Here We Go, Again

My babies are moving out soon.

Last year, in October, Hannah moved out, making our nest empty and I was ssstttrrruuugggggggggggllllliiiinnnggg for a minute.  

Then just as I was deciding this was an okay gig and I began to enjoy my clean home, inviting friends over for lunch, having dinner parties, being alone, not having to be concerned about how much food was in the house and all of that gloriousness, Aaron told me that he needed to move in with us for a bit to save some money to get a car.  Then Caleb asked if he could take the other bedroom… the one that my Honey had just put my new desk in so that I could have my own office…

I’m a mama, through and through, so, of course, they moved in with us.

Our house has SO much stuff in it now, I don’t really do any cleaning unless it’s a health hazard – like a very serious hazard, because no space.  Any. Where.  

I know I will be a little emotional mess on the day they take their things to their new place.  I’ll miss them.  All things considered, we’ve gotten along really well and when we don’t, we communicate like grown ups, which has been sublime.  I truly like our kids.  They are good people, funny, loving, honest, generous, kind, and interesting.  I’d rather spend time with them and their dad than pretty much anyone else in the whole entire anywhere.

But.

I’m SO looking forward to having my nest empty, again.  

I’m incredibly thankful that God worked things out so that I could have this last little bit mothering my babies in my home in a healthier way than I was capable of mothering them when we all were younger.  I feel like I got to know my aloof Tita in a way that I haven’t since he moved out of our home years ago amidst turmoil and mutual resentment.  I was blessed to have conversations with my sweet Enu that have healed us and helped us see each other more truly.  

It’s good.  It’s kinda like we got a second chance to do this leaving the nest thing the right way.  I know that everyone isn’t as fortunate and while I had accepted that things just happen that way when your kids move out most of the time, I am humbled that God allowed us to do this together with respect, love and healthy boundaries.

I’m also thrilled that in a month I’ll be having friends over for coffee and dinner parties, that I’ll have my house to myself and get to spend time writing in my office, and especially that my home will be much less cluttered and clean!  I sure won’t mind being able to hang with my Honey – just my Honey!

I’ll have to adjust again, so that means I’ll be sad and feel a tiny bit lost for a minute.  I’ll feel lonely when the house is quiet for too many days.  But, this time I know I’m going to be okay.  I’m more than a mama and I’m ready to get to know myself, to discover who I am now.

My nest is almost empty.

My life is full.

My heart is overflowing.

 

Their Discomfort is Not Your Shame

 

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I have spent a decade recovering from my husband’s betrayal.  I often refer to that event as the beginning of great change in my entire family’s lives.  Betrayals in marriage make others uncomfortable.  Some of our closest family members have created distance between us and them since becoming aware of  this part of our story.  Immediately after discovering his betrayal, one of my oldest and dearest friends promised to fly out to Texas to help me through the time when I was struggling with wanting to commit suicide.  She was the only person I had shared my shame with at that time. The promise of her visit gave me something to hang on to.  We made plans for over a week.  She told me she’d call with specifics about her ticket.  I picked up the next phone call, hoping she was coming soon, when she told me that her husband said they couldn’t afford the trip and that he needed her home during that time.  I was devastated, but told her I understood and wouldn’t want them to struggle financially because of me.  Two days later I was betrayed all over again as I saw her fb pics of the tropical and pricey girl’s trip that she had chosen (and lied to me about) over supporting me.  After ignoring my texts, calls and letters for about two years, she was in Texas for business and asked to stay with us, so during the day I spent with her, I asked why she did that to me and her response was, “I’m just a sh*##@ friend.  There’s not really anything to talk about.  I suck.”

Closure wasn’t to be in that relationship, apparently.

When I talk about my spiritual and emotional health journey, I often refer to and differentiate the years before the betrayal (The Stepford Years) and the years since to mark the beginning of this incredible journey.  My husband, our three youngest children and I have been very intentional about working through our junk with as much transparency as we can muster.  We believe that this is the best way to help others and to remember how far Our Pappa has brought us since we submitted to His leading.  So, I’ve been surprised by the number of Christian friends and family members who have attempted to shut down that part of our story.  Even in my recovery walk I was asked if I realized how often I refer to that time when I worked through my steps… (btw, this is kinda the point of working the steps, right?). Fortunately, because I had another christian friend say something similar previously and had prayed about it, I was prepared with my shameless response this time.  I’m not living in that brokenness or dwelling in victimhood.  I’m testifying that My Pappa can effect a kind of change in people that can’t happen by our own effort, alone.  So, when a friend comes to me and describes a situation that resembles my B.B. marriage (Before Betrayal), I want her/him to know that I can relate and I can share the “brokenness to the point of not wanting to live” chapter of my story that He miraculously loved into the “wanting to live for Him” chapter of my story.  I can also empathize with mourning that the trauma of that betrayal changed who I was and I will live with that forever.  Always trying to remember that I best serve Him by sharing and thus shedding the layers of pain, sin and fear that stand in the way of walking in my FULL identity that He has always held for me.

