Right to Remain Silent…Or Option Two?

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My Mom always taught me the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Well, that was a VERY difficult lesson for me to learn apparently.  One that I guess I only half learned.  For those of you who know me well, you know that I have a “strong” personality (if you want to put it nicely).  I have zero qualms telling people how I feel.  If you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe, I will tell you.  I will be as discreet as possible, but I will tell you.  I won’t laugh at you.  I won’t tell everyone that I just saved you from public humiliation.  I will just tell you and move on.  That same honesty heads your way when you are in the wrong.  When you are being a jerk, I will let you know.  I have been so fortunate to have friends that do this for me in my life. I don’t know how people survive without honest friends who call each other on the carpet.  I think sometimes we convince ourselves that is what we are doing in our circles; when really we just have an entire circle of no one wanting to tell each other what we really think for fear of hurting each other’s feelings…but isn’t that what it takes sometimes to be real?  Don’t we need to get down and dirty before we can get to a better place?

I think of when I purged my closet recently.  I had to take everything out and my room was a COMPLETE DISASTER!!!  Then after I went through each item and decided whether to keep, trash, or donate…slowly but surely, not only was my room looking cleaner, but my closet was amazing and so organized.  I felt so clam walking into my closet and being able to see what I had accomplished.  All of the garbage was gone.  I didn’t see the bad stuff anymore, the clutter was gone.  I could actually move around and my mood didn’t get sour just falling over stuff in there.

Sounds kind of like the negativity and baggage in our relationships that we just sweep over thinking it will blow past but it never does…it just builds up until the relationship collapses and breaks.  Or we break.

This is me being R.E.A.L.

I am in the struggle of my life right now.  I am hanging on by a thread and I am trying so hard to be true to myself and not let this change me.  I am desperately trying to not let it change my kids.  Believe me, I know that we never really know what goes on behind closed doors, or in the lives of others…but I also know that most of the people we surround ourselves with have not known true heartache and strife.  Most of the teenagers and young adults my kids are friends with have no idea what true struggle and adversity means.  They will someday, and that will be life changing, but to claim that their characters have been built upon the adversity they have met thus far is insulting to those who have actually survived real challenges.

I’ll be honest, by the time I graduated, I thought my testimony couldn’t get any more real.  I thought I had one of the most difficult lives of any of my friends…which was probably true at that time.  And then I lost my mom at 20…suddenly, and with no warning.  At 21, I thought my story would never get worse…now, 20 years later, I have a sick child.  I can promise you, I pray there is nothing worse than that…but even so, I have 3 beautiful kids, a husband that adores me, an abundant life, lifelong friends, and blessings too many to count.  Although my testimony continues to surprise me, so does God by carrying me.  I have days that exhaust me.  Days that terrify me.  Days that I just can’t move forward.  Other days are wonderful and perfect.  Life is full of twists and turns…some are dark and twisty, some are exhilarating.

I guess my point to this story is this…sometimes it gets difficult to hear people speaking about overcoming adversity in their lives that seem pretty perfect from the outside.  Maybe they do have some unseen struggle.  Maybe they’re thinking the same thing about me….

The fact is, it’s ok to not be struggling.  It is ok to be ok.  I think in a world that is topsy-turvy, people think they must have some inner darkness in order to fit in.  Especially Chrstians…we think we have to have some dark and twisty road in order to have a great testimony.  That simply isn’t true.  I think sometimes people think they need the street cred in order to be taken more seriously as Christians.  Trust me, I’d trade my scars and road rash for one more day with my Mom.  I would trade my entire story, if my daughter could attend every birthday party her friends have; to feel “normal” and healthy.

Your testimony doesn’t give you character…your character gives you a testimony.

Your story will come.  Don’t live your life waiting for your story.  Your life is the story.  Go live it, and live it well.

Fighting a Battle with a Wrapping Paper Tube as a Sword

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the fight ahead of you, that you just sat and mentally ran down the scenario of fleeing?  Sometimes I get so buried, that all I can do is play out in my head the scenario of me running away to some fabulous location.  Fiji perhaps.  My problem is that sometimes I get so frustrated that I give voice to my plan and make the mistake of telling my family that I’m planning my escape.  I don’t want them to be surprised by my disappearance.  This is where things get dicey…my husband, and my kids always want to join my escape.  So fine, they can come too…and for sure I’m taking the dogs (all 3 Great Danes)…and we’ll need some of our favorite things, clothes, I need books, and snacks.  By the time I finish mentally gathering all of my necessary running away items, I decide it is probably easier if I just stay put.  This puts me back at square one…facing my life.

