Category Archives: Parenting

Leaving the Nest

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Remember the night you came home with your first, brand new little bundle of joy?  It is usually utterly terrifying – and, yet, most of us survive it, and come away with a comical story added to our repertoire.  Raising toddlers is tough, and mildly exhausting, especially if you have more than a couple of those little buggers at the same time.  Once they go to school, all kinds of new drama, etc. is added to the menu.  The teen years almost killed me, or at the very least, they made me wish I was dead a time or two.  When they become real adults, it’s such a stone soup of feelings.  It’s really wonderful and doing life with your spouse, kind of alone, is a thrilling prospect, if you’ve kept in touch with one another along the way.  It’s also the end of the most important and longest part of a mommy’s life, and that’s a little heartbreaking.  THE end.  The END.  When did this all happen?!  Am I ready for this?…

I’ve always told myself that I would culture my interests, marriage, and friendships so that when my kiddos grew up and started their own lives, I wouldn’t be left not knowing what to do with my time, with myself.  I have never wanted to be that needy mama.  I’ve seen too many women lose themselves in being wives and mamas, and I’ve never wanted to be like that.  I have many interests.  My husband is my favorite.  I have several other dear friends.  

Yet, I struggle to know what to do with myself.  I’m not sure how to not wear my mom identity like a shield.   It’s who I am at the core of my being…

Isn’t it?

I’m flailing. What I know in my head and what I feel in my heart and show in my actions are not lining up.  I’m not sure what my next step should be.  Also, I’m beginning to experience menopause, so my emotions are not always spot on… But, I’m hesitant to admit this to my family because I’m afraid they’ll use that as a scapegoat for every difference of opinion we encounter and that just makes me frustrated and defeated, as if my ideas and feelings are invalid.

I mean, having a clean house is A-mazing.  Spending 1/2 as much on food AND not hearing anyone complain that A – there is no food in the house worth eating or B – there is no food in the house, period (when I just shelled out $300 at the grocery store yesterday), is good stuff.  Having time alone with my Honey is lovely.  Having time to read, pray, lay around, make kombucha, go wherever I feel like going is something I haven’t been able to do in 4-ever.  

I know I’ll get used to this and I expect to fully enjoy it someday in the future, but right now, in this very moment I’m trying to figure out where the time went.  I’m trying to figure out how to support my kiddos’ independence and trust that they’ll choose to be in relationship with us in a way that is life-giving, not just obligatory.  And, yes, I understand I don’t really have a choice in all of that, but I’d like to do my part well, however, my insecurities, past wounds and lack of experience are not making that easy for me.

Being a mama is hard.  Not regular or very hard.  It’s the hardest, the WHOLE time.

The beauty is that it is also MUCH more wonderful and lovely and joy-filled than hard.  So, there’s that.

Here’s to flailing

and loving,

and supporting,

and becoming Tricia, again.

And to embracing the adequacy of myself – 

not because I’m a mom or a wife, but because I am me.

I can do this.

Right?…

Simplicity

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This has been a year of faith growing for me.  If I’m painfully honest, I am the poster child for, “Ye of little faith.”  My security has been cash for as long as I can remember.  When my husband and I were first starting out, I wanted nothing more than to be “comfortable” in the finance department.  I also wanted “the latest, greatest,” as many 20-somethings do.  When our kiddos came along, we had the 4 bedroom with a huge yard and an in-ground pool in the back.  They were dressed to the nines for school (as some of their report cards will attest), and took every lesson and played most organized sports available to children of their age.  We had a membership to a very posh gym and drank chain coffee drinks on the regular.  I spent much of my time keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and secretly envying our friends and family members who had more than we did.

At some point, I realized how absolutely ugly all of that was and how little I cared to continue running on the hamster wheel I had created for myself.  It also became very important for me to teach this to my children before they flew out of my nest.  This was not any easy goal, as I had spent their entire lives modeling the polar opposite of my new conviction-turned-passion.

Simplicity is my destination.  I don’t mean I just want less stuff, I mean I want simplicity in my relationships, in my closet, in my schedule and in my home.  Initially, I thought it would take about a year to clean out the garage, our house, etc.  I believed it was an easy “weed through” kinda thing, and then I began the process.  It was not simple nor easy.  I’m embarrassed to admit how attached I am to too many things.  The most humiliating facet of this process is how long I am willing to hang on to things I haven’t used or needed in decades, just in case I may need them one day.  Secretly, I envision myself saving money just when we need it most because of an item I’ve been hoarding in an overstuffed closet for 16 years.  You know, that perfect, authentic piece for my child’s Halloween costume (our youngest are 22 years old!), or that kitchen tool that I received 20 years ago in a bundle from an elderly relative, that I’ve NEVER used, but washed many times – in case I needed it suddenly one day…  (Truth be told, I didn’t even know what some of those things were!)  Of course, I had outfits that I would never look good in again or purchased on a whim and never even wore.  Not a few, but 4 LARGE trash bags full.  I also had 7 huge crates of books that my family had to pretty much force me to part with.  I was saving those for the grandchildren I don’t yet have.  Broken appliances, hideous, worn-out furniture, bags, jars, vases, rags, lotions, expired medicines, partial sheet sets…

Our 2-car garage was filled to the brim and there was very little room in our home.  Last year we gave away, sold and threw out more than 1/2 of the “stuff” we had accumulated, and still our new tiny 1-car garage is filled, not to the brim, but the floor is about 80% covered.

