like I had said too much already and I didn’t want to be that person at the retreat.  – You know, the one who makes everything about her, vomits her junk on everyone else and just won’t shut-up?  Before we went to bed that night we all chose a large rock and were instructed to decorate it in a way that represented what we wanted to leave behind this weekend.  For some this was a temporary thing, like worrying about their small children, for me, it was a permanent thing that had been haunting me for the past several years during what I refer to as my “midlife unraveling.”  My rock said “REGRET” on it.

The following morning as we all worshiped next to the river, I looked all around me and I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of these sisters-in-Christ each worshiping our Father in extraordinarily breathtaking splendor.  It was at that moment I knew I was ready to release my rock/regrets and I lobbed that bad-boy into the river with tears streaming down my face and hope in my heart.  It felt like the beginning of my own little miracle was just beginning…

The retreat was not easy.  It wasn’t fluff or anecdotal Christian b.s.  It has been 3 1/2 weeks and I’m still not completed recovered.  It was hard, true, deep, excruciating.  It was fun, acceptance, encouragement, Christ – the real deal.  It was sisterhood, bonding.  It was hope!  It was all I had longed for and so much more and it just washed over me for days.  Sometimes it lapped gently and other times it bowled me right over like a tidal wave.

It was healing…

Our leaders told us that we would spend most of the day taking turns in the “love chair.”  They acknowledged that this was one of the most difficult parts of the weekend for many women, especially the ones who had a difficult time receiving.  I spent the entire day enjoying through tears, smiles and laughter each of my sisters as they took their turn in the love chair – except when I was dreading my own turn.  I continually envisioned myself walking out of the house, getting in my car and driving home.  I was terrified…

I survived.  It was one of the few precious moments in my life that I felt completely adored by my Father, loved and accepted by women, and healed of my bitterness.  No matter how old I grow to be, it will always be one of the most sacred, unforgettable, life-changing moments of my whole, entire everything.

Healed… as only He can.  He healed my heart and filled me with joy.  I am planted deeply in His love and grace and it is unlike anything I have ever lived in.lush garden

I thought I attended because I feel like teaching is not where I belong much longer.  I was hoping He would show me the path I was meant to travel professionally.  I hoped I could figure out how to become the girl people want to be friends with.  I concentrated on those two areas for the most part.  I decided the day before my last at the retreat to focus on my marriage for the exercise we were doing, because I hadn’t really and it just seemed like the thing to do since there wasn’t much time left.  I realized earlier in the day that I had fallen madly in love with Jesus again and with the person He made me to be.  That evening, as I focused on my husband and what had happened in our 26 years together, I began to see him clearly.  I saw how patiently and lovingly he had waited for me the past several years.  I saw how arrogant I had been.  I was convicted about my treatment of him, the example I had set for our kiddos and how slowly all of this had crept up on my and how unwilling I was to see it.  But, more than anything else, I fell deeply and madly in-love with the man that my amazing, who God made for me, husband is.

The last day was my “rubber hits the road” planning day.  Part of that was deciding how, where and when I would ask my husband’s and our children’s forgiveness for my many transgressions in recent years.  Part of that was forgiving myself and accepting the human parts of me by loving myself unconditionally and extending grace to myself much like I have so willingly done with others in my life.  This was so much more difficult than I realized and even more necessary.  I am still overcome with the truth that my own lack of self-love and grace was in large part what stood between me and embracing my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love.  The word “FREEDOM” was continually whispered in my mind for days.

For 8 years I was in a desert place in almost all areas of my life.  I never turned from God, but I dishonored Him more than I want to admit, BUT I AM.  I felt myself slipping away, although I would’ve sworn at the time it was Him moving in the other direction.  I loved my husband, but I despised so much of who I thought he was.  I shudder when I think what might have happened had my friend not “mentioned” the retreat, had I not made the decision to check it out and spend that wad of cash with my husband’s encouragement.  I kept fighting for what I hoped was in my future.  I kept listening, though less frequently and with less hope, for God’s still, small voice to bring me up for air and give me something to believe in.