I often wonder why our church videos typically share the “end” of the story without an occasional “messy in the midst story.”  We like to wrap it all up in a pretty bow after sharing a quick, not too graphic, picture of what the struggle is really like.  I think the people that are still planted in the mud, stuck in the desert, struggling to feel like their story will have a portion of joy in the morning (“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”        – Psalm 30:5) would love to hear how truly freakin’ hard the days leading up to His miraculous healing  were for a real live person with skin.  Instead, we have stories that skim over the ugliness and then spend 70% or more of the video on how amazing things have been since the ugly ended.  I understand the motive is to give hope to struggling people, but I think we can do better.  We can be more authentic about how hard and lonely and messy our dark chapters are so that when we get to the pretty bow part of the story, we really give Him all of the glory He deserves because we see that it was only by His grace that we can be redeemed.  This is what will give hope to the hopeless, truly seeing His unrelenting, unconditional love fighting for our hearts in spite of the muck and mire.

I could tell you numerous stories of church peeps who attempted to shame us when we shared our betrayal story

– the leaders of our marriage class that stopped talking to us and then “unfriended” us on fb,

– the first Texas friend I shared the truth with after 2 years, who said she understood and would like to talk after she absorbed it all and then told me she wasn’t sure she could forgive me and cut all ties with my family,

– the family member who used to call me weekly and has called me less than five times in the past ten years because it makes her uncomfortable how open we are about it. 

Their discomfort is not my shame.  We need to be uncomfortable in order to grow.  We are called to comfort our sisters and brothers. 

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”     – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

There is nothing in the Good Book that tells us that we should shame others if their story makes us uncomfortable or fearful.  There is nothing that tells us we should tone down how messy things are so that the people sitting in the pews or across the table feel more at ease.  The peeps who prioritize their need to feel at ease aren’t leaning into the real story of God’s redemption and the peeps that are leaning in, need us to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, again and again, without shame.

If you are one of those courageous people who is speaking your truth in order to heal and/or to help others heal, just know that He sees you and your heart.  He loves that you are choosing to do the hard and often humiliating work of crawling your way back to health.  The people that try to shame or shun you because you are speaking your painful truth are afraid or lack compassion, but it isn’t a reflection on you or your journey with Jesus.  Keep your eyes on Him and seek His will, even when it’s lonely and doubt rears it’s ugly head because the enemy doesn’t want you to walk in the identity Your Father has for you.  Hold your head up and walk through, knowing He is with you.

“I am your anchor in the wind and the waves. I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid. Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength and I am with you wherever you go.”  

We need to do better.  We need to love better.  We need to open our hearts to His stories of redemption and the beautiful, uncomfortable messiness that comes with it.  

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.”        – Isaiah 40:1

 

 

 

Family Secrets

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Every family has them, right?  It’s just how things happen in this American culture, especially in the generation before mine, which I often call the “sweep it all under the rug” generation.  My mother was a pro at this.  It always seemed so bizarre to me that she would preach to me about my siblings and I getting along better, when she kept so much from her own sisters.  I would argue that it wasn’t really getting along and loving if you didn’t really know one another, but it was an argument that never saw resolution, because my priority was being known and loved, while hers was having “peace.”

I remember when I was around 10 years old and a cousin told me that she had visited the cemetery with her mother and there was a headstone with the name, “Baby McDowell,” (my maiden name).  When she asked about it, her mother told her that my parents had lost their first child, a girl, when she was born.  I was blown away!  I had a sister!  I know it sounds ludicrous, but with four brothers and a mom who wasn’t super chummy with me, I was thrilled that I wasn’t alone on some 10 year old level.  When I went home to ask my mother about it, probably not with an abundance of sensitivity, I was met with such anger, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  She refused to answer any of my questions and told me it was none of my business and my aunt had NO business telling her daughter about it.  In the over 40 years since then, she’s never discussed it with me.

