When Mother’s Day is Hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He knows.  He tells those who listen….

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

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

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

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

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

 

More ‘Rona Ramblings

Last night (Good Friday), my Honey, our 3 youngest and I were gathered in front of the big screen watching Gateway’s Good Friday service online.  We had a bottle of sparkling grape juice and a fresh baguette for communion and our 14-month-old grandson, Arlo, was stumbling around the room being silly and spreading joy.  I was reminded of the meaning of “Good” Friday and the sacrifice Our Pappa God made for all of us.  Reminded of how enormous His love is for each and every one of us and what it must have been like for His devastated followers at the time, who didn’t have the luxury of knowing about the empty tomb, like we do.  When I get into that space, worship is so natural.  Adoration is only the beginning of what I am inspired to do for my Lord.

This year was exponentially different than years past, for all believers, I imagine.  I missed my church family immensely.  I look forward to my time with this precious group of sisters and brothers who share in my family’s struggles, joys, and everything in between, as we share in theirs.  I am the crazy lady with shoes off, hands raised singing at the top of my lungs in a dark corner at the back of the auditorium – and they love me just as I am.

img_2394
Typical Sunday at South (pre-rona). Photo credit: Ben Petree (thanks, Benny).

I long to empty myself out and fill up with Him during these times of musical worship, and though I’ve had private times of this at home and online times with my church these past weeks, it is a beautiful thing to gather with other followers to sing adoration to Our Father and I am longing for a return to this, knowing it will be something different and better because of the work He is doing during this season.

So, as I looked around at my beautiful husband, children and grandchild last night, I felt such gratefulness for all that I am blessed with.  The realization that we may all very well be back at church next Good Friday (God willing), gathered with our Gateway family, caused a bunch of feelings to well up and swirl around in my head and heart.  I missed our traditional church Good Friday gathering, but my family is typically all playing/singing/both at church – and not all at the same campuses, so I either attend multiple services at different campuses or go to one and feel guilty that I didn’t go to the other.  Most of the time I am sitting alone – or without the people who are related to me by blood because they are leading worship.  Don’t misunderstand, it’s this mama’s answer to prayer that her babies and Honey are serving this way, but I do, occasionally, miss the days of the row being filled with my Honey and our babies.  Last night, I got to sit in the middle of the whole bunch of them, while worshiping with music (pre-video-recorded of them!), taking communion and thanking my Pappa God for this rare moment.  I have no doubt that next year, I will be reminded of His faithfulness as I gather with my church family and be a little sad as I remember how precious Good Friday Rona 2020 was.

This evening we are going to celebrate my Honey – his bday was yesterday, but we decided that today was going to be all about him, sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter.  We’re getting wings from Pluckers and he’s choosing his favorite early release movie to watch at home – Have I mentioned movies are his love language?  I have some yummy hors d’oeuvres and Hannah will make him some popcorn (his favorite, that he only eats on very special  occasions).  Birthdays past were days filled with running to restaurants, movie theatres, and every social event available for my enneagram 7 Honey. This birthday is obviously very different, but he feels incredibly loved by the people he most loves, so last night as I looked over at him and saw tears in his eyes as he watched Caleb & Aaron “wrestling” with a giggling Arlo, I was again reminded that God is in all of this beautiful mess.

Bob Bday 2018

Tomorrow morning I will wake my children by telling them quietly that, “He is Risen,” as I have all of their lives.  (They think it’s cute to say it to me on Christmas, birthdays, etc., but I know deep down they look forward to it and they will do the same with their babies one day.  Okay, I hope they will.)  We will have baskets filled with a little less candy because there is less money to spend, but there will be a new basket because there is Arlo and that’s just more wonderful than just about anything.

 

We will gather together in our living room – with pre-recorded videotape of the 4 of them leading worship and I will be with my family, celebrating Our Risen Lord and all He blesses us with.  I will be reminded of how faithfully He walks through every season with each and every one of us.  I will not pretend that this isn’t a scary time and that we haven’t all suffered various losses through this time in history, but I will rejoice that I have a Pappa who knows what is to come and has never stopped working through all of this to make us more into the image He has for us.  I will never again have this kind of time with my Pappa, my husband, my children and my grandson.  We will all drive each other crazy, here and there, but I refuse to take this time for granted.  I will see it for the gift it is and thank Him for all of it.

