Tag Archives: Childhood

timshel

Image

Thou Mayest…

Freewill…

This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.

My tatoo

For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu.   We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them.  Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.

              Related image       Image result for east of eden book cover tree

 

At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!

I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life.  Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher.  She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it.  She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes.  I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it.  I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon.  But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.

I was a bit of a drama queen back then.  I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me.  I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging.  I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.

I was completely enamored with this novel.  I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it.  I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.

It never happened…

In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time.  I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour.  After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron.  He agreed.

A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron.  And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight!  We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter.  We felt like our family was complete.  We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription.  The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms.  I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment.  In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.

A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were.  I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay.  They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late…  I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.

My pregnancy was fraught with trauma.  My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her.  She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having  2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies.  A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was in that same room for 3 months, solid.  I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window.  It was terrible because I felt fine.  It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus.  I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey.  When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands.  I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…

As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me.  As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another.  Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers.  So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies.  Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!).  I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy.  I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me.  When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening.  My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash.  I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful.  Can you let my husband in here?  I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”

Everyone chuckled.  We were both still clueless.  Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better.  He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body.  Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately.  Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive.  After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face.  That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.

Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me.  But I’m alive, so I’m good!

They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own.  Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning.  They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen!  Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”

We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive.  Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive.  Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on.  I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together.  It melted and broke open.  So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital.  It was torture…

The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home.  They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted.  Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone.  The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.

One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home.  Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?”  She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!

We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick.  I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest.  Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain.  Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land.  Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.

What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad.  He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill.  We don’t have to be victims.  We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be.  When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.

When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel.  I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times.  They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life.  I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel.  The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts.  Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities.  The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time).  Of course they have struggles, as we all do.  I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill.  They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory.  I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.

SO… it was time.  We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.

Timshel…

Caleb’s Tattoo:

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

 

Aaron’s Tattoo:

Image may contain: one or more people

 

Advertisements

Love Covers

Image

Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

Daddy’s Girl

Standard

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

Standard

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.


Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

Standard

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

Expectations and Crutches

Standard

I often ponder what happened to my family of origin.  I haven’t even begun to make sense of it all.  I carry it with me every moment of the day just under the surface.  I’ve gotten pretty good at accepting that my father has never really loved me.  I don’t believe he’s capable, so it makes it easier to live with.  Well, easier to live with than thinking I’m just not worth it or believing that I did something worthy of complete rejection by the people who brought me into the world.

I had something happen a few days ago at work that really threw me for a loop.  First, let me go back to Tuesday.  I had a rough meeting with a parent of one of my students.  So, I went back to my classroom feeling a bit melancholy.  I decided that I needed to do something productive instead of being gloomy, so I brought up my kiddos contact information and starting at the top of the list, I called every student’s parent in my class.  I got to talk to all but 3 of them.  It was really great being able to honestly share with all of these sweet parents just how blessed I feel to be able to share this school year with their precious babies.  I left the school just an hour and a half later with a whole new attitude.

The following afternoon, at our regular staff meeting, our awesome principal announced that we were to all go to our classrooms and call as many parents as we could to tell them something honest and wonderful about their child.  – At first I was flustered because I had just done this the day before…  Then I was excited because I figured after I called the 3 parents I missed the day before, I would have a few minutes to check papers or something – Yep, sometimes I am that pitiful…

So, I reached two of the three parents, had really nice conversations with each of them and then the staff returned to the meeting to share out.  Apparently this is an annual thing at my new school and while teachers call students’ parents, the administrators call the teachers’ parents.  The stories were adorable: cute dad’s proudly talking on and on about their daughters, mom’s initially being worried when the school called and then agreeing that their adult child was amazing, etc.  I found myself stuck in this vortex of loving to hear how loved my coworkers are by their moms and dads, feeling envious of how proud their parents are of them, and a little panicked that they somehow found my parents’ number and talked to one of them.  The second conflict in my mind (and heart) was hoping my father didn’t answer the phone and say something awful, while secretly wishing my parents could hear that I am a pretty good teacher and feel a little proud of me.

