Tag Archives: Gatherings

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

HELP!! No, really, please help…

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Good Friday

Yesterday was Good Friday. My Honey and I went to church with some of our kiddos, then we grabbed a bite to eat before going to a really late showing of “God’s Not Dead” at the theatre. I was determined to get in touch with what Easter is all about. It seems I am too busy with other stuff most of the time, so I welcome such times that I can be “forced” to spend time with Him.  I’m not proud of this revelation, just being real…
I’ll be honest. I’ve been sitting back waiting to see the reviews come in on the 3 Bible/Christian movies that have come out recently. In the past I have felt that most Christian movies are a bit corny and the acting is over-the-top. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but I am of the opinion that if non-believers go to see these movies, they should not be laughing or groaning through most of the scenes. I spent much of my life not believing in God, and I remember seeing “those” movies during that time in my life. There was rarely any good or lasting emotion evoked in me. I felt like I was usually being scared into believing in a loving god who would protect me if I chose him, but who would allow me to be tortured if I didn’t. I never chose Him back then because it felt dishonest, like I wouldn’t be choosing Him as much as I was terrified of the alternative. That wasn’t love and even though I didn’t know Him, I understood that much.
“God’s Not Dead” seemed like the best choice, especially since our college aged kids were going with us. I watched a few trailers. The acting looked good. The premise looked very interesting. The reaction I got from our children was less than enthusiastic.  They both asked if we could go see a different movie more than once.  Their dad told them that they could go and see a different movie while we went to GND.  They both declined seeing another movie, but I think they mostly did that because I have the power of mommy-guilt.  Sometimes I’m okay with that…  Like on Good Friday when I want to share some God moments with them…

Our younger children are part of a generation who scoffs at the church’s scare tactics of the past.  They also see through the emotional sway that some dramatic Christian movies, sermons, and songs attempt to have on people.  So, while they watched some Christian movies with their dad and I in recent years, they have been disappointed by less than great acting, over-the-top emotional blackmail and guilt tactics that they have experienced in many of them.  They have a hard time with the christianese and how perfectly Christians are often portrayed. 

They have a very genuine relationship with Jesus.  They revere Him, but they also see Him as an intimate friend who they want to be very authentic and real with.  They have helped me to see Him for who He really is and to get past seeing Him as someone who always judges me and is never happy with anything I do.  We all have a great passion for helping others to discover Him and want genuine relationship with Him, so I am thankful that we are accountable to one another about such things (most of the time).

Church was truly lovely.  I had to work to focus on what this season is all about at first, but the cool thing is because that is obviously a struggle for a bunch of people, our Good Friday service was completely focused on helping us go “there” together.  As we went through each day of Holy Week leading up to Good Friday, we read the biblical account, we worshipped through song, we watched clips of last year’s History Channel’s (I think) Bible movie and took communion.  I typically feel overwhelmed with guilt during the Passover season.  I feel humbled that He did that for me and ashamed that I continue to sin even when I’m fully aware of what He went through willingly for me and my sin.  This year I feel a deep sense of gratitude, more than guilt or shame.  I don’t mean that I don’t feel convicted about my sin.  I just mean that as I read about what He went through and I watched the horrific depiction on screen, I felt so loved by Him.  For just a moment I accepted His gift fully and I felt humbled in this really beautiful way, like a bride might feel the first time her loving groom sees her at the other end of the aisle and his face gives away how overwhelmed he is by her beauty, inside and out.

At dinner my babies expressed their hesitation about the movie we were going to and they teased me a bit.  I had done my research, so I held my own…  I think…  I also privately prayed that this movie would not be corny or have weak acting in it.  In the first few minutes, my kids were huddled up and giggling – we were the only people in the theatre until 5 minutes in, when 5 other people joined us.  At that point, they behaved themselves.  And I have to tell ya… It was pretty good.  I was NOT impressed with the very pretty Cassidy Gifford’s acting ability.  My daughter commented that she must’ve had some connections, because she was obviously not in this film because of her talent.  She is, in fact, Kathy and Frank Gifford’s daughter.  She was only in part of the first 1/2 of the movie, so that was a plus for us.  The acting by everyone else was very good.  Kevin Sorbo was excellent, as was Shane Harper who plays the main character, Josh.  Willie and Korie Robertson (Duck Dynasty) were very themselves and endearing.  The storyline was excellent and complicated and VERY believable, in my critical opinion.  I appreciated that the film explored other cultures/religions and didn’t villanize them. The conclusion was not all tied up in a perfect, pretty, deep purple bow that makes you roll your eyes.  It had some corny moments with a little bit of christianese, but that’s okay, I think.  Some of the highlights of my life have been corny and sprinkled with christianese…

One of the coolest part of my day was that in my daily Bible reading (on my phone, that I listen to more than read), one of the passages was Matthew 10:32-33  32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.  When we got to church that was one of the passages Rick shared in his message and again it was mentioned in the movie several times.  I always say I need to be hit over the head when He wants me to move… So, I consider myself hit!

