Tag Archives: Emotional Health

The Process

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I’ve been struggling with public education for a couple of decades now.  It happened when I had students that didn’t fit into the “box.”  The struggle was even more powerful when I had children of my own that wanted to fit into that box.  I’ve taught in public school, private school, charter school, Christian and non-Christian, co-ops, homeschool academies, etc.  I have a bit of experience with education.  I am an amazing reading teacher.  It’s an instinctive thing.  I can sit with almost any child and after working with him/her a time or two, I can teach him/her to read and love it.  Mostly I teach them how to love it and then they just read with a little bit of help and encouragement.

About 14 years ago, our kiddos were all attending the local public school near our home in Michigan.  I was homeroom mom in their classes and I was the PTA president, as well.  Most mornings I got up around 5:30 so that I could spend some time in the Bible and talking with Jesus – with 5 kids, this was really my only option!  As I  spent time in prayer I felt Him leading me to consider schooling our children at home.  NOW, let me just tell you, our oldest was a high school junior and our youngest (twins) were in 2nd grade.  I had just gotten to a point in my life, after YEARS of no girl social life, where I could meet friends for lunch and tea, where I could go get my nails done with no one else to constantly entertain or keep out of trouble.  It was heavenly!  I couldn’t believe He wanted to take that all from me!!  I remember this happened just before the holidays, but I didn’t say a word to anyone until January – mostly because I just didn’t want to do it.  When I shared with my husband what God had been showing me, he was less than thrilled – and as we told others during the next months, there was even less support.  I think our parents and siblings all thought I had lost my mind… and so did I…

We decided to wait until that summer to make a definite decision because I was a little terrified of the responsibility of it all.  By July our kiddos were very excited about the whole thing and even our oldest had decided to join us and not attend public school his senior year.  We informed the school in August and joined some families in the area who had been homeschooling for years.  It was wonderful in many ways, but because I had been a classroom teacher for several years, I was having a hard time breaking the mold and leading my kiddos in the way I believe He wanted me to.

It wasn’t long after starting this adventure that our “popular” kid started rebelling.  He missed his friends and the ego boost he got on the regular from being well-liked at his school.  As difficult as this was for me, it was one of the most confirming events in my journey.  God clearly showed me what my son’s future would be if we would’ve left him in public school.  I understood more clearly than ever the dangers of being a popular kid.  The high of being liked is a drug that few children can handle.  I committed myself to helping my children become leaders and not followers.  It was a long and exhausting road that I’ve never regretted.

Stepping away from our public school system and seeing it with new eyes was like being deprogrammed after a long stint of brainwashing.  I understand that some people whom I care for deeply will be offended by some of the things I have to say about this, but I feel that my experience with so many types of primary and secondary education gives me the authority to speak about this with some expertise.  I can also share that droves of our family members and friends have come to us and confessed that they doubted our decision to homeschool our children and have nothing but respect for it now.  I believe that most, if not all, of our children will choose to school their children at home or in some unconventional way that best suits their families.

I will briefly answer the main concerns/questions we dealt with when first sharing our decision to homeschool:

What about socialization?  I think most people meant socializing, but they almost always said socialization which means “the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community.”

I have a few things to say about this question.  First of all, how does sitting in a classroom with approximately 20 other people that are less than a year older or younger than you, prepare you for society?  When else are we in this situation except in a classroom? – Where, honestly, there is very little socializing except on the 3 allowable party days of the year and for the short 20 minute recess period each day and lunch time where kiddos are expected to be quiet and stay seated.  Once or twice a week they get a 45 minute PE time and sometimes they are allowed to play and interact with one another.  So, in the best case scenario, our children have less than 300 minutes each week to socialize with their peers at school.  They are in school for 2400 minutes each week and they are allowed to interact freely for 1/8 of that time in the best of worlds – assuming they don’t spend time buying their lunches in the cafeteria, that they don’t spend time receiving instruction from the teacher during PE or recess or Heaven forbid, that they don’t have to do unfinished classwork or sit out for behavior during recess.  Also, this does not account for restroom breaks during these times.  In our homeschool life, our children interacted with wait staff, clerks, and many other service people who were various ages on the regular.  The co-ops we joined provided classes in many areas that included students from a spectrum of ages and I believe it helped my children get past the “snobbiness” that many children have about being older or in a higher grade.  Homeschool children don’t typically give much thought to how old one another is.  It just isn’t an issue.

The second BIG concerns centered on:  Where will you get the books you need?  How will you know if you’re doing what the school is doing so that they are where they’re supposed to be?

