Destiny’s Project

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

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

card  igloos

Typically coming into one’s own is thought to happen sometime in one’s early 20’s.  We leave the secure (or often unsecure) nest of our parents.  We see that other people live differently, the world is a big amazing place and we shift our way of thinking.  We begin to feel as if we rule the world.  We get a little arrogant about our parents and the way they live, the things they believe in and instilled in us somehow seem silly, small minded.

So, we create the adult “us” because now we know.  We’re 23 or so and we won’t make the same mistakes as our parents or any of the other clueless adults who have ruled our world for the past couple of decades or so did.  There is also this disillusionment that happens when we realize our parents aren’t perfect, and that they were actually wrong about a few things.  Honestly, this can shake up our entire sense of  how the world works.  It makes everything seem like a lie, so we’re not sure who or what to trust anymore.

This can also be a truly wonderful time.  We are young, beautiful, driven.  The world is our oyster…

We begin our adult lives.  We may start an amazing career, get married, start a family or not. . .  and then we’re just busy.  Responsibilities multiply all of a sudden, and we fall back on the examples, good and bad, that were set for us.  We don’t really know any better unless our upbringing was laced with the biggies – some kind of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) that the world told us was terribly wrong.  Then (usually) we fight with all that we are to NOT make the same mistakes – to not treat our spouses like that or put our children through the horrors that we experienced.  

What about so many of us who were raised in homes with families who looked good on the outside and even on the inside – at least to the child who only knew this family and even to the damaged adults who were the leaders in those homes?  

I think we usually grew up believing we had a “normal” life.  We become the damaged adults who raise another generation of damaged adults, who raises another generation…  All the while, I think we feel a tug to be more, to be real, to be authentic.  We simultaneously run as fast and far from the raw truth as we possibly can.  In order to get down to the “real” of who we are, we have to flesh out the ugly that has been buried for so long.  We have to face the lies, the hurts, and the junk that have layered themselves in who we are.  There is no guarantee that we will like the new “me” we become.  It is a pretty sure bet that the journey will be painful and  very few people will support us.

Have you ever heard the theory that a family is like a house of cards?  Even when the house is standing with very little that is structurally sound, most all of the cards will do everything they can just to keep the house standing just as it is.  We find some sort of comfort in our dysfunctional family units and when one person tries to shift, i.e. get emotionally healthier, become more independent, branch out in a healthy way, the rest of the deck will do whatever they deem necessary in order to avoid change.  They may try to shame the lone card, even disown the lone card, often involving others in the hopes that feeling ganged up on, the lone card will go back to his/her old ways and everyone can just be comfortable again.  When the shifting card “moves” too much, the entire house of cards falls down, and in order to rebuild itself, the other cards are forced to face their fears, their ugliness and their secrets to some degree.  Truth be told, not too many of us are crazy about dealing with our junk because someone else pushed it on us.

I’ve seen this happen with friends who were sexually, emotionally, or physically abused as children.  Family members try to keep the uncomfortable truth in the dark because they think it’s easier than dealing with the pain that bringing it into the light would cause.  I’ve witnessed the agony of adult friends discovering years after their childhood abuse that other adults were aware of what was going on at the time, but chose not to speak up because it would hurt too many people if they said anything.  It breaks my heart to know what that did to their sense of self-worth, to their belief that they were worth loving and protecting by the people closest to them.

I think the hardest part of stepping out of the crazy darkness is the incredible loneliness and the self-doubt.  Being shunned by your family of origin or the family you helped create is a special kind of hell.  In spite of the plethora of strained family relationships in our culture – (so much so, that joking about the difficulty of holiday family gatherings is often seen on greeting cards, sitcoms, etc.) – we still are inundated with facebook postings, books, t.v. shows, billboards, etc. that cause people not in the “perfectly happy family club” to sting in silent pain.  It’s not that you resent the person that has a loving relationship with their parents, siblings, children. The opposite is true.  You are happy for them.  It gives you hope to know that unconditional love and grace exist in families.  It also hurts deep down to your very core to be reminded that you aren’t loved like the facebook or twitter postings I see on the regular:

“Love your mom no matter what you go through and how much you argue because, in the end, she’ll always be there for you.” –  No, not necessarily…

or
“Because I have a brother, I will always have a friend.”  – Not in my case…

or

“Family is a circle of strength: Founded in Faith; Joined in Love: Kept by God; Together Forever!” – That sounds wonderful, but not my reality…

