Tag Archives: Mental Health

The Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I learned during my homeschooling years:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

So, I resigned.

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

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

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

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The last sunrise of the year…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m thank for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!!  

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Insanity…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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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

Friendship, Motherhood, Girl Struggles…

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grace

I’ve been avoiding writing on my blog because I’m feeling a little like once I get started, I might just vomit my junk all over the place, and, really, who wants to be on the receiving end of that?! 

So, I’m apologizing in advance for any emotional puking I may do. 

I have had mostly unhealthy friendships for most of my adult life.  I used to want to save people.  Truth be told, I still want to save people, to love them unconditionally, make sure they feel included, valued, important.  The only difference is that now I know how unhealthy that can be.  I have an almost neurotic fear of anyone feeling left out.  I also can’t stand for anyone to feel unloved.  I am, by nature, a “fixer” and it looked pretty noble and sacrificial from the outside for most of my life.  But, as happens with most illusions, the truth begins to rear its ugly head eventually.  About 5 years ago, when my life was falling apart, a wonderful counselor, who is now an even more wonderful friend, helped me uncover my other motives for my choices in friends and how I behaved in close relationships (my husband, my children, my family of origin, etc.) in general.  It all began with the profound question, “So, how’s that working for you?” 

I realized that I felt left out much of the time growing up.  I’m the only girl in my family of origin with four brothers, so being left out on some level is kind of a given.  My mom and I were not close while I was growing up. The public schools that I attended, like most institutions, did not lend themselves to inclusion of all.  It is heartbreaking to me to see how unaccepting children and teenagers can be.  Even as an adult, I am usually the “odd girl out” when we have a get-together with my family of origin. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I want everyone to feel part of things or why I have a deep need for people to feel loved without condition.  Nor does it take a brain surgeon to realize that I long for people to return the favor so that I can feel part of things and truly loved.  The crazy part of all of this is that it took confirmation from some of the people closest to me that I was not loved unconditionally by them, not really even worth fighting for, for me to see who I am truly, deeply, madly loved by and who thinks I am worth fighting for no matter what. 

He thinks I am worth it.  He loves me and all of my junk and He knows all of my junk more intimately than ANYONE else ever could!  That may sound cliche’ to some of you, but the realization of this truth wrapped its lovely arms around me and enveloped me in a blanket of peace, grace and joy such as I had NEVER known before.  It saved my life.  It has changed my relationships with others in many ways.  I feel more free to love others with grace.  I don’t feel like I have to “save” people like I used to because I trust Him to love them SO much more than I could ever imagine.  I understand that until people are ready to take the steps toward healing, no other person can “fix” them or love them out of it.  But I can love them – no matter the path they choose.

I wish I could say that now I only have completely Christ-centered healthy friendships with other women, but it just ain’t so…  I still find myself longing to be loved unconditionally, to be part of the group, to be wanted…  I am struggling daily with knowing how to be in a healthy friendship – with give and take, seasons of unbalance that are just part of life, but grace abounds and love flows abundantly, where both people give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust each other because they’ve earned each other’s trust through their journey together. 

I wish I could tell you that when a friendship blows up in my face I just tell myself that He loves me completely and that is enough – and I wish I could tell you that I come to this conclusion immediately after the pain of betrayal and loss set in.  I can tell you that I always come back to this truth, but it’s usually after spending a lot of time feeling indignant, hurt, sad, angry, etc.   Pity parties do occur, I’m ashamed to admit.  I can also say that this truth still wraps its lovely arms around me and saves me so much quicker than it used to.  Knowing that we are all worth loving with all of our “junk” helps me to understand that someone else’s inability to reciprocate friendship is probably more about them than it is about me.  My shortcomings are not a reflection of someone else’s worth, but simply my junk getting in the way.  This isn’t an excuse.  I have to bring my junk out into the light so that it can be worked through, dealt with and deflated so that it doesn’t have the power to hurt anyone anymore.

The part of this process that I struggle the most with is what 12 Step people call step 3:  “Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  I am aware of the problem, aware that He is God and He knows best, but I’m always unsure of what my part is after that.  This is probably my biggest struggle as a mom, and I think my kids are more frustrated with me than I am.

I was one of those moms who rocked all of my babies to sleep, made homemade baby food and my own healthy wipes.  I never missed a game or an event that our children participated in.  I was the PTA president, homeroom mom, and had HUGE weekly pool parties for 30-40 of my children’s friends and family members each summer.  My children had haircuts ever 4-6 weeks, dressed to the nines, and (most) always minded their manners.  In 2003 I became aware of the lunacy I was living one night when I was reading my daughter’s report card which complimented me on what beautiful outfits she wore to school!  I realized that I once took great pride in this and now I was full of conviction about the example I was showing my children and I began to question the why of it all.

