Slippery Slopes, Potholes & Divots

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slippery slope

A slippery slope

I remember finding out that he was coming.  I was over the moon about it.  They told me there may be two of them on their way, but after a few days of fretting about the possibility, an ultrasound revealed one perfect baby boy growing healthy in my welcoming womb.  That was almost 30 years ago.  It wasn’t my first pregnancy, but it was my first planned pregnancy and the first one I would carry to term.

Sometimes it is mind-boggling to me how much my first pregnancy affected my entire life, especially the way in which I raised my children.  When I was 19 years old and in college becoming very liberal, I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing by terminating my pregnancy.  Years later, after I gave birth to my twins, I would finally face the enormity of taking the life of my first child, and lay it down at His feet.  But from the moment I gave birth to my oldest son, I was fully aware of God’s mercy and grace, although I didn’t claim to be His follower at that point.

I remember thinking something along the lines of “I can’t believe He would allow me the privilege of raising this perfect little boy after what I’ve done,” in the hospital delivery room.  I felt like I owed God so much for blessing this unworthy girl with the biggest joy of my life, so I worked everyday to devote myself to being the most amazing and perfect mama there ever was.  Which in real talk means I became a neurotic perfectionist.

I made sure that my son felt treasured and protected from anything and everything that might cause him discomfort.  I sat up at night in the summer to be sure bugs wouldn’t land on him if a mosquito or fly was buzzing around inside our home.  I nursed him for 5 months, rocked him to sleep every night until he was almost 2, read to him whenever he’d allow it, rarely fed him store-bought baby food unless I couldn’t find time to make it myself, talked with him endlessly.  When he was older I would stay up at night to fix the periods and commas on his homework so that he wouldn’t have to feel any rejection at school.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him hurting in any way.  I had a neurotic fear that if I didn’t do things well enough, God would take him back.

I remember once when he was about 6 months old, I made one of the worst decisions I could’ve made.  I’m embarrassed as I begin to type these words, afraid of what you will think of me.  My son had been sick for several days and his father had come home very late, in no condition to help me.  I called my parents and asked them to pick up some things for my baby and they helped, but were vocal about why my husband didn’t take care of this.  He worked for them, so they were very aware of his schedule.  When we ran out of formula and the medicine my baby needed a couple of days later, I was too embarrassed to call anyone, so I bundled my little guy up, drove to the store and locked him in the car while I ran through the blustery snow to grab formula and medicine.  I was only in there for about 10 minutes, watching the car the entire time.  As I was leaving the store, a police car pulled up to mine and an angry officer came charging up to me as I hurried to the car.  He screamed at me that someone would be coming to my home later that evening to pick up my son because I was such a neglectful mother.  He asked me if I knew how much danger I had put my child in.  He told me to enjoy the next few hours because I might not have any more time with my son once a judge saw what an awful mom I was.  I drove home nearly hysterical and spent the next several hours apologizing to my baby, and trying to make the most of my last few hours with my son.

They never showed up.  I never heard from anyone ever again about any of it.  I had escaped my deserved fate twice now and I wasn’t going to test the three strike rule.

I’ve never left any of my children in the car alone for even a hot minute.  I still can’t believe I made such a terrible decision.  My only defense is that I was young, exhausted, alone and I felt desperate to get the things my baby needed and for some reason, I thought the snowstorm was more of a threat to him than being left in a car alone in a huge public parking lot.  I know…

Through the years I worked very hard to teach my son how to be giving and generous and most importantly how to love without condition.  I talked  with him about these things and I modeled it as consistently as I could as I parented him through the years.

His father and I divorced when our son was almost 2 years old.  Just after he turned 3, I married his stepdad.  I acquired a stepson who is just 3 months younger than my son and I commenced attempting to become the world’s most perfect step/mom.  My husband and I decided to wait to have any more children so that our sons could be our focus and they could get a firm foundation of security in our family.  Our daughter was born the day before our 4th anniversary and I continued to be a neurotic mama.  Again, the vulnerability of losing one of our children to something caused by my neglect or oversight was just more than I could bear.  In my son’s 7 years of life I think I had only gotten more protective and controlling.  The normal relaxation that parents experience with additional children didn’t happen to me.

