When Mother’s Day is Hard

photo of mother and child
Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

We have 5 children, one each from our first marriages and then our 3 youngest together.  Our two oldest are only 3 months apart in age, just 3 and almost 3 when we married, nearly 31 years ago.  

Blending a family is no joke, but when you are 25 years old, still swimming in brokenness and ignorance of who Our Pappa God is, then even your best efforts mostly end up a pile of mess.  We did family counseling, family get-aways, and took every opportunity to become a loving family.  I longed for our sons to feel safe and loved without condition.  In some ways, we succeeded, but in so many more, we failed miserably.  I’m sure so many blended parents can relate to this.

We were each overly protective of our bio-sons and had damaged relationships with their other parents.  Some of our family members on both sides were less than supportive.  We came from different ethnic backgrounds, different religious backgrounds and got married after only dating for 5 months!  I don’t think we could’ve set the scene for massive failure much more if we tried.

I’d like to say, “Here we are, still standing,” but that wouldn’t be the whole truth.  Those two sweeties, who are older than we were when we started this crazy journey, are now estranged from us.  For more years than I can fathom, at times, they have chosen to have nothing to do with us.  It is painful.  As time passes, I admit, my hope diminishes that we will ever reconcile.  I sometimes imagine calling my firstborn and saying, “Don’t you remember who I am?  How I have always loved you so completely and without condition?  Why was it so easy to just cut me out of your life over such pettiness?”  But, he has repeatedly made it clear that he wants no contact from me and tbh, I mostly feel at peace that we are, each of us, right where we need to be right in this season.  

I read something by Beth Moore today in CHASING VINES that gave me such comfort, because there are still moments that creep up now and then, when I feel like after all I poured into my son, to have him turn on me so completely,  it was a waste of my life because the fruit of that seems so rotten now.  I’m going to pull a few sentences out from her book to share with you, after my disclaimer.

*Please no judgement here.  I am being honest about the really dark and difficult days of this brokenness as a mama.  

“Why, Lord?  Why did this turn out the way it did?

He knows.  He tells those who listen….

The vinedresser does a curious thing with the rotten fruit.  He turns it back into the soil and then, underground, by some spectacular organic miracle of nature, it fertilizes a future harvest.”  – Beth Moore, CHASING VINES

I think many of us have experienced deep disappointment(s) in an area of our lives that was significant.  Then we wonder why and feel discouraged that it was all for naught, when, in fact, it wasn’t.  It never is, because when we choose to walk through that difficult season with Our Pappa, learning from the mistakes we’ve made, then the next season is full of sweeter fruit.

I poured everything I was able to into all of my children.  They were my life’s work and joy.  I messed up plenty out of my own brokenness, like every other human being that walks this earth.  I’ve spent the past several years asking My Pappa God to show me the places I’ve needed healing and where I’ve needed to help others heal from my sins.  I pray my firstborn is growing with Our Pappa God, as well.  I pray that one day we will find reconciliation and grace for one another because I believe it is His will.

Tomorrow will be hard in some ways.  I think of him every day, but he is the one that made me a mama, so this one is one of the harder days.  He will probably send me a text that hurts more than blesses (again) that says, “Happy Mother’s Day” and I will wish that he didn’t because years of texts that seem to check the box more than have true sentiment, are a reminder of how little I seem to mean to him anymore.

Tomorrow will also be lovely because my three youngest children and my husband of 31 years are still standing, sometimes limping, but always striving to grow together.  They love me and will celebrate me, flaws and all.  I am blessed beyond measure, but on my road to being whole I must honor that part of me that grieves the loss of another year with the boy who made me a mama.

 

Tita

I recently became a Nana for the first time.  My older, precious twin, Caleb, became a daddy in a less-than-traditional, but not terribly uncommon manner.  During the end of the pregnancy, before we knew with any certainty that He was related to us, we all experienced a gamut of emotions that were extremely difficult and exhausting.    

