Tag Archives: Priorities

2 Hearts

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I’m at this picturesque coffee house overlooking Lake Austin this afternoon, on the patio.  My Honey is driving the Duck (and will probably float by in about an hour, hopefully giving me a quack and a wave!).  Our kiddos are either at the gym working out or at their jobs working.  We’re all meeting later for dinner at a new spot called Unity Vegan Kitchen Shady Grove.  So, I have about 5 hours on my own.  I have my computer, my phone, a few bucks for an iced chai, and a view that is simply lovely.

For the past hour, since we walked out of church, I have been trying to figure out what to do with my time.  I had already decided to write, but the leading up to that is a little intimidating, to be really honest.  I do this thing where I impose a level of perfection on myself that simply isn’t possible for me and has the exact opposite effect on my writing than I would like it to.  My heart is to share my junk, in all of it’s glory  ugliness  humanness, with the hope that others don’t feel so alone.  I also pray that others will reach out and let me know that I am not alone in my junk.  Win-Wins are good stuff.

My life is in a good place right now.  I mean there is still SO much brokenness in my life, especially in some of my most intimate relationships, but I believe that this is what is right now and there is nothing for me to do about that at this point except pray and wait in love.  So, there is peace (as well as sadness) in that part of my life, but in the other, more functional parts of my life, there is so much good and I’ve waited for such a long time, so I’m a little bit ecstatic, on the regular. 

I’m setting aside time with my Father daily – okay, about 6 days a week.  It isn’t what I believe it’s supposed to be yet, but that’s okay.  It’s a relationship, it develops with time.  There is ebb and flow and all the while He and I are creating memories, knowing there is grace, love and an entire array of other ingredients that make our relationship sacred.  When I lived in Michigan, I got up and spent time with Him daily for years, but when everything fell apart here, little by little I lost my desire to spend time with Him for so many reasons.  I didn’t want to be transparent with anyone, because of the betrayal I had experienced.  I felt as if He chose not to protect me and then just watched me wallow in humiliation and brokenness.  I doubted His existence on some level.  In my anger, there was arrogance.

So many times over those first few years in Texas I would get up early and open my journal or my Bible and feel nothing but empty.  There were a few rare occasions when I felt His presence and I’d go on a 2-3 day roll before falling into complacency once again.  Each time my hope faded a bit more.  Hopelessness is an oppressive enemy.

I began to realize that this struggle reminded me a bit of my struggle with exercise over the years.  I’ve never been a big fan of the latest craze kind of exercise, especially when it came with a big price tag attached.  I found a long time ago, that once I am emotionally ready, I just have to put one foot in front of the other without a lot of thought.  If I consider things too much, I will talk myself out of exercise in a New York minute.  So, about a year and a half ago, I started setting my alarm for 5:20 and walking out to my chair in the corner of our living room and spending time with my Father.  It was not especially pleasant at first, but it began to feel familiar after a couple of weeks, and that was enough to make me continue getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button for the next few weeks.  It was probably almost a month before I felt like I was connecting with Him and His Word again.  There are times when I don’t follow through – like the first couple of weeks month of school because I’m absolutely exhausted, so I extend myself grace and choose to feel grateful that I managed to wake up early 1 or 2 days that week.  Because I don’t beat myself up, the guilt-monster doesn’t get the best of me, so getting back into my routine happens because I look forward to my special time with Him instead of because I feel guilty for not doing what I’m “supposed” to do.  The great part about that is that the barrier of guilt is not there, I will keep on keepin’ on because I want to and He really only wants me in relationship with Him because I want to be there, not because of that other junk!

Last summer it dawned on me that I needed to again apply this to daily exercise.  So, I started, but doing both in the morning before my 7:15 a.m. report to work time, was not going well.  I considered doing one or the other in the evening, but I was just TOO EXHAUSTED for this kind of commitment once I got home from 9 hours of mostly 6 year olds needing my constant attention.  Back to putting one foot in front of the other without a bunch of thought.  Now I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. most mornings.  I learned that if I do my workout first, I somehow don’t have time for Him and that’s my priority.  So, I spend time with Him, do my yoga practice and then jump step on the treadmill while watching something awesome, like Bethel music on youtube.