Several things happened in the next couple of years; we began to homeschool, we changed churches, and eventually we moved across the country.  We began to value stuff less, sometimes too less, I would think as my ragamuffins would walk into church barefoot many Sunday mornings.  I would also feel thankful that we had changed churches, as this would not have been accepted at our former place of worship.  All of this made our family closer in many ways, and I am thankful for that, however, I was still overly mothering our children.  I would tell myself, in a very smug inner voice, that I was a wonderful mom, willing to sacrifice for my children unlike so many other moms who behaved so selfishly.  I knew that one day my children would arise and call me blessed because I had made them and their father my whole life.  I had loved them all unconditionally and created wonderful memories for them, so they would always love me.

ICK!

So, when we moved to Texas and everything fell apart, I found myself sitting in a chair in one of the offices at our church.  I was lamenting how unfair it was that I would have this horrible thing happen to me when I had been such an amazing mother and wife.  I had sacrificed EVERYTHING for my family!  The next question changed my life…

Counselor:  “Why did you do that?”

Me:  “Because I’m the mom.  I’m the wife.  That’s what good moms and wives do.  They’re my life.”

Counselor:  “But why did you do that?  Who asked you to?  What were you hoping for?”

Me (indignant):  “Well, no one asked me to.  I didn’t want anything.  I just wanted to… I don’t know…”

Counselor:  “What did you sacrifice?”

Me:  “Myself.”

Counselor:  “What do you mean?”

Me:  “I gave up my dreams.  I lost me because I was so busy supporting, encouraging, and saving all of them.”

Counselor (patiently):  “Did someone ask you to do that?  Did they expect it?”

Me:  “Yes… No…  I don’t know.  It’s just what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”

Counselor (kindly):  “What dreams did you give up?  Why did you do that?”

Me (feeling defensive):  “I don’t remember.  I feel like you’re attacking me for being a good mom and wife.”

Counselor:  “I want you to really think about why you gave up everything for everyone around you when no one asked you to.  I want you to think about what you expected to get out of that – not in a selfish way, it’s just that whenever human beings do something there are always expectations, some unselfish and some not.  Try to figure out what kept you on that path.”

I went home that day feeling really beat up!  I had been respected for the kind of mom I was to our 5 children.  Our marriage was idealistic on the outside.  It wasn’t easy for me to be honest with myself about the why after convincing my “self” for two decades that I was a model wife and mother for no other reason than I loved my family immensely and this is what God called on me to be.  This was a big part of the reason I lived the way I did, but it was not the only reason.  He revealed to me that as long as I was putting myself behind everyone else’s dreams and struggles, I didn’t have to put myself out there and risk falling on my face pursuing my own dreams – or more importantly, becoming who He wanted me to become.  I also believed on some unconscious level that if I loved my husband and children unconditionally and completely that they would always love me the same way.  I guess I thought I was taking out “love insurance,” guaranteeing I would never have to feel that I wasn’t worth loving again. 

I’ve done a bunch of work since then.  It hasn’t all been pretty.  Honestly, most of it has been ugly and uncomfortable.  I’ve pulled back from being SO involved in my kids’ lives and tried to trust Him to take care of them and to allow them to stumble at times.  Most of the time my kids feel abandoned by me.  They feel like I went from being all over every aspect of their lives to not really caring what happens to them.  I’m just not very good at finding that healthy place, yet.  I think that it’s natural for them to want things to be as they were, but I know that is not what He wants from us.  I know it’s not what is best for them.  I just wish I could find that healthy, balanced place where my kids feel loved and they know that I really believe in them and where I am involved just enough.  I’m working on it.  I cling to 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  I know it sounds like a cop-out, but really it’s just me being thankful that He knows my heart.  He knows I’m trying to be in His will and His grace and love coupled with my love will cover my sins in being a mama and in my other relationships.

He’s freed me from a lot of the superficial things that used to enslave me.  I don’t believe all of my children have to fit into a “Tricia-shaped” box that says they must earn a 3.5 or higher gpa, and then attend college immediately after where they will meet the perfect partner during their last two years at university, get married upon graduation, have big money jobs and live happily ever after.  I trust each of them to find their way.  Each of our children is a truly amazing human being with more talent than I could ever muster.  None of them fits into the ugly box that our society deems “good” and I am thankful that they are all finding their way in this world with no need for any shape box.  I wish I knew if and how to help them during this part of their lives.  I’m kind of like a drug addict.  If I start to get involved, I’m afraid I won’t be able to quit and I’ll just want more and more…  So, I pray a lot and I continue to be thankful for 1Peter 4:8, because I’m still feeling around in the dark and His love and grace are the only reason I’m still standing.

