In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

It's Finally Time to Feel

Holy Cow.  It has been so long since I have written.  For so long, I was actually afraid to write.  I was afraid to say anything, out of fear that I may say the wrong thing, or too little about a topic, or too much?????  I mean, "Silence is Violence," so even if I didn't say anything I could not only be wrong, but violent!!!!  In fact, I probably am violent, since I was silent for the past couple years. My deepest apologies. 

I want to write today, first, because I feel like I need to process some feelings of grief and also, to honor my mom.  She loved my writing and she was definitely my biggest fan ever.  I don't equate her love of my writing as being a good writer, but I think she would be a little sad to know that I hung up my computer the past couple years.  My mom died exactly two years ago today, the night before the world full on shut down.  

It seems crazy now, but in the weeks following my mom's passing, death seemed like it could come knocking on all of our doors at any minute.  One slip of the mask and you could be a goner!  I remember laying wide awake for hours after I got take-out for the first time and I realized I didn't sanitize my hands after I touched the restaurant's public pen. I mean, that is a high level of fear when using a pen causes fear of death!!!!  What in the ever loving world???  With that level of fear, I couldn't even pretend to process the death of my mom.  That high intensity fear did not last long, but in it's place came a medium to low level of an absolute constant state of fear.  Do any of you have any stories about your nutty behavior at the start of this madness?  I hope I'm not the only one?

I went out to see my mom's grave site this morning. I was thinking back to when we buried her.  It felt like a risk when my dad and I hugged on that day for 3 seconds.  Otherwise, we stayed far apart and we were outside! I saw my dad like twice in about 6 months after my mom died and my sister was in England.  My friends showed up with posters on my driveway, standing 6 feet apart, which was so beyond thoughtful, but I'm needy . . . I need up close and personal.  There were no hugs, no coffee dates, no hanging out in friends' homes, no interaction, no funeral.  It's so awful to think about it having to go through the death of a family member with very little interaction from friends and family.         

I don't know if many of you out there reading this are single parents, but my spouseless household felt extra double spouseless during Covid. I can certainly see how any situation could make Covid more difficult, so I'm not saying I had it harder than other people, but I'm just saying that it felt hard as the only caregiver, the only decision maker, the only breadwinner, the only entertainer, the only handy man, the only cook, the only cleaner, the only shopper, the only disciplinarian, the only spiritual teacher, the only adult and most impactful, the only parent left in this world for my children. I think the pressure to stay alive for my kids felt enormous. I know death pretty acutely.  It is permanent and irreversible.  It's quite the wrecker.  So, while I desperately wanted to be a person who had so much faith that I lived my life without fear, I daily gave way to my flesh of fear. That daily fear takes a grandiose amount of mental and physical energy when we are talking years, not minutes.    

When my mom died, I think I was using all of my inner resources to keep my family alive, in the same way that as a passenger I think I can keep the car from sliding off an icy road, if I worry hard enough.  Rationally, I knew that I had no control over an invisible virus, but the intense wrestling between living free and doing everything possible to maintain a physical heartbeat, was constant.  My resources were naturally so much more limited.  Probably most people felt that way???  There were so many reasons that I and everybody else felt completely tapped.  Because I had very few resources to  draw from, I had no bandwidth to grieve my mom's death.  I remember so many times talking about how happy I am that she is in heaven.  I felt relieved that she didn't have to endure Covid.  She had a chronic cough, which would have caused a number of side eye glances if she ever went out, so I rationalized that her timing on death was quite good.  I was stunned at how little I cried, based on the fact that long before she died, I cried countless tears at the mere thought of her dying.

As it stands now, I don't think that being rational was actually the whole story.  I have to wonder if I just didn't have the capacity to feel the grief of my mom's death and my break-up with my boyfriend last summer.  (I mean really???? How did this world expect me to go through a serious break-up without my mom????   I must say, however, my dad has done a great job filling her shoes!) I know the feeling of grief all too well and that is what I feel right now.  Now that life feels so much more back to normal and now that my brain and my body isn't convinced that it needs to work so hard at survival, I have the ability to feel the pain of grief. You would think that I would have been a bit more of a pro at it, but during Covid, I literally could just barely feel the edges of it, when I should have been squarely underneath it.  In some sense, I'm relieved that I am not heartless, but on the other hand, I want to get through it . . .  FAST!  It's so uncomfortable.  At least, I have lost a few of the Covid pounds I put on over the past couple years.  I guess that is one major plus!

