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.

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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!

 

Tita

I recently became a Nana for the first time.  My older, precious twin, Caleb, became a daddy in a less-than-traditional, but not terribly uncommon manner.  During the end of the pregnancy, before we knew with any certainty that He was related to us, we all experienced a gamut of emotions that were extremely difficult and exhausting.    

He was born a month early, under slightly scary circumstances.  (Did I mention that mama went into labor a full month early, on Caleb’s birthday?!)  Caleb decided that he wanted to be in the delivery room to support the baby’s mama and to witness his child’s birth with no regrets.  I remember when he asked me what he should do, I asked him if the baby turned out not to be his, could he recover emotionally.  He assured me he was fine. My mama’s heart wanted to help him make the right decision without emotions clouding things up, but that was just simply impossible.  Caleb was there when Charles was born and he even cut his son’s umbilical cord.  A few days after the birth, my son was informed that the paternity test would not be done until little Charles was six weeks old and the results typically take about six additional weeks to return.  This would mean that the baby would be around 3 months old before anyone would know who his daddy was.  The news was almost unbelievable to our family!  Waiting that long was not beneficial for anyone.

I’ve learned SO MUCH since this all began.  I found out that you can order a profesh paternity test online for about $120 or less and have the very reliable results in about 48 hours from the time the company receives it.  I learned that no matter how hard you try to stay neutral, when you are a 2 Mama and Nana, you are ALL IN as soon as you know that baby is your baby’s, in spite of your wise children doing their best to prevent your possible heartbreak.  I know the wonder of having another woman birth a clone of your baby.  I finally understand all the hype about how awesome it is to have grandchildren because you have all the fun with very little of the tedious day-to-day responsibilities.

Arlo looks SO much like his daddy – and quite a bit like his Auntie Hannah, as well.  Also, Arlo’s parents look like they could be related, so there’s that…  He was in the NICU for just over 2 weeks.  He was released from there the morning after we got the results that confirmed Caleb is his daddy…  interesting.  He and his mama then spent several days in the “Nesting” area of the hospital before they allowed them to go home, and she graciously welcomed this Nana and Papa for daily visits.  

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We received the paternity test results the day after Valentine’s.  Caleb came over so he and I could process together.  I prayed silently as he experienced the HUGENESS of the situation in every way imaginable.  He mourned the end of his carefree life.  He expressed deep shame and regret.  He questioned whether he could rise to this occasion.  He lashed out in anger.  He shut down.  He began to accept the responsibility of it all, and then, bit by bit, he gave in to the cresting dam of love he had been struggling to hold back in order to protect his heart, in case he wasn’t Arlo’s daddy.  At first it was just a little trickle of the acknowledgement of the wonder of it all, leaking out in the most beautiful and fragile way. I watched this grow into the new joy of fatherhood and all the possibilities that lie ahead.  I am humbled that I bore witness to this sacred moment in my son’s life.  I count it as one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Once he was on level ground, again, he showered and we headed up to the hospital to meet his son (my grandson!!!!).  This is when I got to witness another absolutely lovely and horrible moment in my son’s journey to fatherhood.  He walked in, worked his way around all of the cords and medical “stuff” so that he could pick up his baby and inform him that he was his father.  When about 20 minutes passed and it was time to change his diaper, Caleb told us that it was time for him to learn to do everything.  It was excruciating and glorious watching him almost drop Arlo while diligently and lovingly changing his little preemie diaper with three women looking on.  I could feel my son humbly saying with his heart, “I’m all in.  I’m your daddy.  I love you and I will do everything I can to make you feel loved and to make your life better.”  

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In the past almost 4 months I have watched my baby mature exponentially.  As soon as Arlo’s sweet mama had to return to her job, Caleb changed his schedule at work so that he could be with his son Monday through Wednesday each week.  He works double shifts Thursday – Saturday in order to do this.  He can change a diaper, swaddle and burp a little one with the best of them!  He can tell you, with amazing accuracy, what Arlo is crying about within seconds.  When they come over for dinner on Monday evenings, we all vie to hold him, feed him and diaper him to give Caleb support for our own selfish reasons, and I am always so proud of him for making it clear to everyone that he is the one responsible for his son’s care.  He doesn’t show up and step back while everyone takes care of Arlo.  He’s the kind of daddy I have prayed my sons would be.  I am proud of the way he has lovingly stepped up and fully embraced the responsibility of fatherhood in spite of the extra challenges it has brought into his life.  