There are SO many curricula available for home teachers.  All you need to do is jump on the internet and do a search.  Check Amazon to get the cheapest, used prices, but don’t forget there are MANY homeschool bookstores in every state and you can order from most of them online if there isn’t one close to you in your state.  It’s quite easy to get a list of objectives for each grade in most, if not all states.  Seems that would be a requirement so that parents know what is expected of their child each year.  The beautiful thing for us was that we actually completed our texts, unlike most public school classrooms where there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in with reteaching and time constraints, etc.  Also, I could slow down or speed up with each of my kiddos individually because I was the boss, I knew what each of them needed most and I didn’t have to worry about interruptions such as announcements, assemblies, drills, absent and tardy students, etc. to disrupt focused learning.  I also didn’t have to teach reading for exactly 45 minutes a day, and fit into someone else’s box, (who has NO idea what it means to be in an elementary classroom, btw) while my students missed out on what they may have really needed that day.

Here’s what I learned during my homeschooling years:

Parents know their children better than any teacher, principal or government official.  We should trust them and partner with them, not treat them like an inconvenience and certainly not like they are inept.  Of course there are a very few parents who drive teachers crazy, but I’ve found that if you honor those parents and treat them with respect and understand you are working for them, most of those strugglers will turn into wonderful partners and their children will benefit in HUGE ways.  An occasional one of the strugglers will turn out to be ugly or mentally ill human beings and that’s hard.  As teachers we need to love their babies an extra dose and believe in their strengths.  That’s all we can do and sometimes it’s enough.

Kids learn the most by leaving them alone.  Make the books (wonderful, lots of genres, all levels, etc.), rocks, papers, pencils, bugs, puzzles, pictures available in abundance and then leave them alone.  Be available to answer questions.  Set an example of reading, writing, measuring, being kind, but don’t drill it into them, just be sure you have comfy places for them to educate themselves and THEY WILL.

Let them be bored.  Let them figure out what they love most and focus on that. It will take time and probably some frustration, but it is very necessary for your children to figure out who they are and what speaks to his/her heart.  If your child hates math, then do the bare minimum with him/her.  I’ve yet to use 3 1/2  of the 4 years of math I did in high school and I’m mostly pissed off when I think about it because I sucked at math – except algebra – and it lowered my whole gpa for high school.  I took math every year because someone told me that I would HAVE to take it in college no matter what my major was, so I needed to be prepared.

-WRONG!  I did NOT take ONE math class all through college and I graduated with honors from the University of Michigan and have never felt like I’ve lacked without college calculus or any of that other nonsense. (p.s. I do not mean that math is nonsense in general.  I just HATE it and I suck at most of it, so, for me, it is nonsense).

The most important thing is to teach and model a love for learning, not the actual learning.  If we take away the drive, the passion by drill & kill or nagging, then we’ve destroyed the beauty of the whole lifelong process of learning.  If, on the other hand, we fertilize their natural love for learning, we have given them a gift that no one can ever take away.  Our students will grow exponentially in this environment and they will carry it all with them into their futures.  I loved being a high school reading and writing teacher.  I had great rapport with my students.  I truly loved each and every one of them.  I think most of them could feel that.  I wanted them to learn, but more than that, I wanted them to LOVE to learn and figure out what they were made for so that they could pursue that path with passion. Since homeschooling my own children I have come to believe this even more deeply.

Many of our students are dealing with more than we can imagine.  They have stuff going on at home that we would be heartbroken by.  They need us to not try to stuff them into the proverbial box.  We need to allow them to feel safe and encouraged in our classrooms.  They need to feel treasured by us, so that they figure out who they are, what they love and then soar.  The relationship is the key to this whole process.


I returned to public school teaching 7 years ago and I fell madly in-love with my students.  I was older and much wiser than I was in my early years of teaching.  I loved my students’ parents and almost all of them loved me back.  My students excelled every year beyond my wildest dreams.  I was fortunate to teach with my husband until last year.  We made a great team and I’m very thankful that we were able to team teach for 3 1/2 years together.  In recent years, the testing and focus on teacher “improvement” has become so time-consuming, that it has taken much of the joy out of teaching for a multitude of really great teachers.  Personally, I have been waiting for things to get better for the past 4 years and instead, it just keeps getting worse.

Teachers should be treated with respect – with bonus points for years of experience and their record, which should be based on relationships and improvement, not one set score comparing all students of mixed abilities, varied backgrounds, ethnicity, socio-economic situations, etc.  When a teacher, who has nothing to gain by speaking up, reports that his/her student is really struggling with reading, has scabies for 6 months, defecates in his/her pants daily, or stutters regularly, then something should be done BEFORE the teacher is required to document this for 6 weeks with no mistakes or the process will have to start all over.  If a teacher says there is a problem, odds are, THERE IS!  Trust the teacher who isn’t there for the money (OBVIOUSLY) and only wants the best for his/her treasured students.  Do something right away and perhaps, when we meet our students’ needs right away, the test scores that the powers that be put so much stock in, might just improve.  Maybe if our students are getting extra help for academics when needed and/or therapy for physical struggles, getting medical help so that they aren’t scratching themselves raw (instead of worrying about if the parents will sue the school), or emotional help for accidents instead of being shamed for their cry for help, just maybe everyone would be more successful and feel valued and respected.  Unfortunately, it seems this all costs money and our students and teachers are not worth the investment all of that would entail.