I work in a very wealthy part of Austin.  My employers live a life I used to covet and yearn for.  Almost inevitably when I am driving to work, passing mansion after mansion, I look up at God and thank Him for the life I have and for not giving me the one I used to think would bring me joy.  He has freed me from that.  I don’t just accept that I don’t have a life like that, I celebrate that I don’t and more importantly, I rejoice that I have the life He has blessed me with.  

Last summer I quit my job as a teacher.  I was quite terrified, a little heartbroken, and a smidge thrilled.  Every year the powers that be (tptb) in my district made things more and more complicated and less about teaching my precious students, and I found that I just couldn’t do it in good conscience anymore.  I’ve been nannying/doula-ing for families with newborns and toddlers since then and my work life is SO much more relaxed and rewarding.  I’m still not sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, but my stress level is much lower and when I leave my job, I am actually done until I return and I’m on the clock again.  When I’m home, I am present.  There are no papers to correct, endless lesson plans to complete or ridiculous t-tess forms to fill out to convince admin that I can actually still teach after doing a bang-up job for 20 years already!  I have fun on my 3-day weekends without working late all week or shutting myself in all day Saturday or Sunday.  I am also not exhausted when I get home.

I’ve pursued healthy christian relationships with other women who want to grow and truly love Jesus.  I’ve spent some time looking at and praying about the relationships I’ve had in the past and I’ve chosen to walk away from some unhealthy ones.  My new home is peaceful in a way that I have desired for a very long time.  There is a place and a time when drama is a part of life, it is inevitable, but I just refuse to entertain it unnecessarily.  While this has been the most difficult part of my life to simplify, and often the most painful, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I still have a closet to thin out a bit and “stuff” in the garage that needs to go, but I’m recognizing what we have accomplished, not beating myself up for what still needs to be done.  It is all a journey, to be walked with our heads up, noticing the beauty all around us and living in the moment.  As I lighten my load, I find I am enjoying everything a little more, looking up, sitting back, jumping in.  I’m finding that the best provider is not my husband, certainly not me or our bank account, but He will provide my needs and often my wants.  As I let go of more and have less, I find I am trusting Him more and realizing I need and want less.  It doesn’t make sense in this culture, but it works better than anything I’ve ever done and that’s enough for me to continue on this journey He’s leading me on.

 

Satisfied

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Lord,

I am so thankful to finally be out from under that mortgage and the town that brought more pain than any other in my entire life.  Thank You for bringing me out of that desert and into this blissful time in my journey.

Thank You for:

Our new home.  It is kitchie and homey.  I appreciate the weird angles, our hobbit bedroom, our 3 baths, my prayer room, and perfect backyard.  I love that we have downsized by 40% in terms of square footage and, though we need to empty more of the garage out, we are living a much more simplified life.  I am overwhelmed by the people You have brought into our home and lives since moving here.  May we always remember that our home is a gift from You and a safe haven for those You love and lead to our door.

My new Parenthood tables.  Already we’ve been surrounded by such lovely people and beautiful conversations.  Thank You for our beautiful gathering places.  May we love people well as we share food, conversation and You across these tables.

My Honey.  What would I do without him?!  He is my knight in shining armor.  Always fighting for my heart.  Always striving against his human nature to be the man You are calling him to be.  When I watch him love our babies, I just fall in love all over again.  Thank you for saving our marriage even after we messed it up seemingly beyond repair.  Because of your faithfulness, we will leave a legacy of love and commitment that only happened because of Your unconditional grace, love and faithfulness.

Our children.

-Scott and Jordan are living their lives.  Thank you for their jobs, their families and may You bless them with a deep desire to know You intimately.  May they always know how much they are loved and how unconditional our love is for them.

-Hannah is leading worship.  She has chased after You for so long since our family’s brokenness and You have loved her so perfectly.  Thank you for doing everything I could never do and honoring my heart instead of my actions and my shortcomings.  Lord, when I watch her breath YOU all over so many in corporate worship and in loving conversation with others seeking Your face, I know I am seeing You.  It’s all this mama could ever want.

-Caleb is coming full circle.  He is searching for truth, so I am sure he will find You.  He is still my Tita and there’s nothing simple about him.  You made him so wonderfully that way and so I believe You will meet him just where he is at and love him in a way I can only imagine.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You for the immeasurable talent You’ve blessed him with.  I pray he develops it and chooses to use it as You will for his life.

-Aaron is a man after Your own heart.  I love his servant heart, despite my abuse of that too many times for me to want to own up to.  I pray his heart softens as he grows in relationship with You and Your people.  Thank you for giving him talent beyond measure that he uses for Your glory.  Lord, thank You for waiting on him to come back to You. Only You know how much this mama yearned for him to love You completely.