I haven’t lost a ton of weight – and let me tell ya, I would love to, but I feel better every day.  I take my supplements, I eat pretty clean and I’m taking care of my physical heart. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’ve decided that instead of beating myself up and getting stuck in the should’ve’s, I’m going to rejoice in the now and the ripple effects all of that will have on my later.

 During this desert time in my life, I believed in God, but I didn’t follow Him.  I’ve felt a bunch of shame during the last few years because I wasn’t the example I used to be for my teenage children who are now young 20-somethings.  We weren’t serving at church, we weren’t including Him in most of our decisions, and my root of bitterness felt as if it increased exponentially at times.  But, here is what I did right:  I kept taking my family to church.  I kept trying to spend time with Him.  I kept looking for a small group or a way to connect with other believers.  I kept trying to be in relationship with Him.  When I was lost and almost void of hope, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes obedience is the best we can do, and my life is proof that He honors that – my mustard seed of faith and my watering can of obedience were enough.

It took years before I found Him again.  He was there all the time.  My heart just wasn’t ready, yet.  I gave up a time or two, but He waited for me to be ready to try again.  I’m sure I frustrated Him now and again, but still He loves me without condition and He did the whole time I was a broken child.

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My desert time was almost 7 years long.  I often thought I would never feel the joy and fullness that comes with living for Him and knowing Him intimately, again.  I couldn’t fathom being grateful for those dark and empty years.  But I am.  I don’t understand the why of it all and I may not ever.  I just know that I am happier than I have been in what seems like forever and it has lasted a long time.  I  understand that I am blessed with a season of joy right now and that there will be more seasons of “not joy” in my life.  I am proof that He is faithful and sure that I am His.  

I know there are others walking through the desert right now and as much as I wish I could take their hands and walk them out to the beach or a lush, green field ripening with peace and joy, I know that all I can do is send some hope into their journey and assure them that He is walking beside each of them, grieving with them and loving them endlessly, no matter what comes.

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!!  

sunrise in field

 

 

 

 

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

Well, it’s over.  The food has been consumed.  The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper collected, the dishes washed (for the eighth time), and the memories have been made.  This was one of the good ones.

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

I loved that every single gift that was given was perfect for the receiver.  Now, before you perhaps misunderstand, gifts are kept to a minimum in our family and have been for many years now.  I’ve worked very hard to teach my children by example that we don’t believe that Christmas is about the insanity of greed that we believe it has become in our culture, but that it is most importantly about Jesus and spending time with the people we most love in the world.  I regress…  What was so lovely to me about this part of our holiday was that it was obvious we all chose gifts that we put a lot of thought into.  There was the joy in being truly known and loved deeply around our Christmas tree.

I felt so blessed to have 2 days full of yummy food, and that much of it was healthy and lots was not, but all of it was delicious.  We are a foodie family, which means that great food and drink are the foundation on which we build our time together.  It brings a satisfaction to everything when we are assembled.  Shrimp diablos, a lazy susan overrun with cheese of various origins, ribeyes on the grill, smoothies, shrimp cocktail, smashed redskins, broiled asparagus, lime bars, quiche, peanut butter kisses, oatmeal brulee’ with granny smith apples & cranberries, dark fudge with walnuts, Christmas sangria, veggies in every color imaginable, eggnog, guacamole, frappuccino, pico de gallo, monkey bread with fresh raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries, and of course, green bean casserole.

Opening gifts on Christmas eve, sleeping in on Christmas morning, green & red oatmeal brulee’, stockings in the morning, grazing all afternoon while watching A Christmas Story in comfy clothes and no makeup, piled all over each other, with cell phones turned off.

Listening to our children laugh uproariously late on Christmas eve because they’re making a video of one of them dancing with abandon while I lie in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks praising Him for this undeserved moment of heavenly joy.

Being reminded of days gone by when our “baby” still wakes up a little grumpy because he’s (ALWAYS) hungry, another wakes up looking, just for a moment, like the little imp you held each morning so many years ago (or was that yesterday?), and yet another practically glows because her love language is quality time and she knows she still has a full day of it with the people she loves most in this world.