While this weight of grief is not particularly fun company, I do have so much to be thankful for.  If my mom called from heaven right now, I wouldn't be talking about this little stint of pain. (Surely, it'll pass, right?)  I would be talking about how fun my kids are and that I wish she could hear them play piano.  I'd tell her how Story and Macie are pretty amazing cross country runners and basketball players and that I was sure Spencer was going to die, every time he played Varsity goalie as an itty bitty freshman.  I'd tell her that 2 of my kids already have their sights set on specific colleges and what they want to study.  I'd show her pictures of my new kitchen and explain how I love it and how I now need her to send me some money to refill my bank account. Just kidding.  I'd want her to know that I took my kids out for dinner the other day, because all of their teachers talked about how kind they are to others and how at that dinner, we laughed so hard together.  I would tell her how my relationships with my sister and my dad have grown, now that she was no longer the hub of information.  I probably wouldn't be able to refrain from complaining about how rotten the Covid era was, but I really do think I would be sharing all that I'm proud of and excited about in life.    

Two years!  Wow!  I've gotta say, those two years did not fly by!   

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Little "STORY"

Here is a little "STORY" for you.  

You might think that what I'm going to tell you is absolutely NUTS, but since we are already living in banana land, I figured I'd slip in this tricky move, while I have the chance.  If I tried this move in any pre 2020 year, it might be called out, but I'm hoping that at some level it might seem normal . . . maybe even mundane, in light of all the crazy floating out there in 2020.

Let me take you back to the mid 2000's.  Dave and I had always said that if we were to ever have a girl, we would name her Story.  It was settled, long before we even had our first child.  But when we found out that our second child was a girl, somehow the name fell to third place.  

Fast forward to November 4, 2008.  We drove to the hospital, which was a full 60 seconds away, with two names in tow, for our soon to be born little girl; Alice and Leah.  We figured we'd do the whole, "let's see what name fits her," business.  My first thought when she was born, was that she didn't look like either of the names we were prepared to name her, but that she looked like a STORY.  Right as I was having that very thought, Dave, FOR REALS, said, "I know this sounds crazy, but she actually looks like a Story to me."  It seemed as clear as day.  We were going to name her Story.  It was too weird that we both thought that immediately after she was born.  

Unfortunately, there was a nurse.  (If this were a melodrama, this is when the Booos would be shouted from the audience).  She was a fantastic nurse, I'm sure, but she asked what we were going to name her, and I excitedly replied, "Story!!!"  To my utter shock she firmly replied, "Do not do that!  My last name is Book and I was made fun of my entire life.  Whatever you do, do NOT name her Story."  In my postpartum fog and erratic emotional state, I took honest heed of her warning and reluctantly wrote Leah on that paper you have to fill out before you leave the hospital.  

Two days after getting home from the hospital, I was wanting a do-over on naming her.  She was just such a Story.  Two weeks home, and she was still a full on, Story.  At two months, I really wanted to change her name to Story, but Dave thought that was crazy.  Two years later, I heard about someone else who changed their kid's name at two years of age. Dave was still a no-go on changing Leah's name to Story.  Then our plan became to at least change her middle name to Story someday.   

Now, here we are in the year of crazy.  I figured quarantine was a perfect time to start calling her Story.  Unless, she is just trying to placate me, she is totally on board.  

Even though, about 10 millions times in her life, I have looked her and thought she is a Story, it is hard to transition to calling her Story.  I'm sure she'll have some identity crisis over all of this.  If you ask her what you should call her, she'll say, "I don't care."  I wonder if she really does care?  I think she really does want to be called Story, because she loves hearing this whole story.  She did put Story on her swim sweatshirt this summer.  It just makes me smile.  Even though Dave was against changing her name, it brings me back to that moment when she was born and I couldn't believe we had the exact same thought about her name.  It makes it feel like Dave is closer, when I call her Story.  

In addition to all of the regular name stuff, I do think that Story has a story to tell in her life.  That girl has some deep roots.  She has whole world inside of her that she is very protective of.  Once in a while, she will let you catch a glimpse.  Maybe in a song she writes.  Maybe in what will bring a tears to her eyes. Maybe in the maturity of her relationships.  Her story has certainly formed her.  It has not been an easy story and she holds it close, but it has brought such unique sweetness to the way she lives out her life. 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Revelation and it talks about the power of our testimonies.  In Revelation 12:11 it says:  "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." What a powerful verse.  I can't think of too many other things, other than the Holy Spirit, that grabs my attention like a testimony.  A testimony of God's grace, a testimony of life through suffering, a testimony of remarkable faith, a testimony of a life saved through Jesus Christ, a testimony of a life changed.  Oh, the power.  I pray that Story's story will be a testimony that partners with the blood of the lamb to conquer what is wrong in this world and bring light and life to others and their stories.  