I was homeroom mom, PTA president, I headed up and helped with more ministries at church than I can recollect.  I was obsessed with our children having wonderful memories and raising them to be contributing members of society who were full of compassion and eager to help their fellow man and follow Christ.  The irony is that I thought it all hinged on what I did and said, while leaving very little to Christ.  I guess I didn’t model faith very well…

It backfired on me a bit.  I found that when you spend all of your time and energy on being a martyr, you raise children that are shocked and angry when you suddenly attempt to have healthy boundaries.  This was a shock to me.  I was absolutely confident that my children would want to step-up as they grew up and meet others’ needs intuitively.  I thought that they would rise up and call me blessed…

They definitely rose up…   and then things got really ugly for awhile – kind of a long while.  I reacted badly to the part where they spread their wings and leave the nest.  They dug their heels in and as I freaked out, I had a lot of alone time to analyse the situation.  First I spewed about why my ungrateful brats were completely in the wrong, then I justified why I had done nothing wrong and listed all of the marvelous (perfect) things I had done as their mama, then I beat myself up for all of it.  Finally,  I decided to close my mouth, reign in my thoughts, open my ears and my heart so that I could hear their hearts.  It was not a walk in the park.  It did not happen overnight or in a conversation or two, but somewhere along the way, I humbled myself and waded through the hurt to the truth and the amazing thing was that when I did that, my children followed my example and heard my heart.  There were lots of apologies, new perspectives and a whole bunch of grace.

pothole

He’s forgiven me for my horrible choice so many years ago.  It has been very difficult for me to accept his grace because of the magnitude of my sin and my inability to think like He does because of my human limitations.  The cool thing is that I find that as I embrace his forgiveness, I am able to have healthier boundaries with the people I care for most, including myself.  I no longer see Him as a Father who is just waiting for me to mess up so that He can punish me for not being even close to perfect.  He wants me to do the “right” things because I feel led to do it, not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t – and this isn’t news to me.  On some level I’ve always known this in my head, but wounds can cause us to live enslaved, making important choices based on fear and guilt.  The ripple effect of that can be detrimental to generations.  Sometimes the regret for all of my bad choices still overwhelms me.  I can see how it’s affected my children in their own relationships and reactions to what life deals them.  This mama’s heart struggles to not get caught up in the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”  I swear when we give birth to our first child, a “guilt” chromosome is inserted into women’s brains.  On the good days, when I’m wise,  I fall back on Him.  I focus on having  faith that He has this all in His hand and He will honor and bless my mustard seed faith.  On the bad days, I don’t have faith like I do on the good days and then I waste time worrying, making the same mistakes as before and thinking I know best and have control of things.  I wish I didn’t have bad days at all, but I still do and I’m thankful that He extends grace to me and He’s all about do-overs.  I think that before I would spiral into control mode and for the longest time, that was my slippery slope, but the field has leveled off as I’ve learned to have more faith in Him and now it’s more like a pothole or a quick detour before getting right back on the path.  I’m working toward it becoming a divot or swerve in the near future, as I don’t expect I’ll ever be perfect in this area (or any other).  I have more peace now and things work out so much better when I follow His lead, embracing whoever and whatever He blesses me with.

It only took me nearly a half a century to get here, but it’s enough…

divot

 

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.

 

 

 

Brainstorm

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brainstorm

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Who doesn’t?!

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

Rambling brainstorm over… for now.

Grief… Observed

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grieving hands

It’s the season of thankfulness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny’s Project

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desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was healing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pink tulip

Attachments…

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holding hands

This happens every year.  I’m not quite sure how it sneaks up on me every time.  I think it’s the busyness of paperwork, the excitement of summer break fast approaching, the craziness of state testing and waiting for the results, the avoidance of heartbreak.

In August, when I return, I always wonder a little bit how I will love these children like I love the kiddos from my previous class…which is ridiculous, because absolutely EVERY year I fall madly in-love with my students – and I never fall out of love with any of them.  Which is why the end of May and the beginning of June is so painful for me.

The irony is that there’s so much “stuff” – otherwise known as objectives – we have to cram into our kiddos heads all year.  Deadlines to meet, assessments (so flippin’ many assessments) to administer, lessons to make exciting and interesting, and I’m all over that.  I take my responsibilities very seriously.  I need to know that I’m doing all I can to prepare my precious kiddos for life and more importantly, I need to know that I’m instilling a deep love for learning in every precious baby.  So, much to my amazement and exhaustion, we get it all done.  The last few weeks arrive after we’ve worked really hard to learn all we need to learn for the better part of ten months.  We have a little wiggle room now.  We can do the fun stuff that went with the lessons earlier this year, but that we just didn’t have time to do because of the ever present deadlines.

And then Memorial Day weekend comes and goes, and I try to figure out how I’m going to get it all done – The Fun Stuff: the memory books, the room clean-up, the paperwork, the party, the awards, the report cards, the entire check-out list and more are all looming, but all I really want to do is sit on the carpet with my kiddos and read books and listen to them share their thoughts, share their hearts.

Last Friday one of my especially precocious boys walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Ojeda, I love you!  I’m really gonna miss you this summer.  When I’m in 2nd grade, can I come and see you here, in our classroom?  I don’t really want to be in someone else’s class.”

I told him he better come and see me.  I told him he would ALWAYS be welcome here, and then I assured him he would come to love his teacher just like he loves me and that she would love him just as much as I do.  I did this all while not allowing myself to tell all of my babies how much I will miss them and worry about them and wonder if I’ll ever be able to love my kiddos next year like I love them.