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Lastly, I am thankful that he repeatedly forgives us for being so excited every time he  walks through the door with Arlo and we gush all over our sweet grandboy and treat him like an afterthought… 

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Honestly!!!  Can you blame us?!  Just look at that precious little face… 🧡

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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

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

 

It’s All Relative…

relative fish

 

I’ve struggled for years with feeling shame for feeling pain at the lack of everything I received when I needed everything the most.  Compared to so many others my neglect was minimal.  The emotional abuse was a blip compared to the sexual and physical abuse so many people I hold dear have dealt with as children and as adults.

There is no winner or highest achiever because it’s not a competition.  While it may seem natural to downplay one person’s trauma while contrasted to another’s seemingly deeper trauma, it all still remains trauma.  There is no rule that if you don’t reach a certain amount of awful, you have to just stuff it down.  These are our truths. 

The irony is that often we follow this lifelong martyr routine of diminishing our own pain, when we should be bringing it all out of the darkness so that we can look it right square in the eye as it begins to lose its power in the light.  The only way to turn this agony into something good is to hand it over to Our Father and do the work of facing it in the light as He calls us to do.  Finally, we are called to walk through pain with others because we are called to love like Jesus.  We are called to follow Him as He turns our ashes into beauty as we walk it out in the relationships He brings into our lives. 

Your anguish is real.  It’s good to see that without any obstruction.  Having a counselor confirm my  grief was absolutely freeing for me.  Broken parents, teachers, friends often hurt us deeply because they don’t see their brokenness.  Our charge is to see our wounds and not cover them up so that they fester, causing more pain as we soldier on.  The truly courageous choice is to do the painful, valiant work of healing our festering wounds so that we can walk in the fullness of the identity He has for each of us. 

We can wallow for a bit.  Mourning is part of this pilgrimage.  We can and should find trustworthy people to come alongside us as we do this hard work.  I’ve found some wonderful people to help me as I’ve traveled toward health.  Counseling can be so helpful.  A good 12 Step program (not just for people addicted to drugs or alcohol) can be life-changing.  I’m a big believer that EVERYONE should work through the steps and more than once.  I’ve done it twice and plan to start my third round in the near future.  It’s like a little Jesus tuneup for your emotional and spiritual health with other peeps who are just humble enough to know they need a Jesus tuneup, too.  The Destiny Project is an extraordinary retreat for women.  The men’s counterpart is called BraveHeart and I’ve heard nothing but great reviews.  Inner-healing prayer (which goes by several names and can vary a bit, depending on where the facilitator was trained) can bring exponential healing in many cases and is something I’ve done in the past and am engaging in once again.  One of the most helpful pieces in my “health toolbox” is the enneagram.  Learning about this has helped my family tremendously. 

Not everything will work for everyone.  I went to counselors that I just didn’t click with.  I didn’t do every step of the twelve perfectly.  That’s why I’m so thankful that there are so many options.  I’m grateful for people who have helped me speak my truth and didn’t shame me or compare my  pain to other people’s pain.  I spent too many years allowing satan to tell me that I was being a baby, (*See enneagram 2 and shame) so that I wouldn’t face my junk and move toward health.  I pray you decide to ask Jesus to help you bring your stuff out into the light and begin your mission toward the beautiful identity He has for you.  I pray you are protected from people who want to minimize what you’ve experienced.  Lastly, I pray you have the courage to walk through the especially painful parts of the journey, knowing there is abundant freedom along the way.