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Third Gift of Marrying My Ex

Just when I thought that I would get on a writing streak, I didn't.  Whenever, I get ready to write, I just HAVE to clean the kitchen!  Like, CLEAN clean the kitchen and I'm not even someone who keeps their house all that nice???  On the days I have a minute to write, I start cleaning the kitchen in preparation and then before I know it, I'm out of time.  Anyway, I'm living large and trying to write with three kids in the house and a semi-messy kitchen.  We'll see what happens???  

In my last post I asked myself, "If I could go back and not marry my ex, would I choose to do that?"   My answer was that I would skip out on those 2 1/2 years, because I like to avoid pain. However, I would, in turn, miss out on three HUGE gifts that I was given.  As a quick recap, I would miss out on full-on experiencing God's huge grace that I experienced at a whole new level when I was no longer in the "tidy Christian" category.  Second, I would miss out on my newfound gratitude for even the smallest thing. (The latest being the most delicious breakfast bowl from Rudy's - YUM!).  And now to expound on the third gift that I was given.  

My parenting changed and I think that perhaps I would have missed some important lessons . . . No . . . I'm positive I would have missed these lessons, had I not gone through that marriage.  

I have three kids.  All have their tricky sides, as we all do, but one of my kids has about 36 tricky sides.  When I was married to my ex, those tricky sides were loud and crazy and they became increasingly loud as the months of that marriage wore on. The interesting thing, is that my ex was particularly hard on her and now I believe it is because she saw right through his mask and she knew how to play his game of self protection about as well as he did.  Which served her well with him, but not with me.  She had been through layers of trauma and was now living in constant trauma.  Parenting her has been one of my life's greatest challenges.  But it would be much more difficult right now, if I hadn't change some ways of thinking and parenting. 

I always thought that I was pretty good at understanding her, but I REALLY began to understand her, once I started executing some of my own self protection tools and I started seeing myself do exactly what she would do.  

This was illuminated one week, when things were just soooooo bad.  And by so bad, it's still hard to explain.  Tensions were just high in my own self.  We were sitting at dinner and I asked what everyone's highs and lows were.  I answered mine and my ex got mad that I didn't not say that our date the night before (which was crazy miserable, BTW) was my high.  At that moment, I just wanted to departicalize.  Disappear.  I could not have an opinion even on what my highlight of the week was, without him making it seem to all of our kids like I was some kind of disrespectful wife.  I felt completely hopeless.  I went in my closet and hid.  I was positive that I was acting like a 3 year old, but I just didn't care.  I wanted to close my eyes and for everything to be different when I reopened them.   

Then the next day, one of my kids was hiding under her bed after some minor infraction and then one day after that, another one of my kids hid behind our bean bag for a reason I'll never remember.  We were all needing to departicalize and then reappear in a normal world.  We were crumbling, bit by bit.  Normally, I would have been irritated and impatient with their hiding, when I needed to talk to them.  As in, demanding that they come out.  But knowing how I felt when I was hiding just a day or two earlier, I only had compassion and a truly broken heart for them.  So, I just crawled into their hiding places and sat with them in their mad quiet.  That week, life changed.  Even if I don't always react well and with tenderness and compassion, I KNOW that there is hurt behind their behavior.  It may not be explainable, but the hurt took with me the lesson I learned about understanding the hurt behind the behavior.  

Let me tell you, I have read a fair number of parenting books and been to numerous adoption conferences on how to parent kids from hard places and I have heard it a million times that you need to see the hurt behind their behavior, but until I FELT it myself, I really had no concept of it.  When I was hiding, I knew I wasn't being the normal 42 year old person I always dreamt of being, but I was not capable of anything else in that moment. 

Since I left, my tricky child and I have been through another very tough season and a season of great progress.  The biggest jumps we ever make, always comes from when I don't react to her behavior, (which is easier said than done) but when I can just start to acknowledge her hurts.   When I do that, (which I truly feel comes from the Holy Spirit) her self protection begins to melt.  It's kind of like she gets hotter and hotter and hotter as I focus on her hurt, rather than her behavior.  It's like she wants me to look at her behavior, but when I look underneath to her hurting heart, she hits a boiling point and just begins to melt from anger to sadness to grief.  Even if I don't know what exact pain she is experiencing, I KNOW how pain makes you react in ways you don't want to be reacting, even in the moment!  