I think we all enjoyed it.  I think my kiddos may even be glad they went.  I was reminded that He willingly died a horrific death for us because He loves us completely and unconditionally.  I was reminded that He calls on us to do uncomfortable things in His name because He wants more of us to accept this gift from Him and sometimes we are the reason people decide to give Him a chance.  The big picture is hard to see when I don’t step back away from the day-to-day “important” stuff I too often get buried under.   I’ve had this revelation before.  I long for the days when I was in regular, constant communication with Him.  Not much changes.   After a bit I typically return to busy and tired mode.  This wasn’t such a problem for me before I went to work full time and was part of a church where I knew people more intimately.  Changing churches is not an option, so I wonder what other people do.  How do busy people maintain a relationship with Him? – one where you speak to Him and more importantly, HEAR Him… 

I’ve been struggling with this for YEARS now and I sincerely need help.  I really would LOVE to hear from you, so leave your comments and suggestions below, please…

 

Tomatoes and Blessings…

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Yesterday my Honey and I went to get two new tires on our old, wonderful car that I have come to love.  I was so thankful that we could put the tires (with nitrogen injected into them, btw…) on without having to eat hot dogs for 4 weeks straight or paying the electric bill a week late and then setting up payments.  We went and got a bagel while we waited and then grabbed some things from Costco – LOVE this store!!  Just as we were headed to the front of the  store, they called my Honey and said the tires were on and we were good to go.  Perfect timing…

We picked up our little, old car and she is running smoooooooth, now.  We went to see a matinee and got a free ticket for next time – now, that’s just the cherry on top, isn’t it?!  After the movie we went to Maggiano’s for dinner – I LOVE gift cards!!  We talked, held hands, laughed a lot – do you know my Honey?! – and savored every minute of our life together.  I was especially happy because our fantabulous cleaning lady had done her magic and I was going home to a clean house.  Ladies, does it get much better than that?!

Last night we were talking about how wonderful our day was and reviewing our plan to go to Barton Springs together after he drove two early Duck tours, since it looked like the only 80+ temp sunny day during our spring break.  We have been so excited about ringing in spring/summer at Barton, as we have every year since moving to Texas.  Just before 9:00 last night he got a text asking him to play bass this Sunday at church and attend rehearsal tonight.  So… No Barton Springs this Spring Break…  It’s his first time to play at Gateway and he is a wreck, btw!  So, this morning I made a nice little breakfast for my Honey before he left and then for my two youngest men.   I had the nicest conversations with my babies, who are not babies at all anymore, but will always be my babies.

Bob was supposed to come home for a couple of hours before he went to the rehearsal at church, but the office called and they needed him to drive another tour at 3:30 today.  He’ll go straight to our church and he’ll do an amazing job.  I’ll be home, praying for him and his nerves and believing in him, his talent, his heart…

All of our Texas kiddos are coming for dinner and games, and I am overwhelmed with a greatful heart.  I have the meat in one crockpot, the black beans in another crockpot and I’ve cut up more tomatoes than any one person should cut in a month.  My primary love language is quality time and they are choosing to spend time with me…

Scott and Bailey are coming after he gets out of work.  Hannah and Maggie will be here anytime to help with the prep work.  Caleb is running to the grocery store to pick up the 8 – 10 things I forgot yesterday.  Aaron is picking up Daisy as I type.  I just keep thinking of all of the things I love about these men and women who are more precious to me than any of them can imagine.

Scott is my sweet, grumpy old man.  He is the reason I first began to believe in God.  He is gruff, and can be tender-hearted, and loving and strong.   He is so very creative and passionate and I love that he is beginning to see who he really is and is embracing that.  He is a good man.  I always said he wouldn’t date bunches of girls, but when he met the one God intended, he would know, without any doubt and that would simply be that.

Bailey is Scott’s only true love.  She is great at getting through, being strong and surviving.  She loves God and is starting to truly believe He loves her and thinks she is precious.  She has so much talent and drive, but my goal in my relationship with her is to show her that I love her without condition for who she is and not for what she does or is capable of and because God has put that love for her in my heart like I have for all of my children.

Hannah is such a mix of her daddy and I.  She has all of his talent, his sense of humor, his ability to go with the flow.  She has my smile, my cynicism and fierce loyalty that often enables those around us.  She is mature beyond her years and is too passionate for her own good, but without her passion, she would be a shell of what He intended her to be.  She is my defender and my girl.

Maggie is so much like me that sometimes it’s a little creepy.  Like Bailey, I have let her into my heart and I don’t think she’s going anywhere.  She is one of our kids.  She is Hannah’s best friend and the Caleb’s first love.  The fact that the 3 of them have survived this crazy and wonderful triangle of love for 5 years is quite a feat and testimony of their love and character.  I love how she loves my children and how she works at being a part of this family.

