When Mother’s Day is Hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He knows.  He tells those who listen….

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

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

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

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

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

 

More ‘Rona Ramblings

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

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

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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!

 

’tis the season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Mamas with empty nests will understand. 

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

“When I thought I’d lost me,

You knew where I’d left me”

https://youtu.be/TdqenA8k_GU

 

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

the good stuff

HCA Hula Hut laughing

the good stuff

that rare moment when no one has anything pressing

not an appointment to go to

not an assignment due anytime soon

not a work meeting

not a repair that can’t wait

when the weather is perfect

not too chilly

not too hot

not rainy or snowing

not too windy

when the food is scrumptious

not packaged

not average

not common

when laughter is the result of deep bonds and precious memories

not forced

not fake

not bound

when the people are your tribe

not self-centered

not disengaged

not moody or pouty, no shoulder chips allowed

These are the memories that carry us through the not-nearly-as-perfect moments (nnapm) that are inevitable and sometimes horrific.  These are the moments that all of the Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat posts pretend to be.  These are the glorious memories that we pause to relive, again and again.

In the midst of these moments, I find myself wondering how my life can be this perfect, lovely and surreal, because I know full well that I’ve done nothing to deserve this heaven on earth.  Still I gladly immerse myself in the good stuff, aware that the nnapm are on their way, whether or not I deserve them, savoring each and every smell, sound, sight, taste and feeling that this blessed moment has to offer.  No camera phone needed.  No hesitation to be all in.

This is the good stuff.

Gathering Table 20 seats

Oh, that I could (a mama’s lament)

Dandelion clock in morning sun

If I could go back 

and do it all again

-or maybe just parts of it…

I would honor who He made you to be more than forcibly attempting to mold you into who I thought you should become.

I would listen more with the intent of hearing your heart and less with the goal of sharing my “wisdom.”

I would engage more in being a part of all of those wonderful memories and less in the role of martyred stagehand. 

I would enter into holidays, vacations, and special gatherings with my hands and heart wide open instead of my everything being wound up and around unrealistic expectations that almost always led to disappointment and my embarrassingly bad behavior.

If I could go back,

I would remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect in order for people to love me and that even if people will never love me without condition, HE does and that’s enough.

I would give myself grace, and, in turn, give more grace to others. -Because NO one is perfect, we all make mistakes, and grace is such a beautiful place to live and grow in, unlike judgement and condemnation.

I would set healthy boundaries so you would feel safe and have a confidence that my wounded parenting wasn’t able, but desperately wanted, to instill in you.

OH, if I could go back and do it all again,

but I can’t – not even a little bit of it.  So, I will not linger in “what-if’s” or “should-haves.”  I will move forward, grateful with experience and wisdom that I lacked early on (and hope still to increase), accompanied by grace and love for myself and others born of my journey, prayerful that I will continue my pilgrimage, walking ever more fully in who I was created to become.

Hyvää uutta vuotta!

New-Year-Pictures

I suppose that since it’s a brand new year, I should write the proverbial New Year’s Resolution blog post.  I’m one of those middle of the road peeps.  I see some value in setting a public goal because then we’re accountable to ourselves and others.  I also understand thinking that NY resolutions are silly because almost NO ONE follows through, despite wonderful and sincere intentions.  I’m kind of a “make the vow to myself quietly’ kind of girl, not saying it out loud until I’ve research this life-changing goal and worked it consistently for a short time, mostly.  If I’m afraid I won’t follow through because my flesh can be SO weak, and I really want to in my spirit, then I’ll share one-on-one with someone in my inner circle, being sure to mention how unlikely it is that I will accomplish my task.

I have all of these ideas of ways I want my life to change for the better, like most people do.  As I was pondering this recently and throughout the past year, I’ve noticed I feel scattered and a bit overwhelmed, so I’ve broken it down into categories in order to see my goals more clearly and in a less complicated fashion.