This is such a huge flyover of this concept, but I think I have captured what I wanted to say.  It's good for me to write it down and remember all of this, so that I can keep remembering the power of pain in my life and the power of pain in my kids' lives.  It even helps with little things, like when my kids leave their brand new water bottle at the park, (not that that happened yesterday or anything) I can say, "I know that feeling!  I leave things and lose things all the time and I hate it!" Or like the other afternoon I had an afternoon with a typically untrickier kid of mine, and boy was he/she ANGRY!   Without "Closet Week 2018," I would have felt way too overwhelmed by this child's unfounded (to me) emotions.  I would not have sat with this child as they fiercely scribbled on paper and just prayed, "Lord, help me not screw this up!"  He/She was definitely dealing with something???  My kids have a lot to be angry about!  I told this sweet child thanks for letting me see the pain, because normally he/she keeps it all wrapped up. About  30 minutes after the big flare, life was back to normal and our relationship was still fully in tact. Thank you, Jesus.   

I could not be more grateful for this particularly painful lesson.  I am a different mom after being married to my ex.  When I was in the middle of the insanity, it was difficult to employ compassion, because so much of my energy was used on managing my ex and doing the dances we had to do, in order to pretend things were normal.  But I was lucky and didn't leave too early.  I caught that vision change, right near the end, and I am so grateful.  I'm positive I have more to learn and I can't tell you how hard I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me out in my solo parenting, as I'm squarely in the middle of tween-ville right now.  When tween-ville feels like the Twilight Zone, the Holy Spirit often brings me back to lessons I learned when I was in my own Twilight Zone.  And when emotions run high, I always find myself asking, "Have I ever felt like that before?" and naturally, the answer is almost always a big fat yes, and then I can (not that I always do) parent from a different place . . . a place with, HOPEFULLY, more understanding and grace. 

P.S. - Now that I wrote this, I feel like I'll probably be the worst parent ever in the coming weeks.  So, maybe if I acknowledge that, it won't happen???

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

If I Could Go Back and Call Off My Wedding Day . . . Would I?

When I left my ex a little over two years ago, I was pretty much consumed by how unfair my life seemed.  In 10 millions years, I did not think that by age 43, I would have had two different husbands and be single, yet again.  I felt so ridiculous for getting myself into such a gigantic mess of a marriage and I occasionally still feel the need to work out the guilt I feel for dragging my kids through the craziness.  But I think now, more than ever, I catch glimpses of genuine gratitude for that BANANAS marriage. As I think about writing on these topics, I have found my mind repeatedly going back to when Joseph said to his brothers that sold him into slavery, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  Obviously, I'm not saving any lives here, but in my heart, there is so much good that has come out of those 2 1/2 years of craziness.

For quite some time now, I have wondered if I could go back to May 2015 and call off my wedding, would I do it???   Knowing myself, I think I would say, yes, for the sake of my kids and because I really like to avoid pain and those years were packed with pain.  However, if I did call off the wedding, I would be missing out on three ENORMOUS gifts that I have taken with me out of all of this.  So, thank you, JESUS, for taking me through that season, because I never would have chosen it, EVEN IF I KNEW I would walk away with good things.

My First Gift: The continuous, overwhelming presence of God's grace in my life, now that I can no longer call myself a tidy Christian. Ya know . . . getting a divorce and dragging my kids through misery and all.  I have never felt God's grace more strongly than in the past couple of years, when I realized that I seriously CAN'T achieve a life without sin on my own. I mean, I knew the theology, but until I felt outside of the "Christian" rules, I never felt grace like THIS!!!!!  I wrote about this a couple posts ago, so I won't belabor the point, although it deserves belaboring!!!!

My second gift: GRATITUDE

My third gift: Compassion in my parenting. I'll write more on this one next within the next week.

For now . . .  Back to the gift of gratitude.  Had I not married my ex, I would miss a million opportunities to feel grateful.  I'm not a real "sayings on T-shirts" kind of gal, but last summer, I bought a T-shirt with the word grateful on it and I wear all the time, because I just feel grateful for so many more things than I previously did.  The first moments that I realized that I had this new found depth of gratitude was probably the first Saturday after my little family moved back into our house in Manitou.

Here's the story. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, Saturday mornings were for cartoons, cereal and pre-soccer game jitters. When I lived with my ex, none of our kids were allowed to get out of their rooms on a Saturday morning, until, well, basically, my ex released them. (HOW HOW HOW did I live in that craziness??? -  I mean . . . I can sort of explain how I unsuccessfully tried to make this reality different, but not in this post.)  Not once, in the entire time that I was married to my ex, do I remember them watching a TV show on a Saturday morning, let alone, moving freely about our house.  When we moved back to Manitou and the first Friday night rolled around, I said that they can watch TV and grab breakfast when they woke up and that is exactly what they did.  I came out of my room that Saturday morning, and they were cuddled in blankets, watching, "Heartland."  I cried.  I have cried numerous gratitude tears, as I see them lazily watching TV on a Saturday morning, all cuddled up in our puppy and their blankets.  If that had not been taken away from us, it would never have even crossed my mind that I should be so thankful for my kids watching TV.

