More ‘Rona Ramblings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Bday 2018

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

 

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

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

 

Bearing

I am tired

In my flesh

Triggered

Abandoned

Broken-hearted

I am resentful

Unable to be perfect

Unable to arrive

Human

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

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

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

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

The overwhelming, all-encompassing love

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

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

Redemption

In His will

In His love

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

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

Extending grace to me

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

I am His

 

 

2, Fix You

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

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

ick.

Right?!

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

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

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

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

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

strength strong toy action figure

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

stainless steel close wrench on spanner 

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

board center chalk chalkboard

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

 

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.

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!

 

My Nest is Empty

Image result for empty nest

I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years.  Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof.  They were my life’s work.  I poured myself into motherhood.  It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption.  It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws.  Nothing grew me more than being a mama…

Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl.  I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others.  I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves.  I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children.  And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”

My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things.  My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely.  My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know.   She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54.  For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.  

Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.

I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way.  I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me.  When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged.  The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete.  Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys.  It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama.  Life was good.  When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound.  It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally.  After a pretty scary  emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy.  Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.

Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance.  I loved raising my children.  Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways.  I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave.  It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough.  Don’t get me wrong.  My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay.  They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.”  Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes!  Right?!

As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years.  You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring.  Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.  

And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it.  I’d do it all again.  

But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay.  Mostly… 

moreso in a month, maybe.

Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest.  After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed.  The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator.  It was kind of glorious.  Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard. 

The most important work of my life has ended.  It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that.  She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over.  She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t.  She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama.  This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.

Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich.  And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.

I loved my children well.  I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be.  We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another.  We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s.  As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done.  I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama.  I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon.  I have this hope for my life as well.

I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about.  I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year.  It has been hard and wonderful.  I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be.  He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center.  Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud.  My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling.  So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down. 

This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago. 

I’m writing.  

Here’s the great stuff…  My life’s work is pretty much amazing.  My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do. 

My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider.  I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember.  There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple.  We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that.  Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world.  He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known.  He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that.  He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition!  He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together.  God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years.  It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!    

Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice.  Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me.  This is the stuff.  When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company.  My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be.  Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding.  I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.

I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions.  It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side.  I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends.  After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.

I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before.  I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate.  I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice.  I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.

So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now.  I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife.  I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years.  All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction.  There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Day Adam

Image result for fig leaf

 

What kind of dad did you have?  Not the face he wore in public, but the dad you had at home.  Was he steadfast, loving, encouraging, generous with his time and attention?  Did he love your mother tenderly, deeply and show you what commitment looks like?  Did he play ball with you in the backyard, or board games on Friday nights?  Did he work hard for your family, mow the lawn, take out the trash and provide for your family’s financial needs?  Did he attend your school functions, your sporting events, and take you out for a “date” now and again, just so he could get to know you more intimately?

Do any of us have this experience?  Is it even possible?

My father loves my mother very much.  He wrangled us all up to clean the house on the weekends when my mother worked, so that she would come home to peace and be able to enjoy what weekend she had left.  He took me out all by myself once when I was 18 or 19 years old to a Chinese restaurant and I was beside myself.  He asked me questions and told me about himself as a young adult.  It remains one of my most treasured memories of my life.  My father and I have a very broken relationship.  He has been broken since his childhood and unfortunately, the brokenness has seeped into and affected his children and their lives in untold ways.

When I was very pregnant with our daughter,  I was baptized.  Just a year before that I began my serious search for Jesus.  Even as a child, I had always been curious and when I delivered my first child seven years before my baptism, I also birthed a certainty that He was real – right there in the hospital delivery room.  My husband and I were attending a little church in Michigan.  I struggled with God for a bit, not willing to give up the “fun” I thought my life was full of, afraid of what following Him would really mean, but eventually, I gave in and asked Him to help me be who He wanted me to be.  That’s when the real fun began.

I kept hearing about how loving Our Father was, but every time I did something wrong, I was sure He didn’t love me anymore.  I would begin to “hide” from Him by skipping my devotion time more and more, by not praying as often, because I was pretty positive He wasn’t listening anyway.  When someone asked me about my relationship with my earthly father, I began to see the connection.  I was projecting the conditional love and rejection I expected from my human father onto my Heavenly Father, and since I can never be perfect or completely without sin, I was telling myself regularly that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God.  The tragedy is that, over that past many years since my self-discovery, I have found countless other Jesus followers who are struggling with the same thing, to different degrees, in their journey with Him.  Their broken relationships with their fathers are having a significant impact on their relationships with Our Heavenly Father.