Life AND Peace?…

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Life AND Peace?…

I’m in a funk… 

Writing is my drug of choice.  If I’m feeling “out of sorts” or simply not centered, it is usually because I haven’t written in a long time.  I can usually figure out what is going on in my heart or my head when I set aside some time and just write.  Once I put it all down on paper or a computer, I feel this freedom and balance that is simply beautiful.  Last month I decided to keep my posts private for a little while because I could tell I was not writing pure.  I was doing this “what will people think of me” thing that, honestly, I’m embarrassed to admit I was doing.  I had gotten several really encouraging comments and messages from people, and I had also gotten a couple of “judgey” and not-so-encouraging comments after posting some things that I still feel a little vulnerable about.  So, I’m coming out…  My ego got the best of me.

Here’ the other thing I realized:  I hadn’t written in my journal since I started blogging again.  My journal is one of the ways I pray.  It’s how I have my best conversations with Him…  How did I think I was going to write with clean abandon if I didn’t spend time with my Father?  I’m too old to keep making the same mistakes, aren’t I?  Thank goodness, He’s patient…

Sometimes I get fixated on things that I see as injustices and I allow that to distract me from things that I can do something about and from the things He wants me to do something about.  It’s hard for me to see people hurt by hurting people and not be able to do anything about it.  As an educator it’s hard for me to watch some of our students deal with the hardships they deal with and only be able to do the little bit I am able to do.  It’s also difficult for me to watch loved ones treated harshly by arrogant, insensitive people and do nothing.  I want to save people.  I want everyone to play nice and think the best of one another, but then I remember that this is real life and we all come from different places.  I remember some people don’t know Him.  Some people don’t know how to do things better or even differently because that’s all they’ve ever known and familiarity is comfortable even when it’s toxic.  I lived for years in that cycle and still struggle with it at times.  All people come from a place of hurt.  It’s the human condition… and here’s my disclaimer:  I don’t mean that it’s okay to live in toxicity and allow it to hurt those around you.  I don’t mean that we just say, “Poor thing is hurting,” so we should continue to make concessions and enable toxic living.  I do mean that we should extend love and grace and allow Him to work and know when we are to step in and “help” and when we are to step back and let Him move in whatever way He sees fit.

The hard part for me is moving beyond the temporary, the now.  Not getting caught up in the moment, so that I can see the big picture, is a challenge for me.  One of the ways I find my way clear of this is to move away physically from my day-to-day surroundings and force myself to “be” in a different place.  It is always amazing to me how much this simple act can change my entire outlook, and how difficult it is for me to actually do this.  Self-sabotage is one of my specialties.  I am a martyr by birth, or at least by example.  It’s something I truly dislike about myself and it’s also something I believe I am getting better at as the people closest to me show me how silly and senseless it is when I try to fall back into that behavior.

The other part that is hard for me is going to Him for the directions.  I want to DO instead of BE much too often.  It’s another one of those things that I am too old to still be making the same mistakes about.  I can’t think of one time in my life that I regretted going to Him in order to be pointed in the right direction.  He always heads me the right way.  There have been too many times to mention when I thought He was wrong or I struggled because of my own pride, but I can say now that He has ALWAYS been spot on – and all of those times that were too many to mention were the times that I grew the most spiritually.  He’s cool like that…

The big picture is being in His will and having an ongoing relationship with Him.  Everything just falls into place when that happens and even when a piece of the puzzle falls out and shatters, I know He’s there with me, so it is all bearable, …  So, why is that such a struggle for me?  I’m guessing it’s a struggle for most people.  Finding time to just be with Him has always been the best peace I have ever known, and yet, I put it off and find a bazillion other less important, temporary things to occupy my time.   I used to have a piece of paper taped to my bathroom mirror at our last house that said, “If satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  Which is not to say that I’m not “bad” now and again, also… 

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.  (Romans 7:15).  

We can’t do this alone.  We need each other.  We need relationships that are based on His love and grace.  I know that doing that without the support of someone who really knows me and who will hold me accountable in love is SO hard.  But not having that someone in my life right now doesn’t let me off the hook… 

Darn it. 