So, I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to figure out what to do.   I believe teaching is a serious responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  I worked all year to reconcile what I believe deep in my gut with what I was being asked to do and I realized I just couldn’t do it in good conscious.  I believe if you are a teacher you have to be all in.  You have one year with each of those blessings and it is your job to prepare them for the future, but how does one do that when every minute of every day is micro-managed?  How do you model independent thinking when you aren’t allowed to think or teach independently?!  I didn’t have it in me anymore.  I couldn’t compromise my own belief system another year.

So, I resigned.

Honestly, I was terrified to give up my family’s health insurance that nearly 1/2 of my paycheck went to each pay, as well as what was left of my paycheck and the security of being in the same school system where I adore my students, my parents, my co-workers (especially my amazing team) and I am known and I have a good reputation.

I have moments of complete terror, but they only last seconds.  It’s clear to me that He asked me to step out of what He gave me such unrest with, so I know He’s with me and we’ll be okay.

I understand that some people think I am out of my mind, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been and feel like I’m in His perfect will and not my fearful will (for a change).  Faith is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t cheap…

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2 Hearts

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I’m at this picturesque coffee house overlooking Lake Austin this afternoon, on the patio.  My Honey is driving the Duck (and will probably float by in about an hour, hopefully giving me a quack and a wave!).  Our kiddos are either at the gym working out or at their jobs working.  We’re all meeting later for dinner at a new spot called Unity Vegan Kitchen Shady Grove.  So, I have about 5 hours on my own.  I have my computer, my phone, a few bucks for an iced chai, and a view that is simply lovely.

For the past hour, since we walked out of church, I have been trying to figure out what to do with my time.  I had already decided to write, but the leading up to that is a little intimidating, to be really honest.  I do this thing where I impose a level of perfection on myself that simply isn’t possible for me and has the exact opposite effect on my writing than I would like it to.  My heart is to share my junk, in all of it’s glory  ugliness  humanness, with the hope that others don’t feel so alone.  I also pray that others will reach out and let me know that I am not alone in my junk.  Win-Wins are good stuff.

My life is in a good place right now.  I mean there is still SO much brokenness in my life, especially in some of my most intimate relationships, but I believe that this is what is right now and there is nothing for me to do about that at this point except pray and wait in love.  So, there is peace (as well as sadness) in that part of my life, but in the other, more functional parts of my life, there is so much good and I’ve waited for such a long time, so I’m a little bit ecstatic, on the regular. 

I’m setting aside time with my Father daily – okay, about 6 days a week.  It isn’t what I believe it’s supposed to be yet, but that’s okay.  It’s a relationship, it develops with time.  There is ebb and flow and all the while He and I are creating memories, knowing there is grace, love and an entire array of other ingredients that make our relationship sacred.  When I lived in Michigan, I got up and spent time with Him daily for years, but when everything fell apart here, little by little I lost my desire to spend time with Him for so many reasons.  I didn’t want to be transparent with anyone, because of the betrayal I had experienced.  I felt as if He chose not to protect me and then just watched me wallow in humiliation and brokenness.  I doubted His existence on some level.  In my anger, there was arrogance.

So many times over those first few years in Texas I would get up early and open my journal or my Bible and feel nothing but empty.  There were a few rare occasions when I felt His presence and I’d go on a 2-3 day roll before falling into complacency once again.  Each time my hope faded a bit more.  Hopelessness is an oppressive enemy.

I began to realize that this struggle reminded me a bit of my struggle with exercise over the years.  I’ve never been a big fan of the latest craze kind of exercise, especially when it came with a big price tag attached.  I found a long time ago, that once I am emotionally ready, I just have to put one foot in front of the other without a lot of thought.  If I consider things too much, I will talk myself out of exercise in a New York minute.  So, about a year and a half ago, I started setting my alarm for 5:20 and walking out to my chair in the corner of our living room and spending time with my Father.  It was not especially pleasant at first, but it began to feel familiar after a couple of weeks, and that was enough to make me continue getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button for the next few weeks.  It was probably almost a month before I felt like I was connecting with Him and His Word again.  There are times when I don’t follow through – like the first couple of weeks month of school because I’m absolutely exhausted, so I extend myself grace and choose to feel grateful that I managed to wake up early 1 or 2 days that week.  Because I don’t beat myself up, the guilt-monster doesn’t get the best of me, so getting back into my routine happens because I look forward to my special time with Him instead of because I feel guilty for not doing what I’m “supposed” to do.  The great part about that is that the barrier of guilt is not there, I will keep on keepin’ on because I want to and He really only wants me in relationship with Him because I want to be there, not because of that other junk!