There’s something about great conversation.  It feeds my soul in a way not a lot of other things do.  I find it interesting that some of my best nourishment comes from conversations with my adult children.  They are some of the rare people I’ve experienced quality exchanges with.  We have varying opinions about some topics that many people avoid – politics, religion, homosexuality, abortion, etc. – and we have this beautiful way of hearing each other.  Sometimes it gets heated and we don’t always do this perfectly, but when we have one of our really beautiful exchanges of words, it just blesses me right down to the core of my being.  There is something about acceptance and respect that is highly underrated, in my opinion.  It’s a gift to have multiple opinions vying to be heard and not have anyone feel the need to “play devil’s advocate” just to feel superior or not have anyone make up “facts” from the articles they can’t recall the name of, but they swear they’ve read to backup their argument, and it’s especially wonderful to not have anyone take cheap, disrespectful shots when they aren’t “winning” the “argument.” (All things I’ve experienced with less rare people who I’ve had not-so-quality exchanges with.)  It’s freeing when you realize that your objective isn’t to sway others to your own opinion, but to be heard and understood as well as hear and understand.  It’s also more than a little difficult when you first realize your children no longer follow your beliefs blindly, but have their own opinions and some of them may go directly against what you value deeply.  Don’t get me wrong… It’s glorious, too, witnessing your offspring come into his/her own, but dealing with this growth in your child, nudges you to (somewhat painfully) grow a bit, too.

I woke up two days ago and asked Him to help me focus on all of my blessings and to have peace about the decisions others have made that have affected me painfully.  Holidays have not typically been something I’ve looked forward to in the past.  I’ve had a bunch of those ones that people make memes about, dark comedic movies about or SNL skits about. But this year was different, because I had a really wonderful Christmas.  I received gifts from my husband and children that screamed, “You are known and loved.”  He gave me joy, peace and love in abundance.  He gave me a slew of memories that I will continue to be blessed by, day after day and year after year.  I feel like I grew a little because I am learning that holidays don’t look the same to everyone and what ruins those special days for me isn’t that the days are bad, it’s that they don’t look like my mind expects them to – and that if I allow Him to lead the way, the day looks exactly like it should and that’s much better than what my mind expected.  This Christmas was more than I could’ve hoped for and definitely much more than I deserve.

 

James Code

James is one of my very favorite books of the Bible and this was my husband’s gift to me.

 

 

 

Step On Up

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baby-steps

I remember the first time I met him.  He was all of two years old and the tiniest little replica of his daddy.  It was adoration at first sight for me.  He was a bit of a show off and knew he had his daddy in the palm of his chubby little hand.  He kept asking me to watch him do this and that and I did, gladly.  I was so happy that he was such a friendly little guy.  Later, when his daddy kissed me and he leaned out of the playhouse window and said, “Hey… What’dya guys doing?,” his daddy nearly had a heart attack!

It was a rough start.  My new husband’s ex pulled out all the stops.  We were in court for everything imaginable, even before the wedding.  We naively believed that things would calm down and even improve as time passed and we all settled into our lives.  We were wrong.  It was a constant rollercoaster ride for more than a decade.  Sometimes we marvel at the fact that our marriage survived it!  We were committed to not allowing it to affect our time together as a family.  Through the years it felt like we just kept getting run over repeatedly, but we were the adults and we refused to let it hurt our kids anymore than it had to. It wasn’t always easy, but we had some great friends who let us unload our “It’s not fairs!” on them on the regular.  They prayed with us and for us.  I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support.

Being a stepdad comes with its challenges, for sure, but if you participate and are nice to your spouse’s child(ren), you are a hero to the world at large.  If you are a stepmom, it is an ALL uphill climb.  It’s typically assumed you are evil, thanks to Cinderella, Snow White, and other lovely fairytales of the day.  If you welcome your spouse’s child(ren), you are suspected of trying  to replace the bio-mom.  If you aren’t terribly affectionate or welcoming, you are accused of being a heartless witch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scrutinized as I felt every other weekend and the several weeks during the summers that I was actively being a stepmom.  As hard as I tried to make things “normal,” there was always the second guessing of EVERYTHING.  What was completely normal with my bio-child who was only a few months older made me a wreck with my stepson.  Between a husband who was very critical, a bio-mom who was court happy, and family members who struggled with the whole situation, I did the best I could with what I had at 24 years of age.  Doubting everything I did when it came to him was the norm.