I asked Him to draw me nearer to Him.  Now I have to do my part.  My journal is my love letter to Him and writing to Him sporadically is not setting a solid foundation for a relationship with my Father.  If I only heard from my husband or my children as often as I truly communicate with Him, I would be deeply injured.  I have to be better.  I want to be better.  Submitting to Him…  I can do that, because it’s really the only thing that makes any sense…

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Life and Peace?… 

I’m in…

My Dresser

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dresser drawer opened

There are a bunch of reasons why I believe in God.  Until my faith was TRULY tested a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare if and when that all came about.  I mean, sure, I thought I was a regular Job (the guy in the Bible, not a career) when I went through some struggles in my life – financial, minor health issues, my scary pregnancy with our twins, but until my world was completely upside down, I had NO idea.  We just can’t know until we’re there…

What brought me to consider Him began when I gave birth to my second child.  I thought I was all modern woman, agnostic, guilt-free.  In fact, I had struggled with my past choices for years, but had managed to shove it all down pretty well for a very long time.  When I first saw my son, I could not believe that I got to have such a perfect, precious being – not after I had done something so horrible…

I was 19 years old and a freshman in college.  I had dated the same boy since I was 15 and a freshman in high school.  My roommate and I had saved up our money for months to buy a loft in order to have more space in our obscenely small dorm room.  The loft beds were wobbly and not really safe for us to sleep in, but we could afford them and so up they went! 

About two weeks after we got the lofts, I got terribly sick.  Just as I would wake up, I was having to jump down from my unsteady loft to lose my cookies down the hall in the community bathrooms.  One morning my roommate asked me if it was possible that I was pregnant.  I told her that of course I couldn’t be because I was on “the pill.”  When it kept going on for several more days, I decided to visit the campus clinic.  The doctor called me in, told me that I was pregnant and informed me that because I was on the pill, the baby would be born with many health and development issues, if it even survived the pregnancy.  He then gave me a card with information about how to terminate my pregnancy and told me I should do this as soon as possible.  I acted very “college-girl” and agreed that there was no other real choice.

I was a modern woman and I had little patience for those girls who “trapped” their boyfriends into marrying them with a baby, so I called my boyfriend, told him I needed $200 as soon as possible and informed him that I did not want to see him anymore.  My mother called me a few days later and even though I had no intention of telling her anything, I broke down (mostly from shame) and told her I had an appointment for an abortion.  She told me that she and my father would take me.  I objected a little, but I think I wanted them to be with me deep down.   I remember my mom telling me that she would support me in whatever decision I made.  She asked me if I wanted to keep the baby and I quickly told her, “No.  I can’t.”

I told myself that this wasn’t a real baby, yet.  I told myself that it would be born with too many problems and that wouldn’t be fair to the baby.  I did not want people to think that I did this on purpose because I was having a hard time adjusting to this huge college and wanted an easy excuse to quit and settle.  I also knew I should not marry my baby’s father.

The day that I went to the clinic was nightmarish.  My parents were hard for me to read.  It was a long, silent ride to the clinic.  The pain of the procedure was excruciating.  The people that worked there were very kind.  Afterwards, they told us that I should get something to eat right away.  The one vivid memory I have of my parents that day was pulling out of our parking spot and my dad asking me if I wanted to get something to eat at the Big Boy restaurant that was near there.  My mother abruptly said, “NO!  Just go home.”  I was so sure that she hated me then.  I’m sure now that she had a million emotions going on inside of her, but I was 19 and all I could seem to do was focus on closing my heart to what I had just done.  I couldn’t show any emotion because I was not the victim, my baby was, so I did not deserve any sympathy!  I slept most of the weekend and then returned to school with very little outward evidence as to what had happened.  A liberal arts college is the place to be if you want to behave like a liberated woman and stuff your junk down in the name of being modern…

It wasn’t long before I began to date my boyfriend again.  I drove him crazy with my accusations of him blaming me for killing our baby.  He never said a word about any of it, but everytime he did or said anything I saw it as a way to punish me for what I had done.   Guilt had become the ruler of my life.  Our relationship was awful.  It had always been a rollercoaster ride, but now it was even worse.  So, of course, we decided to get married.  Months later I called it off after everything was planned because I had a moment of sanity.  He moved several states away, my parents sent me to California for a couple of months and it seemed we were getting on with our lives.  He came back to Michigan for a visit and we decided we should get married again, and I would move to New Mexico with him.  My poor parents… I was a train wreck happening over and over again…

See, I thought he was the one because I had shared myself with him and deep down I believed that I was bound to him forever.  I also believed in my heart that I had murdered his baby and I had to make it right somehow.  I didn’t think any of this consciously, I had worked very hard to entomb my guilt and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that I could begin to see why I had made so many terrible decisions as a young adult.   I remember my father saying once that he couldn’t believe how little I cared about having an abortion.  I didn’t have any response.  How could I begin to tell him how I felt at 19, just trying to do what I believed was “right” for everyone and struggling to hang on to my sanity?