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

 

Bearing

I am tired

In my flesh

Triggered

Abandoned

Broken-hearted

I am resentful

Unable to be perfect

Unable to arrive

Human

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

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

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

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

The overwhelming, all-encompassing love

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

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

Redemption

In His will

In His love

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

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

Extending grace to me

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

I am His

 

 

2, Fix You

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

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

ick.

Right?!

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

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

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

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

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

strength strong toy action figure

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

stainless steel close wrench on spanner 

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

board center chalk chalkboard

Gifts

Related image

gifts

This morning I awoke earlier than usual, which was okay because my Honey is feeling extra yucky and is playing guitar with our son, Aaron, this morning at our Central campus (church) at 7:00 a.m., so I was able to make him a nice cup of chai with coconut milk and a few drops of cinnamon oil.  I’m especially thankful for insulated cups on chilly days like this, knowing it will stay warm for him and he can sip it throughout the morning.

After he was on his way, I began making the sausage and scrambled eggs for our South campus (church) band and production teams to go along with the crockpot oatmeal my Hannah started the night before.  I delivered that and then headed home, fully committed to showering and attending a service at each campus in order to support everyone in my family.

It began to rain harder and the temps dropped about 15 degrees as I was drinking my own cup of chai, curled up in my new-to-me comfy chair, listening to a recently discovered podcast.  I began to think about some of the relationship difficulties I’ve experienced recently and what/who I am thankful for and then I decided to stay home and spend some time with My Pappa and write.  I am fully embracing the freedom in this, only struggling a smidge with the guilt of not supporting my family and playing hooky from church for no really “good” reason.

A few years ago I would’ve beat myself up for not setting a better example for my kids – and then I would’ve gone to church full of resentment, or I would’ve told my family what I was thinking about doing and someone or two would’ve tried to shame me or used it as an excuse to do the same.  I know it sounds silly to say we’ve grown because now I can play hooky from church without the guilt I used to experience, but I am thankful for the growth my family has experienced in this way and for the lessened guilt that comes with that growth.

I’m thankful for a husband and children who work at seeing me, just as I am, with flaws, scars, ugliness and sin, through the eyes of Our Pappa.  I’m more than grateful for the grace I’ve experienced as I’ve stepped out of my Stepford wife persona and revealed that I am more Eve than I allowed anyone to see for the greater portion of my adult life.

In recent years I have experienced great loss in my life, some of the people who have chosen to walk away are the ones who have given me life, known me all of my life or all of theirs.  While I’ve developed a certain peace about this as I’ve turned it over to Pappa, again and again, I still have a day or two every once in a while when I give into the grief of my relationship casualties.  I’ve never doubted, during these times, that Our Pappa is holding each of us and working everything out according to His will, so my sorrow isn’t a result of doubt or hopelessness, it is simply a lament of love and time lost.

There are times when it will sneak up on me and I don’t even realize where the melancholy comes from.  When I first feel the tug of this, I usually shove it down and try to carry on, telling myself I am fine and I don’t have a good enough reason for this drama.  That is when my Hannah almost always will ask me, “What’s wrong, Mama?”  At first my mind will spit out, “Nothing.  I’m okay.”  Almost immediately after telling that lie, I will burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I don’t have any good reason.  I am just so very sad.”

And the glorious beauty of my only daughter’s response is that, at no point, does she try to make it all better by minimizing my right to be sad, nor does she attempt to shame me by telling me how blessed I am and therefore not entitled to feel grief.  She almost always says, “Well, that’s okay, Mama.  Sometimes we just feel sad.  No emotion is bad, Jesus gave all of them to us.” And then she’ll ask me what I need – offering to hold me or make me a cup of tea.

Can I explain to you what a truly lovely gift this is to my wounded little girl who grew up in a family of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Stop being so dramatic/emotional?”  (*There is no judgement here, I fully understand my parents believed they were preparing me as best they could for the world).  We live in a culture of positivity and pushing through.  I think we are afraid if we let someone grieve too deeply, they may never come out of it.  A lot of us spend those precious, rare moments when our grieving loved one is expressing their anguish, thinking of the most profound thing to say that will end their suffering and help them to move on – and make us feel a little bit heroic, as well as a lot more comfortable.  Who in the world told us that this was loving?!  Why is it so difficult to just listen with empathy and sit in pain with the person who just handed us their hearts with such beautiful vulnerability and trust?