When I think one of my kids is being funny, I am so thankful.  I can think he or she is funny, without being told that I think my kids walk on water.  I can adore and delight in my kids so freely now!!!!!  Don't get me wrong, I'm not ALWAYS adoring them and delighting in them, but I can openly adore them whenever I want now! I can care for them when they have a headache without being told I coddle them.  I can read to them as long as I want at night, without facing paybacks for spending too much time with them before bedtime. I can nurture my son, without being made fun of, or him being made fun of. We can all eat dinner and not experience the weirdness of even a peaceful dinner. I can love how they still play in imaginative ways, without fearing that my ex will walk in and decide that someone is breaking an unknown rule somehow. I can spend time with my friends without sideways comments before and after. I can teach piano to my kids and other kids without eyes rolling in the background. Every page in a book I read to my kids at night is a pure, simple, gift.  Every time I laugh with them and sing silly songs with them or dance with them, it is another gift.  I can do all these things so freely now.  AND GET THIS! I even have started to enjoy cooking for the first time ever in my life!!!!!  The first time I went camping after I left my ex, I made breakfast burritos and I unexpectedly cried even doing that.  I know that sounds nuts, but even though I was only married to him for 2 1/2 years, I let his subtle ways of putting me down, sink in, and I felt I wasn't even capable of making a breakfast burrito, for crying out loud.

Every. Single. Day. Since I left my ex, I am grateful for the freedom I have to give love and receive love, exactly how God created me to give and receive.  I enjoy the most simple, mundane parts of life so much more and I truly love that I get a whole second half of life, experiencing more joy, even at the littlest things, every day. So, that is gift numero uno. Gift, numero dos, coming tomorrow. For now I'll leave you with some pictures of the most mundane joys I have experienced after returning to a family of four.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Life Keeps Being Tricky: And Now My Mom is Gone

Three and a half years ago, my mom had a massive stroke.  One where the doctors felt she had no chance of talking or walking again.  A true, FOR REALS, miracle occurred and within days she was talking and quickly coming back to her old self.  The only thing that I feel like my mom lost in her stroke was some kind of hardness that was in her heart.  I would never have described her as a hard hearted person by any stretch of the imagination, but after her stroke there was an openness and a softening that made her more fun and more loving and more accepting and more of all kinds of great things.  Although, her body was weakening, her soul heart was growing stronger.

The last three and half years have been my favorite three and half years with my mom.  In these last three and half years, my mom and I have done a lot of growing and we did it together.  

I knew that my mom's body, and particularly, her lungs, have been growing weaker for years and years, but I am still absolutely stunned that she is gone.  Just last week at this time, I was still talking to her about my day and that the kids will be out of school for a while and how my piano lessons went.  She was in the hospital, after getting pneumonia, but she has gotten pneumonia before and took antibiotics and she would be fine in a few days.  I still haven't caught up with the idea that she passed away on Sunday night.  Just one week ago, it was barely on my radar that would die from this.  By Friday, I was getting nervous, by Saturday, I was panicked, and on Sunday morning, her vitals looked much better, and by Sunday night, she was taken off of a heavy duty oxygen machine, and she passed away.  She was just so tired of coughing and just so tired of trying to breathe.  It seems so easy to breate, but her lungs said something different. I, for one, was in no way, ready or prepared for her to die. 

The things I'm grateful for over the past week:

1.  She came to see me and my kids a few days before she got sick, after being hesitant to drive all this way for a couple hours. During that time, I sat with her at my kitchen table, before my kids came home and laughed harder with her, than I think I ever have.  I remember thinking in that moment, that I was so lucky to have a mom that I still laugh with. It was a special moment. 

2.  I'm thankful that I got to talk to her on the Friday, before she died.  We actually even laughed then, too.  She was telling me that she asked the nurse the night before if he thought she would make it through the night and he said, "Well . . . .  hmmmmmm . . . .I'm not sure."  In her shock, she said, "You really think I might die tonight?????!!!!!!!" And he said, "Oh my gosh, NO! I thought you were asking if you were going to have to move rooms tonight."  We had a little laugh over that.  That was the last time I talked to her.

3. On Saturday, when things were quickly going downhill, I wrote a letter to her, after being urged by friends to put my writing to some real use. I'm so thankful that I did.  I got to say all of the important stuff that I wanted to say to her and she was awake the whole time that my dad read it to her.