It took all the self-control I had just to stay in my seat and not allow any tears to show.  Even though no one in the room, except my sweet husband knows my parents haven’t spoken to me in over 4 years, I sat there knowing I had no parents who would welcome a call about their daughter.  When I read those sweet quotes on sites like facebook that say things about spending time with your parents if you are blessed enough to still have them here, I always feel a twinge of grief.  I don’t have to hide my feelings when I see those because it’s just me and the computer.  The other day, in my staff meeting, was a whole other animal.  As much as I don’t enjoy being caught off guard about my relationship with my parents and risking making a complete fool of myself, I am thankful for a chance to re-examine how I feel and not continually stuff my heartache for such a long time that I risk eventual cancer or a million other terrible illnesses.

I cried myself to sleep Wednesday night.   I had a 20 minute pity party Thursday night.  I haven’t been sleeping very well for the last few weeks, so that makes me a bit overly sensitive, I know, but I’m also just sad.  It’s okay for me to embrace how heartbroken I am.  I can do it just a bit now and then, but then it’s time to put it away, folded up neatly and tucked away again just under the surface.

I went to see the movie, “This is Where I Leave You,” today.  The family was full of disfunctional members.  They reminded me of how most families I know are made up of people who have junk and how necessary grace is.  Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high or if I take things too personally and that’s why I’m estranged from part of my family of origin.  Other times I wonder what took me so long to insist on respect.  I believe with my whole heart that healthy boundaries are as necessary as grace.  I struggle with locating the line between grace and respect and doormat and bitch.  I struggle with knowing that I may never make peace with or really be loved by my parents.  I’m not sure how I’ll walk through that one day…

You see it’s always just below the surface…

Scott – Part 2 A LETTER FOR LATER (1991)

Standard

Scotty - kindergarten 2 Scotty,

Tomorrow afternoon you and I will be going to your kindergarten orientation. You’re going to Elms Elementary School. Mrs. Huffman, your teacher is very kind. You will be in her morning class from 9:15 until 11:50 each day. I can’t believe this is happening already!

I took this summer off so that I could spend time with you before you started school and it went so very quickly – just like the past five years… Have I taught you enough?… Did I teach you the right things?… Will you make friends easily?… Are you ready for all of this?… Am I?

I hope someday you will realize how very much I love you. I want you to be independent, confident, and self-assured more than almost anything, but there is a part of me wants to scoop you up and hold you in my arms, and never let you leave me. I am a little ashamed to admit that. I just want to be my little boy’s mommy and keep you from any hurt or danger.

Kids will be mean to you. You will get your feelings hurt. You will have embarrassing moments. You may not always know the answer and I won’t always be there to help you. You’ll learn to cope. You’ll shine. You’ll grow up – much too fast. You’ll need me less and less, and I will be very proud of you – and that part of me will want to scoop you up…

It’s a difficult thing to create a life and try to give him everything he needs and then to let go, knowing you can’t protect him from the world…

I believe in you. I know you are ready. You are brilliant; you get along well with others. You understand the world much better than I do at times. You are such a big boy. You are not a bully, but you know how to stand up for yourself. I’m very proud of you, my little old man. You have a heart of gold and you mean the world to me.

I pray God gives me the strength to be strong for you on Wednesday when you become a kindergartner. I’m afraid when you get on that bus I’ll fall to pieces. – Isn’t that silly?! I feel such anxiety, and I’m not completely sure why. I want to be confident, so that you will be. It’s so important to me that this be a positive experience for you. It’s the beginning of a whole new wonderful world of learning for you – one I know you will blossom in!

This is a momentous occasion in your life! You will never be the same after starting school. Change and growth are good, but never easy – especially for your mommy. That part of me still wants to scoop you up…

I love you, my Scotty-boy, more than life itself. Please take that with you. Be kind and good, and life will return the favor. You are my precious, wonderful little boy with so much to give. I will always love you, as you always tell me, “more than infinity…”

Mommy

…………………… HIS………………….

Standard

 

Opinionated, educated, sensitive

strong, a leader, fragile

“That girl’s got moxie!”

Betrayed by her sisters

Shunned by her brothers

“That woman’s a Bitch!”