In 96 hours each month we were to visit both sets of grandparents, make memories, teach responsibility and a million other important things, be a normal family, sleep, eat, go to church, and be sure the kids all made it to all of their weekend activities – because if they didn’t, we may end up in court, again.

I sometimes wonder if I knew what all I’d go through because I fell madly in-love with a man with a child, an ex-wife, and all that entails, if I would’ve said, “Yes” to that first date.  I know that must sound awful, but tonight I am tired and hurting and a little bit unbelieving of how long this continues to go on and how frustrating it is that the people who should be standing up and supporting the good guys are kissing up to the bad guys in selfishness.

I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always choose what I believed was best for our sons.  ALWAYS.  I love all 5 of our children with all of my heart. I have since the moment I met each of them, whether it was in person, or it was by way of a pregnancy test.  I have lived my life with my family as my first worldly priority.

I know there are women who marry men and do their best to get their stepchildren out of their lives.  I know there are others who are genuinely unloving to them.  I know there are parents and stepparents who put their children in the middle like pawns in a chess game.  I also believe that this is horribly wrong and rare.  I know I have done none of these things.

My oldest son has a stepmom.  During his teen years they did not get along terribly well.  He was a teenager.  He and I did not get along terribly well.  She is a very nice woman.  We are not social friends, but I am so very thankful that she has been good to my son.  I can see that she genuinely loves him.  My son, his dad, his stepmom and her children are a family.  That is what I want for my son.  Isn’t that what being a parent is?…

If and when my oldest son and his wife have children we will all be grandparents together.  Our grandchild will be our priority and we will support each other and encourage relationship with our grandchild because we will all love him/her and want what is best for that precious child.  We’re the adults.

Okay… I feel better now that I have that almost 3 decade long load off of my chest.

Yep, I know this is a bit corny, but it’s mostly true, too.

 

step-mom

 

I’ve learned that a bunch of the junk that we fought for because it seemed so important in the moment, wasn’t really so important in the long run.  I’ve learned that you can’t spend your life fighting for someone who doesn’t want you in their life or who isn’t willing to fight for you because you lose precious moments with the people He put in your life to love and be loved by.  I’ve learned that being a mom and/or a stepmom is really hard and we should honor each other along the way.  I’ve learned to trust myself, to forgive myself and to let go when He shows me it’s time…

Life is too short.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after I wasted more time than I wish I would’ve.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned that it’s not worth my time to wallow in regret.  Movin’ on…

Peace.


Love Bears All Things

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I Corinthians 13 7

I’ve been struggling with several issues that seem to be connected.  I can’t get clarity on what the central issue is for myself, and when that happens, it usually means it’s time for me to put it down on “paper,” so to speak.

Vaccinations

Honoring one another – especially women

Motives

Our government

Priorities

Those are the things swirling around in my head – especially when I get in front of Facebook and see so many vicious and often arrogant posts.  We don’t have cable or any “regular” television.  We don’t get the newspaper on the regular.  We feel like we save a bunch of money not having these things, but more important to us is that we are no longer inundated with hyped-up negative and slanted news stories, nor are we overwhelmed with feeling like we have to keep up with the proverbial Joneses because of the endless commercials and television shows that reflect our consumerism society.  We have the internet and we do indulge in Netflix.  We’re way into LOST right now and I enjoy Downton Abbey a bunch!  I find myself doing a lot of my own research online and in texts – books, not the phone kind.  I know there are more garbage sites that just about anyone can post to, but there are also an abundance of legit sites with verified information.  There are sites that completely contradict one another and I am one of those people that believes there are several reasons for this phenomenon.  I believe science is often to some degree vulnerable to the scientist’s prejudice and interpretation.  Presentation is everything!  I also believe that sometimes things aren’t included that don’t fit into the desired result’s equation.  In college, while in the psych department at a major university I saw this on several occasions.  I also believe that slight variations can simply change the results.  That being said, I’m REAL tired of people who act and state that the only legit information sources for cancer, autism,  vaccines, food facts, etc. are governmental and traditional medicine.  Seriously, are we kidding?!

