Category Archives: Growing up

timshel

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Thou Mayest…

Freewill…

This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.

My tatoo

For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu.   We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them.  Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.

              Related image       Image result for east of eden book cover tree

 

At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!

I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life.  Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher.  She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it.  She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes.  I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it.  I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon.  But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.

I was a bit of a drama queen back then.  I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me.  I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging.  I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.

I was completely enamored with this novel.  I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it.  I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.

It never happened…

In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time.  I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour.  After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron.  He agreed.

A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron.  And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight!  We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter.  We felt like our family was complete.  We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription.  The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms.  I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment.  In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.

A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were.  I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay.  They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late…  I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.

My pregnancy was fraught with trauma.  My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her.  She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having  2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies.  A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was in that same room for 3 months, solid.  I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window.  It was terrible because I felt fine.  It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus.  I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey.  When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands.  I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…

As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me.  As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another.  Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers.  So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies.  Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!).  I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy.  I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me.  When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening.  My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash.  I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful.  Can you let my husband in here?  I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”

Everyone chuckled.  We were both still clueless.  Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better.  He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body.  Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately.  Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive.  After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face.  That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.

Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me.  But I’m alive, so I’m good!

They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own.  Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning.  They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen!  Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”

We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive.  Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive.  Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on.  I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together.  It melted and broke open.  So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital.  It was torture…

The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home.  They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted.  Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone.  The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.

One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home.  Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?”  She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!

We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick.  I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest.  Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain.  Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land.  Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.

What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad.  He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill.  We don’t have to be victims.  We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be.  When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.

When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel.  I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times.  They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life.  I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel.  The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts.  Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities.  The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time).  Of course they have struggles, as we all do.  I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill.  They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory.  I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.

SO… it was time.  We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.

Timshel…

Caleb’s Tattoo:

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Aaron’s Tattoo:

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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…

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.

 

 

 

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…

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

Shrinks, Insanity, and Calling in my Markers

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lucy doctor is in peanutsI’ve been seeing a counselor.  She’s a 12-step girl, so she speaks my language and she is all about keeping it real.  She doesn’t let me gloss over or avoid the uncomfortable stuff.  I feel exhausted every time I leave her office.  I also feel a little more substantial, like I’m beginning to live the life He means for me to live.  His path is a bit scary for me because it’s not what I’m used to.  What I’m used to is messed up in a lot of ways, so I’m mostly ready to leave it behind, but some of the broken parts of me prefer what they’re used to.  The unknown, even when it’s healthier, is scary.  Dysfunction is comfortable.  That’s why so many of us live in it for years.  That is also the reason others often attempt to sabotage people who try to leave the dysfunction and live a healthier life.  When people shine a light on the ugliness that has been our life, we feel cornered if we aren’t ready to take an honest look and make some changes.

I have some Bible verses that I have carried with me and they’ve helped me through some incredibly difficult moments in life.  I also have this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…”

These are the words that have made me move, re-examine, confess, change.  – and it hasn’t been a one-time deal, either.  These words have been my anchor on a few momentous occasions on my journey through life.

My newest epiphany is that I am allowed to not be perfect and accept, even expect, the grace that others should extend me just as I extend grace to them.  I don’t really think I’m perfect at all, but I have a tendency to try to be perfect and then beat myself up HUGE when I’m inevitably imperfect, as everyone is.  I’m trying to find that place where I can do my best in that moment and then walk away without having to do the best I ever have without anything wrong for some not-so-good reasons, like that’s where I get my sense of worth from, or because I’ll be punished if I don’t give my all and then some, or because I’m terrified that someone will see me as anything less than the hardest worker, best mom, best wife or best teacher…  It’s exhausting, y’all!

I’m going to try to find a better place to be in these areas.  I have no doubt this will be an ugly and hysterically funny journey for me.  I will probably go too far the other way, or, at times, justify not changing much, but saying I have, and I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of other mistakes along the way – all of which will drive my family absolutely crazy, I’m sure.  Some of them are already not so thrilled with the new, “improved” version of me that is emerging.  That’s okay because I haven’t been terribly thrilled with them at times, but I never quit on them, so I’m calling in my markers.  I’m worth fighting for and I’m worth extending grace to.