As the holidays approach, it becomes even more difficult to stand firm.  The fear of spending these very special family days without family can cause you to run right back into the dysfunctional routine that chips away at your sense of worth, but still feels comfortable, normal to some extent.  It’s all good and well to be committed to breaking the cycle and even suffer in order to make things better for everyone by bringing the junk into the light or refusing to engage in the old messed up dance that you’ve done For-Ev-Er, until you’re faced with spending Christmas Day with no one except the cable t.v. channel that is FULL to the BRIM with stories of loving families on Christmas and even the families that aren’t perfectly happy at the beginning of the hour are full of joy, love, forgiveness and all tied up with a pretty bow by the end.  And when others ask what you’re doing for the holiday, you have to decide if you should make up a story about how you’ll be spending the day with your big, loving family, or make up a different story about not being able to see your family because they’re too far away or a horrible sickness is making its rounds through your family members, or if you should just face the music, be honest about having no one to spend the day with and leave everyone listening to you in awkwardness or even worse, offering you “pity” invites to their family gathering!

Gosh!  It’s a hard thing to be a member of a family that is made up of other flawed human beings!  It’s almost impossible to step out into the light and make a concerted effort to choose honesty, health, depth of relationship when you’re not really sure what that looks like and not a bunch of people desire the same depth or transparency.  I think that mostly we only choose this new path because we simply cannot keep doing the same dance we’ve always done.  It’s just too painful…

Trying to go back once you’ve stepped out into the light is like trying to fit your foot into a shoe that is 3 sizes too small.  Some of us are crazy enough to try, all the same, but I don’t think we can stay there for very long.  Once He frees you and you see the truth, really SEE the reality of your story, then you know you have the power to choose to be in His will and become all you were meant to be.  It’s a new kind of pain, not less or more, just different…Cleaner, more pure, I think, but still excruciating at times.

I remember 6 years ago thinking that I would NEVER make it through the holidays.  My entire life was shattered… and then the person who shattered it came along side of me, held me up and made some beautiful bittersweet memories that I hold gently and very near to my heart.  Two years later was when I finally and fully stepped into the light and lost a big part of my family of origin and my extended family.  It was almost as unbearable as two years earlier, but I was different – stronger and much more fragile.  He had begun to show me who I am in Him and that was enough.

Unfortunately, satan knows where I am weak.  The holidays will again be difficult this year.  My heart is sad, my head is baffled, but the shoes don’t fit anymore and I can’t dance my new dance for Him in shoes that don’t fit, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the people still sitting at the card tables in the dark corner of the room…

shoes too small

I am his and he is mine…

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This is a HUGE year for me. I had my 50th birthday in January and in just a bit more than a month my Honey and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I have been married to him ½ of my entire life!   I have joked about being married to him for 1/2 of my life when I was 5o since I can remember!  How did it get here already?!

There are times when it has felt like it has been twice that long. The months when we can’t seem to find each other or remember who the other person is anymore, days when we can’t agree on anything, the times when we just get on each other’s nerves all of the time, and we are just plain old ugly to each other have felt endless. Those times don’t happen very often, especially now, but when they have, it is excruciating….

There have been a very few times when I couldn’t even remember why I wanted to be with him in the first place because I was wounded so deeply. Those times never lasted very long, but I’d be lying if I said they never happened.        Marriage is hard. It’s also long – sometimes…  if you’re lucky and committed, but long means SO much can and will happen.

I think one of my most favorite parts of being married to my Honey is that we’ve worked through huge piles of our junk and decided that we are committed to being really present in this relationship, not just surviving it and staying married for a long time.  We always had a pretty good marriage on the outside, but it was pretty icky a lot of the time on the inside. I couldn’t admit this to myself for a very long time. I think that’s why I was such a good actress and contributed to the pretty marriage façade others saw for so many years.

I remember when things got the worst they had ever been and I was wavering between walking out the door and staying almost every other day, someone told me that if I chose to stay and really worked to make things better, God would bless my marriage and it would be more wonderful than I could imagine. I thought that person was on crack, honestly. I just couldn’t see past all of my pain enough to see anything ever getting better. I was just beginning to grasp how much of a lie my marriage had been for the first almost 20 years. After being given some more advice, I decided to just wait, to give myself time to heal some and to not make decisions based on pure emotion at such a low point. That was some of the best advice I have ever gotten. It saved my life and my marriage.