I was brave.  I persevered.  After being shattered into a million pieces, I gathered myself, licking my wounds for a bit too long and with way too much self-indignation, but still, I gathered myself.  I got in my way a whole bunch more than any sane person should.  I sinned more than usual…  and I will have more moments of sin in my immediate and far-off future, God willing.          I mean I hope it’s His will that I have a far-off future, not that I’ll have more moments of excessive sin.

He waited for me.  Patiently, lovingly, quietly, all while leading and teaching me as only He can.  He waited for this haughty, isolated, prodigal daughter.  He gave me back my heart, full of love and grace and a bunch of other good stuff.  Parts of me are stronger and more resilient and parts of me are more tender and fragile.  This Broken & Healed Tricia is so much better than the old one.

I think the very coolest part about how this all transpired is that He healed me in such a way that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE did it.  It’s a miracle to remove such deep rooted bitterness from a heart in an instant.  I could NEVER have done that alone or even with help, as my treasured children attempted to do on the regular.

Can you stand it?!  That’s how much He loves us!  Not for what we do, but for who we are in HIM!!!  Please don’t give up.  Please persevere.  YOU are so very worth it.  You are His Beloved.

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Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

When I was a child, even before starting school, I can remember knowing that I wasn’t someone who people thought of as a nice, polite little girlie-girl.  My mother, on the regular, would bend down next to my ear when I was in “public”  and whisper that “nice girls don’t talk like that.”  She wasn’t referring to profanity, but I was “rough around the edges.”  I had four brothers, my dad encouraged my moxie, and if I’m completely honest, I took quite a bit of pleasure in knowing I made my mama squirm a bit.  I think I figured if she was never going to be proud of me, I might as well at least be sure she noticed me!

My father spoiled me so obnoxiously when I was very young, that I truly believed on some level that I was more important than others.  Once I started school, I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was no more or less important than the other people in this world.  It was good medicine.  I wasn’t always given the proper dosage, but it was the correct prescription.

As an adult, and especially once I became a mama myself, I came to believe I needed to follow in my mother’s footsteps and be less vocal, more contriving in order to be what the world, or at least what many of my family members wanted me to be.  I worked to be what I thought I was supposed to be as hard as I could, and for the most part, I pulled it off.  When I became a Christian, the stepford mama/wife mission went into overdrive.  I worked very hard to be the perfect wife and mama that my husband, in-laws and parents would be proud of.  If you focus on becoming something you aren’t hard enough, you barely notice your “self” dying a little bit more each day. – Just to be clear, I don’t mean the good kind of dying to self for Christ daily deal, I mean the horrible, denying who He made you to be, so you can please people who are not Him, kind of deal.

One of the problems with this kind of thinking is that I never really learned how to deal with problems, especially anger.  When I was young, I just bullied my way through other people.  My family is really good at that.  We think we’re being terribly witty and quick-minded, but really we just make others uncomfortable, dishonored and bullied.  I know because I allowed myself to be bullied by some of my family members during my stepford years and even beyond because I don’t know a good middle ground way to deal with such aggression – either I go toe-to-toe with them or I stuff it down, get super frustrated, as well as hurt (emotionally) and then begin to cry – and this, btw, is seen as an admission to lying or at the very least an admission to being wrong in my family of origin.

I have a confession to make… and this is not a proud moment for me, but I feel like if I’m trying to be truly transparent, and my goal is to help others who are dealing with similar junk, I have to put it all out there as He leads me.  During my stepford years, I didn’t always hold my tongue and make nice with everyone.  I did with my friends, my husband, neighbors, church family, etc., but I continued to bully my children, of all the precious people.  When I felt frustrated or like I was losing control, Tricia McDowell came out in full force.  She wasn’t fair.  She wasn’t kind.  She was just ugly.  I’m not proud of those moments.  They felt fairly normal to me at the time and I was great at justifying what I’d done or said, but my children just felt dishonored and bullied.