4.  The Piano. This one is bittersweet.  It is hard to hear my kids practice this week, but I know that in a short time, that all the piano practicing I hear, will help bring my mom back to life in this house . . . just a little bit.  My mom was my teacher when I was growing up and for the last 11 years, she has taught me how to teach.  I can hear her in a lot of the instructions that I give my kids and other kids.  I also, have her hands, which I never wanted, growing up.  I would think, "I hope my hands don't look like that, when I get older."  Well, as it turns out, they do!  But they play the piano well, so I guess I won't get too hung up on how they look.  Every single time I put my hands on the piano, I think of my mom, because our hands look so much alike.

The things I'm having a hard time being grateful for right now:

1.  The Coronavirus.  I couldn't be with my mom in the hospital, because of the Coronavirus.  Only one visitor per patient and then on top of that, I had a little tiny, baby cold.  That baby cold, kept me from being able to be with her when she passed.  Plus, my sister was not able to fly out, when we thought things were looking dicey.  Here is the deal, I need people when life gets this kind of extra tricky, but people can't give hugs and be around each other.  We can't even have a funeral and be with family and friends during this time.  I hate this!!!! Of course, my dad, being the extreme introvert that he is, is OK with people not dropping in all the time.  

2.  That I can't talk to my mom on the phone anymore.  I averaged about 2.3 calls per day.  Sometimes we would talk for 10 seconds and sometimes we would talk for 2 hours.  But I was constantly in touch with her.  We could talk about the deepest, most sacred parts of our lives to the most mundane . . .  often ever in the same sentence.  There was no linear path in our conversations, but that never seemed weird.  I told my sister that she needs to start preparing for an increase in phone calls and that many will go a little something like this, "What is a shallot???"  I've already picked up the phone to call my mom a few times, because it is such a habit.  I can't imagine not being able to press "MOM," on my phone.  I'm surprised my phone doesn't have a dent in it, where her name shows up on my phone.

3.  After Dave died, I no longer had my person to be as proud of my kids as I am.  My mom became that person.  She thought my kids were pretty great.  Those pictures and videos that you normally send to your spouse, I sent to my mom.  And I would feel like I had someone to mutually share in my proudness. I just feel so sad about this.

Overall, I am just so grateful to have had a very loving mom, who was always pointing me to Jesus and who I truly believe was proud of who I am.  And I'm so grateful for those three and a half bonus years.  In those years, I left a very destructive marriage. You know how earlier I said that she had softened?  She had, but she also grew strong.  Her heart was so soft towards me and she believed me and she would weep with me and get angry with me and I was so thankful and grateful for the way she always defended my decision to get a divorce.  The way she defended me, was a testament to the strength that she grew, even as she was aging.  As I uncovered, layer at a time, what kind of relationship I was in, she read articles with me, listened to every summary of every counseling appointment, and just listened to whatever I needed to process.  All of that made me feel so secure and loved.  I couldn't have asked for her to walk that road with me any better.

And then there is parenting.  Less than two weeks ago, she sent me a video from Paul David Tripp about parenting.  It was one of the best talks about parenting that I've ever heard.  After I listened to it, she said, she wishes she could have a do-over with her parenting.  I feel a little guilty that I didn't say, "You were a fantastic parent, and never forget it"!!!  Instead, I said something like, "I'm sure I'll want a do-over, too."  But in a way, she got her do-over through me, as we had so many talks about parenting.  Maybe if Dave were still here, Dave and I would have been sorting that out together.  But since he wasn't, I would go to my mom to talk about parenting.  And parenting has been really, really, tough with one of my kids.  The "normal" way of parenting just doesn't work.  It's, again, another area where she supported how I did things.

And one last topic.  Jesus.  My mom loved Jesus. I am truly excited that she is with Jesus right now. The older she grew, the less her faith remained seated in rules and the more it became just about grace and Jesus.  If I counted the number of prayers she prayed for me, my kids, my family and my friends, I would be sitting here for a long time.  When I had a hard time going to church after my divorce, she completely understood.  Instead of giving me a lecture, she would send me an article on how others had the same experience with faith and church, as I did.  That was so incredibly loving of her.  When I started dating a non-believer, she only prayed and I can assume she is still praying.  She noticed the value that he has added to my life.  She handled it with such love and grace.  I mean, think if that had become a point of contentiousness in her last days?  That would have been awful.  The only thing she would say, is that she trusts me and that she thinks that God has a plan in all of it.  I know it wasn't her favorite, but she and I maintained a solid relationship and because she handled it with love, we were able to keep talking about it.