Shame, Fear, Loneliness

Strength, Peace, Frailty

“That child is mine.”

girls leaders

Scott – Part 1 First Night Home

Standard

scott

 

 

 Scotty Baby Tux

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember bringing him home from the hospital, 28 years to the day, like it happened last week. He had that beautiful jaundiced skin that looked so healthy to this new mama and he kept curling up in a ball most of his waking hours. Taking his picture proved a difficult task! I honestly couldn’t believe that the people at the hospital let me take a baby home. The first night home in July was almost the end of me…

We came home to the big old farmhouse that we had rented upon our return to our small hometown just a few months earlier. I kept hoping that the day would go smoothly and the night would never come. My parents lived about 5 miles from our home and we had loads of other family and friends very nearby whom we could call for help at any time – Except after 11:00 or so at night when I understood I could only call in the case of an emergency or the world would find out I was not new mom of the year material.

Our first day was filled with diapering, a few visitors, nursing, and sleeping – Scott, not his mama! I watched him sleep for hours, fretting over any buzzing fly that would come near him or loud noise that might frighten him. He was a wonderful baby all day long.

My mother called just before the 11:00 news came on that night. I told her everything was fine. The truth is I kept her on the phone as long as I could because I was terrified of being alone with my baby ALL NIGHT LONG! After we said our good-nights, Scott finished nursing. I had changed his diaper and I hoped beyond hope that sweet slumber would be upon my precious baby within minutes. He lay in my arms as I sang a lullaby and in a short while, his eyes began to flutter and he gradually fell sleep.

I slowly and ever so quietly ascended the narrow, wooden stairway with this new little blessing protectively in my new mama’s arms. I gently laid him in the beautiful cradle that my sister-in-love had crafted with her own hands for her babies and now generously let me borrow for my new bundle of joy. I stared down at the gift I had been blessed with and love, like I had never known before first becoming a mama just days before, washed over me. I knew that I would always do whatever I could to make his life the best I could and to ensure that he never doubted how completely he was loved.

I stepped into the bathroom to get ready for bed, leaving the door ajar so that I could hear any noises that may come from his cradle. I just kept thinking nervously, “What am I going to do with this baby if he starts crying? What if we both fall asleep and he chokes and I don’t wake up?  What if a bug bites him and hurts him?  Why the heck would they send a baby home with ME?! I have NO idea what I’m doing! This is NOT the same as babysitting!!”

So, naturally, my son started wailing within minutes! I picked him up. I tried to feed him and that didn’t work. I checked his diaper – Dry! I rocked him, walked him, patted him, sang to him, talked to him, laid him down, and held him.

NOTHING worked. He just kept on crying and crying for hours and hours.

Finally, just before 5:00 a.m., I was at the end of my rope, so I walked downstairs where his daddy was sleeping soundly on the couch. I woke him up with tears in my eyes and said, “I just can’t do this right. I need you to take him for a little while. He doesn’t want me. I can’t make him feel better.”

His daddy took him and Scott continued to scream for about 30 more minutes and then, silence… I sneaked down the stairs and there was my tiny, exhausted baby fast asleep on his snoring daddy’s heaving chest. I dragged myself up the stairs and slept gloriously and fitfully for the next two hours.

The following afternoon I confided in a friend how horrible our first night home was and she told me that the trick was to not let my baby know how nervous I was feeling because she had heard that babies react strongly to their mother’s emotions. She told me to “fake it until I could make it.” It was sage advice. I told myself the rest of the day that this night was going to be different, wonderful. I decided we would have a restful night and I refused to worry about it anymore.

Scott went to sleep like a little angel that night. He woke up every 4 hours and nursed before falling right back to sleep again. From that night on (until he was a teenager!), he only kept me awake when he was getting a new tooth. On those nights, we stayed up ALL night long together and I loved every minute of helping my precious boy through the pain of welcoming a new tooth into his sweet little mouth! By the time he was a month old, he slept 10 hours straight every night.

I’m not sure if he had something terribly wrong the first night and it never happened again or if it was just a coincidence that Scott was a perfect baby after that first night. I know that I believed that it was simply mind over matter for more than seven years until I had my Hannah, and in spite of the “real” veteran confidence I had, she screamed her head off all night for no good reason on the regular!

Forgiving that little brat…

Standard

I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?