All of us are.  That’s why He sacrificed His son’s life for us.  He loves us unconditionally and chose to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, right?  And in the meantime, I’m tired of being less than He means for me to be because my life has beat me up a bit and my dysfunction keeps bringing me pain.  I want to be free while I’m here and I want to set that example for my children and grandchildren.  I want to truly live.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the stuff.  It scares the bejeebies out of me and excites me all at the same time.  I think that’s why He gave me moxie.  I have to find it, dust it off and learn to allow it to be a part of me again.  I want to embrace the parts of me that I have been made to feel ashamed of since I was very young.  In doing that, I hope to help others to remember who He made them to be and embrace all of themselves, because He does – completely.

Here’s to FREEDOM and change.

Here’s to Choice and Moxie.

Here’s to Persevering.

Here’s to Love…

Forgiving that little brat…

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I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

Satan, Bush and Being 9

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satan bush

This is not my story. I am telling it for someone else.

I used to love to visit my grandparents – both sets of them!  My mother’s parents lived in a big house and my grandma would almost always take me shopping when I spent a night or weekend with them.  She would take me out to lunch and we would look at girly stuff all day.  I treasure those times with my grandma.  My grandfather loved to read and we would read all of the Harry Potter books together each time one came out.  Now, by together I mean that he would challenge me to beat him and then he would be finished before I got to chapter 4!  I loved reading those books with him and feeling that kinship with my grandpa who could be distant and even angry much of the time.

My parents were very conservative and traditional Christians when I was very young.  This meant that they were also Republicans and that drove my grandfather crazy.  It was normal for him to attack my mother almost everytime we got together about how evil her republican candidates were, as well as Christians, in general.  Usually my mother would try to explain to him that she didn’t want to discuss this with him and that it was okay to disagree with each other.  He yelled a lot about this stuff.  I didn’t really understand it.  I was 9 years old.

It was summer time and I was going to spend the whole weekend with my maternal grandparents.  They came to pick me up.  My grandpa immediately started giving my mom and dad a hard time about President Bush, and they made light of it while my grandma and I talked about what we were going to do the next day.  We went out to eat on our way home and then I got to watch a movie before going to sleep that night.

My grandma used to always buy me instant strawberry oatmeal in the little envelopes.  I felt loved because she would do that just for me.  I think she had ALL of her grandchildren’s favorite breakfast food in her house at all times!  After breakfast and after I got ready to go shopping with my grandma, I was in the living room watching television with my grandpa.  I remember  a campaign commercial for George W. came on.  My grandpa began telling me how wrong my parents were for voting for him.  He told me a bunch of things about him that were supposed to be horrible, I guess, but I was 9, so I didn’t really understand what most of it meant.  Finally, at the end of his rant, he told me that George W. Bush was Satan!  Now that one I kind of understood, at least in a literal way, and I was horrified.

I sat on that for a few days, when for some reason, and I don’t remember why, I finally told my mom what happened at my grandparents’ home.  My mom was very upset.  She talked to my dad and then came to me and informed me that she would be discussing this with my grandpa when we went over there next.  Unfortunately, that was just a day or two later.

My siblings and I were at the other end of the house playing in the playroom when I heard my mom’s voice raised, telling my grandpa, “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell our children that the President is satan.”  I also remember her asking him to respect their right to raise their children with their values, just as he raised his children with his.  It got a bit heated and at one point my grandpa was denying that he said anything about Bush being satan.  My mom responded that a 9-year old would not just fabricate such a thing and that to a child raised in a Christian home, being told by her grandfather that the President whom her parents were planning to vote for is satan was a HUGE deal and simply NOT okay.  My grandma finally went into the room where they were arguing and told my grandpa that he should not  tell his grandchildren such things and then told my mother that she was sure he didn’t mean anything by it.

I guess that meant that the discussion was over…

When we left a bit later that afternoon and I attempted to tell my grandpa good-bye, he stiffened up, and pulled back when I tried to hug and kiss him. He said not a word.  I remember feeling like I wished I never would’ve told my mom what happened and coming to the realization that I had done something really wrong when I did.