My marriage was awful in almost every way.  I cringe when I think of who I was during those three years.  The one thing that I still can hardly believe is that God blessed me with my precious son during all of this.  The truth is that without him, I would have probably stayed in that mess for longer than I want to believe.  I didn’t believe I was worth more than that.  I knew my son was.  I understand why this sounds like crazy logic, and it sounds very unfair to my son (and it WAS!), but I believe that it was His plan.  I found Him because of Scott.  I didn’t immediately become a full-fledged Christian.  It was several years before that happened, but I KNEW when I looked at my baby that very first time that there was a God and He loved me.  Unfortunately, my next thought was that if I was a good enough mom, He would forgive me for what I had done to my first child…

So, that’s what I did.  I tried like crazy to earn grace.  It seemed to work really well while he was young.  When he was three years old, I married my husband, whose father is a pastor.  We began to visit his church and I asked LOTS of questions.  I drove my husband crazy.  My father-in-love was such a patient teacher.  He never got upset with my doubts or my questions.  He helped me see Jesus in a whole new way.  Four years into our marriage, I was pregnant with our daughter and Scott was almost 7 years old, I was baptized and crazy about Jesus.  The one thing I still claimed to not completely agree with other Christians about was abortion.  I taught at an innercity school where I witnessed some unbelievable life situations.  One of my special ed. girls had two children.  One of them was her biological father’s and the other was her stepfather’s – both of which were in jail for what they had done to this child.  I used to tell my Christian friends that this was one situation where abortion may have been the answer.  It helped keep all of my junk stuffed and no one any the wiser.

In 1995 we had twin boys!  I was in the hospital for months with complete previa and they were born 6 weeks premature with several issues.  I lost so much blood during their delivery that they lost me on the table briefly. It took us awhile to get back on our feet again, but less than 18 months later, we were moving into a wonderful new home in a cul-de-sac with a beautiful inground pool and 4 bedrooms!  The first thing I did was had a fence put up around the pool for safety after walking out there with our little ones for the first time and watching them all scatter three different ways.  When it was done, I took our three youngest out into the backyard to run around freely.  It was a gorgeous sunny day and my babies were poetry in motion running around back there! As I watched them from a bench in our yard, I was suddenly overcome with deep mourning.  The emotions were so strong that I remember feeling overwhelmed with fear of such sorrow.  I took my babies into the house, laid them all down for their naps and went into my bedroom down the hall.

I mourned for several days.  I mourned the death of my little girl, because I always knew she was a girl.  I mourned the choices I had made because of what I had done.  My Heavenly Father sat in that room with me and it was as if we opened each drawer in my dresser of stuffed junk and He helped me clean it out with such love as I had never known.  Drawer by drawer, we cleaned, folded and put each thing away neatly.  He showed me that I could never do enough to earn grace.  So, I asked Him to forgive me, even as I told Him I didn’t understand how He could.  It was a lengthy process that took days to work through.  It was beautiful and sorrowful.  My tears seemed never ending.

I couldn’t share anything with my husband until my Father was done with me. He already knew about the abortion, but he didn’t know for several days that God was dealing with me about it.  At one point, Bob came to me and said, “I’ve been trying to figure out why you’re so sad and I want you to know that if you’ve done something, found someone else, we can work through this.  I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”  I don’t think I had ever loved my husband as much or felt as loved by him until that moment. 

When it was time for me to close the last drawer, I had a new understanding of His love for me.  I had a peace that was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.  I felt lighter and clean… Really, really clean, inside and out. 

Since then I still have moments when I ask Him to help me accept His grace, love and forgiveness.  I find that I love more fully now.  I am able to extend grace in a way I wasn’t able to before.  I encourage people to open their drawers and deal with their junk, because we all have it and I believe we’re supposed to help each other not feel so alone by sharing our stories.  I hope my story helps someone else feel less alone and more able to be transparent so that He can show him or her His grace, love and forgiveness.  He knows when we’re ready and He’s waiting for us to allow Him to help us.  That is one of the things I hold onto when I have my doubting moments.  He came when I was ready.  He didn’t condemn me in hate, but He convicted me in love when I least expected it – when I thought I was all better and it was all over and life seemed so good, even though my past choices were controlling so much of my life still. 

That’s what sin does in the dark.