Yesterday, I asked them to try to remember all of the things we did that they LOVED this year – all the way back to the first day of school.  They called out, “Jitter Juice!” and “Solar S’mores!”  “Rainbow windsocks!”  “Silly dancing with sillier hats!” “Homework parties – Rootbeer floats, movies, popcorn, pajamas…”   “Sushi and Bubbles!”  “Daily 5 Reading!” – Yes, several of them yelled this out with pure joy!  “The Austin Zoo!”  “The Hands-on Museum!”  “All 27 Junie B. Jones books!!  We Did It!!”  … and so much more.  We had so much fun reminiscing together.  I told them how proud I am of all they learned this year and then I told them how thankful I am for all they’ve taught me.  Naturally, they were shocked to find out they have taught me things, as well, so they asked what they’d taught me!  I told Jasmine that she’s taught me how to be a truly kind and caring friend, and Knowledge & Kamya reminded me what amazing things can happen when you work hard and never give up.  Isaac taught me that sometimes I need to remember my students are only 6 and 7 years old and what I say and how I say it is important.  Ashlyn proved to me that it isn’t always how smart you are, but how motivated you are – and that is a HUGE part of my calling.  Christopher showed me what a blessing someone can be when they offer to help others on the regular.  Andrew reminded me what true childlike joy is and how sometimes, it makes you completely unable to control yourself or your actions for just a little bit and that it’s okay for me to just enjoy that and not try to subdue it or control it.  Dylan taught me that actions speak much louder than words and meeting emotional needs comes first.  Jackie taught me that a born leader can still cry like a baby and be fearful of the future.  I could go on and on.  My precious kiddos taught me more than I could list here.  They humbled me, frustrated me, made me mad, brought me joy, challenged me, brought out my ugly pride and insecurities, made me spit out my drink, laughing and grew my heart, big…

Every group of kids I’ve ever taught has made me better – more humble, more aware that all the good stuff comes from Him.  I can always see bits of my own children in them, my siblings, former students, or even myself, at times.  Sometimes I feel like He’s giving me another chance because I’ve messed up so many times before and He wants me to get it right this time. I feel lucky that He’s letting me try again with the knowledge of my past screw-ups.  That’s one of the good things about getting older, experience brings wisdom.  Wisdom brings deeper love and humility.  Deeper love brings heartbreak…  and so, here I am, again.

The good stuff is that I loved them all well.  I taught them a bunch, mostly to LOVE reading and writing and to be curious about EVERYTHING!  – and it’s summer (!) and I’ll see them and hug them next year.  The not so good stuff is I miss them and my heart is a little bit broken.

The good stuff list is WAY longer than the not so good list!

I find it ironic that I always share with them that I believe writing and reading are SO important for a bunch of reasons, but personally, I love to read when I need to move away from really sad or angry feelings and I love to write when I need to work through those same kind of feelings.  I spent an hour reading Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerine’s, which is full of uplifting, real and sometimes hilarious stories (just what I needed), and now, I’m wrapping up this post.

Good stuff…

Happy Summer!

let go

Reality of a Girl’s Day at the Spa

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My hubby bought me a pretty pricey gift certificate for a posh Austin day spa last year for Mother’s Day.  It advertises as being unpretentious in a very “Austin” fashion.  They carry organic products to boot!  I was ALL IN!

Well, you know, until I started thinking about actually going to the spa.  Walking through the door in my clothes that make me feel chubby and not cool enough, saying something dorky, general fear of not fitting in.  Even worse… Having to remove my tacky clothes and be 1/2 (or more) naked, so that some young, beautiful girl 1/2 (or less) my age can see and FEEL how chubby I really am.  I’ve birthed a lot of babies and I DO love good food…  Also, premenopause has not been incredibly slimming.

So, I postponed as long as possible.  My Honey has been reminding me since last autumn to make my appointment before the gift certificate expired.  I just nodded and gave an appropriately enthusiastic, “Oh, yeah.  I’ll call next week.”  For months…  and then we were all out at this amazing new restaurant a month or two ago, on a SUNDAY, of all days, and the spa called me…  The woman on the other end of the phone was warm, sincere and ready to book my appointment.  She could not have been more accommodating.  Awesome…

I put on my fake happy voice and made an appointment.  She suggested I try one of their facials and since I had never experienced one, I took the bait.  We agreed I would be there the following Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

I rescheduled 3 times.  In my defense, I really have been sick with this lung junk, but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit I was relieved to have a ready-made excuse.  As I mulled over whether or not to call to cancel again this week, I decided that it was time to embrace this experience and I committed to savoring the good parts of my spa experience.