A week and a half later we were all heading to my grandparents’ house to celebrate my grandma’s birthday.  I was excited to see my cousins who lived a couple of hours away and knew they would be there because they came for Grandma’s birthday, even though they never came for anyone else’s in the family.  When we arrived, half of the family was already there and one of my cousins ran up to tell me that grandpa was going to give us rides on his “cadillac” golfcart.  I said, “Hi, Grandpa,” but he didn’t respond.  Then I asked him if I could ride with the other kids and he ignored me, again.  I asked him a few times and each time he ignored me.  I knew my grandpa would lash out if I asked him too many times, so after he loaded all of the other kids up and announced there was no more room, I waited for the next trip to ask him again.  When I did, he told me that there might be room on the next one, but not this time.  Several of my cousins were riding for the second time.  I decided to go in the house and use the bathroom.  Once in there I began to cry.  I was heartbroken and mad at myself for even saying anything about Bush being satan!  One of my uncles knocked on the door, so I wiped away my tears and tried to sneak out the door.  My uncle asked if I was okay.  I said, “Yeah,” and then I went out the front door as soon as I could, crawled into the roasting hot back seat of my parents’ car and cried my eyes out.  I knew I couldn’t let anyone know that I was upset, because if my grandpa could be that angry and cruel to me over the other incident, I didn’t want to see what would happen if my mom found out this time and confronted him again.

My mom was inside and was watching the rides with grandpa.  She tells me she knew how upset he still was, so she was watching to see if he’d let me ride or not.  When he drove by the second time without me on there, she began looking for me.  By the time he drove by with the third bunch of grandkids and I was still not on, she was in full mama-bear mode and was looking everywhere for me.

Suddenly the car door swung open and my mom found me, crying and sweating in the back seat crouched down on the floor.  She was so full of emotion, I felt scared.  She asked me what had happened and why I was crying.  I told her that I was sorry I had tattled on grandpa.  I told her I wouldn’t do it again.  I told her repeatedly that it was all my fault that he was leaving me out and I begged her not to say anything…  She was shaking as she told me to wait there and she would be right back.  Minutes later I heard her voice and my grandma’s voice pleading with my mom just before the door opened and my siblings all piled into the car.  My mom told her that we were leaving and she was not going to discuss why.  They hugged good-bye and we pulled out of the driveway and headed home.

My mother was livid.  She kept reassuring me that this was not my fault.  She was crying, but I understood even then that the tears were not for her, but for me.  She apologized for allowing that to happen.  And the one thing I remember most is that she turned around, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Your grandfather is an asshole.  You did NOTHING wrong and no grandfather should EVER treat his grandchild the way you were treated today.”  My parents were very old fashioned about respect, so this made a HUGE impression on me.

Years later my mom apologized to me for all of this.  She said her one regret was that she didn’t confront her father that day or at some point.  She felt as if she didn’t really protect me because after a short time, we began visiting again and nothing was ever resolved. In all of the emotion of that day, she felt that she was protecting me because I had begged her not to say anything, but later it felt like it was too much to confront, so instead she just kept a more watchful eye on her children, but kept silent about it. Looking back, it’s telling to me that my grandparents never asked my mother what happened that afternoon when we all rushed off before the celebration was ever started.

I realize now that I just accepted that as normal when I was young.  My grandfather regularly got angry with his children and grandchildren and rejected them and then they just moved on.  It was a common occurence for my grandpa to become angry and kick someone out when we had a family gathering. It was normal to be manipulated into feeling bad if you spoke out against such treatment and we were supposed to internalize our pain and not tell other people.  Making waves, confronting bad behavior did not fare well in this sweep everything under the rug community.  It took my mom a long time to break away from that way of thinking, but she did because she wanted us to have healthier and more honest lives.  She still struggles with being real at times and she still has moments when she tries to run back to what was “normal” for most of her life.  I don’t struggle with it.  I refuse to live in that because I’ve seen the pain that comes from it.  I still carry it with me…

H2O

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5 gallon water bottle

42 pounds…  That’s approximately what a 5 gallon bottle of water weighs.  I had back surgery several years ago and I am 50 years old now, so I rarely fill our bottles for home because my sons and husband don’t really allow it.  Yesterday, I was at the grocery store and I took a bottle to be refilled from home because I just wanted to have a spare at home and I didn’t want to bother any of the busy men in my family.  Truth be told, I did it on the q.t. because I knew one of my men would object.