Her love for Jesus could be seen in a lot of different ways, as she was involved in many ministries and barely ever missed a Sunday.  But her love for Jesus was apparent to me, not through the ministries she was involved in, but through how she loved me.  

She died such a wise, grace giving, LOVING, mom.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Do I Still Qualify???

I am a little giddy about sitting down to write today.  It's been sooooo long.  I miss writing so much.  While, I don't have a lot of extra time to write due to being a single parent and because I have a full load of piano students, there are other reasons I have not written, which is kind of what I'll be writing about . . . that I'm not sure I feel qualified to write about Jesus anymore.  Let me explain.

I have no idea if everyone throughout time hits their 40's and then deconstructs their faith or if it is a sweeping idea across American Christianity right now.  It kind of seems like the latter, but I could be completely wrong.  I don't know if I am deconstructing my faith, but I am certainly challenging some ideas that I grew up believing.  This biggie, is one that I was taught was NOT true of the Christian faith, but I know that I feel it very deeply.  The basic idea, is that I can earn the love of God, by being a really obedient Christian.  I've always been taught, out loud, that I can not earn the love of God, but being where I am right now, I can tell I don't believe that.  I believe that I MUST be obedient to earn the love of God.

I have never challenged this idea until now.  I grew up going to church.  I grew up loving church and loving Jesus.  I quit club volleyball when I was in high school, because tournaments interfered with going to church on Sundays.  I went to a Baptist college.  I seriously think I had no more than 5 sips of alcohol until I was 35 years old.  I married a fellow Oklahoma Baptist University-ian.  We adopted a child from Ethiopia, because I had always felt called by God to do so.  When Dave, my husband, died, I walked closely to God, even in my anger towards him.  I averaged about one cuss word per alf a year and these lips never saw a cigarette or a drug. Why wouldn't God love me??? Even though I was well aware of my "little" daily sins, I just didn't struggle with feeling acceptable enough to be loved.

THEN . . . I got a divorce.  After the death of my first husband, I married somebody who sadly replaced control for genuine love.  I could not stay and could not allow my kids to stay.

I stayed as long as I did, because divorce meant possible hell.  Divorce meant, that I may no longer qualify for Gods love.  By the time I left, I had felt way more comfortable with leaving.  I felt like if I stayed I was disobeying God just as much as if I divorced.  It was basically a lose lose situation, so I may as well lose, and save the lives of me and my kids in the process.  (This was my thought process).

AND THEN . . . I did something I never thought I would do.  I started dating someone who is not a believer.  And I still am.  I love him.  Now, I feel very unqualified to be loved by God.  Somedays, I want to run back to the safety of my rules.  If I could return to being the model Christian, then maybe, I will feel like I'm back in the fold.  I feel unqualified to write about Jesus, to have any form of leadership in the Christian world (and I probably shouldn't), or to be looked on with approval by God.   I, seriously, can't imagine what it feels like to be LGBTQ and to also want to follow Jesus.  Do they struggle with the same questions of feeling acceptable enough to be loved by God?  I hope not.

I was talking to a piano student at lessons this last week.  We were talking about how we both feel like we have two different lives. The perfect Christian life and the life that came after the CRAZY in our lives.  Probably a lot of you can relate. A lot of you have had some crazy in your lives.  My crazy has certainly messed with my faith.  Probably most people who have lived with a spouse or parent that appeared to be very Christiany on the outside, but was different behind closed doors, knows how much it messes with your faith.  Then when others in the church community support them and not you, it devastates your faith, as they call his actions holy and mine, not. (Not everyone in my church community did this, but some did).  In these cases, spiritual abuse IS at play. I have been fortunate to have had really important conversations with some of the leadership from my former church, but it hasn't undone what happened to my faith throughout my divorce.

While it surprises me that I would find myself loving someone who doesn't share my beliefs about Jesus, it also doesn't at the same time.  On our second date, I LITERALLY cried throughout half of it, because it had been a LONG time, since I felt safe with a guy.  (I, to this day, can't believe he went on a third date with me after that cry fest. I mean . . . it was not just a tear or two.)  I was safe to be completely be me.  I definitely knew he wouldn't be using the Bible to shame me or question me.  But really, it was just a feeling of safety and care.

But back to the question at hand.  Am I unqualified for God's love, because of this choice I am making.  Would I, all of the sudden, be qualified, if my sweet boyfriend gave his life to Jesus tonight???  Is God's love that finicky?  Is it based on what I do, or is it REALLY based on what he has done.  I can tell you, that ever since I got a divorce, I still can't keep my tears in whenever I think of Jesus.  I just can't. And it's been that way, ever since my tidy Christian persona came to a halt.  I have NEVER felt the depth of his love in such great measure, than when I feel so undeserving.  I've spent my first 43 years of life pretty much feeling like I was deserving of being in the IN crowd of Jesus.  I just can't believe that he sees me as pure, because of what HE has done.  How can it be?