If I am going to face this, I’m going to need a good weapon.  It feels like the world is coming at me with swords, and I’m trying to fend them off with the tube left over from my Christmas wrap.  Reminds me of playing light saber wars with my brother when we were little.

For the most part, we deal with our daughter’s chronic illness quite well as a family.  Take for instance yesterday…I received a call from her school a few hours after the day had started, that they had flu cases in her class.  In an attempt to protect her from catching yet another bug, I went and picked her up for the day.  Sounds fun, right?!  Well, upon calling her doctor office, they inform me that now that she is on the mend from her last series of infections, she really needs to get her flu shot…pronto.  So, we head to the pharmacy since they have the vaccine in stock.  As we walk in, she announces to me that it’s a 4 needle day since she has her infusion later that night.  UGH!  We crack jokes, and I tease her about possible ways that I might embarrass her during her shot.  I tell her that I might scream when I get mine, or that I’ll tell the pharmacist that I just need a second to tie her up before she’ll sit still for her shot.  All of this to lighten the mood…she thought she was getting a nice day off with mom…no such luck!  The pharmacist finally comes over to give her the shot.  So I’m standing outside the partition when I notice the lady in a complete and utter panic.  I look over the wall, and blood is squirting down my daughter’s arm.  The pharmacist is doing everything in her power to stop the leak, but it is coming too fast, and too much.  She’s soaking cotton balls by the second.  My sweet girl is just sitting there trying to console the employee, even as her arm is swelling up, getting hot and red.  She downs a Benadryl and announces that it is now my turn.  My turn goes without a hitch.  Unfortunately all of the bad mojo was her luck today.   By the time we return home, all she can talk about is a nap.  She feels awful, but won’t say so.  She naps and then gets up to work on her Science project during her infusion.  Our fun bonus day off is a bust.

This morning she was back to school, ready to move on.  This is what she does, she fights even when it doesn’t seem like she’s fighting.  We crack jokes, and make up silly stories to give a gentle voice to some of the pain and fear.

These are her physical battles.  What about all of the birthday parties that she can’t attend for her friends because they are going bowling, or to a trampoline park, or to the movie theater?  Germs and infections lurking in every dark crevice.  Too risky.   What about all of the parties and events that she just doesn’t get invited to anymore?  How do I help her fight those battles?  The emotional attacks that she really can’t help.  What about the school that she has attended since Pre-K, that now isn’t sure they are the right place for her next year?  How do I explain that rejection to her?  She has a disease that is completely beyond her control.  Hiding behind faceless committees, they might decide that the place she has enjoyed learning for 7 years, might be better off without her there. She tries so hard to make up for it in other ways.  How could anyone, in good conscience, turn their back on her?  Does anyone ever consider her spirit in this battle?  How much can one little girl face before it is just too much?

If you don’t know her, you are really missing out on something special.  Even with the possibility of not being invited back to her school next year, she searches for a silver lining.  She refuses to be beaten by this battle.  I, on the other hand am completely heartbroken by the betrayal.  She has determined that other kids have been home schooled in middle school and then come back to even more friends in later years.  This girl leaves a wake of smiles everywhere she goes.  Her sweet heart, and spirit for others, is contagious.  She will make the most of whatever life throws at her.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.  Kind of like her needles…she tells her siblings that just because she is used to the pain, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel it, and that it doesn’t still hurt.  She feels pain, she just doesn’t give it power.

I have no idea what path her life will take, but I don’t really have to know…I just have to remember that God loves her even more than I do, if one can imagine that vast amount.  He has a plan for her story, despite some of the unspeakable trials along the way.  I might only have a cardboard tube in my hands, but I have a mighty warrior on my side.  She can rest in knowing that her battles will never be fought alone.

We all have our own struggles.  Take a lesson from a child, stand tall and face them bravely with a smile and a joke.  Laughter is great medicine…never lose your sense of humor.  Take some swings with your wrapping paper tube, but remember that is not your only weapon.