 

Family Secrets

Proverbs-28-13

Every family has them, right?  It’s just how things happen in this American culture, especially in the generation before mine, which I often call the “sweep it all under the rug” generation.  My mother was a pro at this.  It always seemed so bizarre to me that she would preach to me about my siblings and I getting along better, when she kept so much from her own sisters.  I would argue that it wasn’t really getting along and loving if you didn’t really know one another, but it was an argument that never saw resolution, because my priority was being known and loved, while hers was having “peace.”

I remember when I was around 10 years old and a cousin told me that she had visited the cemetery with her mother and there was a headstone with the name, “Baby McDowell,” (my maiden name).  When she asked about it, her mother told her that my parents had lost their first child, a girl, when she was born.  I was blown away!  I had a sister!  I know it sounds ludicrous, but with four brothers and a mom who wasn’t super chummy with me, I was thrilled that I wasn’t alone on some 10 year old level.  When I went home to ask my mother about it, probably not with an abundance of sensitivity, I was met with such anger, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  She refused to answer any of my questions and told me it was none of my business and my aunt had NO business telling her daughter about it.  In the over 40 years since then, she’s never discussed it with me.

Later, as a young adult, I had to keep mum at extended family gatherings when another family member was in jail, for months at a time – not only once and not the same person.  My mother was adamant about this, so the rest of us fell in line and helped keep up the facade.  This meant telling our children to also lie to their relatives (because that’s healthy…).         When I tried to explain how uncomfortable I was, asking my kids to do this, I was berated for telling my children the truth in the first place, as if I had done something completely idiotic and detrimental to my offspring and my family of origin all at once.

 I was 19 and in college, dating the boy who would become my first husband, when I became pregnant and, as a result, had an abortion.  My husband and children are all very aware of what my experience was and how it’s affected my entire life.  While I wish this was not a chapter in my story, it is, and I believe the only way to change the trajectory of my children’s lives and their children’s lives, and so on, is to bring my secret sins out into the light and talk about what led up to and what happened because of those awful choices I made.  I can say with some disgrace and a bunch of freedom that I have been relentlessly upfront about my bad choices with my children and that the good that will result from my transparency far outweighs the shame I’ve experienced.  

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:  ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:13-14)

With so many wounds, secrets and lies layered upon one another through the years, eventually my family of origin imploded.  Secrets of abortion, miscarriage, a shotgun wedding, an illegitimate child, affairs, stealing money, the list goes on.  It was both heartbreaking for me and somewhat of a relief.  The carnage is still scattered all over the place and I’ve collected all of the pieces of the implosion that I want to keep.  The ones I left behind are not pieces I want to include as I go forward.

The irony is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a family that doesn’t have these same or very similar skeletons in their proverbial closets, and yet, we all freak out and try to hide it when it’s ours.  THIS is normal.  We Sin.  We make terrible choices.  We are HUMAN.  The goal isn’t to get through with less embarrassing sin than your other family members or the neighbors.  The goal is to know each other and love each other through the good and the bad choices.  The goal is to take the bad stuff and help others to not take the same detours, because if we don’t use that junk to cause some good, what in the world is the point?!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—  to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,  the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

When my husband betrayed me several years ago,  I remember so many things going through my mind.  I felt horrible shame because my husband turned to someone else after I had tried so hard to be a great wife in every way I knew how. I did not want anyone to know about this and possibly take pleasure in it at my expense.  I reached out to our church and they connected us to another couple who had gone through something similar a few years before us.  They advised us to tell our children immediately.  We did NOT want our children to know anything – which is ridiculous when I think of how I didn’t leave my bedroom for 2 solid weeks and they must have heard all of the crying and screaming I was doing on the regular.  After a lot of prayer and some time, we took their advice and told our children.  We also shared with them that this had happened with other family members in the spirit of getting it all out into the light and moving forward in freedom.  It was one of the most devastating nights of our lives.  I honestly didn’t think we would ever recover from all of the horribleness.

I’d love to tell you that we instantly became better than ever before, that once the truth was out, we all instantly forgave one another and moved on in perfect harmony.  I could lie, but then I’d be starting that crap again and what would be the point of this post?!  We did couple’s counseling, individual counseling, teenage counseling, and in the process of working toward health with boundaries and all the glitter, there was lots of fallout and sadly, some of it has not been resolved, yet.