 

What’s Your Thing?…

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breaking free

We were all at church this past Sunday, my Honey, our babies and the youngest baby’s girl and the messages have all been focused on the 12 Steps this month.  This week we had gotten to Steps 4 and 5.  Years ago, I attended a recovery group at our church in Michigan and since then I’ve realized it is an essential part of growing for EVERYONE, not just those people, because we are ALL those people.  When I first started going to the meetings back then I remember feeling like I didn’t really belong because I was not as screwed up as most of the other people at the meetings.  I’m not an alcoholic, or a child molester. I’m not a recovering drug addict or a cleptomaniac. My life seemed pretty Holly, Molly, Polly to me back then. I kept attending because I trusted friends that encouraged me to go.  When we moved, I was surprised to find that the churches we attended in Texas weren’t really familiar with the program outside of AA.  It was something I wanted to continue when I came here seven years ago.   It was a lot of HARD work that I led to great peace, but over the years I’ve become complacent and gotten pretty good at remaining anonymous.  So, I’m full of mixed emotions now that I have no excuses because my church is all in about this ministry, and now I am completely aware that I am just as screwed up as everyone else.

After church we went to this yummy, cheap Mexican restaurant with our three youngest, plus Aaron’s significant other. Just as an aside, the whole meal for 6 of us cost $35.00 and was delish!  We started talking about church and asking each other what we thought our “thing” was – and reminding each other that if you think you don’t have a “thing,” then denial is probably your “thing.”  (I’m sure Aaron’s girlfriend was thrilled about this discussion!) A couple of people asked to have “thing” redefined.  “It’s what holds you back, what gets in the way of you being who God means for you to be,” someone said.  If you can’t think of what yours is, you are supposed to ask those closest to you, because they definitely will have an answer for you. We’re helpful like that, aren’t we?!  I reverted to several years ago and tried to think of a “REALLY BAD” thing (UGH!).  Of course, when I couldn’t think of one, my daughter said, “Mom, you KNOW what your thing is,” and then gave me “that” look.

Several seconds passed while I racked my brain. (Is that how you spell r-a-c-k?…)
OH, yeah…  I shut my kids down, in the name of “respect me because I’m your mom” and treat them with no respect when I feel threatened or insecure… Now I remember…

and I remember the other thing that was said at church was that step 4 was the most difficult –  because you have to honestly face your junk and you have to do it continually.  I’m confessing right here and now that because I have previously admitted that I do that to my children, I had kind of put it away.  I wish it was because I’m over it and I won’t ever do it again, but I’m pretty sure it was because I just don’t want to look at it anymore and I want to think I’m all better… Yeah, no… I need to work on being so defensive.

The next step is making amends.  I’ve admitted this to my children.  I’ve even apologized to some degree…  I mean when I do this it is because one of my children is being a disrespectful brat and I’ve had enough…  Doesn’t that make it a little bit okay for me to raise my voice and shut him/her down?…

No?…

Hmmmm, I’ve got some work to do, more submitting to Him, more confessing to them and sincere apologizing.
Okay…

Now I know why these two steps are so difficult and SO necessary. I also realize that it’s important for me to follow through with these steps continually throughout my life if I want my children to be all that He means for them to be. I want to be an example to my children and to my grandbabies. I want them to respect me because I’m transparent, and after God’s heart.
I wish we could just line up the “junk” and work on it for a couple of weeks and then be completely clean! Wouldn’t that be the BOMB?! Wrap it all up in a nice box with a pretty bow and move on to Eden…

My pre-step, Step 0, as it were, is to find a 12 Step small group to be a part of. Right now that feels as huge as steps 4 and 5 combined. I know that this is an answer to prayer on a couple of levels, so I’m going to try to shed my complacent skin (another one of my “things”) and follow His lead. He knows what I need more than I do and I really want to be in His will. I’m pretty okay with answered prayers for the most part, too…