Last night I was preoccupied with getting to bed in time to have 8 hours of sleep so that I didn’t have such dark circles under my eyes – because, one good night of sleep makes ALL the difference.  I fretted that I ate a hamburger for lunch and potato skins with cheddar and bacon for dinner instead of my usual, healthy, organic fare.  UGH!  What was I thinking?!  My skin would look horrible now!  I could just see all of the gorgeous people at the spa rolling their eyes as my chubby “mommy-of-many” body in frumpy clothing, with my dark, sunken-in eyes walked through the door tomorrow…

As soon as I woke up I did my usual coconut oil pull, followed by warm lemon-honey kangan water, then a large glass of cool kangan water and I filled up two containers before I left – one with kombucha and the other with more water.  I covered my face with organic cocoa butter. My skin was going to glow,  Darn It!

My hair was uncooperative (which means it looked kinda ugly), naturally.  So, I grabbed a bandana, rolled it up and put my hair in a little makeshift headband.  I donned my Honey’s comfy black V-neck T with my denim clam-diggers and I was out the door. I arrived about 30 minutes early.  As soon as I got out of my car, I noticed there was lovely “spa” music being piped into the parking lot.  Ahhhh…  I just loved that.  There was a woman a bit older than me exiting the spa on the ramp as I walked to the front door.  She had a brace on her foot and she was squinting in the bright sun.  We exchanged pleasantries about the appearance of long-awaited sun.  She was kind, normal. It calmed me a smidge.

The girls at the front desk were anything but pretentious, offering cucumber water or tea with warm smiles and genuine tones.  I almost forgot about my lack of fashion-sense, obesity,  and overall absence of confidence.  I filled out the multiple info cards as I sipped my booch, requested only organic products be used, and slowly felt my self-doubt seeping in through the cracks in my wall of false confidence as my appointment time approached.

Once I was in the appointed room, my therapist (who was cute as a button, but not especially warm) asked me why I was there.  I replied, “I’m here for a facial.”  She smiled in that “no #*@! kinda way, and then clarified, “I mean, why are you getting a facial?”  I replied, “My husband got me a gift certificate.”  Now she was really trying to figure out if I had much of an I.Q.  “What I mean is why do you need a facial?  What issues are you having?”

I panicked!  Thinking, “Oh Great!  You’re supposed to have terrible skin to have a facial, aren’t you?!  I probably look like an idiot!”  So, naturally, I threw the girl who called me at the restaurant on that Sunday so many weeks ago right under the bus…  “Hmmmmm…. I don’t know.  Whoever called me originally, suggested I have a facial since I’d never had one before, so I thought it would be nice.  Should I….?”

“Oh, no!  That’s great!  Do you have any skin issues?                Do you want to do an extraction?            Okay, I’m going to step out, you can change into this (tiny towel wrap thingy), undressing to your comfort level, and we’ll begin when you’re ready.  Try to take several DEEP breaths as soon as you are lying down.  It will help you relax.”  – Well, if I’m undressing to my comfort level, we can get started immediately!… and oh, crap!  She noticed I’m not terribly calm…

Once I changed into the velcro washcloth she left for me to wear , I got my body under the sheets asap!  Those few minutes while I am waiting for someone to come in after I’ve undressed are among some of the most awkward moments in my life.  Thoughts that usually go through my mind:

“Oh.  Geez!  Remember when your tummy was a valley whenever you were on your back instead of an expanding little mountain range?”

“What should I do with my facial expression?”

“Do I have boogers?  Do I have anything in my teeth?  What about my breath?”

“Oh, no!  Is that gas I feel?  What do I do if it is?!”

Various thoughts while the therapy is in progress:

“Am I relaxed?  Are my butt-cheeks unclenched?”

“Oh, no!  Do I have to go to the bathroom?”

“I hope I smell okay…”

“I should’ve gotten a pedicure!”

“Oh, my word!  That feels heavenly!”

“I didn’t know they did that when you had a facial!”

“Hot towels on your face are delightful!”

“Her hands are gifted.”

“I didn’t even know my shoulders hurt that much.”

“I wish I could do this EVERY Saturday… or at least every few months…”

… it was one of the most lovely experiences in my life.  The ladies at the front desk were even more enchanting after my treatment.  I walked out of the spa feeling uber zen.  I put my Pandora on and tuned into a meditation channel.  I drove to Freebirds and picked up delicious veggie bowls to take home and eat with my Honey.  Then I went to Juice Land so I could get a Bambata smoothie.  I walked into both places with big, messy spa hair and shiny, pinkish, spa face and I couldn’t have cared less. I was one with myself – chubby, freckle-faced, no make-up, beautiful me…

My goal is to make another appointment in July and not cancel

more than once…

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Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICK…

 

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

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

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

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

fence boundary

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

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

Walk on…

Step On Up

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baby-steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

step-mom

 

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

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

Peace.