Later, as a young adult, I had to keep mum at extended family gatherings when another family member was in jail, for months at a time – not only once and not the same person.  My mother was adamant about this, so the rest of us fell in line and helped keep up the facade.  This meant telling our children to also lie to their relatives (because that’s healthy…).         When I tried to explain how uncomfortable I was, asking my kids to do this, I was berated for telling my children the truth in the first place, as if I had done something completely idiotic and detrimental to my offspring and my family of origin all at once.

 I was 19 and in college, dating the boy who would become my first husband, when I became pregnant and, as a result, had an abortion.  My husband and children are all very aware of what my experience was and how it’s affected my entire life.  While I wish this was not a chapter in my story, it is, and I believe the only way to change the trajectory of my children’s lives and their children’s lives, and so on, is to bring my secret sins out into the light and talk about what led up to and what happened because of those awful choices I made.  I can say with some disgrace and a bunch of freedom that I have been relentlessly upfront about my bad choices with my children and that the good that will result from my transparency far outweighs the shame I’ve experienced.  

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:  ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:13-14)

With so many wounds, secrets and lies layered upon one another through the years, eventually my family of origin imploded.  Secrets of abortion, miscarriage, a shotgun wedding, an illegitimate child, affairs, stealing money, the list goes on.  It was both heartbreaking for me and somewhat of a relief.  The carnage is still scattered all over the place and I’ve collected all of the pieces of the implosion that I want to keep.  The ones I left behind are not pieces I want to include as I go forward.

The irony is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a family that doesn’t have these same or very similar skeletons in their proverbial closets, and yet, we all freak out and try to hide it when it’s ours.  THIS is normal.  We Sin.  We make terrible choices.  We are HUMAN.  The goal isn’t to get through with less embarrassing sin than your other family members or the neighbors.  The goal is to know each other and love each other through the good and the bad choices.  The goal is to take the bad stuff and help others to not take the same detours, because if we don’t use that junk to cause some good, what in the world is the point?!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—  to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,  the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

When my husband betrayed me several years ago,  I remember so many things going through my mind.  I felt horrible shame because my husband turned to someone else after I had tried so hard to be a great wife in every way I knew how. I did not want anyone to know about this and possibly take pleasure in it at my expense.  I reached out to our church and they connected us to another couple who had gone through something similar a few years before us.  They advised us to tell our children immediately.  We did NOT want our children to know anything – which is ridiculous when I think of how I didn’t leave my bedroom for 2 solid weeks and they must have heard all of the crying and screaming I was doing on the regular.  After a lot of prayer and some time, we took their advice and told our children.  We also shared with them that this had happened with other family members in the spirit of getting it all out into the light and moving forward in freedom.  It was one of the most devastating nights of our lives.  I honestly didn’t think we would ever recover from all of the horribleness.

I’d love to tell you that we instantly became better than ever before, that once the truth was out, we all instantly forgave one another and moved on in perfect harmony.  I could lie, but then I’d be starting that crap again and what would be the point of this post?!  We did couple’s counseling, individual counseling, teenage counseling, and in the process of working toward health with boundaries and all the glitter, there was lots of fallout and sadly, some of it has not been resolved, yet.

I know one of the biggest reasons family secrets begin is because we are concerned about what other people think of us.  We want to appear better than we are.  I often refer to the time before the betrayal as our Stepford Family years because we worked SO hard to make it all look perfect – and by we, I mean me.  On some level (and this is where my 2-ness came into play, HARD.  * See Enneagram) I always believed that if I did enough for the people I loved, they would keep me in their lives because I wasn’t worth loving just because I was me.

SO, if you pour all you’ve got into being the perfect wife, then you finally burn out after 20 years and in your exhaustion your husband turns away because you’re not revolving around him anymore, all of your worst fears are pretty much confirmed.  Which is why I found myself rocking back and forth immediately after the discovery and chanting, “I always knew I wasn’t worth it.”  Satan had been whispering this into my ear my entire life.

In my diligent and often treacherous pilgrimage back to who I was always supposed to be, I discovered that I’ve always been worth it to My Father and that is more than enough.  As the layers of lies were peeled off of my self, my marriage and my family, I could finally hear the voice that mattered most, the voice of My Father.  Instead of the lies drowning Him out, His voice now drowns out satan’s lies.

Once I could hear His truth and accept His love, I was able to face my own “less-than-lovely’ traits and begin to work on replacing them with healthier tools.  This meant more counseling, attending a Destiny Project weekend, working through the 12-Steps (again), inter-healing prayer, revisiting boundaries and how they are healthy, and loads more time with Him throughout.