I wait…

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What is a reputation? If it’s good, you must work long and hard to maintain it, but if it’s bad, you can’t seem to shake it. Are people looking for the worst in us? And if that’s so, why? Do we feel better about ourselves and our junk if we can find fault in others? Do we want to save ourselves from being disappointed later when we find out that person with the good rep is actually human and has sin in his/her life? Do we just find it impossible to believe that anyone could be “good?”
What is your reputation? Good?… Bad?… Something in between? Does it depend on the crowd? Do you wish you could change it or is it something you have worked very hard to attain and you are proud of?
Women like to think that things are evolved enough that we can be strong, opinionated and confident and we will be respected in the same way most men are. I have found this to be mostly untrue in my relationships.
When I was a young girl I was always encouraged by my father to speak up, to believe in myself – he used to tell me he thought I had moxie. I would just soar when he told me that. When I looked up the definintion of moxie, it said something like, “force of character, confidence, determination, or nerve,” and I thought I was good, in some way. I remember feeling like I wasn’t just a big-mouthed, embarrassment of a daughter. I felt like my father really liked me and saw me and my mother just wished she had gotten a different model.
Of course, now that I’m a mom and I’ve had a child or two with “moxie,” I understand that my mother was trying to temper my big mouth and soften my edges a bit. Growing up as an only daughter with my personality was not easy on my mom or this little brash girl. I think that because my immature self believed that she was ashamed of me and wanted me to be like almost every other docile young lady we encountered, I fought even harder to be who I believed I was meant to be.
My dad was my hero. He defended and protected me so much when I was a child, that my brothers resented me terribly. I was such an spoiled little girl and I played it for all it was worth. This is the part of my reputation that I have a hard time shaking with some people…
When I was around 13 years old, I went to a slumber party at one of my friend’s houses. We ate, watched some t.v., giggled a lot, and then later when we were all in our pajamas and nestled in our sleeping bags, the young hostess began telling us that the reason her father wasn’t home was because he had moved out after her sister had accused him of molesting her. Soon, almost every girl at the sleepover shared a similar story that they had either heard from others or knew of within their extended families. My entire world was shaken. I knew some of the people in these stories. I just couldn’t wrap my head around family members doing such things. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. Getting home the following morning was the most important thing on my mind when the sun came up.
My mom was appalled. I don’t think she really knew how to handle it. She asked me to stop talking about it and told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to go over to that friend’s house anymore. When I saw my dad later that afternoon, I was disturbed. I remember withdrawing from him and I remember him pulling away in turn. I wanted him to assure me that fathers didn’t do such things. I wasn’t sure if my mother had told him about what had happened and I didn’t feel like I could bring it up again. Over the next several months my relationship with him became more and more distant. I don’t believe our relationship ever recovered after that. So, there I was a teenage girl whose brothers disliked her, whose mother didn’t know how to deal with her and whose father seemed lost to her suddenly. All I seemed to have left was myself and my humbled moxie…
I found out when I was in my early 40’s that my dad had never forgiven me for treating him the way I had. He told me that he felt I had ruined our relationship forever. It took me a while to work through all of that in my heart. It must have been difficult to have the adoration of your only daughter and then feel as if she suspected you of something so horrible with no personal evidence. Of course, I didn’t suspect him of anything, I was just a very young girl whose world had been terribly shaken and needed the reassurance that this wasn’t going to happen to me.
My reputation with my family of origin hasn’t changed much. I think they still think I’m a self-centered brat. It’s ironic how when you know people see you negatively and have probably described you that way to others, you seem to stumble all over yourself trying to prove you haven’t been that person since you grew up. The result is usually that you seem like a bit of an imbecile and convince no one of anything good.
The thing is, if this was an acquaintance or something, it would be easier to change or walk away, but since it is your family of origin, you are forced to deal with it whenever you spend time with them during holidays, weddings, funerals. Spending time together is something you look forward to, but there is still this inward battle going on. Even if you have a career where you are very respected and friends who know and like your updated self, even if you are nothing like that self-centered child (most of the time) in your adult, “I have several children, a spouse and many things I care for immensely (including them),” life, somehow you are reduced to being squeezed into that old uncomfortable skin, trying to get them to see you for who you really are now instead of the child you were decades ago.
Do you apologize for that old you that you were decades ago? Do you simply chalk it up to childhood? How many years need to pass before we are able to let it go? Do we just grin and bear it, being thankful for the slight improvement each year – otherwise known as the “sweep it under the rug” approach? Obviously, I don’t know what the universal answer is. I do know that we want to be seen. We want to be heard without judgement and with love. I’ve seen the damage sweeping things under the rug can do and it ain’t my drug of choice!
How to get from point A to point Z is the messy part that I don’t claim to know how to navigate.
I’ve decided to do the best I can with my own family. I try to keep the lines of communication open and speak unconditional love to all of them – again, this is not doormat love, but it is not an easy road to travel. I stumble around in the dark a bunch and I mess up more than I care to face, but love covers a multitude and grace is there for the asking, so I hang on to these promises and I punt with all of the sincerity I can muster…
And I wait…

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Relationship Soup…

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Have you ever had someone share their story with you and you are just blown away?!  I’ve had people tell me a piece of their history and I can’t even believe that s/he is still standing.  I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the stories of broken relationships others have shared with me.  I am always struck by the different reactions and choices people make when dealing with this.  I know that every situation is unique and comes with it’s own (usually very complicated) baggage/history, so I don’t mean that I’m surprised when every person I meet hasn’t made the same choices.  I’m moved by the people who are “in” no matter what and by the people who have chosen to draw their line firmly in the sand.