I know one of the biggest reasons family secrets begin is because we are concerned about what other people think of us.  We want to appear better than we are.  I often refer to the time before the betrayal as our Stepford Family years because we worked SO hard to make it all look perfect – and by we, I mean me.  On some level (and this is where my 2-ness came into play, HARD.  * See Enneagram) I always believed that if I did enough for the people I loved, they would keep me in their lives because I wasn’t worth loving just because I was me.

SO, if you pour all you’ve got into being the perfect wife, then you finally burn out after 20 years and in your exhaustion your husband turns away because you’re not revolving around him anymore, all of your worst fears are pretty much confirmed.  Which is why I found myself rocking back and forth immediately after the discovery and chanting, “I always knew I wasn’t worth it.”  Satan had been whispering this into my ear my entire life.

In my diligent and often treacherous pilgrimage back to who I was always supposed to be, I discovered that I’ve always been worth it to My Father and that is more than enough.  As the layers of lies were peeled off of my self, my marriage and my family, I could finally hear the voice that mattered most, the voice of My Father.  Instead of the lies drowning Him out, His voice now drowns out satan’s lies.

Once I could hear His truth and accept His love, I was able to face my own “less-than-lovely’ traits and begin to work on replacing them with healthier tools.  This meant more counseling, attending a Destiny Project weekend, working through the 12-Steps (again), inter-healing prayer, revisiting boundaries and how they are healthy, and loads more time with Him throughout.

In the year after the discovery of the betrayal, I was betrayed by one of my oldest and dearest friends (the only one I shared this horrific news with), some people in my husband’s family began (and continue) treating me awfully, and my parents requested that I stay out of their lives forever (and so I do).  There were also many other incidents that were challenging during this period, and I can say it seemed more than I could bear at times, but mostly I had a peace like never before and because I FINALLY knew I was loved fully and unconditionally, I was able to not allow the rejection of me by other people’s brokenness to be my scale of self-worth.  It was all very painful, but I can now look back and see that God was preening my life.  In order to grow He has to trim away the unhealthy stuff, so that we can move forward without that unnecessary weight dragging us down.

In the past I would continue to insert myself into the lives of family members and friends regardless of how they treated me because I thought this is what good, christian women were supposed to do.  I have more broken relationships with extended family than I would like to have, but I know that this is a chapter in my life and theirs, not the whole story, and if I continue to be in My Father’s will and follow His lead, then things will work out just as they should.  Sometimes there will be reconciliation and sometimes there will not be, and in the meantime, He is growing me and preparing me for the next step on the path He has for me.

The other thing I want to say about bringing secrets out into the light is that you don’t have to share your stuff with the anyone who feels unsafe, especially if you are still working through the pain of it.  Mrs. Smith, down the street, doesn’t need to know that your niece had a baby out-of-wedlock, especially if she is prone to gossip!  But, if it’s about someone in your family, you should probs tell your family.  The thing is, that too often those family secrets affect the way we parent, or love, or live.  We may not even realize it, but once it’s out in the open and some time has passed, we may very well notice that we are living more from a place of freedom than ever before and that’s just better for everyone.  I often wonder if the reason my mom didn’t really seem to get close to me as a child is because her first precious baby that she lost was a girl and since I was the only other girl, maybe I reminded her of her profound loss.  Maybe that’s the reason it was easy for her to walk away from me several years ago over something very trivial.  I don’t know.  I probably never will, because family secrets.

The last thing I want to say about family secrets is:  Just ask.  Don’t do it like 10 year-old me probably did, but ask with gentleness and grace.  If you think there is a family secret that you should have knowledge of,  go IN LOVE to the person you think it involves and ask for the truth.  Help him/her bring it out into the light and then extend grace.