I think this is our culture.  I grew up seeing 30 minute shows that ended happily and miraculously resolved with someone wisely speaking into another’s situation and then everything was fixed perfectly, cue the upbeat theme song and roll credits.  I don’t recall EVER watching a television show in which one character listened to another’s woes and then simply said, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.  What do you need from me in this moment?”

When I am given permission to sit in my agony, I find myself able to invite My Pappa in to my pain, move past my reactions, into my true emotions and finally I am able to face where the original trigger came from.  This almost always results in an epiphanal moment that helps me to see why I over-reacted to a more recent event or why I was feeling such intense emotions internally that overwhelmed me or spoke extreme negativity into my heart.  This is growth and it comes by way of pain and struggle.  While, in the moment, it feels like a lot of work, discomfort and inconvenience, the rewards are healing, clarity and progression toward who He always meant for us to be.

I spent decades of my life being told, by myself and others, to push through, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to get over it.  So, I tried, with everything I had I tried to follow this advice because I thought that’s what grown-ups did and I believed I was extra flawed and self-centered for sitting in the pain of offenses or expressing strong emotions.  I did it all with a smile on my face, because that what I was taught a good woman does.  And then I began to notice that too many of the women in the generation before me were miserable, and afflicted with illnesses that I believe were a result of all of the stuffing of emotions they had done most or all of their lives.  They were largely unknown, even by their husbands, children and siblings.  I began to realize I was blindly walking the same path with my children, my husband and my family of origin.  All the while, my life was imploding.  I was imploding.  You can’t stuff sadness, anger and frustration for decades with a smile on your face and believe that it won’t find an outlet.  There’s only so much room in there, after all.  It festers inside and turns into cancer.  It finds a crack in your smile to escape, seeping out as fierce contempt.  It discovers a bitter hole in your integrity which justifies your manipulation of loved ones, which results in a loss of trust and more distance from the people you love and need most in the world.  It is much more work, a constant discomfort and inconvenient in the worst of ways, but still, this is the path I chose to stay on for much of my life, believing it to be the more noble.  This newer path began as much more work, and brought untold loss, but the freedom and reward in walking more in the identity My Pappa has for me far surpasses the struggles along the way.  Continuing on the same path would’ve kept me in “relationship” with many who I’ve lost along the way, but those were relationships that had little or no depth and certainly no grace.  I was not known, nor was I allowed to know them.  The relationships I have been left with are more precious to me than I can put into words.  They are deep and hard.  They are lovely and challenging.  They are safe and encouraging.  They are, each one, a gift to me in my sojourn here.

In this coming year, I want to be a gift to others and their journeys.  I want to listen without trying to fix.  I want to lovingly hold space for others, without pushing for resolution.  I want to try to focus on what is true before jumping to conclusions and choosing a reaction I will most assuredly regret.  And while I strive to make these things a part of who I am becoming, I want to extend grace to myself, knowing I will stumble and trip along the way because growth is worthy, hard work, but the freedom and health that comes as a result of the struggle is SO much better than the alternative.  I can’t live there anymore.

’tis the season

Christmas is so different now for my family and me than it was just a bit ago.  The first year we moved here from Michigan and we saw plastic, light-up snowmen on balmy green lawns, it was somewhat disconcerting.  It felt weird to drive to the mall to do our holiday shopping on dry streets and in short sleeves.

Now this is our normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I LOVE living in Austin more than I can say.  The blow-up snowmen and snow globes look perfectly lovely and I don’t think twice about the owner probably having no idea what it is to build snowmen on the regular.

I’ve lost a lot since moving here.  I only have contact with one of my brothers regularly.  My parents and my other three siblings haven’t spoken to me in years.  My oldest son rarely reaches out more than to text an obligatory holiday wish a couple of times a year.  My marriage has run a triathlon or two and only slightly resembles what it used to be.  We sold our beautiful house after 10 years – 9 of which I felt imprisoned in it.