He was born a month early, under slightly scary circumstances.  (Did I mention that mama went into labor a full month early, on Caleb’s birthday?!)  Caleb decided that he wanted to be in the delivery room to support the baby’s mama and to witness his child’s birth with no regrets.  I remember when he asked me what he should do, I asked him if the baby turned out not to be his, could he recover emotionally.  He assured me he was fine. My mama’s heart wanted to help him make the right decision without emotions clouding things up, but that was just simply impossible.  Caleb was there when Charles was born and he even cut his son’s umbilical cord.  A few days after the birth, my son was informed that the paternity test would not be done until little Charles was six weeks old and the results typically take about six additional weeks to return.  This would mean that the baby would be around 3 months old before anyone would know who his daddy was.  The news was almost unbelievable to our family!  Waiting that long was not beneficial for anyone.

I’ve learned SO MUCH since this all began.  I found out that you can order a profesh paternity test online for about $120 or less and have the very reliable results in about 48 hours from the time the company receives it.  I learned that no matter how hard you try to stay neutral, when you are a 2 Mama and Nana, you are ALL IN as soon as you know that baby is your baby’s, in spite of your wise children doing their best to prevent your possible heartbreak.  I know the wonder of having another woman birth a clone of your baby.  I finally understand all the hype about how awesome it is to have grandchildren because you have all the fun with very little of the tedious day-to-day responsibilities.

Arlo looks SO much like his daddy – and quite a bit like his Auntie Hannah, as well.  Also, Arlo’s parents look like they could be related, so there’s that…  He was in the NICU for just over 2 weeks.  He was released from there the morning after we got the results that confirmed Caleb is his daddy…  interesting.  He and his mama then spent several days in the “Nesting” area of the hospital before they allowed them to go home, and she graciously welcomed this Nana and Papa for daily visits.  

Processed with VSCO with fs16 preset

We received the paternity test results the day after Valentine’s.  Caleb came over so he and I could process together.  I prayed silently as he experienced the HUGENESS of the situation in every way imaginable.  He mourned the end of his carefree life.  He expressed deep shame and regret.  He questioned whether he could rise to this occasion.  He lashed out in anger.  He shut down.  He began to accept the responsibility of it all, and then, bit by bit, he gave in to the cresting dam of love he had been struggling to hold back in order to protect his heart, in case he wasn’t Arlo’s daddy.  At first it was just a little trickle of the acknowledgement of the wonder of it all, leaking out in the most beautiful and fragile way. I watched this grow into the new joy of fatherhood and all the possibilities that lie ahead.  I am humbled that I bore witness to this sacred moment in my son’s life.  I count it as one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Once he was on level ground, again, he showered and we headed up to the hospital to meet his son (my grandson!!!!).  This is when I got to witness another absolutely lovely and horrible moment in my son’s journey to fatherhood.  He walked in, worked his way around all of the cords and medical “stuff” so that he could pick up his baby and inform him that he was his father.  When about 20 minutes passed and it was time to change his diaper, Caleb told us that it was time for him to learn to do everything.  It was excruciating and glorious watching him almost drop Arlo while diligently and lovingly changing his little preemie diaper with three women looking on.  I could feel my son humbly saying with his heart, “I’m all in.  I’m your daddy.  I love you and I will do everything I can to make you feel loved and to make your life better.”  

img_0083

In the past almost 4 months I have watched my baby mature exponentially.  As soon as Arlo’s sweet mama had to return to her job, Caleb changed his schedule at work so that he could be with his son Monday through Wednesday each week.  He works double shifts Thursday – Saturday in order to do this.  He can change a diaper, swaddle and burp a little one with the best of them!  He can tell you, with amazing accuracy, what Arlo is crying about within seconds.  When they come over for dinner on Monday evenings, we all vie to hold him, feed him and diaper him to give Caleb support for our own selfish reasons, and I am always so proud of him for making it clear to everyone that he is the one responsible for his son’s care.  He doesn’t show up and step back while everyone takes care of Arlo.  He’s the kind of daddy I have prayed my sons would be.  I am proud of the way he has lovingly stepped up and fully embraced the responsibility of fatherhood in spite of the extra challenges it has brought into his life.  