During counseling my Honey and I decided that we were all in. After all, we didn’t really have anything left to lose. I remember thinking that it truly couldn’t get any worse and I needed to know that I had put it all out there before I could walk away with a clear conscience: my fears, my insecurities, my sins, my needs, ALL my junk with complete integrity, no mixed signals, no games, no protecting myself.  My Honey did the same in a big way.  I think it was probably the first time in our whole marriage that we just depended on God to see us through.

I think we both felt like we were seeing each other for the first time when we first began to really talk candidly in counseling. There were times when he would admit something to me that I had questioned him about for years and I felt like he handed me back my reality and after an initial burst of anger, I was in awe of his honesty and vulnerability. Other times I was almost unbelieving when his deep love for me would come shining through. It took me a long time to fully trust his love for me. It took him almost as long to trust my love for him. The irony about that is that it was mostly because of our own junk that we felt this way, not because of the other person’s actions. I think that’s probably true of most relationships…

Our beginning wasn’t picture perfect.  We had both gone through ugly divorces just a year before we got married. We also each brought a precious toddler son into our union.  We dated almost 5 whole months when we got married (What in the world were we thinking?!).  We were both in our last year of college and my parents were living with me at the time!  Much of our first several years of marriage were spent in the courtroom dealing with constant custody and visitation issues.  The attorney bills were astronomical. Blending a family is not all Bradybunch-ish, I can tell you that!  We loved each other very much and that was the glue that kept us together in the early part of our marriage; that and God’s mercy.

There are things I have always loved about my Honey.  He has always made me laugh more than anyone else – especially when I didn’t even know I needed to.  I love that he loves to talk.  He’s like a best girlfriend, only SO MUCH BETTER!!  He has always been a gentleman.  He holds doors open, puts me on the safe side of the path whenever we’re walking outside, and always takes care of me when we go out, holding my chair out for me, getting my drinks, etc.  He has always been a loving daddy to our babies.  He rocked ‘em, diapered ‘em and coached their teams.  I don’t think he ever missed a school or a sporting event that he knew about.  I love that he works so hard for our family because he wants us to be comfortable.

There are even more things that I love about him now because they were hard won by us.  I love his willingness to put me and others first.  I love his humility which has replaced his angry insecurity. I love his presence with our family and his commitment to our health.  I adore his commitment to our marriage – its stability, its growth, its happiness and its authenticity.  I love that  now he understands that our family would rather spend time with him than have extra money and he is trusting God more to take care of us.  He still works VERY hard, but he puts relationships before money now.  He really seeks God now and is willing to be authentic with other Christians in a way he wasn’t able to be a few years ago.  I am mad about the way he bakes and cooks with our children!

Most of the time I can’t believe how quickly 25 years have zoomed by.  How did we have time to raise 5 children, move across the country and get this old?!  I can’t wrap my head around where we started, where we are now, and how we got here.  It’s been quite a ride and I don’t ever want to get off.  It still amazes me that this is my life. I get to wake up and live this life.  I get to be known and loved. Does it get any better?… I don’t think so…

 

I love my husband more than I thought possible.  Apparently, the lady on crack knew what she was talking about!  I like him more than anyone else in the whole world.  He’s strong, protective, hilarious, gorgeous, smart, sweet, kind, thoughtful, honoring, talented, silly, and beautiful inside and out.

He fought for me.

I am his and he is mine…

for at least another 25 years…

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Honey & Me Shady Grove 2014Honey & Me Laughing

 

 

Friendship, Motherhood, Girl Struggles…

grace

I’ve been avoiding writing on my blog because I’m feeling a little like once I get started, I might just vomit my junk all over the place, and, really, who wants to be on the receiving end of that?! 

So, I’m apologizing in advance for any emotional puking I may do. 

I have had mostly unhealthy friendships for most of my adult life.  I used to want to save people.  Truth be told, I still want to save people, to love them unconditionally, make sure they feel included, valued, important.  The only difference is that now I know how unhealthy that can be.  I have an almost neurotic fear of anyone feeling left out.  I also can’t stand for anyone to feel unloved.  I am, by nature, a “fixer” and it looked pretty noble and sacrificial from the outside for most of my life.  But, as happens with most illusions, the truth begins to rear its ugly head eventually.  About 5 years ago, when my life was falling apart, a wonderful counselor, who is now an even more wonderful friend, helped me uncover my other motives for my choices in friends and how I behaved in close relationships (my husband, my children, my family of origin, etc.) in general.  It all began with the profound question, “So, how’s that working for you?” 