In the year after the discovery of the betrayal, I was betrayed by one of my oldest and dearest friends (the only one I shared this horrific news with), some people in my husband’s family began (and continue) treating me awfully, and my parents requested that I stay out of their lives forever (and so I do).  There were also many other incidents that were challenging during this period, and I can say it seemed more than I could bear at times, but mostly I had a peace like never before and because I FINALLY knew I was loved fully and unconditionally, I was able to not allow the rejection of me by other people’s brokenness to be my scale of self-worth.  It was all very painful, but I can now look back and see that God was preening my life.  In order to grow He has to trim away the unhealthy stuff, so that we can move forward without that unnecessary weight dragging us down.

In the past I would continue to insert myself into the lives of family members and friends regardless of how they treated me because I thought this is what good, christian women were supposed to do.  I have more broken relationships with extended family than I would like to have, but I know that this is a chapter in my life and theirs, not the whole story, and if I continue to be in My Father’s will and follow His lead, then things will work out just as they should.  Sometimes there will be reconciliation and sometimes there will not be, and in the meantime, He is growing me and preparing me for the next step on the path He has for me.

The other thing I want to say about bringing secrets out into the light is that you don’t have to share your stuff with the anyone who feels unsafe, especially if you are still working through the pain of it.  Mrs. Smith, down the street, doesn’t need to know that your niece had a baby out-of-wedlock, especially if she is prone to gossip!  But, if it’s about someone in your family, you should probs tell your family.  The thing is, that too often those family secrets affect the way we parent, or love, or live.  We may not even realize it, but once it’s out in the open and some time has passed, we may very well notice that we are living more from a place of freedom than ever before and that’s just better for everyone.  I often wonder if the reason my mom didn’t really seem to get close to me as a child is because her first precious baby that she lost was a girl and since I was the only other girl, maybe I reminded her of her profound loss.  Maybe that’s the reason it was easy for her to walk away from me several years ago over something very trivial.  I don’t know.  I probably never will, because family secrets.

The last thing I want to say about family secrets is:  Just ask.  Don’t do it like 10 year-old me probably did, but ask with gentleness and grace.  If you think there is a family secret that you should have knowledge of,  go IN LOVE to the person you think it involves and ask for the truth.  Help him/her bring it out into the light and then extend grace.

I’ve had people come and ask me about choices I’ve made with such grace that confessing to them was a blessing for both of us.  I’ve experienced other people coming at me with such judgement and condemnation that the only result was broken relationship and betrayal.  We’ve all sinned.  We all need grace.  When we remember that and approach the people we LOVE in humility, God can make miraculous beauty out of our messiness.  I know this because, many years after that horrendous night of bringing our devastating secret out into the light, my marriage is more authentic than it ever was and my husband & I have walked numerous others through this devastating journey to healing on the other side.  Our three youngest children will always carry the pain of that chapter of their lives with them, but they have chosen to use it to help others and to grow with a kind of dependence on Our Father that often only comes from walking through a period of anguish from facing hard truths.

While the temptation to have others see me as having my stuff together is always lurking, I don’t ever want to go back to living in the dark.  I know that living with my junk in the light is how I can best follow Jesus.  It’s where He lives and even when my junk is in the dark, He knows, RIGHT?!  In those moments of shame or rejection when I’m tempted to hide a detail or two, this thought will usually cross my mind, “HE ALREADY KNOWS!!”

  “God, you know what I have done wrong; I cannot hide my guilt from you.” (Psalm 69:5)

– and it isn’t the fear of Him that steers me back onto the right path as much as the knowledge that living in truth and transparency is living in freedom.  Living with hidden secrets and festering heart wounds is a life of imprisonment.  I’ve lived there and while I struggle daily with how I appear to others, ultimately I want to be able to come to My Papa day after day, more and more in the identity He has for me.  This isn’t a straight road with no detours or break downs, but it is a well-worn path of persistence, humility and surrender with light and freedom along the way.

Life in the Empty Nest (thus far)

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Our proverbial empty nest has been so for a little over a month now.  It has definitely been an adjustment.

There are some awful things about this chapter of our lives and some things that are not awful at all, some good and some great.

I love cleaning a room and knowing that it will stay that way for a pretty long while.  I can’t even remember that last time any room in our home stayed picked up and clean for more than a day…  y’all it’s been decades.