After spending far too many years in a toxic little city where my world was nearly destroyed, I am finally in a place that feels more like home than any other has.  It is smaller, older and a rental, but it is exactly where I want to be.  

When I look back on our Christmases past, especially when our kiddos were little, I remember how hard I worked to create traditions that would make our children feel special, a part of, loved and while I’m not sorry for any of it, I’m over it.  We’ve kept the ones that matter to us and we often reminisce about the matching Christmas outfits or pajamas, the huge, formal tree in our living room & the small colorful tree in the den, the trips to Bronner’s for a new ornament each year, the crazy family Christmas pictures & letters (please!),  or the debt we went into trying to “buy” a merry Christmas.  We still go to Christmas Eve service and then gather to eat obnoxious amounts of snacks (shrimp, baked goods, an amazing charcuterie board and more) while opening our gifts.  While we are all perfectly okay with others joining us on Christmas Day, the night before is ours, alone, and we protect it fiercely.  Aaron insists I still make red & green breakfast on Christmas morning after they get their stockings, always with apples, oranges and pears and more.  Hannah makes sure we watch A Christmas Story while lazing around together after breakfast and we always have a really nice, usually beef tenderloin, for dinner.  

Parts of this will change soon.  Marriages will happen, grandchildren will be born and we will adjust.  They will make new traditions for their new families and we will make new ones with our new members.  This is how it is supposed to be.

I am excited for my children as they become independent, finding their places in the world – and much sooner than I did, thank you, Pappa!   My job has been to teach them not to need me, succeeding at that is a smidge hard to accept. I am adjusting to less time, less attention, less need of me and while I am rejoicing, I am searching for my new identity, searching for my purpose.  I’ve been mostly a mama and wife since I was 22 years old, more years than not.  And I was, for the most part, pretty good at both of those things.  But, if I’m honest, I sacrificed a lot of “me” to serve my family, as most mamas do, and I’m ready to take care of me and rediscover who I am, really, this time.

As Erma Bombeck said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” 

I’ve a feeling that most people reading this will think it makes no sense at all:

“Is she brokenhearted that her children are growing up and away or is she thrilled to be done taking care of so many others all of the time?”

Yes.

Mamas with empty nests will understand. 

I’m not sure I understand, yet, but I’m working on it and I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be while I figure it out.

“When I thought I’d lost me,

You knew where I’d left me”

https://youtu.be/TdqenA8k_GU

 

Image result for it's never too late to discover who you really are

Here We Go, Again

My babies are moving out soon.

Last year, in October, Hannah moved out, making our nest empty and I was ssstttrrruuugggggggggggllllliiiinnnggg for a minute.  

Then just as I was deciding this was an okay gig and I began to enjoy my clean home, inviting friends over for lunch, having dinner parties, being alone, not having to be concerned about how much food was in the house and all of that gloriousness, Aaron told me that he needed to move in with us for a bit to save some money to get a car.  Then Caleb asked if he could take the other bedroom… the one that my Honey had just put my new desk in so that I could have my own office…

I’m a mama, through and through, so, of course, they moved in with us.

Our house has SO much stuff in it now, I don’t really do any cleaning unless it’s a health hazard – like a very serious hazard, because no space.  Any. Where.  

I know I will be a little emotional mess on the day they take their things to their new place.  I’ll miss them.  All things considered, we’ve gotten along really well and when we don’t, we communicate like grown ups, which has been sublime.  I truly like our kids.  They are good people, funny, loving, honest, generous, kind, and interesting.  I’d rather spend time with them and their dad than pretty much anyone else in the whole entire anywhere.

But.

I’m SO looking forward to having my nest empty, again.  

I’m incredibly thankful that God worked things out so that I could have this last little bit mothering my babies in my home in a healthier way than I was capable of mothering them when we all were younger.  I feel like I got to know my aloof Tita in a way that I haven’t since he moved out of our home years ago amidst turmoil and mutual resentment.  I was blessed to have conversations with my sweet Enu that have healed us and helped us see each other more truly.  

It’s good.  It’s kinda like we got a second chance to do this leaving the nest thing the right way.  I know that everyone isn’t as fortunate and while I had accepted that things just happen that way when your kids move out most of the time, I am humbled that God allowed us to do this together with respect, love and healthy boundaries.