I finished my shopping and was basking in the glow of remembering to get a bag of ice when I pulled my car up to the curb near the water machine.  Just as I grabbed my 5 gallon plastic bottle, a woman who was about 10-15 years older than me, pulled up behind my car.  I had left my emergency flashers on and after getting the water going, I returned to my car to open the door so that I could put the soon to be very heavy bottle into the car somewhat smoothly.  The water was taking forever…  I went back to see how much progress it was making and then walked to the plants set out in front of the store and asked the store employee if they carried any organic plants.  She told me she didn’t think so, I thanked her and then I saw another car pull up behind the car with the older woman.  After almost 7 minutes my bottle was almost full when this man, who looked to be in his mid-30’s, jumped out of his car with his two water bottles and came right up behind me.  I noticed that the woman was visibly upset and was trying to hurry with her two empty water bottles to the machine.  My mind was racing…  I could not believe that this man was going to cut right in front of this woman who was almost twice his age and more importantly, was there several minutes before him.  He was well aware that she was waiting before he arrived.

I turned with my  heavy, awkward water bottle, looked right at her and said, “You were next, weren’t you?”  While the woman shrugged her shoulders apologetically and said not a word, this man stepped around me and shoved his bottle into the machine without any hesitation.  I was beside myself.  I walked to my car shrouded in disgust for the man who had done this as much as for the woman who refused to speak up for herself.  My first thought was to protect her, in fact, I almost turned my car around to say something to this rude man, but life has introduced me to too many women who allow for this kind of behavior from the boys and men in our society and I was pretty sure, based on her reaction when I spoke up, that she believed that she was being kind or being some kind of peacemaker.  I had this imaginary conversation with her where I shared with her that allowing this kind of behavior isn’t kind, but simply leads to self-centered, rude behavior toward others in the future and that is not beneficial to anyone.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, and I spoke to God about my frustration, I had this lovely thought run through my brain and heart…

My sons would NEVER do something like this.  They probably would have offered to carry the lady’s bottles to her car for her.  Their father has been a wonderful example and we have taught them since they were very small that being a gentleman is a requirement.  When they were small and their grandma would tell them it was okay to not help her with her bags or anything heavy, my husband and I would tell her that we expected our boys to be gentlemen.  It was hard for her to give in to this kind of child rearing, but she honored it and I believe she is very proud of the gentlemen her grandsons have become.

Now, before anyone gives me a hard time about feminism or any of that, I don’t believe that simple good manners will ever go out of style.  I believe in women being independant, but I am also old-fashioned about men being gentlemen.  I do many things for my husband and all of my children on a daily basis, as do they for me.  Common courtesy and respect are requirements, at home and everywhere else.

I was reading this quote to Hannah and Maggie a few evenings ago:

“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift.  If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
―    Brennan Manning,    Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

when they started telling me that I needed to watch Frozen because it was about this very thing.

I think EVERY little girl needs to watch this movie OFTEN.  All of us have talents, gifts that He intended for us to use and become what He sees in us.  Let me preface this by first saying:  Maybe lots of boys have experienced what I did as a young girl, and if this is true, please forgive my ignorance.  In my journey I have only had other women share this common experience with me and this was unique to me, the only girl, in my family of origin.

When Elsa, as a young girl was unable to master her amazing gift and she hurt her sister, Ana, quite seriously with it, her father told her to, “Conceal it. Don’t feel it.”  I was immediately reminded of being told very similar things as a child.  I was not an idyllic little girl.  I was opinionated, passionate and a bit of a tomboy.  My father encouraged me and I could tell he felt very proud of me, even informing me that he thought I had moxie.  I still smile when I remember him telling me that.  My mother was not equally as thrilled with who I was.  Typically I was told that “nice girls didn’t do…” (fill in the blank).  I was also told to “stop being so emotional” on a very regular basis.  I wasn’t easy to like.  I remember numerous occasions when my mother would point out “nice” little girls who were quiet and sweet and who didn’t have mud on their dresses or scuffs on their Mary Janes.  I was emotional and outspoken.  My mother knew the correct things to say and do at all times.  She was embarrassed by the things I said in front of people and I believe at times I said things just to get a reaction out of her.  I think I wanted to punish her for how I felt about myself when I was around her.