How do we find that healthy, “in His will” path?  I know plenty of folks who believe that in family relationships you should always extend grace – which can mean being an emotional and/or physical punching bag to another family member with no consequences to “slugger” at all.  Sometimes s/he isn’t even aware of the pain s/he is causing because the family dance is such that no one ever confronts “slugger.”  I know this can be considered unconditional love and very Christ-like.  I’ve known people who have ended some of their closest family relationships because they lost all hope for any change and felt a part of their lives or others in their lives were being destroyed by continuing. I’ve known families where everyone is in everyone else’s business ALL of the time.  I’ve known families where there is almost no relationship between anyone or where the family has been split into two camps.

Unfortunately, I know of very few families that get along beautifully – enjoy each other’s company, talk about things openly, and always want the best for each other.  Lots of families look that way from the outside, but not so many are once they are truly known.  I have a friend whom I have known for years and she has that kind of family.  They have family vacations every few years and everyone does all they can to make it.  They have dealt with some big issues, such as drug abuse, infidelity, cancer, like most of us.  They work through it with honesty, accountability and grace.  My friend has shared with me how difficult this has been at times and I am always drawn to her stories.  She has shared with me when she has overstepped, when she’s had to step back and take some time, and when she has determined to be all in even when she didn’t want to be.   She has shared with me how frustrating it is when others simply won’t believe her about her wonderful childhood.  How sad is that?…

I want this for my family.  Well, really, who doesn’t?    I used to think there was a magic recipe for happy families – a “One Size Fits All” – and if I could just find it, then life would be a breeze!  I tried to be as Christ-like as I could and I was confident that everyone else would see my sincerity and my life story would be wrapped in a pretty bow.  I forgot how much I mess up and overlooked the part about freewill of others.  Honestly, I was a bit peeved when everyone didn’t just fall into line and help me keep the fairytale alive…

I still get my feelings hurt when I believe I’ve gotten a bad wrap.  I go back over all of the reasons that the other person shouldn’t see me that way and make a list of the loving things I’ve done in my relationship with that person.  Sometimes I’m wrongly accused, sometimes I don’t even begin to know what the heck I’ve done and sometimes I have offended, plain and simple – NO excuses.  One of my favorite and least favorite things in my life is making things right when I’ve screwed up.  Gosh, that moment when you realize what you’ve done to someone else and that you have to make amends just sucks!  Especially if it’s someone you don’t have a close or completely trusting relationship with…  I always try to go to Him and ask Him to humble me (after I throw a little self-righteous tantrum or two and try to justify why I shouldn’t have to humiliate myself in front of HIM/HER!).  That is one of the moments I am absolutely sure He is real and loves me.  The work He does in me is a complete 180!  He changes my heart and compels me to go to the person I’ve offended.  I wish it always went well when I did.  It doesn’t…  But I always know when I’m completely where I need to be based on my reaction.  If I hear the other person’s heart without thinking first of my own pride, then I’ve done what I was supposed to do and I can be at peace with the idea of this taking longer than I had hoped to heal or accepting that it may never be worked out and wrapped in that pretty little bow.  Of course, this takes time.  In the midst of emotion, I usually need time to sort it all out.

I’ve had terribly unhealthy relationships that I stayed in for years for a variety of reasons.  I’ve had wonderful relationships that I’ve messed up because I didn’t believe I deserved that kind of love and loyalty. I have relationships that are all over the spectrum at this point in my life.  I’ve walked away from some toxic relationships after doing everything I could do to make things better.  I’ve worried that I’m not showing my children unconditional love when  I’ve  made this choice because sometimes, in the midst of emotion, I forget that unconditional love doesn’t mean being a doormat.   Walking away doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them and it does not mean that I don’t love that person deeply.

I think what has stayed with me most as people share their stories with me is how much some people pour of themselves into others.  I am often mourning what others have lost and how heavy their burdens are.  I am moved greatly by the ability of people to endure.   So many of us carry such heartbreak around with us and sometimes life just doesn’t have a path for resolution anytime soon.  For me, the acceptance of this has brought me BIG peace.  It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on anything except the idea of things always working out like they used to on my favorite weekly shows when I was a child in 30 – 60 minutes.  I’m learning to follow His lead in my relationships – not a “one size fits all” recipe, but a “size for everyone” recipe.  It’s not always easy to swallow, but it sure is better for me.

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