The other side of that coin is that when I stopped bullying the general public and started developing friendships, a pattern ensued.  I made friends quite easily, but when conflict came, as it almost always certainly does, I would stuff my hurt feelings down until I was ready to blow and then I would just walk away.  I was usually afraid I would go berserk on my friend (and once in a great while I did) and lose the relationship, so it seemed less messy and less painful to just walk away first. Besides, they obviously didn’t care much anyway… Ever the sacrificial victim…

ICK…

 

See, I believe that if you try to push down who you are instead of embracing her, then God’s hands are tied because he doesn’t make you a certain way already shiny and perfect.  He makes us a certain way so that we can be molded and shaped into what he desires for us to be, if we choose to be.  My big mouth needed to be tempered.  My passionate heart needed to be fed.

Are you who He desires you to be?  I don’t mean the shiny, perfect version.  Are you embracing the beautiful, trying parts of yourself that others may try to shame out of you?  Are you asking Him what He wants you to accomplish with these traits, desires, feelings?  Does it just feel easier to be what everyone else wants you to be?

That’s what I thought, until it all blew up in my face.   explosion

Now, here I am, well beyond my formative years learning how to deal with hurt and anger in a grown up, vulnerable way.  It sucks.  I’m not lying.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, accepting you are terrible at a basic life skill and that you make your immediate family a little nervous now that you aren’t quiet and always “appropriate” in public situations.  I can still hear my mother whispering in my ear, “Nice girls…”  Except now, I turn and look her in the eye and say, “I’m my Daddy’s girl.  He loves me just as I am and that is enough.”

fence boundary

I have some fences to mend.  I have some boundaries to keep.  I have some work to do and some time to catch up on.  As much as I want to keep looking back and regretting the time I’ve wasted not seeing the truth, I don’t want to dishonor the gift I’ve been given.  I have a glimpse of the me He wants me to be and I am walking in that now.  I’m walking all wobbly, like a toddler, so I’ll need grace and forgiveness during this learning process, but that’s okay.  That’s the stuff.  That’s where I’m trying to live. – And I don’t mean I have it all figured out, not even close.  I just don’t feel so lost or alone now, because I’m coming back and I have me, again.  Do you have you?  Do you know who you are and do you love your self?  I hope so, because He does and I do…

You are His and He made you uniquely you.  That’s so cool.

Walk on…

Step On Up

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baby-steps

I remember the first time I met him.  He was all of two years old and the tiniest little replica of his daddy.  It was adoration at first sight for me.  He was a bit of a show off and knew he had his daddy in the palm of his chubby little hand.  He kept asking me to watch him do this and that and I did, gladly.  I was so happy that he was such a friendly little guy.  Later, when his daddy kissed me and he leaned out of the playhouse window and said, “Hey… What’dya guys doing?,” his daddy nearly had a heart attack!

It was a rough start.  My new husband’s ex pulled out all the stops.  We were in court for everything imaginable, even before the wedding.  We naively believed that things would calm down and even improve as time passed and we all settled into our lives.  We were wrong.  It was a constant rollercoaster ride for more than a decade.  Sometimes we marvel at the fact that our marriage survived it!  We were committed to not allowing it to affect our time together as a family.  Through the years it felt like we just kept getting run over repeatedly, but we were the adults and we refused to let it hurt our kids anymore than it had to. It wasn’t always easy, but we had some great friends who let us unload our “It’s not fairs!” on them on the regular.  They prayed with us and for us.  I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support.