I realized that I felt left out much of the time growing up.  I’m the only girl in my family of origin with four brothers, so being left out on some level is kind of a given.  My mom and I were not close while I was growing up. The public schools that I attended, like most institutions, did not lend themselves to inclusion of all.  It is heartbreaking to me to see how unaccepting children and teenagers can be.  Even as an adult, I am usually the “odd girl out” when we have a get-together with my family of origin. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I want everyone to feel part of things or why I have a deep need for people to feel loved without condition.  Nor does it take a brain surgeon to realize that I long for people to return the favor so that I can feel part of things and truly loved.  The crazy part of all of this is that it took confirmation from some of the people closest to me that I was not loved unconditionally by them, not really even worth fighting for, for me to see who I am truly, deeply, madly loved by and who thinks I am worth fighting for no matter what. 

He thinks I am worth it.  He loves me and all of my junk and He knows all of my junk more intimately than ANYONE else ever could!  That may sound cliche’ to some of you, but the realization of this truth wrapped its lovely arms around me and enveloped me in a blanket of peace, grace and joy such as I had NEVER known before.  It saved my life.  It has changed my relationships with others in many ways.  I feel more free to love others with grace.  I don’t feel like I have to “save” people like I used to because I trust Him to love them SO much more than I could ever imagine.  I understand that until people are ready to take the steps toward healing, no other person can “fix” them or love them out of it.  But I can love them – no matter the path they choose.

I wish I could say that now I only have completely Christ-centered healthy friendships with other women, but it just ain’t so…  I still find myself longing to be loved unconditionally, to be part of the group, to be wanted…  I am struggling daily with knowing how to be in a healthy friendship – with give and take, seasons of unbalance that are just part of life, but grace abounds and love flows abundantly, where both people give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust each other because they’ve earned each other’s trust through their journey together. 

I wish I could tell you that when a friendship blows up in my face I just tell myself that He loves me completely and that is enough – and I wish I could tell you that I come to this conclusion immediately after the pain of betrayal and loss set in.  I can tell you that I always come back to this truth, but it’s usually after spending a lot of time feeling indignant, hurt, sad, angry, etc.   Pity parties do occur, I’m ashamed to admit.  I can also say that this truth still wraps its lovely arms around me and saves me so much quicker than it used to.  Knowing that we are all worth loving with all of our “junk” helps me to understand that someone else’s inability to reciprocate friendship is probably more about them than it is about me.  My shortcomings are not a reflection of someone else’s worth, but simply my junk getting in the way.  This isn’t an excuse.  I have to bring my junk out into the light so that it can be worked through, dealt with and deflated so that it doesn’t have the power to hurt anyone anymore.

The part of this process that I struggle the most with is what 12 Step people call step 3:  “Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  I am aware of the problem, aware that He is God and He knows best, but I’m always unsure of what my part is after that.  This is probably my biggest struggle as a mom, and I think my kids are more frustrated with me than I am.

I was one of those moms who rocked all of my babies to sleep, made homemade baby food and my own healthy wipes.  I never missed a game or an event that our children participated in.  I was the PTA president, homeroom mom, and had HUGE weekly pool parties for 30-40 of my children’s friends and family members each summer.  My children had haircuts ever 4-6 weeks, dressed to the nines, and (most) always minded their manners.  In 2003 I became aware of the lunacy I was living one night when I was reading my daughter’s report card which complimented me on what beautiful outfits she wore to school!  I realized that I once took great pride in this and now I was full of conviction about the example I was showing my children and I began to question the why of it all.

Several things happened in the next couple of years; we began to homeschool, we changed churches, and eventually we moved across the country.  We began to value stuff less, sometimes too less, I would think as my ragamuffins would walk into church barefoot many Sunday mornings.  I would also feel thankful that we had changed churches, as this would not have been accepted at our former place of worship.  All of this made our family closer in many ways, and I am thankful for that, however, I was still overly mothering our children.  I would tell myself, in a very smug inner voice, that I was a wonderful mom, willing to sacrifice for my children unlike so many other moms who behaved so selfishly.  I knew that one day my children would arise and call me blessed because I had made them and their father my whole life.  I had loved them all unconditionally and created wonderful memories for them, so they would always love me.