Raising My Tribe

As a parent, I struggle with remembering that my kids are real people.  I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is that they are their own people.  They have their own thoughts, beliefs, and dreams.  We invest so much over the years, trying to raise these little creatures into the kind of people we can stand to be around.  We literally spend years of our lives trying to influence and control every decision and every outcome.  We spend countless moments counseling and explaining, lecturing and reassuring, praising and guiding their every move.  All of this in the hopes that someday, they will become the people we want them to be.

These past few years, as my kids have begun the real  transition into adulthood, I am realizing that they need to be their own people.  God has a plan for their lives; it really isn’t up to me how they will turn out.  I can do my best to impart wisdom and values, but in the end, how they turn out is really up to them.  I can’t make every decision for them, nor do I really want to forever.  I want them to grow into their skin, and make decisions that they can live with.  I want them to find their voice, and learn to use it.

I want so much for these kids, I sometimes try to force the outcome that I think is best.  I put my stamp on their thoughts, trying to make them think as I do.  Yes, it is my job to teach them well, and raise them to know where to find the truth they seek.  It has never been my job to make them into me.  In reality, I wouldn’t want them to be.  I’m far from perfect, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes.  I actually want better for my kids…I want them to have an easier road to walk.  Sometimes I get caught in the trap of trying to remove every stumbling block, pothole, or diversion from their path.  That is not my job, and I’m so glad that it isn’t because I really don’t think that is possible…or wise.  Keeping my kids from making their own decisions because they might make a bad one, isn’t teaching them anything.  The reality is that they will make bad decisions, they will make choices that I didn’t even consider, they will fall; it’s my job to help them up, dust them off, and set them back on the road.  I can, and should, help them learn from the choices they make.  I should point them in the direction of truth.  I should give them advice from an open heart.  I should not try to keep them from growing into their britches though.

I guess this is just one more step in the letting go process.  I’m learning to bite my tongue, bide my time, and avoid verbiage that sounds like “I told you so”.  They need to know that it is okay to fail.  I’m still going to love them, they’ll always have a safe place to learn from their mistakes.  I need them to be confident enough to try.  I need them to be willing to fail.  I need them to trust themselves in difficult situations.  I need them to trust themselves, period.  How can they ever get to that point if I don’t trust them?  If I have done my job correctly, they will be well equipped to handle themselves appropriately.

Let’s say they do fall every now and again…why do we as parents, feel like their poor decisions are a direct reflection on us?  Raising capable adults, means allowing them their own freedom of choice.  Sometimes their choices will line up with what they have been taught; sometimes they will go completely rogue and make a choice that seemingly forgets everything we ever taught them.  This makes them young and maturing; this doesn’t make us bad parents.  I have to stop wearing them as badges of honor.  Their accomplishments are theirs, their poor decisions are theirs…they are their own people, good or bad.  My job is to love them regardless, and to help them when they need guidance.

I cringe when someone says that a parent should’ve taught their kid better than that.  Most of us do, but that doesn’t mean that they always listen or agree with our teaching.  In the end, the decision will be theirs to make.  All we can do is teach them well and pray!  We can pray that our words found the way into their hearts.  We can pray that they will choose right over wrong.  We can pray wisdom over them.  We cannot take the fall for their mistakes though.  We cannot blame ourselves when our kids don’t think just like us.

So, I’m learning how to step back.  I’m learning how to just listen to my kids.  I can’t shoulder the weight of everyone’s decisions.  As they grow, they should be able to carry their own weight.  This doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t ache when they are faced with difficult choices.  I still feel their pain, sorrow, stress, and anguish…after all, I am still their mom;  their #1 fan.  I feel every step, and every misstep.  I’m learning to just love them through these times though; not try to shield them from everything.  I’m trying not to clean up every mess just to save face as a parent.

Maybe you struggle with this whole letting go thing too.  I certainly hope that I’m not alone in this process.  For some reason, I don’t think that I am.  Love your kids and hold on…sometimes being a good parent is a bumpy ride; but it is so worth it.

Laughing In The Storm

To say that the past few months have been stressful would be a humorous understatement.  I mean there is stress, and then there is STRESS.  I think we all know the difference.  We all have stressful days, or moments of anxiety to work through in our daily lives.  But then there are those times when the stress seems crushing, like the world is just trying to kick you when you’re down.  That is where I have been the past few weeks.