On that note, I only do 3 – 4 loads of laundry each week, and some of those are only because I’ve been going through and cleaning each room, so I may have rugs, etc. that are not typically weekly laundry.  It wasn’t long ago I was doing 10 loads a week, so this is a major for this girl!

I spend SO much less on groceries for the two of us.  Except I spend more because I know that Aaron will stop by daily to eat at least one meal, Caleb and Hannah a couple of times a week and then I have to pick up a few things for each of them to get through the week without starving or eating non-organic foods…  or chemical laden cleaning supplies… or…

I have peace and quiet.  I am able to read more, write more, spend more quiet time with Jesus.  We can watch whatever we want to watch, play whatever music we choose, eat the dinner we pick…  My Honey and I, not Jesus. Although, I like to think He influences our choices.

When they were younger, Bob would take the kids out for a day or evening so that I could just enjoy the quiet.  It was rare for me to be without my babies, so I would just relish those hours and feel so rejuvenated by the time they all busted through the front door.

Last week my Honey worked 3 nights and this week 4 in a row, after working his full time day job.  I’m not relishing my time alone so much anymore.  I can only rejuvenate so much, and then you can call me lonely.  It probably sounds silly to some, but learning to be alone, again, is a skill I’m struggling with a bit now that I have so much time with just me.

I have room in my refrigerator.  Also, not an occurrence in our home for decades.  I tend to find my security in food – “As long as my children have food to eat, everything is okay,” so it’s still pretty full, but it’s not the norm of shutting the door before anything squeezes out and breaks all over the floor!  My pantry also has room – because I had time to reorganize it and I gave approximately 1/2 of it to my children a couple of weeks ago.  Sometimes I just go into my kitchen so that I can look at my organized pantry and refrigerator.  It makes me happy.

You should maybe be worried at this point.

I miss my kiddos something fierce.  I probs call them too much… maybe not probs.  I’m filling the void by making my Honey breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday.  He’s LOVING it!  This morning he told me that his love language is good food…

I’m rediscovering myself and it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s good, too.

It’s such a weird concept to be independent as a young adult and then meet and fall madly in-love with a man and become one with him in marriage.  Then came the babies and the decades of pouring yourself into them, losing yourself a little even though you said you wouldn’t…

and now you are finally able to date your incredible husband again (without paying a babysitter, or being too exhausted to enjoy yourself or feeling guilty for spending money or leaving your babies behind…), and you can spend actual big chunks of time doing the things you love again.  It should be pure joy, and, yet, it feels so unfamiliar and even a little scary.  But I’m finding moments of joy in all of it and I can see where this will become a truly lovely norm in time.

In the meantime, it’s a little uncomfortable and that’s okay.

My Nest is Empty

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I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years.  Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof.  They were my life’s work.  I poured myself into motherhood.  It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption.  It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws.  Nothing grew me more than being a mama…

Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl.  I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others.  I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves.  I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children.  And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”

My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things.  My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely.  My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know.   She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54.  For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.  

Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.

I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way.  I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me.  When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged.  The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete.  Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys.  It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama.  Life was good.  When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound.  It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally.  After a pretty scary  emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy.  Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.

Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance.  I loved raising my children.  Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways.  I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave.  It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough.  Don’t get me wrong.  My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay.  They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.”  Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes!  Right?!

As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years.  You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring.  Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.  

And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it.  I’d do it all again.  

But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay.  Mostly… 

moreso in a month, maybe.

Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest.  After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed.  The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator.  It was kind of glorious.  Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard. 

The most important work of my life has ended.  It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that.  She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over.  She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t.  She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama.  This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.

Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich.  And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.

I loved my children well.  I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be.  We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another.  We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s.  As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done.  I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama.  I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon.  I have this hope for my life as well.

I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about.  I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year.  It has been hard and wonderful.  I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be.  He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center.  Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud.  My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling.  So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down. 

This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago. 

I’m writing.  

Here’s the great stuff…  My life’s work is pretty much amazing.  My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do. 

My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider.  I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember.  There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple.  We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that.  Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world.  He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known.  He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that.  He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition!  He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together.  God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years.  It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!    

Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice.  Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me.  This is the stuff.  When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company.  My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be.  Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding.  I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.

I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions.  It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side.  I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends.  After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.

I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before.  I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate.  I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice.  I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.

So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now.  I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife.  I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years.  All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction.  There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
Image result for the past
2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Ramblings, er… Confessions of the Day

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brainstorm

brainstorm

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Who doesn’t?!

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

Rambling brainstorm over… for now.