ICK!

So, when we moved to Texas and everything fell apart, I found myself sitting in a chair in one of the offices at our church.  I was lamenting how unfair it was that I would have this horrible thing happen to me when I had been such an amazing mother and wife.  I had sacrificed EVERYTHING for my family!  The next question changed my life…

Counselor:  “Why did you do that?”

Me:  “Because I’m the mom.  I’m the wife.  That’s what good moms and wives do.  They’re my life.”

Counselor:  “But why did you do that?  Who asked you to?  What were you hoping for?”

Me (indignant):  “Well, no one asked me to.  I didn’t want anything.  I just wanted to… I don’t know…”

Counselor:  “What did you sacrifice?”

Me:  “Myself.”

Counselor:  “What do you mean?”

Me:  “I gave up my dreams.  I lost me because I was so busy supporting, encouraging, and saving all of them.”

Counselor (patiently):  “Did someone ask you to do that?  Did they expect it?”

Me:  “Yes… No…  I don’t know.  It’s just what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”

Counselor (kindly):  “What dreams did you give up?  Why did you do that?”

Me (feeling defensive):  “I don’t remember.  I feel like you’re attacking me for being a good mom and wife.”

Counselor:  “I want you to really think about why you gave up everything for everyone around you when no one asked you to.  I want you to think about what you expected to get out of that – not in a selfish way, it’s just that whenever human beings do something there are always expectations, some unselfish and some not.  Try to figure out what kept you on that path.”

I went home that day feeling really beat up!  I had been respected for the kind of mom I was to our 5 children.  Our marriage was idealistic on the outside.  It wasn’t easy for me to be honest with myself about the why after convincing my “self” for two decades that I was a model wife and mother for no other reason than I loved my family immensely and this is what God called on me to be.  This was a big part of the reason I lived the way I did, but it was not the only reason.  He revealed to me that as long as I was putting myself behind everyone else’s dreams and struggles, I didn’t have to put myself out there and risk falling on my face pursuing my own dreams – or more importantly, becoming who He wanted me to become.  I also believed on some unconscious level that if I loved my husband and children unconditionally and completely that they would always love me the same way.  I guess I thought I was taking out “love insurance,” guaranteeing I would never have to feel that I wasn’t worth loving again. 

I’ve done a bunch of work since then.  It hasn’t all been pretty.  Honestly, most of it has been ugly and uncomfortable.  I’ve pulled back from being SO involved in my kids’ lives and tried to trust Him to take care of them and to allow them to stumble at times.  Most of the time my kids feel abandoned by me.  They feel like I went from being all over every aspect of their lives to not really caring what happens to them.  I’m just not very good at finding that healthy place, yet.  I think that it’s natural for them to want things to be as they were, but I know that is not what He wants from us.  I know it’s not what is best for them.  I just wish I could find that healthy, balanced place where my kids feel loved and they know that I really believe in them and where I am involved just enough.  I’m working on it.  I cling to 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  I know it sounds like a cop-out, but really it’s just me being thankful that He knows my heart.  He knows I’m trying to be in His will and His grace and love coupled with my love will cover my sins in being a mama and in my other relationships.

He’s freed me from a lot of the superficial things that used to enslave me.  I don’t believe all of my children have to fit into a “Tricia-shaped” box that says they must earn a 3.5 or higher gpa, and then attend college immediately after where they will meet the perfect partner during their last two years at university, get married upon graduation, have big money jobs and live happily ever after.  I trust each of them to find their way.  Each of our children is a truly amazing human being with more talent than I could ever muster.  None of them fits into the ugly box that our society deems “good” and I am thankful that they are all finding their way in this world with no need for any shape box.  I wish I knew if and how to help them during this part of their lives.  I’m kind of like a drug addict.  If I start to get involved, I’m afraid I won’t be able to quit and I’ll just want more and more…  So, I pray a lot and I continue to be thankful for 1Peter 4:8, because I’m still feeling around in the dark and His love and grace are the only reason I’m still standing.