img_0066

 

Lastly, I am thankful that he repeatedly forgives us for being so excited every time he  walks through the door with Arlo and we gush all over our sweet grandboy and treat him like an afterthought… 

img_0136

Honestly!!!  Can you blame us?!  Just look at that precious little face… 🧡

img_0132

Bearing

I am tired

In my flesh

Triggered

Abandoned

Broken-hearted

I am resentful

Unable to be perfect

Unable to arrive

Human

I am not willing to justify my actions to those who have yet to live anything near the last 35 years of my life

I am sad for the loss of what it “should” have been, but never will be

For the realization that this is forever and will never be “normal” or easy

Rejoicing in the tiny perfection, the heavenly smell, the precious sounds

The overwhelming, all-encompassing love

The witnessing of care-taking and manliness in the grown clone of this new blessing

The beauty of godly men stepping forward with grace and encouragement, bearing witness to Our Pappa’s power over shame.

Redemption

In His will

In His love

Thankful that He is in the waiting with me while my heart is breaking, reminding me to release the doing, the reaching, the striving

Reminding me to be who He made me to be, extending grace to others

Extending grace to me

But, first, I mourn, because I am weary and I am a woman

I am His

 

 

2, Fix You

I am learning the sweetest lesson that I would almost swear is changing my body chemistry and slowing down the aging process.  I am simultaneously trying not to regret spending so many years not living in this truth.

So much of my struggle comes simply from being a mama, but it seems to be compounded by my 2-ness.  I have always loved to help my husband and our children “figure out” how best to navigate all kinds of difficult situations.  If any one of them is in the midst of a mini crisis, there is nothing this 2-mama loves more than being needed, and if the tangle is between any 2 or more of them, well then I’ve always felt it is my responsibility to get right in the middle and help them to understand the other person’s viewpoint so that peace and love would once again be restored in our family.

ick.

Right?!

Recently, as we have been walking through this trying season in our family, I am seeing so clearly that satan wants division and isolation among us.  In the past, this would’ve panicked me and I would be in full-on mama-2-fixit mode.  I’d convince myself because of other broken relationship history that any conflict between my children could be permanent.  I’d be on high-alert for any harsh word or action, lest left unaddressed, would sever the ties that bind us so that reconciliation was impossible. I’d force myself, my husband and our children into conversations that none of us was anywhere ready to have, thus resulting in deeper wounding all the way around.

Often I would listen to one of my lovie’s  emotional assessments of a situation, all the while getting amped up about the other lovie who was clearly in the wrong!  Then I’d confront this “other” only to find out that I was only getting one side of the story, and in the name of reconciliation, I had jumped the gun, crossing several boundaries and hurting everyone in the process.

Holy Spirit has been unconditionally patient with my insanity.  He has gently and consistently grown me in this area.  Initially, my first milestone, which was more work than I care to admit, was curbing my yelling (screaming) at my immediate family.   This is embarrassing, but the truth is, I lost my temper and turned into an insane banshee with my babies on a somewhat regular basis for more years than I care to admit right now.  This would happen for important and worthy reasons such as forgetting their schoolwork at home, not emptying the dishwasher when I asked them to, and their all time favorite:  when they would leave someone out, especially one another.  The amazing thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I went full-on banshee on anyone.  So, that’s a win.

My next goal was staying out of my grown children’s disagreements with each other and with their dad.  This was SO, SO HARD for me!!!  The interesting thing was that they asked me to do this and we all decided to make it a family rule, but when they would argue, someone would inevitably look at me and say, “Aren’t you going to say something?!  Why are you letting him/her say that without saying anything?!”  I also discovered that my children had become champion busybodies, thanks to my example, and staying out of arguments that didn’t involve them became a family goal.  So, that objective was not obtained as smoothly, but I’m grateful and proud to say that when 2 of us are having a spat and all of us are together, the other 3 stay quiet and refrain from taking sides 95% of the time. 