Being a stepdad comes with its challenges, for sure, but if you participate and are nice to your spouse’s child(ren), you are a hero to the world at large.  If you are a stepmom, it is an ALL uphill climb.  It’s typically assumed you are evil, thanks to Cinderella, Snow White, and other lovely fairytales of the day.  If you welcome your spouse’s child(ren), you are suspected of trying  to replace the bio-mom.  If you aren’t terribly affectionate or welcoming, you are accused of being a heartless witch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scrutinized as I felt every other weekend and the several weeks during the summers that I was actively being a stepmom.  As hard as I tried to make things “normal,” there was always the second guessing of EVERYTHING.  What was completely normal with my bio-child who was only a few months older made me a wreck with my stepson.  Between a husband who was very critical, a bio-mom who was court happy, and family members who struggled with the whole situation, I did the best I could with what I had at 24 years of age.  Doubting everything I did when it came to him was the norm.

In 96 hours each month we were to visit both sets of grandparents, make memories, teach responsibility and a million other important things, be a normal family, sleep, eat, go to church, and be sure the kids all made it to all of their weekend activities – because if they didn’t, we may end up in court, again.

I sometimes wonder if I knew what all I’d go through because I fell madly in-love with a man with a child, an ex-wife, and all that entails, if I would’ve said, “Yes” to that first date.  I know that must sound awful, but tonight I am tired and hurting and a little bit unbelieving of how long this continues to go on and how frustrating it is that the people who should be standing up and supporting the good guys are kissing up to the bad guys in selfishness.

I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always choose what I believed was best for our sons.  ALWAYS.  I love all 5 of our children with all of my heart. I have since the moment I met each of them, whether it was in person, or it was by way of a pregnancy test.  I have lived my life with my family as my first worldly priority.

I know there are women who marry men and do their best to get their stepchildren out of their lives.  I know there are others who are genuinely unloving to them.  I know there are parents and stepparents who put their children in the middle like pawns in a chess game.  I also believe that this is horribly wrong and rare.  I know I have done none of these things.

My oldest son has a stepmom.  During his teen years they did not get along terribly well.  He was a teenager.  He and I did not get along terribly well.  She is a very nice woman.  We are not social friends, but I am so very thankful that she has been good to my son.  I can see that she genuinely loves him.  My son, his dad, his stepmom and her children are a family.  That is what I want for my son.  Isn’t that what being a parent is?…

If and when my oldest son and his wife have children we will all be grandparents together.  Our grandchild will be our priority and we will support each other and encourage relationship with our grandchild because we will all love him/her and want what is best for that precious child.  We’re the adults.

Okay… I feel better now that I have that almost 3 decade long load off of my chest.

Yep, I know this is a bit corny, but it’s mostly true, too.

 

step-mom

 

I’ve learned that a bunch of the junk that we fought for because it seemed so important in the moment, wasn’t really so important in the long run.  I’ve learned that you can’t spend your life fighting for someone who doesn’t want you in their life or who isn’t willing to fight for you because you lose precious moments with the people He put in your life to love and be loved by.  I’ve learned that being a mom and/or a stepmom is really hard and we should honor each other along the way.  I’ve learned to trust myself, to forgive myself and to let go when He shows me it’s time…

Life is too short.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after I wasted more time than I wish I would’ve.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned that it’s not worth my time to wallow in regret.  Movin’ on…

Peace.


Insanity…

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Sweep under the rug Today I posted this on my fb page:

It’s okay to say enough is enough and not be shamed out of it to make it “easier” for others. John 5:1-14

I was talking to myself.  I was standing for my Honey.  I was reaching for the other scapegoat people who are my friends on fb and hoping He would use my words to encourage others struggling like I was this morning.

Standing up against something you’ve allowed for years or even decades is much harder than having boundaries from the beginning.  That’s very easy to say… Living it is a whole other enchilada! Just being a woman, of my generation and before that, a girl, makes it an uphill battle to be strong, confident, to take care of your needs (sometimes before others, heaven forbid!).  We’re considered pushy bitches by society, by and large, for being emotionally healthy and for having boundaries.