Life AND Peace?…

I’m in a funk… 

Writing is my drug of choice.  If I’m feeling “out of sorts” or simply not centered, it is usually because I haven’t written in a long time.  I can usually figure out what is going on in my heart or my head when I set aside some time and just write.  Once I put it all down on paper or a computer, I feel this freedom and balance that is simply beautiful.  Last month I decided to keep my posts private for a little while because I could tell I was not writing pure.  I was doing this “what will people think of me” thing that, honestly, I’m embarrassed to admit I was doing.  I had gotten several really encouraging comments and messages from people, and I had also gotten a couple of “judgey” and not-so-encouraging comments after posting some things that I still feel a little vulnerable about.  So, I’m coming out…  My ego got the best of me.

Here’ the other thing I realized:  I hadn’t written in my journal since I started blogging again.  My journal is one of the ways I pray.  It’s how I have my best conversations with Him…  How did I think I was going to write with clean abandon if I didn’t spend time with my Father?  I’m too old to keep making the same mistakes, aren’t I?  Thank goodness, He’s patient…

Sometimes I get fixated on things that I see as injustices and I allow that to distract me from things that I can do something about and from the things He wants me to do something about.  It’s hard for me to see people hurt by hurting people and not be able to do anything about it.  As an educator it’s hard for me to watch some of our students deal with the hardships they deal with and only be able to do the little bit I am able to do.  It’s also difficult for me to watch loved ones treated harshly by arrogant, insensitive people and do nothing.  I want to save people.  I want everyone to play nice and think the best of one another, but then I remember that this is real life and we all come from different places.  I remember some people don’t know Him.  Some people don’t know how to do things better or even differently because that’s all they’ve ever known and familiarity is comfortable even when it’s toxic.  I lived for years in that cycle and still struggle with it at times.  All people come from a place of hurt.  It’s the human condition… and here’s my disclaimer:  I don’t mean that it’s okay to live in toxicity and allow it to hurt those around you.  I don’t mean that we just say, “Poor thing is hurting,” so we should continue to make concessions and enable toxic living.  I do mean that we should extend love and grace and allow Him to work and know when we are to step in and “help” and when we are to step back and let Him move in whatever way He sees fit.

The hard part for me is moving beyond the temporary, the now.  Not getting caught up in the moment, so that I can see the big picture, is a challenge for me.  One of the ways I find my way clear of this is to move away physically from my day-to-day surroundings and force myself to “be” in a different place.  It is always amazing to me how much this simple act can change my entire outlook, and how difficult it is for me to actually do this.  Self-sabotage is one of my specialties.  I am a martyr by birth, or at least by example.  It’s something I truly dislike about myself and it’s also something I believe I am getting better at as the people closest to me show me how silly and senseless it is when I try to fall back into that behavior.

The other part that is hard for me is going to Him for the directions.  I want to DO instead of BE much too often.  It’s another one of those things that I am too old to still be making the same mistakes about.  I can’t think of one time in my life that I regretted going to Him in order to be pointed in the right direction.  He always heads me the right way.  There have been too many times to mention when I thought He was wrong or I struggled because of my own pride, but I can say now that He has ALWAYS been spot on – and all of those times that were too many to mention were the times that I grew the most spiritually.  He’s cool like that…

The big picture is being in His will and having an ongoing relationship with Him.  Everything just falls into place when that happens and even when a piece of the puzzle falls out and shatters, I know He’s there with me, so it is all bearable, …  So, why is that such a struggle for me?  I’m guessing it’s a struggle for most people.  Finding time to just be with Him has always been the best peace I have ever known, and yet, I put it off and find a bazillion other less important, temporary things to occupy my time.   I used to have a piece of paper taped to my bathroom mirror at our last house that said, “If satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  Which is not to say that I’m not “bad” now and again, also… 

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  (Romans 7:15).  

We can’t do this alone.  We need each other.  We need relationships that are based on His love and grace.  I know that doing that without the support of someone who really knows me and who will hold me accountable in love is SO hard.  But not having that someone in my life right now doesn’t let me off the hook… 

Darn it. 

I asked Him to draw me nearer to Him.  Now I have to do my part.  My journal is my love letter to Him and writing to Him sporadically is not setting a solid foundation for a relationship with my Father.  If I only heard from my husband or my children as often as I truly communicate with Him, I would be deeply injured.  I have to be better.  I want to be better.  Submitting to Him…  I can do that, because it’s really the only thing that makes any sense…

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Life and Peace?… 

I’m in…