Last summer it dawned on me that I needed to again apply this to daily exercise.  So, I started, but doing both in the morning before my 7:15 a.m. report to work time, was not going well.  I considered doing one or the other in the evening, but I was just TOO EXHAUSTED for this kind of commitment once I got home from 9 hours of mostly 6 year olds needing my constant attention.  Back to putting one foot in front of the other without a bunch of thought.  Now I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. most mornings.  I learned that if I do my workout first, I somehow don’t have time for Him and that’s my priority.  So, I spend time with Him, do my yoga practice and then jump step on the treadmill while watching something awesome, like Bethel music on youtube.

I haven’t lost a ton of weight – and let me tell ya, I would love to, but I feel better every day.  I take my supplements, I eat pretty clean and I’m taking care of my physical heart. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’ve decided that instead of beating myself up and getting stuck in the should’ve’s, I’m going to rejoice in the now and the ripple effects all of that will have on my later.

 During this desert time in my life, I believed in God, but I didn’t follow Him.  I’ve felt a bunch of shame during the last few years because I wasn’t the example I used to be for my teenage children who are now young 20-somethings.  We weren’t serving at church, we weren’t including Him in most of our decisions, and my root of bitterness felt as if it increased exponentially at times.  But, here is what I did right:  I kept taking my family to church.  I kept trying to spend time with Him.  I kept looking for a small group or a way to connect with other believers.  I kept trying to be in relationship with Him.  When I was lost and almost void of hope, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes obedience is the best we can do, and my life is proof that He honors that – my mustard seed of faith and my watering can of obedience were enough.

It took years before I found Him again.  He was there all the time.  My heart just wasn’t ready, yet.  I gave up a time or two, but He waited for me to be ready to try again.  I’m sure I frustrated Him now and again, but still He loves me without condition and He did the whole time I was a broken child.

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My desert time was almost 7 years long.  I often thought I would never feel the joy and fullness that comes with living for Him and knowing Him intimately, again.  I couldn’t fathom being grateful for those dark and empty years.  But I am.  I don’t understand the why of it all and I may not ever.  I just know that I am happier than I have been in what seems like forever and it has lasted a long time.  I  understand that I am blessed with a season of joy right now and that there will be more seasons of “not joy” in my life.  I am proof that He is faithful and sure that I am His.  

I know there are others walking through the desert right now and as much as I wish I could take their hands and walk them out to the beach or a lush, green field ripening with peace and joy, I know that all I can do is send some hope into their journey and assure them that He is walking beside each of them, grieving with them and loving them endlessly, no matter what comes.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Peacemaker

 

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

What is a peacemaker?  Some Christians live their lives proudly proclaiming themselves peacemakers.  I think a bunch of us think that peacemakers are the kind, not-judgey, sweet old grandma type of Christians, so I can understand why someone would want to call themselves that.  I believe this is another one of those terms that has slowly changed to be more palpable in our culture.  For me, one of the telling signs is that I rarely, if ever, hear a man call himself a peacemaker, but I’ve heard many women describe themselves as this as an interchangeable term for “nice.”

In my almost 23 year journey as a Christian, I’ve tried to sift through what people say things in the Bible mean and what they truly mean.  It hasn’t been an easy task and there were moments in my early days as a fairly new Christian that I encountered some pretty unattractive behavior in the name of following Christ and it threw me into a tailspin.  I think about that a bunch when I say the Bible says this or that to others because I don’t want to send anyone down the wrong path or not be as true as I possibly can be to His Word – although in a desperate moment or two, I admit I’ve punted with my own children during some scary teen moments…

So, this is what Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has to say and when I checked biblestudytools.com, the definition was very similar, with the mention that in the Bible the word is only used in its plural form:

Peacemaker:  one who works with opposing sides in order to bring about an agreement.

Synonyms:  broker, conciliator, go-between, honest broker, interceder, intercessor, intermediary, middleman, mediator, troubleshooter, moderator, bargainer, negotiant.

These words describe someone who takes action.  While I see honest and other positive representations of peacemaker, I see no mention of nice or silencer of other’s feelings.

So many women have been shamed their whole lives for being outspoken, transparent, passionate, and many other things that “nice” girls are not supposed to be.  In our culture we tend to think of these traits as not feminine.  We instead think that smiling, never complaining, and always saying “nice” things about people is what little girls are made of.  I daresay we think that’s what a peacemaker is.

Who has real, long-term peace from this kind of behavior?  The peacemaker?  The “made to be peaceful?”  How can a nice girl really be known, if she puts on this face all of the time in order to gain other’s approval or to be thought of as “nice?”  It’s a lonely achievement…  It’s a life of stuffing feelings and putting on faces.  It’s a time bomb waiting to explode all over the place with casualties untold.