I think as each generation has evolved, we’ve become more healthy in this way.  I don’t think we’re anywhere near our destination, yet, but we’ve come a long way, Baby!  The irony to me is that my experience has been that the people who typically throw roadblocks in my path are women who struggle with the same things as I do.  I’m not sure if it’s human nature to want to hold others back because we feel failure by not “keeping up with” our friends, or if this is just ingrained in us to play the martyr and encourage other women to do the same.

My daughter would probably tell you I have a bipolar personality when it comes to what I’ve taught her about being an emotionally healthy woman.  I think I’ve taught her to be sacrificial with others, setting an example of a martyr in many of my friendships and family relationships, while encouraging her to take care of herself, stand up for her needs and her heart and to have healthy boundaries with others.  Truth be told, I’ve talked a bunch more about the better way than I’ve lived it, but she’s much stronger than I am.  She’s SO MUCH MORE wise and confident than her mama ever was at 21…  or 31…

I think it’s a hard place to be when you’re a girl my age – somewhere between sweeping it all under the rug, stuffing it all down deep with a smile on your face and poison in your heart, just happy that everyone is “getting along” and putting it all out there, take me as I am or take a hike.  Big sister shaming us.  Little sister disappointed in us.  Floundering, disenfranchised…  Blossoming awkwardly, unable to stay in purgatory any longer, wanting to be reborn.

I’m still lost much of the time and I’m working so hard to be in His will, but sometimes I hear other voices that come from places with human agendas louder than I hear His.  It isn’t their fault, it’s mine, it’s my weakness that loses focus and forgets I am not a Christian church lady of my generation.  I am a woman of God.  I am His daughter.  He didn’t give me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) My goal is to encourage this and nurture this in my sisters.  My prayer is that others will do this for me…  He gave this spirit to all of us.  If we could embrace the truth of that and live in it, the spiritual, relational possibilities are endless.  It scares the bejeebies out of me, in a good way, kinda like an awesome upside down, bare-feet dangling, loop-de-loop rollercoaster.  The old way scares me in an awful way, kinda like I’m sitting in the back seat of a car with a sad smile on my face going nowhere or over a cliff and not really caring either way because no one really knows me and I know no one…

I think Einstein got it right… albert-einstein-insanity  

In This House…

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Last Christmas our son and daughter-in-love gave us the most beautiful painting.  We hung it on our kitchen wall with lovey-tears in our eyes.  We had just painted the walls apple green and we couldn’t believe how well the painting coordinated with our new color scheme! I’m sure you’ve seen this painting before, perhaps in another medium, facebook, pinterest, or some other location.  It says, “In this house we do second chances.  We do Grace.  We do Real.  We do mistakes.  We do I’m sorrys.  We do hugs.  We do FAMILY.  We do LOVE.”

That all sounds so very lovely.  I think because I, like most people, envision the happy ending part:  the making up, the forgiveness, the grace.  We ignore that in order for these things to be needed, there must first be an offense – sometimes a HUGE offense or two.  Sometimes, because I’m this way, I want to “fix” things right away instead of allowing people to work through their stuff.  I just want to get to the good part and have peace between the people I love.

I was confronted with this “unattractive” part of myself a few years ago in one of my children’s counseling sessions.  The one where mom is called in and has to look at her own junk in front of another adult who has heard all of the family secrets from her teenage daughter.  It was not easy to hear.  The truth about ourselves seldom is…  I tried to explain that I just want everyone to be happy and understand each other.  I told them that I did this because I love them so very much.  Then I went home, knowing I had to join my child the following week for another hour of hell, and I decided to take it to Him.  I asked Him at first to please just open their hearts so that they could see my heart and understand why I did what I did and why it was a good thing.  I wrestled with the humiliation of being seen as less than a loving, devoted mama…

and then, somehow, I truly heard my child’s heart and I realized that although part of what I said was true, another part of my motivation was to sweep things under the rug, so it all looked pretty on the surface and then I didn’t really have to deal with anymore ugliness.  I was afraid if we let things get out of hand, things would be said or done that might not ever be gotten over and then I might lose someone or they might lose each other or … I don’t know what else, just something not good.