I’m also thrilled that in a month I’ll be having friends over for coffee and dinner parties, that I’ll have my house to myself and get to spend time writing in my office, and especially that my home will be much less cluttered and clean!  I sure won’t mind being able to hang with my Honey – just my Honey!

I’ll have to adjust again, so that means I’ll be sad and feel a tiny bit lost for a minute.  I’ll feel lonely when the house is quiet for too many days.  But, this time I know I’m going to be okay.  I’m more than a mama and I’m ready to get to know myself, to discover who I am now.

My nest is almost empty.

My life is full.

My heart is overflowing.

 

#TimesUp #MeToo

Sexual Abuse Lindy West quote

I feel like we’re living in history making days.  Things are shifting.  Big things.  Terribly uncomfortable, but incredibly necessary things. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought much to light for many in our country.  There’s a feeling of our entire country being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, while too many are still trying to shift the blame back to the victims.  I’ve spent a bunch of time processing my experiences and feelings as someone who has also suffered sexual abuse on more than one occasion.

I recently shared in a post about the first time I was abused by an older neighborhood boy, but that wasn’t the last time.  There was the time a family member repeatedly came in while I was bathing (age 8 or 9) and touched me inappropriately.  I knew it was icky, but until years later when a friend shared about the incestuous relationship between her father and sister, I couldn’t give the incident context.  There was the man who graduated a decade before my friend and I who would drive down our country road and slow down to expose himself to us when we were in elementary school walking to meet each other for playdates.  There was a time an older boy from the middle school showed up at my elementary school and pinned me up against a wall, while telling me how pretty I was and attempting to unzip my blue jeans with my Tony the Tiger iron-on on my knee before I pretended someone was walking in behind him and ran away as he was distracted.  There was the time I was babysitting for three families – two of the dads were brothers – and one of the men showed up just after I had gotten the kids to bed and became quite sexually aggressive.  He was laying on top of me on the couch, I scrambled for the phone and pretended to dial a number, threatening to call his wife.  He watched me dial the phone, accusing me of not knowing her number.  In our town at that time, EVERYONE’s numbers began with 266-4.  He wasn’t incredibly intelligent and left quickly as I dialed the 4, saying something about this not being finished as he walked out the door.  I can still feel the relief wash over me as I fell against the wall next to the phone.  I called no one, not my mother, not a friend.  I gathered myself and began to clean the kitchen up.  A couple of hours later his inebriated brother showed up and scolded me for not being ‘nice” to his brother during his earlier visit.  I was 11 or 12 years old.  I continued to babysit for these families for years.  I would invite a friend or keep the children in close proximity, often having one sleep on the couch in the living room.  In all honesty, there were very few families that I babysat for that I didn’t have to deal with an overattentive “father.”   It was commonplace for my girl friends and I to talk about this happening to nearly everyone.  We would warn each other about the really bad ones.  There were also teachers who were inappropriate in middle school and high school.  Again, we discussed which teachers to avoid being alone with or getting too close to in proximity for fear they would “unintentionally” brush up against us or touch us inappropriately.  These conversations were often laced with giggles as we tried to minimize the fear we felt in the normalized sexual abuse culture we were growing up in.

I recall talking about this with my girl friends in front of boys and their comments would generally insinuate that we should take it as a compliment because grown men shouldn’t be expected to have self-control around those they considered attractive teenage girls.  And, if I’m honest, I believe most of us bought into that theory.  On some level I know I felt some confirmation that I was attractive if men showed interest in me, even if it was perverted and/or abusive.  I also believed that it must be my fault because every time a girl or woman spoke out about sexual abuse, I watched the adults in my life, as well as my peers, find a way to blame the victim or convince themselves that she was lying – that it never really happened or if it did, she wanted it to.