My stance on vaccines is not pro or against.  My stance is DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Your children are worth it!!  Be wise enough to look at information from both sides of the argument with an open mind and heart.  When the number of vaccinations has more than doubled in less than 30 years, we should NOT just blindly roll our babies’ sleeves up.  We should be asking questions without being treated like that makes us bad parents.  THAT is part of what makes us amazing and brave parents.  That is why God gave them to us.  We are supposed to protect them with everything we are.  Sometimes that may mean choosing to vaccinate your child, other times it may mean choosing not to.  NO ONE on Earth loves your child more than you do.  You should make the best decision for Your child, not the government, whose often greedy motives should not be trusted with the health of your child.  My goodness look what they’ve done with that trust thus far!

Again, I’m not anti-government.  I appreciate the amazing parts of living where I do, but I also don’t think that means I should blindly trust a body made of people who are constantly being lured into bad choices for the whole out of greed.  It’s the human condition and left unchecked, it will wreak havoc on all that drink the kool-aid.  We must advocate for ourselves and our loved ones.  We should advocate for all, but this isn’t usually a big motivator in this busy world of ours.

Here’s the biggie.  The one that makes my heart ache.  Why can’t we look through those “mama’s eyes” of ours and recognize other mamas?  – Mamas that love their children as deeply and sacrificially as we do?  Why do we act as though anyone who believes the opposite as we do is ignorant and loves their child less than we do?  Of course, there are crazies on both sides of any argument.  There are some ignorant folks in our world, to be sure.  I believe that the vast majority of mamas are just as amazing on both sides of this or any argument.

I had a discussion with a mama of a child with autism a while back.  She was visibly angry with me when we began talking.  I realized there was much more going on than what I was seeing on the surface.  Once I was quiet I heard her say that she was tired of people accusing her of not doing what was right for her child.  She thought doing what her trusted pediatrician said was the best way to love her child.  I told her that I thought I was the model mama with my first because I was on time with each of my firstborn’s vacs.  I did whatever the doctors told me to.  My son was lucky.  He hasn’t had any medical issues from his immunizations as a child that I am aware of.  Of course, he was born in 1986 and didn’t have twice the number like our babies born today.  She said she didn’t really want to know what caused it because then she might have to live with the guilt of it being her fault and the reality that it might not have had to be this way. 

I get that.  I have a child on the spectrum.  You may not even know it if you met my child, but it’s there and sometimes I wonder…  Mostly, I’ve decided that I have to educate myself from here on out – about vaccines, GMOs, our water, food, air, etc.  I can’t drive myself crazy with guilt or trying to control everything, but I do have a responsibility to find out and share what I know with others who are ready to hear it.

I did the best I could with what I had at the time.  I still do. So does my friend who’s little boy has autism.  I believe 99% of us do.  Guilt, blame and shame have NO place in conversations between parents who did the best they knew how to do for their precious children.  It just keeps us all focused on the wrong stuff and nothing good comes of that, ever.

I have a responsibility to honor others.  I have a responsibility to build younger mamas up and encourage them.  I remember what it was be that young mama.  I remember sometimes how disrespectful other (usually older) mamas were to me.  How dismissive doctors could be.  How impatient teachers often were back then.  It’s such a tough and important job to be a parent.  Most of us know that and still we don’t work to make things better for the next generation.  What would it look like if we all REALLY listened to each other?  What if we researched and shared and came to our own decisions with information that was gathered with human interest and concern?  What if we sometimes agreed to disagree or better, yet, what if we agreed that what’s best for some, may not be best for all?

We aren’t really talking when we throw insults at each other.  What is the priority?  If we really believe our choice is best and we want to protect others, then shouldn’t we speak in love?  People usually know when they are being spoken to in love with honor and respect.  If people choose to go a different path, then do we stop loving them?

Of course not. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  (I Corinthians 13:7).  It’s not easy, believe me, I know, but it’s what love does.

On Being 50…

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I’ve been 50 for almost an entire year, and I have to tell you, that for me and for several 50+ women I’ve talked to, there is something life-changing about becoming this age.  It didn’t happen instantaneously for me at 5:22 a.m. (I think that’s what time I was born) on January 6, 2014.  But I did sense a change in my self in the months leading up to that day.