I’ve seen families and workplaces controlled by peacemakers (who have their own selfish agendas) for years and then one day it all blows up in everyone’s’ faces, because the wounded people have never really been heard and you can only stuff so much festering junk for so long.  The ugly behavior of some has been inflicted on others for years, while the peacemaker swept it under the rug, shaming the injured people for saying anything, and never confronting the hurtful people.  Often these people become little monsters and the wounded people become isolated, feeling unloved, unworthy of being fought for, until they finally just walk away – physically or, at the very least, emotionally.  Meanwhile the “peacemaker” shrugs her shoulders, wonders why people walked away and secretly feels a little relieved that things are still peaceful…

Where are the true peacemakers, the go-betweens, the mediators? 

They are usually the outspoken ones trying to stand up for injustice while being accused of having big mouths or being troublemakers – not troubleshooters.  This can be a lonely road if they aren’t traveling with others who value truth and honor transparency, but it seems to me that it is the more noble path and the one He would be pleased with.  They are, after all, blessed.

I think for me this is another sign that  I need to be in His Word more and I need to be in tune to what He has for me, who I am in Him.  I don’t want to please other human beings at the risk of not being blessed.  I don’t want to walk through this life trying to fit this image of a “nice” girl so people will like me.  I want to be bold for Him because He made me bold and I want to love like Him because He made me for that more than any other reason.  I want to have the courage to stop allowing shame to curb His vision of me.  I want to share other people’s burdens and rejoice in the freedom they discover once they’ve been heard and fought for.  I want to live messy and true and in peace. 

I am His child and I want my Father’s blessing.

 

 

The last sunrise of the year…

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At the moment of sunrise, the eastern sky lights up a brilliant orange over the downtown Austin area. The tallest silhouetted building is the Austoinian. This panorama was captured from the Zilker Park Clubhouse just west of the city.

As I look out my window at the last sunrise of the year, I can’t help but think of all of the good stuff  of 2015 – and, of course, some of the bad stuff of 2015, that I want to change in 2016.  I always find people’s thankful lists telling. I’m a big, “love language” kinda girl.  You can usually figure out what someone’s love language is by their “thankful list.”

My Honey will usually talk about a good conversation with me or one of our kids where he felt affirmed as a dad or husband.  He might mention a great tour he had or something awesome at church when he played with the band.  All of these things have one thing in common – the words that people say to him.  His love language is words of affirmation.  Words can build him up immensely or tear him down horribly.  Caleb and Aaron have the same love language and every time we get together with them, our conversations are full of what people said to them or about them that caused them to feel great or not so great.

Hannah and I share the same primary love language and if you’ve seen my facebook posts, you probably know that quality time is how I feel most loved.  If someone is willing to make time for me, I feel loved beyond measure.  If we had any doubt about Hannah feeling the same way, it all went away when we went couch shopping a few months ago.  We were in the store looking at various designs.  Hannah kept going back to the sectional – which I felt was a bit big for the area we have in our living room.  As I explained this to her, she sat down on it and said, “I know, but I can sit right here and all of my brothers can fit on it with me and we’d all be together.”  The couch was on it’s way to our home within the hour…  How do you say “No” to that?!

Besides, I believe her secondary love language is gifts and mine is acts of service, so this was a win-win for both of us!!

So, here is my list, and the order is not indicative of the importance, but probably more about how recently it occurred or how memories come to mind when you spend time recalling a year…

I’m thank for:

-my friend, Giselle, who stored our Hannah’s trailer and loaned us their truck and encourages me and my daughter in a way that few women have in my life.  We have lunch less than a half a dozen times a year, but our conversation sustains me and lifts me for the months in between because she is a woman of honor and she chooses to be my friend and make time for me whenever I text her, “Lunch?”  I also love that her family loves my kombucha and she randomly and often leaves gifts by my front door that always come when I need them most.  I think Giselle’s love language is gifts…

-my team at work.  I have never worked with a team of teachers (there are 6 of us, btw, all women) that I have such respect for in the classroom.  I would put any of my own children in any one of their classrooms without thinking twice.  They are all committed to their students in ways that go above and beyond teacher responsibilities daily.  Everyone contributes to the whole, supports each other and steps in for anyone on our team who needs help – and we’ve all taken our turns.  I love that I can connect and laugh with anyone of them when I need to see the humor in the events of a rough day or situation.  This is such a rare dynamic and I dread the day when it ends, which it surely will.  Until then I marvel at the gift these ladies are to me and to the 1st grade students at our school.  Which leads me to my kiddos at work.  I adore them and I’m so thankful that their parents entrust them to me each year.  It is a mystery to me how precious each and every one of my babies that walks through my classroom door is, and how He gives me the capacity to treasure and adore every one of them.

-my friend, Connie, who although she lives in Michigan, still makes time for me when I call and dump my junk on her because she knows and loves my family well and she’s one of my safe people in this not-so-safe world.  I’m thankful for her husband and her children who I love right back.  I’m thankful for her sense of humor and her perspective that is always lined with grace.  I also love that she’s into all of the ferments and healthy living that I am so passionate about and we teach each other new stuff every time we get together.