My latest ambition has been to stop being the fix-it girl. When my children share a challenging situation they’re dealing with, my mind is racing to think of the best solution for them.  Half the time, I’m not truly listening to what they are communicating, because I’m so busy trying to make it all better and be the hero! (insert another “ick”)

strength strong toy action figure

I’m learning I should not attempt to solve the struggles in other people’s, especially my children’s, lives.  It is perfectly acceptable, nay, preferable to stay silent, truly listen and simply ask what they need from me.  I’ve found that in actively staying focused on what is being said to me, I can more easily wade through the emotion and opinions that feel like facts to him/her.  I don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions as much as I used to and that’s a double win, imo, because people don’t get hurt by possible untruths and satan can’t use this against me like he has so much of my life.

stainless steel close wrench on spanner 

All 5 of us are NFP’s on the Myers-Briggs, so there is no shortage of the feels in our family.  Learning to keep our emotions in check has been such a blessing.  We still have tiffs and we are not terribly calm or logical when things get heated, but we stay in our lanes most all of the time now, we listen to each other in a way we never did before and the banshee is gone.  I’d say we’re winning.

board center chalk chalkboard

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.

 

Family Secrets

Proverbs-28-13

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.

32

32

There is something holy about bringing a new life into this world.  The first encounter I had with Him was the moment just before I first met you on the outside.

You were all beautiful, pink, squishy and seemingly perfect.  He was all love, grace, and truly perfect.

Once we took you home, you were all consuming, completely demanding, and somehow still so very close to perfect, while He was everywhere with no demands, just offering His perfect grace and unconditional love.

I am born again because you were born.  Your agonizing and joyous birth set my life on a new and elevated path following Him that will ripple through generations.

You are the miracle I never deserved.  You are the child that made me a mama and His beloved child, all at once.

You are deeply loved without condition, hoped for daily and prayed for always.  

Happy Birthday, Beloved Child of His and mine.

Oh, that I could (a mama’s lament)

Dandelion clock in morning sun

If I could go back 

and do it all again

-or maybe just parts of it…

I would honor who He made you to be more than forcibly attempting to mold you into who I thought you should become.

I would listen more with the intent of hearing your heart and less with the goal of sharing my “wisdom.”

I would engage more in being a part of all of those wonderful memories and less in the role of martyred stagehand. 

I would enter into holidays, vacations, and special gatherings with my hands and heart wide open instead of my everything being wound up and around unrealistic expectations that almost always led to disappointment and my embarrassingly bad behavior.

If I could go back,

I would remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect in order for people to love me and that even if people will never love me without condition, HE does and that’s enough.

I would give myself grace, and, in turn, give more grace to others. -Because NO one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and grace is such a beautiful place to live and grow in, unlike judgement and condemnation.

I would set healthy boundaries so you would feel safe and have a confidence that my wounded parenting wasn’t able, but desperately wanted, to instill in you.

OH, if I could go back and do it all again,

but I can’t – not even a little bit of it.  So, I will not linger in “what-if’s” or “should-haves.”  I will move forward, grateful with experience and wisdom that I lacked early on (and hope still to increase), accompanied by grace and love for myself and others born of my journey, prayerful that I will continue my pilgrimage, walking ever more fully in who I was created to become.

The Evolution of My Sin

apple one bite

Growing up in my family of origin, it was normal to discuss how absurd other people’s choices were.  I heard (and eventually said) things such as, “Who does that?!” and “Iwould NEVER act like that!”  We pretty much had the corner on the market when it came to how to parent, how to behave in public and just generally how to do everything and how to be at all times.

I carried on this tradition with my own family for longer than I care to admit.  At some point I realized in the midst of utter shame that I was the leader of my “judgmental & gossipy pack,” so I began praying a bunch and worked toward not criticizing almost everyone we encountered on the regular.  It was clear to me that, while I believed almost every “normal” family did this on their way home from gatherings, it was not healthy, nor very Christlike, and I wanted better for my children.  I wanted better for myself and my character.