I know that our society tells us that getting older is something to be avoided at all costs.  We spend LOADS of money and time trying to appear younger and feel healthier.  I’m all for the feeling better and being healthier – and I spend a bunch of cash on organic food and time on making chemically free products for my family.  I believe while I’m here, I should honor my body and my life by putting the best I can afford and acquire into them and I want that for my Honey and our kids, also.  I think that choosing to live this way has far-reaching effects on our environment and our sense of community, in addition to our day-to-day health.  Beyond that, I think I’ll spend my money on helping others to be healthier and educated.  I’m not saying I like all of the physical changes that are happening to my body, but I understand and accept that this is the deal.  We aren’t invincible.  We are constantly moving toward death…

On that note, I thought I would make a list of the things I hate about being 50 and the things I am enjoying…

I hate that I received an AARP enrollment form in the mail.  –  Seriously?!   I thought this happened at 65?!

I’m mostly not crazy about all of the wrinkles around my eyes, on my forehead (that I’ve had since high school) and around my mouth.

Not in-love with the way my chi chi’s hang lower than ever when not racked up in an underwire bra…

Menopause is rearing it’s ugly head and I just want to eat bread and sweets all of the time, so the extra weight that is appearing around my middle is not something I’m thrilled to see in the bathroom mirror each morning.

I can’t seem to lose weight like I used to…

Men do not look at me the way they used to or nearly as often as they used to…

Things that do not suck about being 50:

I am taken much more seriously when I voice my opinion.

I don’t care as much about what I look like as I care about how most people feel around me.

My Honey loves me more than ever and he truly thinks I’m beautiful.  He sees me.

My self-worth doesn’t depend on others nearly as much as it used to.

My Honey and I don’t want new toys like we used to and because of that we actually have cash to live in the moment.

NO credit cards!

I care SO much more about being healthy and SO much less about being thinner.

I’m a Nana!

My children are becoming my friends.

Men don’t look at me the way they used to.

 

I spent SO much of my time trying to make other people hear me, see me, respect my opinions, and think I was worth something.  It took all this time for me to realize this one simple truth:  I am worth it to Him.  He sees me and loves me unconditionally.  He doesn’t care if my children are dressed beautifully or if my house is always in perfect order.  He doesn’t care if I am the head of every organization that my children join and 7 church committees.  In fact, He probably would prefer I wasn’t the head of more than one or two, if any.  He wants us to be more than we do

Doesn’t that sound simple?…  Our culture goes directly against this and we are often enslaved to this way of thinking, this way of doing.  I wish it hadn’t taken me 50 years to figure most of this out.  I’m thankful I have figured some of it out.  I think the best part about being 50 is that I feel more freedom than I ever have and self-acceptance is truly a reality.  It’s a gift to be okay in your own (wrinkly) skin…

 

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

I am his and he is mine…

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This is a HUGE year for me. I had my 50th birthday in January and in just a bit more than a month my Honey and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I have been married to him ½ of my entire life!   I have joked about being married to him for 1/2 of my life when I was 5o since I can remember!  How did it get here already?!

There are times when it has felt like it has been twice that long. The months when we can’t seem to find each other or remember who the other person is anymore, days when we can’t agree on anything, the times when we just get on each other’s nerves all of the time, and we are just plain old ugly to each other have felt endless. Those times don’t happen very often, especially now, but when they have, it is excruciating….

There have been a very few times when I couldn’t even remember why I wanted to be with him in the first place because I was wounded so deeply. Those times never lasted very long, but I’d be lying if I said they never happened.        Marriage is hard. It’s also long – sometimes…  if you’re lucky and committed, but long means SO much can and will happen.

I think one of my most favorite parts of being married to my Honey is that we’ve worked through huge piles of our junk and decided that we are committed to being really present in this relationship, not just surviving it and staying married for a long time.  We always had a pretty good marriage on the outside, but it was pretty icky a lot of the time on the inside. I couldn’t admit this to myself for a very long time. I think that’s why I was such a good actress and contributed to the pretty marriage façade others saw for so many years.