I’ve had people come and ask me about choices I’ve made with such grace that confessing to them was a blessing for both of us.  I’ve experienced other people coming at me with such judgement and condemnation that the only result was broken relationship and betrayal.  We’ve all sinned.  We all need grace.  When we remember that and approach the people we LOVE in humility, God can make miraculous beauty out of our messiness.  I know this because, many years after that horrendous night of bringing our devastating secret out into the light, my marriage is more authentic than it ever was and my husband & I have walked numerous others through this devastating journey to healing on the other side.  Our three youngest children will always carry the pain of that chapter of their lives with them, but they have chosen to use it to help others and to grow with a kind of dependence on Our Father that often only comes from walking through a period of anguish from facing hard truths.

While the temptation to have others see me as having my stuff together is always lurking, I don’t ever want to go back to living in the dark.  I know that living with my junk in the light is how I can best follow Jesus.  It’s where He lives and even when my junk is in the dark, He knows, RIGHT?!  In those moments of shame or rejection when I’m tempted to hide a detail or two, this thought will usually cross my mind, “HE ALREADY KNOWS!!”

  “God, you know what I have done wrong; I cannot hide my guilt from you.” (Psalm 69:5)

– and it isn’t the fear of Him that steers me back onto the right path as much as the knowledge that living in truth and transparency is living in freedom.  Living with hidden secrets and festering heart wounds is a life of imprisonment.  I’ve lived there and while I struggle daily with how I appear to others, ultimately I want to be able to come to My Papa day after day, more and more in the identity He has for me.  This isn’t a straight road with no detours or break downs, but it is a well-worn path of persistence, humility and surrender with light and freedom along the way.

Monday Mullings

winter_roses_m2

I planned and executed (with the help of my precious and sneaky youngest 3) a marvelous surprise birthday party for my Honey this past Saturday.  He’s reasonably easy to be sneaky with because he’s very trusting.  I often tell him that if I were a woman of less integrity, I could get away with SO VERY MUCH…  He never even had a clue and seeing the look on his beautiful face when he walked through the door while 70+ of his favorite peeps screamed, “SURPRISE!!!!” was just about as perfect as it gets.

Yesterday I helped coordinate a women’s network luncheon at church and it went off without a hitch.  My friend, Tamera, spoke beautifully and the food was pure yumminess from La Madeline.  I watched several women reach out and connect in such lovely ways. It was beautiful.

The past couple of weeks have been FULL of extra work days, extended insomnia, and loads of fun meetings with friends.  I recall noticing that my throat was a little scratchy last Thursday and I was fighting off a 3 day migraine along with it, but I just kept moving through, because there just wasn’t time to do much about it.  I had things to do, places to go, a husband to surprise!  So, yesterday, as soon as the luncheon was over and I walked through my front door, I realized I felt beat up.  My tickle turned into a croupy cough in less than an hour.  I was suddenly exhausted even though I had gotten 9 hours of sleep the night before.  So, I’ve been in bed for nearly an entire day.  My throat and chest feel worse, but I feel more centered and less beat up.  Sometimes, He slows us down in such inconvenient ways…

because, in my case, it’s the only way I will listen.

Some of the best things have happened in my family in recent months.  We are in such a great season.  An old friend of mine, who turned out not to be much of a friend at all, once shared this sage advice, sprinkled with a bit of profanity:  Enjoy the good times that you go through, because the %$&* times are coming!

I had spent way too much of what should have been joyful seasons, fretting about what was coming next or even believing on some level that if I enjoyed myself too much, God would punish me because I didn’t deserve to have joy.

Who does?!

So, the lesson He has been renewing in my life is to BE in this season of joy with my family.  Celebrate.  Give exuberant thanks.  Praise Him for this blessed season.  I know the junk is coming, as well as more beauty, and worrying about what’s next will do nothing to prevent anything bad from happening.  It will, however, steal the joy of this season.  I’m also a firm believer in praising Him in the dark times and I believe the joyful times fill me up in a way that makes it easier to walk through trials with faith.

Our world is crazy right now.  Two Black men were waiting for a third man to join them at Starbucks.  The barista called the police because they hadn’t ordered anything…  yet.  Several White patrons stated that the men were never asked to order or leave or even spoken to.  They also stated that the men had done nothing wrong.  The police arrested both men, taking them out in handcuffs, as the friend they were waiting for showed up. WHAT IN THIS CRAZY WORLD?!?!?!?!