Several years ago, after I had been intentionally working on extinguishing this ugly behavior,  I felt very convicted and decided I didn’t want to participate in it with my family of origin any longer.  This is when I realized that what we were doing was gossiping and I could put a name to my sin. Up to this point, it had honestly not dawned on me that what we were doing was judgmental gossiping.  The next time I was on the phone and my family member began to criticize another family member’s parenting and marital choices, I calmly said, “I feel like what we’re doing is gossiping and I don’t want our conversations to be about this kind of stuff.  I would prefer to talk about you or something else because…”  And at that point the other person began screaming at me a bit maniacally, hung up on me, and then did not speak to me for almost 4 months.  This was not how I envisioned this scene.  I was certain that after I had poured so much prayer into it and was speaking out of my own shame and love that it would be received in kind.

I’d like to tell you that I never get in the car with my family and begin to chat it up about how so-and-so spoke to so-and-so very rudely or how much so-and-so bragged about his whatever, but that would be a lie.  The good news is that since we’ve been working on this as a family for years, I can usually count on someone to guide me back to Jesus in love.

It’s not unusual for my husband, our three youngest children and I to occasionally discuss what we believe is gossip.  Because while we believe that our family is a safe place to vomit without judgement, we also, now and then, cross the line into the realm of gossip and/or judgement.  It is a fine line, and sometimes, when our emotions are high or our egos are bruised or someone’s heart has been broken, my mama-bear comes out in all of her ferocious “glory,” instead of my faithful daughter in her beautiful humility.  Sometimes because we are all reeling from the unfair blow one of us received, we forget Who has us and we don’t pull each other back into His will, or toward the faith that He’s working it all out for a minute.

11295176-bitten-red-apple-isolated-on-white-background

Now, let me just say that the only thing worse than not being gently pulled away from the ledge of judging and gossip is a confidant who immediately throws anecdotal christianity all over my pain, so that I don’t feel seen or heard, but I do feel as if I’ve been served a big old judgement sandwich.  I know that people think that they are helping and pointing me back toward Jesus, but before doing that, a wounded person needs to feel safe, heard and not judged.   (and if you ask my kiddos they will tell you I’ve done this a time or two)…  Just the other day, one of my precious children was sharing the anxiety he was experiencing, and I immediately began wrapping it all up in a nice little b.s. Jesus package to which he replied, “I know all of that, Mom, I just need to express my feelings in a safe place before I can get there.  Please don’t shame me.”  I thought I was making him feel better, but, really, he just needed to be heard without judgement and without me trying to fix everything.  – Like I could do that in a million years, anyway!

So, initially I joined right in to the sin of my family of origin.  As an adult and especially, as a mama I realized this sin was wrong.  Years after that I could name the sins – Judgement and Gossip. All the while, I have been praying about this, feeling shame off and on as I stumble, and then I heard about something called the enneagram.  I’ve done plenty of personality tests, many of which have been extremely helpful and had a positive effect of my life such as MBTI, StrengthsFinder, love languages, and spiritual gifts tests.  The enneagram, however, has definitely had the biggest impact on my life.  In the evolution of this particular sin, it has been a game-changer.  Your enneagram number is not a personality test, but it is more about determining the essence of who God made you to be.

I’ve been studying the enneagram for almost three years and my whole family is very into it.  It has helped me see how I behave in unhealth and understand why I have been and done SO many of the things I’ve done and been since forever.  Partnered with the other personality tests I’ve taken, I’ve been able to walk more fully in my daughter identity than ever before.  It has also helped me understand more fully the people I love most in the world – and often other people who may offend or hurt me.  As a 2, I listen to and read anything I can get my hands on that explains my husband and our children so that I can meet their needs in just the way they need them met.  I’m all about meeting the needs of people before they even know that they have that need.  As I’ve taken in this knowledge about other people’s essences/enneagram strengths, I feel as if my eyes have been opened anew and I am understanding how others view, react and behave in a way I never did before – especially considering my family of origin and the fundamental belief we cultivated that our way was the only and right way.