Caleb is so full of emotion and is so good at appearing “together” that I have always had a fierce need to protect him.  He is the sassiest of all of my children and the most loyal.  When he loves someone, he loves them completely.  If they betray him, his instinct tells him to close the door and never look back, but he has worked incredibly hard to become a forgiving person and my heart soars when I watch him work at this.  He is my perfectionist and my professor.  He is the one who will run errands for me and take care of “man” stuff.   (Acts of Service is my secondary love language.) If he is interested in something, he will learn every detail about that thing.  If he is not, then he will not…

Daisy is my Aaron’s love.  Three years ago we knew he had a mad crush on her, but now we all know she has become his best buddy.  I don’t know Daisy very well, but I see how Aaron smiles when he is with her.  I see that they are goofy when they spend time together and that makes this mama’s heart happy.  She has a great sense of humor, which is essential in this life and this family and an absolutely beautiful smile.  I hope that we will all get to know Daisy better and that she will come to love this crazy family of ours.

Aaron is our baby.  Caleb only has 2 minutes on him, but Aaron is the baby of our family in so many ways.  He is the one who is most like his daddy in the obvious ways.  When he was little I referred to him as my “suck-the-life-out-of-me” kid.  His love language is words of affirmation and being the McDowell that I am, his personality grew me BIG when he was young.  He is the boy who tells me I’m pretty and thanks me for things.  He is also the boy who cleans the house constantly and what mama doesn’t love that?!

There is so much more to all of my precious children.  I wish I could go on and on about each of them.  I am so excited to be part of their lives.  I am savoring every moment as I watch their lives unfold before them.  They are such honorable people.  They all make me laugh.  Sometimes when they all get together and they start to joke around about their mom, I don’t think they’re terrible funny…

accurate, but not terribly funny.  They all really love me and that is so much more than I deserve with all of my human frailities and faults.  How in the world do I get to be blessed with an evening with all of them?   God’s grace, love, and blessings are all more than I can stand…

OH!  I have to go cut more tomotoes and find Taboo…

From the 40 Yard Line

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40 yard lineSunday morning…  The wind is blowing, the sun is shining and we’re getting ready to get ready to go to church…  My Honey and I have a heart-to-heart and I decide that what I really want more than anything for my birthday is for our family to gather at our home, eat, laugh and experience love – real love, the comfortable, joyful, teasing, reminiscing, comforting, supporting kind that is the rare and precious gift I have received from my Father in the form of my Honey, our kids – biological and in-love…

Our Banana-girl immediately tells me that she will do whatever I want.  She and I make a list of what we need for a great yummy brunch.  She rallies her dad and they go to the store.  When I call our oldest, he is obviously tired and has to work later today, but he responds in just moments and tells me that they will be over in an hour.  I am blessed beyond measure that he and my daughter-in-love make time for me at the last minute on a Sunday morning.

Once everyone is here, the rhythm of my family begins.  Scott and Caleb are cooking at the stove, Bailey is baking cinnamon rolls, setting everything out on plates or anything else that needs to be done, Hannah is making Belgian waffles after she finishes cutting up all of the fresh veggies for the eggs, my Honey is washing dishes and doing general clean-up, while Aaron and his friend are eating Bailey’s cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven.  I am wandering around, putting the occasional pepper grinder away or warming up the maple syrup… Mostly I’m just reveling in this moment and setting up my Pandora station  – Great Outdoors Instrumental – because I know that today my children will put up with it for my birthday…

Does it get much better?…  Honestly, if I found out that I only had a day to live, this is how I would want to spend it.  I wish I could bottle this.

We talk about why I stopped going to Ponderosa and other “trough” restaurants twenty years ago because of Silence of the Lambs, how queasy Aaron also gets because of gory movies, and when Scott and my Honey met for the first time.  We laugh and commiserate while we reminisce about pieces of our family history that would probably seem ridiculous to others.  And I sit and cherish every moment because showing up is enough.  I feel loved, accepted.  My cup runneth over…

Peace…  I remember when I first came to begin to know God.  The difference I most felt in my life was this peace that I had never experienced before.  I waited for it to end for quite awhile.  It didn’t…  I still had junk happen in my life that caused stress, but I also had this peace that was new and constant.  It was incredible to me.  It still is.

When I’m with my husband, our children and their loves, I am brought back to this.  They center me and help me remember how blessed I am.  Joy.  Not always happiness, but always joy.

Now, I’m not trying to sound like that Christmas letter that makes out like my family is picture perfect – My kids are all youth group leaders, on the dean’s list, my husband received several promotions and raises this year and I am PTA President while remodeling our entire subdivision…  (yes, you probably received one of those from me several years ago, but it will NEVER happen again).

We get mad at each other occasionally.  We tease a little too much sometimes.  We let others do more of the work and enjoy the bounty in spite of our laziness once in awhile.  Sarcasm is a special talent in our home…

Grace.  Love.  Peace.  Joy.

Today I am blessed with these things in abundance and I am in my 40’s…