I don’t think for a moment that my mother was trying to be mean to me or make me feel as if she didn’t love me for who I was.  I believe with everything in me that she was trying to help me fit in.  She wanted my life to be easier and she understood that women get along better in this world if they are quiet, sweet and agreeable.  Being clean and not disheveled helps, also…

The thing is, is that is not who He made me to be.  He made me passionate, outspoken, emotional and …       nice.   I also understand that with all of our gifts come responsibility.  I am learning to be more sensitive to other’s opinions.  Just because I believe in something, does not mean that it is a fact and even if it is a fact, it doesn’t mean that others want to accept it or even deal with it.  I wish I could go back and have a do-over with all that I understand now.  I wish instead of being ashamed of who I was and feeling resentful of how my mother dealt with me and believing that she didn’t love me, I could have embraced me for who I was/am and I could have understood that my mother was trying to help me in the best way she knew how because she didn’t understand me.

The irony to me as I grew up and became a believer is that I was treated much the same way in the churches that I first attended.  In my experience the church tends to expect women to be seen but not heard and we can support our husbands, but we shouldn’t expect to be in any real place of leadership.  I’ve watched too many women who clearly love our Father and live to serve Him be made ashamed of their talents, their callings, even.  What are we so afraid of?  I often wonder if we committed to helping our daughters, our girl friends, our mothers, and every other woman hone their gifts and passions instead of making them feel as if they should “conceal and not feel” how much more would be accomplished for His glory?

I love my own children, but I know at times I have wondered why they couldn’t just … (fill in the blank), because life would be much easier then.  I fully embrace who each of them is.  None of them is on a similar path, but all of them are in much better places than I was at their ages.  They accept themselves and we all celebrate who God made them to be – most of the time…

I think we walk a fine line in childrearing.  My goal was to love my children unconditionally, instill old fashioned values like respect, hard work, and kindness while encouraging them to be who God intended.  My children don’t fit into “the box” and that has been painful at times.  I admit that I’ve tried to squeeze them in there now and again when I felt unsure of their choices.  It has brought about nothing but heartache for all involved and in my experience it has caused my children to go two steps back before they went forward again.  I’ve had many humbing moments asking my children to forgive me and to allow me to support them in the way they needed me to.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I’ll have more of these moments.  I know that I will get better at this and I know my children will do even better with my grandbabies because of the transparent relationship we have with each other and because they are seeing the fruit of living in His will and not in fear.

When I think of what amazing things could happen if we could all embrace each other in unconditional love, it makes me teary.  In raising my children I’ve seen that when I show them this kind of love and support, they are open to my advice because they trust my wisdom based on my experience in life.  When I talk at them, even though I am speaking from life experience and love, they don’t feel respected and they know I don’t trust their hearts or their decisions.  They know I am also speaking from a place of fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) For God  hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound  mind.

frozen water bottle

I think one of my favorite things about Frozen is that the act of true love comes from a sister and not another Prince Charming guy.  Ana loves her sister, Elsa, without condition.  She adores her gift and encourages her use of it.  When Elsa leaves her kingdom and begins to hone her gifts, beauty is created all around her.  Although there is still ice everywhere and people are suffering because of it, so it is obvious that things are still not as they should be.  Almost everyone has turned against Elsa and thinks she is evil.  She is just beginning to embrace who God made her to be, but she hasn’t come to terms with the pain she has caused or the pain and shame her parents caused her.  When Ana puts herself in death’s path for her sister, everything begins to melt and become new.  With Ana’s unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance, Elsa’s heart begins to thaw, she embraces who she is, and her gifts bless everyone in the kingdom. 

I think that’s what He wants us to understand.  If we love each other, accept each other and extend grace, then He’s got the rest.  We don’t have to be afraid of ourselves.  We don’t have to be afraid of each other.  We don’t have to wonder if He made a mistake in giving us this passion for that thing that causes us to move out of our comfort zone surrounded by walls built on the fear that the world has instilled in us.  I just can’t even imagine what kinds of awesomeness would happen and multiply if we all lived with abandon when it came to our own passions and to loving one another, passions and all.   I long for this.  I ache for this…

I pray He gives me the courage and clarity to live like this…