Which brings me to the next stage of the evolution of my sin…  As I’ve learned more about others and their essences, I’ve realized how arrogant I’ve been in judging people through the years.  Of course, I realized years ago I was gossiping and in that I was being judgmental, but now I also realize how arrogant it is to believe that the way I am motivated is the only correct way to be motivated – and that, of course, we all think the way we believe is the correct way or we wouldn’t behave the way we do.  This may seem very obvious to most of you, but it has been revolutionary for this girl.  In learning about each number of the enneagram, I’ve learned more about the lenses we each look through because of childhood wounds and what motivates us at our core.

apple one bite

There are times when I wish I would’ve known about the enneagram before I had married or had children, so that I could’ve been a better wife and mama, or just before I made SO MANY MISTAKES, not because I would not have made any, but because I would’ve made less and had more grace for myself and everyone who crossed my path.  I’m more than thankful that my children have this tool at such a young age and that they understand it isn’t just a narcissistic information source so that they can talk about themselves or make  excuses for their personality flaws, but a rich source of information about how they can work (hard) toward growing into the person God is calling them to be.

I’m thankful for the evolution that God has enriched my life with.  I won’t lie to you and say it’s been a joyful journey…  not even most of the time.  It’s always been worth it, though, and the alternative is not even worth considering for this girl.

apple-fruits-fruit-heart-love-food-1418868-pxhere.com.jpg

Dear Honey

Bob

There are so many things I adore about you, but as nearly three decades have come and gone, I find that I much too often take an abundance of your goodness for granted.  Part of my resolution is to be a better wife, less critical of you, so that you can walk more fully in the joyful identity God has for you.  As I’ve prayed about how I can best become more of who He calls me to be as your wife, I’ve asked Him to see you through His eyes and not my own critical eyes.  I believe He’s been bringing to mind some of the many loving qualities and actions of yours that I’ve overlooked recently.  This is just a small sampling of the ways you bless me and others who know you.

It doesn’t go un-noticed that you always clean up the food and dishes when our kiddos are over for dinner or almost anytime we have dinner guests, while I visit and relax.

When you share story after story of the people you bless during your work day or at band gigs, my heart sings.  You are such a tenderhearted man and I love your generosity with people who cross your path.  I love that you have so many homeless friends in Austin, that you don’t simple give money to, but that you invest in them and know about their lives because you choose to spend time and pour into them.  When you tell me any of your many stories of special people who ride your duck tour and “drive” on the water, perhaps for the first and/or only time in their lives, and your eyes brim with tears, my heart just leaps in my chest and I thank God you are my husband.

It means the world to me that when I work my 11 hour day once a week, you have dinner all ready when I walk through the door.  Exhaustion and a yummy home-cooked meal are fast friends.

I love how much you love our children.  Even though they are all grown and out of the house, you still work so hard everyday because you want to provide things for your babies (and me).  Your dedication to all of us makes my heart sing.  You are truly the hardest working person I’ve ever known, but you are not a workaholic.  You work to live and enjoy life with your family and I’m thankful for the example you are to our children.

One of my favorite things about this more “mature” version of us is that you are happy to stay home with me, watching a movie and cuddling is a treat.  When we were younger, you wanted to be on-the-go all of the time, being the extrovert of our union, and I would go along, but it was almost always a stretch for me.  I’m thankful that I have fun with you whether we are out on a date or hanging at home.  You are my favorite person to spend time with.

Thank you for always telling me that you think I’m beautiful and meaning it.  Thank you for encouraging me to discover my calling.  Thank you for being so patient with me as I wallow around in the muck trying to leave my grumpy self behind.  Thank you for valuing my opinion.  Thank you for putting up with me.  I know it’s not always easy, but your love has brought me a peace that I had never known.  Thank you for reacting to (almost) every meal I make as though I am Martha Stewart.  Thank you for cheerfully trying all of my organic, paleo, keto, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. etc. recipes.

Thank you for loving me.