-my time each morning with my Father.  I had stopped making time for several years when I first moved to Texas for all sorts of “reasons” that just seem lame now.  But, in the middle of 2014 I committed to consistently making this time a priority every day and I have for well over a year now.  As I expected, in spite of some painful things happening this past year, I walked through with the assurance that I was (usually) in His will and with the peace that knowing I had put it in His hands and that I didn’t have to carry it anymore.  My favorite part of being His child has always been having peace that passes understanding.  For me, a girl who struggles with worry, control, and insomnia, it is the stuff.

-the trips we took as a family this past year.  We went to Arizona, Port A, Seattle, and Portland.  Being stuck in the car with my husband and my kiddos is a dream come true for me.  I love the conversations, the cuddling, the memories, and all that goes with a long road trip with the people I most love in this world.  For me, it’s usually just as great as reaching our destination.  I am especially thankful that our kiddos made time to do these trips with us even though they’re all grown up.  This mama feels loved when her grown babies make time to be together.

-our church and our small group.  We transferred to the south Austin campus this year and our entire family feels like we’re finally home.  It has been too many years since my Honey and I served at church and we are back in the swing of things and loving every moment.  After years of trying to find a small group that was a good fit, we have found one that we both love and are growing in.  I can’t tell you what an answer to prayer this is for all of us.  We are blessed and no longer alone.

-Destiny Project brought me back to life again.  This helped me reconnect with my Heavenly father in a way I have longed to for soooooooo long and gave me my heart back again.  My marriage and my family are restored because of this ministry and what He does through it.  I’m thankful that I was able to go and my heart was open enough to allow a miracle to happen.  I’m also thankful that I made friends with some of the most beautiful women God has created.  All beautiful because of who He is to them and in their lives.

-my children and where they all are in their journeys.  I love that our kiddos are all finding their way in this world.  Some of them are taking classes to prepare for their future, some of them are creating things they are passionate about, some of them are risking it all to live the life they feel called to live, and all of them are working hard to be able to take the next step.  I am thankful that they are all healthy and pursuing their dreams.  My prayer for all of them is that they follow His lead and be in His will because He knows their hearts better than anyone and He has a plan that is perfect for their lives. – Another thing that I am thankful for!

-this place… This blog helps me keep my sanity.  He made me this way, that written words are how I best communicate and work through the junk in my head, my life, my relationships, my world.  I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made, the fears I’ve faced, the difference He’s made through me just telling my story.  I’m thankful for the grace and love I’ve received and been able to offer through this media space where I wear my heart on my sleeve and pray for mercy.

-my Honey’s (kinda) new job.  It was a huge leap of faith giving him my support to retire from teaching and switch careers at this point in our lives.  I only agreed to this when He made it very clear that He was opening this door for my husband and we needed to walk through.  Daily I received confirmation that we made the right choice when I see how happy, purposeful, and respected my husband is.  It makes for a happy life when you faithfully follow the path He has for you and I am so grateful that my husband has found his place and that he receives words of affirmation on the regular because he is where he’s supposed to be.

-my Honey.  He and I have been through it, I tell ya.  We’ve weathered storms that seemed to go on endlessly.  We spent years tripping over our own egos and trying to figure out when the other one would get their junk together.  We’ve raised LOTS of kiddos, faced serious health issues, dealt with exes, in-laws, and steps, moved across the country, lost almost everything, worked together, worked apart, purchased and sold homes, been bored, been overwhelmed, nursed each other, resented each other, adored each other, paid bills together, thanked God for each other, almost divorced each other, and here we are.  This year was the good stuff, the transparent place where we know we are completely accepted and that the other stuff is just stuff and we can get through it all because we already have.  Where we’re old enough to know to treasure the moments of laughter and love because they are fleeting and precious.  Where we agree and are in awe that we have created the most amazing people walking this earth who choose to love us and call us mom and dad.

I know there are SO many other things I have to be thankful for this past year, but once I hit 2000 words, I feel like it’s time to start winding things up so that we can all get on with our day.  I believe it’s important to focus on our blessings.  I think that it’s okay to have a rough patch and not feel guilty because you want to wallow for a bit and not put on your big girl (or boy) panties (or boxers?) until tomorrow or next month.  I’ve been so low that I just couldn’t get there and all of that anecdotal happy, joy b.s. just made me feel more isolated and alone, but I’ve also been in less low places more often when focusing on the good stuff is just what I needed to climb out of the funk and get up on my feet again.