At a football game at the beginning of my senior year of high school, some friends and I were drinking.  I remember running into a much older friend of my brother’s.  He told me he would give me and my friend a ride to a party after the game.  We were drinking alcohol before going to the game and I was tipsy, but not drunk.  He gave me something to drink on the way to the party.  I don’t remember much after a vague memory of an outdoor party with loud music and then getting into his vehicle.  I don’t remember getting home.  I know I woke up in the morning with bruises on both of my inner thighs and what appeared to be semen on my pubic area.  Every time I saw that man over the next several years, he treated me as if he was disgusted with me.  When I finally shared this story with a friend who knew that man, she became very uncomfortable and told me that I couldn’t really know what happened, especially since I had been so drunk and may have even encouraged him.  She then made it clear that she was done talking about it.  I walked away from that conversation wondering if I had wanted something to happen with that man or at the very least wondering if I deserved it.  I have never blacked out in my life except for that night.  I often wonder if he put something in my drink.  I wonder a lot of things, but the truth is, I’ll never know what happened that night.

I remember as an adult being violently knocked around for hours in my home, kicked, shoved and slapped, and then raped by a man I was in a relationship with, as I tried to break things off with him.  When he left that afternoon I showered and got dressed before going to a family gathering.  I choked on my sobs during my shower, but I didn’t allow myself to cry because I was afraid he would return, hear me and continue his violent attack.  I focused on behaving normally during the gathering, numbing myself to what had happened earlier that day.  Because my family didn’t want me to date this person, I never told them about what actually happened that day.  He stalked me at my college, getting my class schedule somehow. I changed my number twice because he got the first number change and kept calling me to let me know it wasn’t over. A month or so later, he showed up at my house late at night, watching me through the glass door I had just walked through, arms full of groceries and I had sex with him because I was terrified he would kill me.  I was all alone and I didn’t know any other way to get him to leave.  I remember telling him I loved him as he left to insure he would keep walking out the door.  Later when I shared it in a detached way with my boyfriend (now, husband), his initial reaction was to blame me for not fighting harder and to accuse me of wanting to have sex with my rapist.  I was filled with shame for a long time about the choices I made because I didn’t understand them and I loathed myself for being weak and trampy. 

I think the thing that keeps blowing my mind about this is that women aren’t really shocked about any of this.  We’ve been sharing stories with each other, sometimes supporting one another, sometimes blaming one another, since the beginning of time.  The reality is, it is a rare (and extremely blessed) girl over the age of 8 that hasn’t been sexually abused in some manner.  It’s even less rare to find an adult woman who hasn’t been sexually abused by more than one person in her life.  

Think about that for a moment.  In a recent poll they found that over 80% of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted.  There is also evidence that women will often block memories out of their minds or minimize it if they weren’t forcibly raped by a stranger, blaming themselves on some level if they knew the abuser and not acknowledging abuse less than full-on rape.  I know that just a few years ago I would’ve said I was never really sexually abused because I always knew my abusers.  The few times I shared my stories with others I was usually filled with shame.  It wasn’t unusual for the listener to question what I was wearing at the time, what I said or did, or to ask why I didn’t do something else, especially if the listener was a man and/or a christian.

We wonder why women don’t speak out.  

I wonder why we don’t see that victimized women, by and large, don’t think they are worth fighting for in these situations, until others are possibly in harm’s way.  Then, when they courageously speak up, we make them reopen their deep wounds while we coldly inspect them with doubt and judgement only to usually find a way to blame them or disbelieve them.

We wonder why victims don’t speak out.

Several of my abusers were family members, close friends, bosses, and teachers.  I should have, as a young and very innocent girl, been able to trust these authority figures, these loved ones.  I should’ve felt safe.  Instead I felt like my discomfort wasn’t important enough to disrupt the “peace.”  I didn’t believe I would be believed.  I believed people would think I was to blame.

I didn’t feel safe at home, at school, at some friends’, at my babysitting jobs.  Why would I speak out?  Who would I have trusted?

Of all of the men I’ve told you about only the flashing car driver ever got in any trouble for what he’d done.  One of them became an attorney.  One of them was serving on a school board, last I knew.  Both of these men were known for their sexual deviance in that little village, students even joked about it.  The adults never did anything about it because we have a “boys will be boys” mentality in this country.  We hush and shame anyone who tries to bring it out into the light, so that the people in power get to stay in power.