I remember when things got the worst they had ever been and I was wavering between walking out the door and staying almost every other day, someone told me that if I chose to stay and really worked to make things better, God would bless my marriage and it would be more wonderful than I could imagine. I thought that person was on crack, honestly. I just couldn’t see past all of my pain enough to see anything ever getting better. I was just beginning to grasp how much of a lie my marriage had been for the first almost 20 years. After being given some more advice, I decided to just wait, to give myself time to heal some and to not make decisions based on pure emotion at such a low point. That was some of the best advice I have ever gotten. It saved my life and my marriage.

During counseling my Honey and I decided that we were all in. After all, we didn’t really have anything left to lose. I remember thinking that it truly couldn’t get any worse and I needed to know that I had put it all out there before I could walk away with a clear conscience: my fears, my insecurities, my sins, my needs, ALL my junk with complete integrity, no mixed signals, no games, no protecting myself.  My Honey did the same in a big way.  I think it was probably the first time in our whole marriage that we just depended on God to see us through.

I think we both felt like we were seeing each other for the first time when we first began to really talk candidly in counseling. There were times when he would admit something to me that I had questioned him about for years and I felt like he handed me back my reality and after an initial burst of anger, I was in awe of his honesty and vulnerability. Other times I was almost unbelieving when his deep love for me would come shining through. It took me a long time to fully trust his love for me. It took him almost as long to trust my love for him. The irony about that is that it was mostly because of our own junk that we felt this way, not because of the other person’s actions. I think that’s probably true of most relationships…

Our beginning wasn’t picture perfect.  We had both gone through ugly divorces just a year before we got married. We also each brought a precious toddler son into our union.  We dated almost 5 whole months when we got married (What in the world were we thinking?!).  We were both in our last year of college and my parents were living with me at the time!  Much of our first several years of marriage were spent in the courtroom dealing with constant custody and visitation issues.  The attorney bills were astronomical. Blending a family is not all Bradybunch-ish, I can tell you that!  We loved each other very much and that was the glue that kept us together in the early part of our marriage; that and God’s mercy.

There are things I have always loved about my Honey.  He has always made me laugh more than anyone else – especially when I didn’t even know I needed to.  I love that he loves to talk.  He’s like a best girlfriend, only SO MUCH BETTER!!  He has always been a gentleman.  He holds doors open, puts me on the safe side of the path whenever we’re walking outside, and always takes care of me when we go out, holding my chair out for me, getting my drinks, etc.  He has always been a loving daddy to our babies.  He rocked ‘em, diapered ‘em and coached their teams.  I don’t think he ever missed a school or a sporting event that he knew about.  I love that he works so hard for our family because he wants us to be comfortable.

There are even more things that I love about him now because they were hard won by us.  I love his willingness to put me and others first.  I love his humility which has replaced his angry insecurity. I love his presence with our family and his commitment to our health.  I adore his commitment to our marriage – its stability, its growth, its happiness and its authenticity.  I love that  now he understands that our family would rather spend time with him than have extra money and he is trusting God more to take care of us.  He still works VERY hard, but he puts relationships before money now.  He really seeks God now and is willing to be authentic with other Christians in a way he wasn’t able to be a few years ago.  I am mad about the way he bakes and cooks with our children!

Most of the time I can’t believe how quickly 25 years have zoomed by.  How did we have time to raise 5 children, move across the country and get this old?!  I can’t wrap my head around where we started, where we are now, and how we got here.  It’s been quite a ride and I don’t ever want to get off.  It still amazes me that this is my life. I get to wake up and live this life.  I get to be known and loved. Does it get any better?… I don’t think so…

 

I love my husband more than I thought possible.  Apparently, the lady on crack knew what she was talking about!  I like him more than anyone else in the whole world.  He’s strong, protective, hilarious, gorgeous, smart, sweet, kind, thoughtful, honoring, talented, silly, and beautiful inside and out.

He fought for me.

I am his and he is mine…

for at least another 25 years…

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Honey & Me Shady Grove 2014Honey & Me Laughing

 

 

Friendship, Motherhood, Girl Struggles…

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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.

HELP!! No, really, please help…

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Good Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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