I’ve gone to many coffee joints and seen multiple peeps on their computers for HOURS, never ordering anything OR ordering only a $1.50 cup of coffee.  I meet with friends regularly and wait for them before I get my chai or whatever.  I have NEVER in several decades of being white, been asked to leave, to order, or had the police called on me.  Never.

The sadder thing is that Starbucks had a similar incident in Redondo Beach just this morning.  You can watch it here:  starbucks-accused-racism-yet-new-video-surfaces .  Now, if I’m honest with you, I probably go to Starbucks twice a year.  I’m very much a “support local” kinda girl, but now I can assure you I won’t be going there at all.  We have to support the disenfranchised with our dollars.  It’s the most effective way to make your voice heard.

Lastly, there’s this Cohen-Hannity debacle. What in the world?!  As I begin to process this news, I have a few random thoughts…

It makes so much more sense now that Hannity has been almost obsessive in his support of Trump and his constant criticism of the FBI’s raid of Cohen’s files.  Those two know Hannity’s dirt.

I’m not sure why Cohen is called “the fixer” when he clearly is not.

If Cohen was “fixing” the same stuff for Hannity as he has for his only two other clients (Trump and Broidy), then that gives “Fox & Friends” a whole new meaning.

Hannity is claiming that he only told Cohen things as a friend.  So, why did Cohen keep files on his friend?  If it was just friendly conversation, there is no attorney-client privilege, correct?  Yet, Hannity says that there is.  Pick a side, Sean.

What a day!  

Dear Honey

Bob

There are so many things I adore about you, but as nearly three decades have come and gone, I find that I much too often take an abundance of your goodness for granted.  Part of my resolution is to be a better wife, less critical of you, so that you can walk more fully in the joyful identity God has for you.  As I’ve prayed about how I can best become more of who He calls me to be as your wife, I’ve asked Him to see you through His eyes and not my own critical eyes.  I believe He’s been bringing to mind some of the many loving qualities and actions of yours that I’ve overlooked recently.  This is just a small sampling of the ways you bless me and others who know you.

It doesn’t go un-noticed that you always clean up the food and dishes when our kiddos are over for dinner or almost anytime we have dinner guests, while I visit and relax.

When you share story after story of the people you bless during your work day or at band gigs, my heart sings.  You are such a tenderhearted man and I love your generosity with people who cross your path.  I love that you have so many homeless friends in Austin, that you don’t simple give money to, but that you invest in them and know about their lives because you choose to spend time and pour into them.  When you tell me any of your many stories of special people who ride your duck tour and “drive” on the water, perhaps for the first and/or only time in their lives, and your eyes brim with tears, my heart just leaps in my chest and I thank God you are my husband.

It means the world to me that when I work my 11 hour day once a week, you have dinner all ready when I walk through the door.  Exhaustion and a yummy home-cooked meal are fast friends.

I love how much you love our children.  Even though they are all grown and out of the house, you still work so hard everyday because you want to provide things for your babies (and me).  Your dedication to all of us makes my heart sing.  You are truly the hardest working person I’ve ever known, but you are not a workaholic.  You work to live and enjoy life with your family and I’m thankful for the example you are to our children.

One of my favorite things about this more “mature” version of us is that you are happy to stay home with me, watching a movie and cuddling is a treat.  When we were younger, you wanted to be on-the-go all of the time, being the extrovert of our union, and I would go along, but it was almost always a stretch for me.  I’m thankful that I have fun with you whether we are out on a date or hanging at home.  You are my favorite person to spend time with.

Thank you for always telling me that you think I’m beautiful and meaning it.  Thank you for encouraging me to discover my calling.  Thank you for being so patient with me as I wallow around in the muck trying to leave my grumpy self behind.  Thank you for valuing my opinion.  Thank you for putting up with me.  I know it’s not always easy, but your love has brought me a peace that I had never known.  Thank you for reacting to (almost) every meal I make as though I am Martha Stewart.  Thank you for cheerfully trying all of my organic, paleo, keto, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. etc. recipes.

Thank you for loving me.