The truth is, I believe that if satan can attack and destroy the men in our culture, then he knows that eventually he will destroy our entire culture.  He’s been at it since Adam in the garden.  If we don’t have God-following men, who are willing to lay down their lives to pursue His will, then it all crumbles, doesn’t it?  Children need fathers they can look to for a godly example.  Wives need husbands of integrity to lead their households in deep abiding love.

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So, what’s happened?  How did we end up with epidemic proportions of families broken and wounded by husbands & fathers who have physically and emotionally abused them, who have betrayed their wives, who are addicted to pornography, who are more concerned about the approval of their co-workers than their families?

Is it that men are just jerks?  Selfish, weak, cruel?

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added by me).

I’ll admit to you that I struggle with this at times.  When my husband displays his weak and very human qualities, I sometimes resent that he isn’t a little more Christlike (because I always am.  HA!).  I have this American idea in my head that he’s supposed to earn my respect.  God, through Paul, made it very clear that I must respect my husband regardless of my current mood.  It’s how He made men.  They require unconditional respect.  He infused me with a need for unconditional love and if I had to earn it from my husband or the other people I hold dear, I would be an empty shell.  I know the deep and lasting wounds of feeling like I can never be enough and being unlovable because of my relationship with my earthly father.  I am often not very lovable.  The irony of my marriage is that for many years now, my husband loves me unconditionally and with abandon.  He continually reassures me that I am worth loving, even when I am being ugly and seemingly unlovable.

We are inundated with examples of alpha females and beta men in television shows, books, and movies.  Are we really surprised we’re all beginning to follow this example?

This first struck me years ago when I was watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with my husband.  We were laughing uproariously at Deborah rolling her eyes at her t.v. husband, Ray, doing something childish and selfish, and frustrating his wife, as well as once again choosing to placate his mother, while his wife felt taken for granted.  It suddenly wasn’t funny anymore.  It hit too close to home and I felt as if I had stopped drinking the kool-aid and was seeing how harmful this mentality is to our culture at large.  Yesterday, as my husband and I were watching “The Big Sick” at the Alamo, Ray Romano was playing a very similar role, and it reminded me, once again, how saturated our culture is with “dumb, juvenile husbands” and wives who tolerate them, as my fellow movie watchers continually laughed at this dysfunctional relationship on the screen.  We are products of our environment to a large degree.

This is one of the main reasons we decided to disconnect our cable several years ago.  I did not want my children taking in the normalized version of men on the regular, nor did I want that for my husband and me.  While I’m aware it makes very little difference to the networks, I still couldn’t be comfortable with paying for something that was so destructive for my family.  I wonder when exactly this trend began.  Mr. Brady was a wonderful father who loved his wife and was respected by her and their children.  He had faults, but he was a good guy.  In the 80’s, the only show I could find that fit the theme and may have started this trend was “Married with Children.”  Shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Mr. Belvedere” had strong male leads with strong women as well.  Unfortunately, money voted for imbecilic men and strong, disgusted women, so this is what we see on the screen, by and large.

Here’s another theory of mine:  Perhaps the mamas and daddies of the previous recent generations were raised by dictator fathers and so, on some level (consciously or unconsciously) they raised sons who are more relational, but display less leadership qualities.

I know that there are people who want to blame this on the feminist movement, but I don’t think women wanting to be leaders is a negative thing.  I think the Bible has many instances of strong women.  Jesus treated women with dignity and respect.  I believe it is a twisted male need for control that ignores Jesus’ example of the role women should fill in our society.  But, this topic is a whole other blog…

So, I want to stand against satan and protect my family, protect my husband.  My part in that is to speak out when I see disrespect for men being awarded.  I need to work harder at treating my husband with UNCONDITIONAL respect.

Also, I need to support movies when the lead is a strong, loving, leader.  So, I should tell you the “The Big Sick” has this.  Kumail Nanjiani is kind of the anti-Raymond and the story is based on his real life, so that gives me hope.  He isn’t perfect, but he steps up and stands up.  He’s a man with hard-won integrity.  I like that.

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added).

So…  in my experience, when we submit to His ways, things typically fall into place.  Also, His ways usually are much easier said than done for this girl.  That’s not me making excuses, that’s me admitting I’ve got a long way to go.  But, I’m going…  and I’m going to keep reminding myself how blessed I am to not have to earn my husband’s unconditional love.  I’m also going to remember that even if he didn’t love me so completely, I am still called to respect him unconditionally.  There’s no “if” in Ephesians 5:33…

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