Emotionally:

I want to have healthy boundaries with some people who have hurt me on the regular over the years.  This is tough because I am a 2 (enneagram), a hard 2, and I just want to meet everyone right where they are and love them with all that I am.  When I don’t do this I feel like I’m letting God down, even though I know in my head that boundaries are healthy and I’ve spent WAY too much time standing in His way in the name of love.  In addition to this, I would love to stop caring about the opinions of people who have misrepresented or misjudged my character.  While entering my 50’s has helped dissipate much of this, occasionally, it still gets the best of me and I fantasize about the truth coming to light and having peace with those people.  I’m SO ready to be an Elsa and completely “let it go!”

Relationally:

THIS is the tough one for me right now.  My husband is such a lovely man.  Of course, he has stuff like every human being, but because of our very opposite dispositions, my pessimistic McDowell part has bit-by-bit squelched the optimistic and joyful Honey I fell in love with.  I find myself often overcompensating for my trespasses when I should simply ask for forgiveness, owning my junk and doing better because of it.  It’s awful how something can be ingrained in you from birth and decades later still wreak havoc in adult relationships.  It’s time to do better because I am capable of better, my husband deserves SO much better and my children deserve a better example.

Physically:

This is the embarrassing one.  I want to figure out why I continue to gain weight even though I am eating less food and more healthily than I ever have.  I’m exercising regularly and getting enough rest (usually), so it’s discouraging that I’m seemingly getting less healthy day-by-day.  I’ve spent an abundance of time and money on the pursuit of physical health, and while I am almost never sick and I am quite healthy, this weight gain, sudden onset of hot flashes, and lack of energy are disheartening.  My hope is that I’ll figure out what is wrong with my adrenals and/or my thyroid and I can begin a plan that will bring them back to health – and that I can do this without breaking the bank…

Social Justice:

This is a subject that is very near and dear to my Jesus-loving heart.  There is little else that brings out my passionate side like racial injustice.  However, I’ve got to confess that I am intimidated to step into this full throttle for a number of reasons.  I feel like I have little to offer as a privileged white woman.  This causes me to be terrified to say or do the wrong thing because of my ignorance or any scrap of prejudice that remains.  I don’t want to appear to think I am some kind of savior or anything obnoxious.  I want to stand by my brothers and sisters and use my voice so that we can start moving through repentance, then restitution and finally reconciliation.  I’m not sure what that looks like, yet.  I have an entire bookshelf of every suggestion my BtB group has ever mentioned and then some.  I’ve read several of them, but I need to be more intentional.  I need to stop taking advantage of my white privilege by doing the inconvenient and hard stuff even though it may seem I don’t have to.  I am His daughter, which means I do, so I will.

Financially:

My Honey and I would love to go away for a real vacation.  It has been 16 years since we’ve gone away alone together for more than a night or two – and that was in September of 2001 during the week of 9/11, as well as experiencing a hurricane on Sanibel where we were vacationing, and returning to find out one of our children had gotten into some pretty serious trouble while we were away.  We’re dreaming of a full week, all alone, somewhere we have to fly to.  If we can’t do it this year, then next year is the goal.  There are actually several other financial goals we have, but this is not our strong suit, so we’ll just leave it like this for now.

Spiritually:

I’ve been praying about my word for this year.  I’ve intentionally avoided words like “love,” “help,” “inspire,” because that’s what I’m naturally drawn to and one or two of those have been my word in past years.  Yesterday, the word “Simplify” came to me.  This is a good goal for me.  It’s one I feel I’ve been working on for many years.  It’s one of the things I tried to instill into my own children.  I have successfully simplified many areas of my life, but I can see that in my desire to accomplish some of the above goals, I have complicated my life unnecessarily.  While I believe it’s wise to read and educate oneself about God, health, finances, relationships, ultimately, I know the first place I need to turn is to Him.

I think this looks like taking each of my areas of growth and choosing ONE simple goal, just one baby step and following through.  Breaking it down based on His leading and my strengths will produce a simplicity that will bring blessings into my life and those I serve and love.