I have one lovely, but difficult daughter, who is CONSTANTLY asking in a million different ways, a million times a day, if she is loved.  She has had an impossible life, with WAY more hurt than any child should have by age 11. It is so beyond frustrating and exhausting that she can NOT seem to wrap her arms around the idea that my love for her has ZERO to do with her behavior, accomplishments and failures.  How many times have I begged her to just believe that the ONLY requirement for my love is that she is my daughter?????  Why am I so confused by her distrust of my love when I have the same trouble believing that my behavior and my accomplishments have ZERO to do with how much my Father loves me, even though he has already shown me the depth of his love by dying for me?

It is a little crazy how I knew most answers to my faith when I was in my 20's and now, all I can say, is JESUS.  And then the tears come.  I know nothing . . . but Jesus.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Perfect Moments

I just went back and read my post from the beginning of the summer. It was called "Grief Interrupted." I talked about how marrying my ex and being in crazy town for a few years, short-cutted (I doubt that is a word) my grief process and I felt like I was back near the starting line.  I was quite the special MESS in June and the raining weather DID NOT HELP one tiny bit!  I was missing Dave . . . BIG TIME.  I was missing all that he would have added to our lives, if he were still here.  It was worthy of missing, no doubt about that!

At the beginning of the summer, when I would think of Dave, it was like I was right back near the beginning of my grief walk. It was like my whole body and mind departicalized and was transported back in time to feel the intensity of grief all over again. (Do I sound dramatic?)  One could say it was sweet that I still missed and loved Dave so much, but I DID NOT like it.  I felt like I had a long road ahead of me AGAIN!  With all sorts of grief feelings bearing down on me, I decided to ramp up my counseling schedule.  It paid off!  I don't know if you have ever tried EMDR as a form of therapy, but it sure does wonders for me!!!  The most basic way I describe it, is that is pulls the emotion out of the memory of something really painful.  You still remember the person or the incident, of course, but your body and brain and emotions, don't react to it, as if you were right back in the middle of it again.  Trauma is tricky biz, peeps! 

The first trip in the summer, was to the Sand Dunes.  I was hurting for Dave so hard, and couldn't pull myself together.  By the time I was driving to Oklahoma in July, I realized that I wasn't experiencing the same sense of loss and "I'm missing the magic of Dave," that I had on my first vacation of the summer.  The potential for the grief to pop back up was there, but I went on to more camping trips and a trip to Connecticut and my thoughts and emotions were in a much lighter place.  I'm not going to lie . . . it is no easy task logistically to prepare to camp with three kids and get on planes and get cars packed and get camping meals prepped, and all that other stuff, but that is simply an inconvenience, it's not some kind of deep heart issue.

So, starting at the beginning of July, I had so many "perfect moments."  I try so hard to taste and savor and capture the memory of those moments.  One place I experience many perfect moments is at my pool. Even though, sometimes, I miss Dave when I'm there, I had multiple "perfect moments," playing volleyball with the sun setting and my kids running around aimlessly, this summer.  One time, I even played for someone else's team and I didn't even know it.  I jumped on the court and announced, "I'm here."  I played the entire MATCH, thinking that we sure had a lot of subs that night and no one even bothered to tell me that I was playing on the wrong team, at the wrong time.  That is how gracious Valley volleyball players are!
So many beautiful sunsets from the pool.
Valleyball - Where the most important rule is to laugh a lot, while playing!
I love watching my kids swim.  Diving off the blocks is my favorite to watch.
I, also, love watching my kids form fun friendships!

I had perfect moments with friends, backpacking and camping. I had perfect moments just sitting on my deck.  I had perfect moments traveling to see my sister and her family. And last, but not least, it was a perfect moment when school started back up again.  I have a lot of fun with my kids, but I was ready to get back into a schedule.  I'm thankful for their love of school and for their teachers that love them so well!
Backpacking with friends!

I mean, this was beautiful!

Summer, camping, campfires, friends.  I love it!

I feel so thankful that I was able to experience these "perfect moments" without the shadow of grief on them. Had you asked me if that was possible at the beginning of the summer, I would have said, "NO WAY!"  I'm guessing that grief will circle back around, because that is just kinda what it does, but I always have to keep remembering that it will pass.  It's hard to remember that in the midst of it, but I'm learning.
Laughing is my favorite!