Our church family.  We are finally HERE!  We are surrounded by family, neighbors, friends, all wrapped up in our church family.  I have longed to be here and live life with the kind of people we could only dream about for so many years.  I feel like I’m finally at the waterside, with the desolate lonely behind me.

My new car.  A Prius!!!  I just feel so good about its lack of carbon footprint and how cute it is.  It makes me feel so responsible because every little bit helps and I want to take care of this amazing world You gave us.  I’m also thankful for it’s great gas mileage and great price!

Our jobs.  Who would’ve thought we’d rather drive a tour bus, play music, doula, and nanny than almost anything else?!  I love going to work each day and my Honey still can’t believe he gets paid to drive people around while making them laugh and telling them historical facts!  We are blessed to live this life doing what we love and feeling such freedom in our “work.”

Lord, my tendency has always been to downplay the good stuff, so as not to brag, as well as to waste the times of abundance worrying about when the next desert time will come.  I won’t dishonor You with such behavior.  This is the time of plenty and joy.  I am FULL.  I am satisfied.  It is enough!  I know there will be bad junk in the days ahead, but I refuse to allow that to steal my joy in this moment.  I know You will be with me in the desert days, just as You always have been, and that is all I need to know.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for the happiness I am experiencing.  Thank You for loving my family so well, for being so faithful when we haven’t always been, for finally showing me what real love looks like.  Thank You for being the Father I have longed for all my life and revealing that I am Your beloved daughter.  It is more than enough.

 

Stop Acting Like Children

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I feel this need to clarify my stance on the latest bathroom issue that has so many of us up in arms.

I feel that there is a need to make all human beings comfortable with this most common human experience. We all have to go potty when out in public now and again, right?  No one should have to feel shunned when using a public restroom.  I do not have an issue with the LGBT community.  I am saddened that so many Christians do and have been unloving to God’s children based on their sexual orientation.

My issue is NOT with homosexual humans.  I don’t feel that they are perverts who will harm my children, nor do I feel this way about transgender humans.  My issue is with sexually ill human beings that can simply say that they identify as the opposite sex in order to gain easy access to the restrooms that have multiple swinging doors with slots on every side that anyone can see through and easily get into.

I understand that this seems a bit of a stretch, but it may not feel like that if you consider your 16 year old daughter, who is out with friends while you are home, going into the restroom and a 260 lb. man who claims to identify as a female, following her into the restroom in order to do her harm.  Yes, this can happen now, but we more readily notice it in a public place because it hasn’t been the norm, but it is becoming the norm and this concerns me.  There is an issue of safety here.

If we are accepting everyone at his/her word, then we have to acknowledge that some “perverts” are going to take advantage of this situation to satisfy their depraved needs.

My issues are both safety and compassion.  Putting a 3rd bathroom (in establishments that have these multi-stall restrooms) that accommodates the transgender community or anyone who is uncomfortable with the traditional restroom situation, seems the best option for all.  It ensures the same level of safety we’ve always had, which isn’t perfect, but is MUCH better than what I believe we are opening our doors to now.  This is what the “family restroom” option is currently, so these restrooms could just expand their population.

And this is where I’m gonna get real.  So, if you’re a bit of a prude or squeamish, you probably want to stop reading this post right now…

These are my personal feelings about this issue:

I gotta tell ya.  I just can’t imagine poppin’ a squat in a multi-door public restroom and watching a human being with a penis enter the stall next to me.  It’s just too private.  It’s a sacred place where I can ask a perfect stranger if she has a tampon or pad when I’m bleeding like a sieve because the other girls understand.  I don’t want a man walking by the stall as I’m about to “affix” my tampon or pad unless he’s my husband.  It’s private and kinda yucky.  I don’t want the added pressure of being done “affixing” before a man walks in and past my stall with inch wide slits on every side.  When it’s vaginas only, I can fix my mascara or check my panty-lines in the mirror with little to no judgement – at least from most women over the age of 27…

I’m not grossed out by using the same commode as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual human being, anymore than I am grossed out by a heterosexual human being.  I just want the vaginas in the girls’ room and the penises in the boys’ room, if they want to be.  If they don’t, then I think a 3rd restroom is the choice.  If the establishment has single bathrooms, like several in Austin do, then I’m cool with them being genderless (is that the right word?).  I don’t care who I share individual public restrooms with, as long as we aren’t sharing simultaneously.

Okay.  I’ve said my peace.  Except this:  I want to love like Jesus and I don’t want to be hateful or judgemental in His name.  We are supposed to love one another.  We are supposed to listen to each other.  I’m open to questions and comments, and I’d love to discuss this further – in a loving and respectful manner.  Let’s all stop acting like bratty children and start acting like His children.  Because we ALL are.

Ramblings, er… Confessions of the Day

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true-confessions

Idiosyncrasies.  We all have them.

Right? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

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

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

James Code

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

 

 

 

Grief… Observed

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It’s the season of thankfulness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny’s Project

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desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was healing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pink tulip

Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICK…

 

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

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

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

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

fence boundary

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

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

Walk on…

Step On Up

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baby-steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

step-mom

 

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

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

Peace.