In my marriage this looks like confessing to my husband first.  The next step is unclear for me.  I think we’ll need some kind of accountability, so asking him to join me in that is a definite possibility.

Emotionally, in my relationships I will continue to pray before I put myself out there.  I will do my best to check my motives and remember that He is so much better at loving people than I could ever be.  When He sends me, I will go, but I am finally ready to stop sending myself out of guilt or my icky savior complex, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at times.  

My Honey and I have been researching the KETO diet and we are going to give it a whirl.  A couple of months ago I bought a planner that keeps me on schedule with my magnesium protocol and that has been helping me stay on track and get back on track when I fall off now and then.  My hope is that following these plans will jumpstart my adrenals and thyroid so that my body can start taking better care of itself naturally.

My goal is to read 2 books each month about racial reconciliation.  I have started to collect children’s book by authors of color about people of color for the grandchildren I hope to have someday.  I am going to purchase 1 book every 2 months and my hope is that I will have a library that will help another generation of my family to love and appreciate all of God’s people.  I have other goals, but in the name of simplifying and succeeding, I am going to make this the first step.  I am going to bathe each book in prayer and ask Him to show me what steps I take next.

Financially…  Yep, not my strong suit.  I’ll have to get back with you about this one.

Spiritually, I am going to keep spending time with Jesus.  His Word speaks to me in life-changing ways and quiet time with Him is the best way for me to stay centered.  I made a commitment to read my Bible daily a few months ago (again) and it’s going well.  Sometimes I find myself checking the box, but more often I am slowing down and taking His Word in. I have decided to work through the 12 steps again, joining a group at my church that will keep me accountable and help me grow where He shows me I need to this time around.  I bought myself a Christmas present from Cageless Birds that was a stretch for me.  Cultivate is a series of 4 volumes that are full of writing prompts, contemplative thoughts, and encouragement for artists of all kinds – because we are ALL artists in one way or another.  I bought all 4 of them and gave one to each our 3 youngest and gave myself volume 4, “Creativity Unlocked.”  I’m intimidated and excited to see how God works through the pages to help me walk more fully in the identity He has for me.

So, I started this post a few days ago and then as I prayed and journaled I was able to simplify my proposed journey for this next year.  I feel centered and hopeful.  I’m also seasoned enough to be okay if the end doesn’t look exactly like I’m imagining at the beginning.  New Year’s Resolutions are meant to help us move forward in hope, not to discourage us because we aren’t perfect.  I pray you find your rhythm in this new year.  I pray you find grace for yourself and others.  I pray you find yourself walking in your full identity more and more as the days unfold.  It’s okay to straight up fail or stumble to any degree, and it’s okay to get up and start again in February or July or December.  It’s not okay to let perceived failure defeat you for too long.  You’re worth a lot of effort and persistence is noble.  Quitting, not so much.

Happy New Year!

 

The last sunrise of the year…

 

 

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!!  

sunrise in field

 

 

 

 

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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