I pray you have a list of the good stuff this year.  I pray you savor it and understand that even though it will end and bad, even horrible stuff will happen at some point (and I’m so sorry if you are in the bad or horrible right now), that the good, and even fantastic stuff will come again, too.  This is true for all of us who walk this Earth.  The human condition can be a rollercoaster ride.  I have decided that I am holding on, screaming at the top of my lungs and finally throwing my hands up over my head because I don’t want to miss a minute of the click, click, click as I approach that big drop, the dips, the corkscrew spins with my barefeet dangling, or the straight-away, slow-down time before I hear the screech of the brakes pulling into the station because the ride is over.  This ride is temporary.  I don’t want to close my eyes or heart and miss what He has for me, even when I don’t want it…

Happy New Year!!  

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Destiny’s Project

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desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was healing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Insanity…

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Sweep under the rug Today I posted this on my fb page:

It’s okay to say enough is enough and not be shamed out of it to make it “easier” for others. John 5:1-14

I was talking to myself.  I was standing for my Honey.  I was reaching for the other scapegoat people who are my friends on fb and hoping He would use my words to encourage others struggling like I was this morning.

Standing up against something you’ve allowed for years or even decades is much harder than having boundaries from the beginning.  That’s very easy to say… Living it is a whole other enchilada! Just being a woman, of my generation and before that, a girl, makes it an uphill battle to be strong, confident, to take care of your needs (sometimes before others, heaven forbid!).  We’re considered pushy bitches by society, by and large, for being emotionally healthy and for having boundaries.

I think as each generation has evolved, we’ve become more healthy in this way.  I don’t think we’re anywhere near our destination, yet, but we’ve come a long way, Baby!  The irony to me is that my experience has been that the people who typically throw roadblocks in my path are women who struggle with the same things as I do.  I’m not sure if it’s human nature to want to hold others back because we feel failure by not “keeping up with” our friends, or if this is just ingrained in us to play the martyr and encourage other women to do the same.

My daughter would probably tell you I have a bipolar personality when it comes to what I’ve taught her about being an emotionally healthy woman.  I think I’ve taught her to be sacrificial with others, setting an example of a martyr in many of my friendships and family relationships, while encouraging her to take care of herself, stand up for her needs and her heart and to have healthy boundaries with others.  Truth be told, I’ve talked a bunch more about the better way than I’ve lived it, but she’s much stronger than I am.  She’s SO MUCH MORE wise and confident than her mama ever was at 21…  or 31…

I think it’s a hard place to be when you’re a girl my age – somewhere between sweeping it all under the rug, stuffing it all down deep with a smile on your face and poison in your heart, just happy that everyone is “getting along” and putting it all out there, take me as I am or take a hike.  Big sister shaming us.  Little sister disappointed in us.  Floundering, disenfranchised…  Blossoming awkwardly, unable to stay in purgatory any longer, wanting to be reborn.

I’m still lost much of the time and I’m working so hard to be in His will, but sometimes I hear other voices that come from places with human agendas louder than I hear His.  It isn’t their fault, it’s mine, it’s my weakness that loses focus and forgets I am not a Christian church lady of my generation.  I am a woman of God.  I am His daughter.  He didn’t give me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) My goal is to encourage this and nurture this in my sisters.  My prayer is that others will do this for me…  He gave this spirit to all of us.  If we could embrace the truth of that and live in it, the spiritual, relational possibilities are endless.  It scares the bejeebies out of me, in a good way, kinda like an awesome upside down, bare-feet dangling, loop-de-loop rollercoaster.  The old way scares me in an awful way, kinda like I’m sitting in the back seat of a car with a sad smile on my face going nowhere or over a cliff and not really caring either way because no one really knows me and I know no one…

I think Einstein got it right… albert-einstein-insanity  

On Being 50…

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I’ve been 50 for almost an entire year, and I have to tell you, that for me and for several 50+ women I’ve talked to, there is something life-changing about becoming this age.  It didn’t happen instantaneously for me at 5:22 a.m. (I think that’s what time I was born) on January 6, 2014.  But I did sense a change in my self in the months leading up to that day.

I know that our society tells us that getting older is something to be avoided at all costs.  We spend LOADS of money and time trying to appear younger and feel healthier.  I’m all for the feeling better and being healthier – and I spend a bunch of cash on organic food and time on making chemically free products for my family.  I believe while I’m here, I should honor my body and my life by putting the best I can afford and acquire into them and I want that for my Honey and our kids, also.  I think that choosing to live this way has far-reaching effects on our environment and our sense of community, in addition to our day-to-day health.  Beyond that, I think I’ll spend my money on helping others to be healthier and educated.  I’m not saying I like all of the physical changes that are happening to my body, but I understand and accept that this is the deal.  We aren’t invincible.  We are constantly moving toward death…

On that note, I thought I would make a list of the things I hate about being 50 and the things I am enjoying…

I hate that I received an AARP enrollment form in the mail.  –  Seriously?!   I thought this happened at 65?!

I’m mostly not crazy about all of the wrinkles around my eyes, on my forehead (that I’ve had since high school) and around my mouth.