So, for the past few years I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut more and let things get worked through by the people directly involved.  It’s been a struggle for our family to shift.  Sometimes my kids get really upset with me for not doing anything when there’s strife between them. They think I don’t care like I used to.  I have to admit, in order for me to become healthier in this area, I’ve had to “check out” a bit at times because it goes against everything in my controlling little body to allow the chips to fall where they may when it comes to my precious family members and their relationships.  – Don’t think I’m not aware of how ridiculous this all sounds.  Like my husband sometimes tells me, “Gee, Honey, I don’t know how I ever got along for the 24 years before I met you…”

There are still times when I feel the need to interject my motherly wisdom in the middle of a conversation that simply isn’t mine.  My children usually catch themselves in the heat of the moment and lovingly remind me that I need to step out of the conversation – sometimes they just let me have it and later we talk about it.  They extend grace to me while I grow in this area most of the time.

We are all pretty good communicators.  Sometimes our quick wits, sarcasm and tempers get the best of us… too often, honestly, but that’s why we “do” second chances, forgiveness, and a whole load of other necessary stuff.

Sometimes I simply don’t know what’s best.  I don’t know when I should step in and when I should stay out.  I’m not sure when I’ve given my children enough time, when I’m being a pest or when I’ve waited too long and made them feel uncared for.  This adult children thing just makes all of this even more complicated.  I don’t have the reassurance that they’ll always want a relationship with me and/or their father.  We can’t just send them to their rooms or take away their television time anymore!  Spouses can be a big game changer.  I’ve seen families be completely devastated because a new wife or husband joined the family and then turned away from the in-laws with his/her spouse in tow.  I’ve seen this happen in families that seemed rock solid in love and grace.

My own children have been out in the “real” world for a bit now and their belief systems have changed some.  They don’t blindly believe all that I do or all that their father does.  They are growing up and forming their own opinions.  I’m not gonna lie.  This is not easy, especially for an opinionated mama such as myself.  Part of parenting someone is imparting the lessons you’ve learned, the wisdom you’ve earned.  Am I right?!  It’s a real “bring you to your knees humbling” when your children suddenly think some of the near and dear to your mama’s heart beliefs and morals are silly or unimportant.

I’ve vacillated between feeling enraged to laughing at the rejection of these beliefs.  I’ve reacted in ways that I am not proud of and cringe at because I was the child being treated the same way once upon a time by an enraged parent and I simply can’t believe I’ve done just what I said I never would.  There are second chances…

So, I know that rage and rejection are absolutely not the reaction I should have as my children find their own way, and that is HUGE… But, I’m still not always sure what the “right” reaction is.  Of course, it isn’t always the same, but there should be a ballpark area that is full of unconditional love and sprinkled with respectful disagreement – on both sides…  I’m still trying to find that place on occasion.  The ironic part of this is that 100% of the time, when I keep the lines of communication open with my children and/or my hubby, and I push that narrative in my head voice the heck out-of-the-way (because that voice is rarely coming from a healthy place and so it isn’t usually helpful), I am able to hear my precious children’s hearts and remember just who each of them truly is and my heart gets to the place it needs to be to let them grow just the way He intended them to grow.  When I move my agenda, that is very often steeped in fear, aside and trust Him and His plan, He gives me peace.  I am reminded that we all go down the wrong path sometimes, sometimes (often) I am wrong about what the right path is, and finally, He reminds me that I have loved my children well, with all that I had and all that I knew in each moment – not worldly perfect, but as perfectly as He wanted me to and that is simply enough.  When we go through the moments before “doing” grace, forgiveness, hugs, etc. and we are doing mistakes…  I am thankful to be able to rest in His truths and His hope that one day we will again be doing family and love.  

As usual, in this house, I’m doing REAL...

We do grace painting