Happy dia de las madres

happy-mothers-day
Or is it?….
Not for everyone. Some moms are geographically or emotionally far from their children. Some have lost their children – in death, by estrangement, to others. Some have not been able to conceive, don’t feel called to adopt or simply don’t choose to be moms. Then there are the sons and daughters who struggle because their mother has passed, is very ill, or was not what they needed her to be growing up or now, and worse.
It’s not all as pretty as the Hallmark cards and some of the posts on facebook would have us believe. It’s hard to be politically correct when you are dealing with something as emotionally charged as the holiday that makes as if all women who have given birth are saints. Personally, I have very mixed emotions about tomorrow. Each year when I’m in church, I feel a bit sad about the women (and men) I know who are struggling with this day. There is often an insensitivity in our culture to those of us who weren’t loved well by their mothers or who haven’t been able to become mothers. I’ve heard church friends say things like, “Well, even if you’re not a mother, everyone has a mother, so we can all celebrate that.” Except that we can’t ALL celebrate that, either. There are mothers who are/were abusive, emotionally absent, selfish, unloving, physically absent by choice, etc.
I’ve always LOVED Mother’s Day. I used to enjoy how my family gathered to celebrate my mother and when I became a mom, it was like crossing over to the other side – the really cool, up-on-a-pedestal side. When Bob and I married, he always made me feel very loved and appreciated on Mother’s Day. When we had all 5 of our babies, after I gave birth to our twins, I was a bit of a celebrity on Mother’s Day at church. I’m not gonna lie, I ate it up! I was exhausted most of the other days of the year and it felt wonderful to be acknowledged and honored for the life I chose to live. It didn’t happen much outside of church where the world doesn’t think much of stay-at-home moms.
I know it sounds cliche’, but my very favorite MD gifts EVER were the “complete the sentence” cards my babies made for me when they were in elementary school. Their answers were SO honest, funny and sweet – and self-centered! I do this every year in my classroom with my kinder kiddos because I remember sitting with each of my children with tears streaming down my cheeks while I read their love letter to me. Caleb loved me because I made the best goulash and picked up a babysitting job to help pay for a family trip to California and Arizona. Hannah loved me because I took her fun places and she thought I was pretty. Aaron thought I was best at cooking food for him and Scott thought I washed clothes and kept the house really clean!
I wish they would still make a homemade card for me with a note about us inside. That would make my heart sing. I don’t really want chocolate, earrings or flowers… Well, I do LOVE getting flowers!… More than anything I want their time. I want to know that they have some good memories and that they know how much I love them. I don’t want it because they feel guilty or because Hallmark and every jewelry store is telling them that they SHOULD do something nice and commercial for me because I gave birth to them. I’ve spent the last few years trying to pull out of that martyr thing that I had been molded into my entire life. It felt pretty comfortable and the world supported me in it, so breaking out has been a chore – and honestly, I’m not there, yet.
Part of me just wants to stay in “Denial Land” and pretend that MD is just a beautiful day that reminds us to appreciate our mothers and I understand for a very few of us, this is true and I envy you – not in a covetous, I hope your day is ruined kind of way, but more of a “I wish everyone had that, too” kind of way.
I’m not sure how we can “fix” this day so that everyone is comfortable and happy in it, but I do think that it’s important that we are all aware that this day is very painful for loads of people. I think it is even more important that we are more sensitive to their pain. It is deeply and achingly painful to realize that your mother doesn’t really love you in any fashion that resembles what the commercials play over and over and over for a month preceding this day. When you’ve dedicated your life to your children and found your greatest joy in this and then find that your children don’t have time for you, it feels as if a big chunk of your life was a lie. I’ve been told that it makes one who is unable to give birth to a child feel like less of a woman and less of a human being when all of the mothers are honored for doing and being what they have longed for, but are unable to do or be. I have friends who have chosen not to have children and some of them have felt judged by others on this day (and other days) or wished a Happy Mother’s Day by ignorant people trying to spread the joy!
It’s unavoidable, I know. But that doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders and plow ahead.
There are SO many people who have been surrogate mothers to children, aunts, neighbors, teachers, friend’s parents – not all of them women, btw! I’m glad we are becoming a society that acknowledges that more and more. I hope we do our best to honor these wonderful human beings with acts of love and acknowledgement. I have friends who honor their fathers on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because he was both parents to them and I have friends who do the same for their mothers. I wish we could have an AWESOME PERSON’s Day that would kind of blanket honor all of the people who helped us become who we are because of their sacrificial and unconditional love. I wish we didn’t commercialize every holiday so much that that begins to dictate to us what we should be, give, and do when it comes to holidays.
That’s probably part of the reason we cancelled our cable years ago, but that’s another post…

HELP!! No, really, please help…

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 really would LOVE to hear from you, so leave your comments and suggestions below, please…