Although I say women aren’t surprised because the vast majority of us have endured sexual abuse, from threats to violent attacks, I have to admit I haven’t often shared the abuse I’ve gone through because I believed something must be extra wrong with me because it’s happened so many times.  In recent months as I’ve had conversations with other women of varied ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve come to realize that not only is the frequency of times I’ve been abused or harassed not excessive in comparison to the women I’ve spoken with, but the degree to which I’ve experienced abuse and harassment is less than almost all of the women who have shared their stories with me.

While I haven’t enjoyed that the incredibly painful abuse of too many women has stirred up memories I’d rather pretend to forget, I am entirely indebted to the amazingly courageous women who have chosen to lay bare their deep and horrific wounds to an audience that has a less-than-shiny track record, at the risk of everything:  their jobs, their income, their reputations, their families, and at times their sanity.  They have jeopardized everything so that we can finally begin to purge this evil from our society.  It’s way past time to speak openly, even when it makes us uncomfortable (like when I typed semen up there) because bringing this scourge up from the depths of darkness and exposing the numerous layers of accomplice for how awful and harmful it is may be the only path to beginning a different way, the way I pray my daughter and  granddaughters can walk fully in – the way I pray my sons and grandsons can walk fully in.  

We have to look this misogynistic way of living full in the face, with all of its discomfort, own our part in the ugliness of the perverted abuse dance and then stand for and live in what is right.  Begin by understanding that ALL people, women as well as men, people of color as well as white people, are truly EQUAL.  When we begin to listen to women and people of color as equals, while believing their stories, the entire everything will shift in the most glorious way. 

It’s past time

  • to believe victims and stop blaming them
  • to empower women and people of color
  • to reject our “boys will be boys” acceptance of abusive, predatory behavior
  • to hold abuser accountable
  • to make this a safe place to hear the truth and change our destructive pattern

I don’t want to wonder why.  I want to be a part of a community and culture that holds ourselves to a standard of respect, love and humanity.  Women shouldn’t have to dress a certain way, lest men can’t help but violate them.  Victims shouldn’t alone bear the burden of proof in a culture that shames us for stirring the pot when we accuse our aggressors. This way isn’t working.  Sexual sin can’t just keep being covered up.  The rug isn’t that big.  God isn’t that complacent.  He loves us too much to turn a blind eye for very long.  It’s time for His children to take their just punishment and turn away from this too common debauchery. It’s time for the church to stop dressing up the misogyny of white men in an expensive suit holding a Bible, and downplaying the abuse of the women and children whom Jesus calls to be honored as His beloved.

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as his beloved sons and daughters. And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for he surrendered his life as a sacrifice for us. His great love for us was pleasing to God, like an aroma of adoration—a sweet healing fragrance.  And have nothing to do with sexual immorality, lust, or greed—for you are his holy ones and let no one be able to accuse you of them in any form.

It’s WAY past time, isn’t it?

#TimesUp

#BelieveSurvivors

 

Process

Related image

A (n unkind) gesture

A package

The scab is peeled off

 

The heartbreak

Attempted stuffing

The dam is open wide

 

The listening

The comfort

My heart begins to fill

 

Some memories

Rich laughter

The wound begins to heal

More laughter

More memories

My mind begins to clear

 

Prayers of release

Mustard seed faith

True healing begins anew.

almost

Image result for broken heart

sometimes the people that were supposed to love you endlessly without condition,  love you as best they can and hurt you deeply because they are only able to operate out of their brokenness and pride.  eventually this feels like they don’t really love you at all.

sometimes when i replay scenarios of lashing out in revenge, my imagination wanders to a place where you realize how excruciating the pain is you inflicted on me and you scoop me up and profess your unconditional love, explaining all of the wounds away.

and then I usually return to my “angry” scenario and realize I’m not really angry at all.

only my heart is broken in a million pieces and I’m trying to reconcile how my people of origin, some of these people I spent most of the first quarter of my life with, could choose to twist the knife and pour the salt,

again, into my deep, gaping wounds.

immediately and/or eventually, because this may take a minute, it’s time to mourn the cruelty and lack of love, time to accept that i cannot and probably will not be able to understand the why nor the how. 

and then it’s almost time to remember and stand confidently in knowing that i am walking in truth and love and that casts out all of that other awful junk, because i am His daughter.

almost.