Not in-love with the way my chi chi’s hang lower than ever when not racked up in an underwire bra…

Menopause is rearing it’s ugly head and I just want to eat bread and sweets all of the time, so the extra weight that is appearing around my middle is not something I’m thrilled to see in the bathroom mirror each morning.

I can’t seem to lose weight like I used to…

Men do not look at me the way they used to or nearly as often as they used to…

Things that do not suck about being 50:

I am taken much more seriously when I voice my opinion.

I don’t care as much about what I look like as I care about how most people feel around me.

My Honey loves me more than ever and he truly thinks I’m beautiful.  He sees me.

My self-worth doesn’t depend on others nearly as much as it used to.

My Honey and I don’t want new toys like we used to and because of that we actually have cash to live in the moment.

NO credit cards!

I care SO much more about being healthy and SO much less about being thinner.

I’m a Nana!

My children are becoming my friends.

Men don’t look at me the way they used to.

 

I spent SO much of my time trying to make other people hear me, see me, respect my opinions, and think I was worth something.  It took all this time for me to realize this one simple truth:  I am worth it to Him.  He sees me and loves me unconditionally.  He doesn’t care if my children are dressed beautifully or if my house is always in perfect order.  He doesn’t care if I am the head of every organization that my children join and 7 church committees.  In fact, He probably would prefer I wasn’t the head of more than one or two, if any.  He wants us to be more than we do

Doesn’t that sound simple?…  Our culture goes directly against this and we are often enslaved to this way of thinking, this way of doing.  I wish it hadn’t taken me 50 years to figure most of this out.  I’m thankful I have figured some of it out.  I think the best part about being 50 is that I feel more freedom than I ever have and self-acceptance is truly a reality.  It’s a gift to be okay in your own (wrinkly) skin…

 

Shrinks, Insanity, and Calling in my Markers

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lucy doctor is in peanutsI’ve been seeing a counselor.  She’s a 12-step girl, so she speaks my language and she is all about keeping it real.  She doesn’t let me gloss over or avoid the uncomfortable stuff.  I feel exhausted every time I leave her office.  I also feel a little more substantial, like I’m beginning to live the life He means for me to live.  His path is a bit scary for me because it’s not what I’m used to.  What I’m used to is messed up in a lot of ways, so I’m mostly ready to leave it behind, but some of the broken parts of me prefer what they’re used to.  The unknown, even when it’s healthier, is scary.  Dysfunction is comfortable.  That’s why so many of us live in it for years.  That is also the reason others often attempt to sabotage people who try to leave the dysfunction and live a healthier life.  When people shine a light on the ugliness that has been our life, we feel cornered if we aren’t ready to take an honest look and make some changes.

I have some Bible verses that I have carried with me and they’ve helped me through some incredibly difficult moments in life.  I also have this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…”

These are the words that have made me move, re-examine, confess, change.  – and it hasn’t been a one-time deal, either.  These words have been my anchor on a few momentous occasions on my journey through life.

My newest epiphany is that I am allowed to not be perfect and accept, even expect, the grace that others should extend me just as I extend grace to them.  I don’t really think I’m perfect at all, but I have a tendency to try to be perfect and then beat myself up HUGE when I’m inevitably imperfect, as everyone is.  I’m trying to find that place where I can do my best in that moment and then walk away without having to do the best I ever have without anything wrong for some not-so-good reasons, like that’s where I get my sense of worth from, or because I’ll be punished if I don’t give my all and then some, or because I’m terrified that someone will see me as anything less than the hardest worker, best mom, best wife or best teacher…  It’s exhausting, y’all!

I’m going to try to find a better place to be in these areas.  I have no doubt this will be an ugly and hysterically funny journey for me.  I will probably go too far the other way, or, at times, justify not changing much, but saying I have, and I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of other mistakes along the way – all of which will drive my family absolutely crazy, I’m sure.  Some of them are already not so thrilled with the new, “improved” version of me that is emerging.  That’s okay because I haven’t been terribly thrilled with them at times, but I never quit on them, so I’m calling in my markers.  I’m worth fighting for and I’m worth extending grace to.

All of us are.  That’s why He sacrificed His son’s life for us.  He loves us unconditionally and chose to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, right?  And in the meantime, I’m tired of being less than He means for me to be because my life has beat me up a bit and my dysfunction keeps bringing me pain.  I want to be free while I’m here and I want to set that example for my children and grandchildren.  I want to truly live.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the stuff.  It scares the bejeebies out of me and excites me all at the same time.  I think that’s why He gave me moxie.  I have to find it, dust it off and learn to allow it to be a part of me again.  I want to embrace the parts of me that I have been made to feel ashamed of since I was very young.  In doing that, I hope to help others to remember who He made them to be and embrace all of themselves, because He does – completely.

Here’s to FREEDOM and change.

Here’s to Choice and Moxie.

Here’s to Persevering.

Here’s to Love…

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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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

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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…