Being the primary caretaker of a chronically ill child just sounds stressful.  Maybe that’s why I try to avoid checking that box on my job description.  I do it, but I have to do it without paying it much thought.  If I focused on that aspect of my job, I do think I would struggle to find the joy.  Rather, I am just a mom who loves her kids…all of them.  I do my best to take care of them individually, and all that that entails. Obviously, sometimes one child will need me more, or in ways the others might not.

My daughter has been fighting this last infection since October.  That virus that you called your pediatrician about, just took her out for 7 weeks.  Yeah, try explaining to people how your child is still sick with a “sinus infection” for almost two months.  If you thought that sounds crazy, then your reaction is pretty spot on.  I have been asked if I am giving her anything for it.  I have been asked if she is still sick.  And then there are the looks that people give me…the ones that make me feel like I better keep talking and explain it all away.  People can’t be understanding about things they don’t understand.  I feel like it is my job to make them understand.

Here is the thing though…I decided a long time ago that we were happy.  We are a happy family.  Being together is what makes everything OK.  We actually don’t sit around being sad about her illness.  Most days, that fact just lives in the background.  She takes her medicines morning and night (sometimes in between when she is sick), and then goes about living her life.  Even when she is home sick, we try to focus on other things rather than dwelling on how bad she feels.

A huge ingredient in our recipe of happiness, is noticing things to be thankful for.  Sometimes these are huge blessings, and other times they are little things that just make life easier or better.  Trust me, there are plenty of days that I have to consciously look for things to be thankful for.  When we are heading to see yet another specialist, and traffic is stopped, and everyone is a little nervous…we are still thankful for good insurance and a car.  I am thankful that if my daughter has to go through this, at least we are blessed with my ability to stay home and take care of her.  I honestly don’t know how working moms deal with sick kiddos.  We are blessed that on the days of major appointments, my husband has the flexibility to leave work and come with us.  I am so thankful for our family.  I really do think it is a rare treasure.

There are days when I wish that I could just build a cocoon around myself and hide.  When I’m asking her ten times to take her meds, when the dishes are a mile high, when we aren’t getting any answers…hiding and quitting seem like great alternatives.  I get trapped in this alternate universe where nothing can exist outside my walls.  I’m so consumed with trying to get her healthy, stay on top of some semblance of order in my home, not to mention the renovation project we are in the middle of on an investment property; that I just can’t give the real world a thought.  I almost seem surprised in these moments that the calendar keeps moving.  Events and responsibilities just keep coming whether or not we are in a good place to deal with them.  Deadlines are real.  It’s learning to find the joy, even in these moments of extreme stress, that bind us and propel us forward.  I could sulk, I seem to remember being pretty good at it as a kid; but then, where is the joy in that?  Moving past those moments and getting back to the good stuff…knowing there is still good stuff, is the important thing.

God never promised clear skies, but He did promise to walk with us in the storm.  There is no avoiding the rain, it is coming whether you’re ready or not.  Maybe it is just me, but I feel like every storm loses some power when it gets filtered through joy.  My daughter and I have made each other laugh in some of the most stressful situations, because we needed to practice joy.  Doctors and nurses have come into her room and expected to see a morose child feeling sorry for herself, and were surprised to find her in good spirits.  She is truly an example to others about having joy versus happiness.  One’s happiness is dependent on outside factors, and can change depending on circumstances.  Joy is a choice, one has to choose to be joyful.  Not always an easy assignment, but worth it every time.  I’ve never thought that I wasted time being happy or laughing; however, I have thought back over time wasted being sad or low.

So, the next time that you are planning your escape into hibernation, remember to look for things in every situation that you can be thankful for instead.  Don’t focus on the storm, have fun jumping in the puddles.  Maybe it is a really bad storm, then you just hold on tight and wait for the amazing rainbow that was promised.  It is in the knowing that the storm will pass, and the sun will shine again, that we have the power to overcome.  Don’t be a storm chaser, just waiting for the next big one to hit.  Let the sun shine brightly on the good days.  If you just can’t see anything in your storm, reach out… you are never alone.

Be thankful and find your joy.  Live so that others can see that you are joyful even in the rain.  I know that I have difficult days, but I genuinely hope and pray that everyone can see joy in my heart.  I’ll keep working on it…

Keeper of the Holidays

When I was little, there were certain holidays that my mom got super excited about, and holidays that my dad enjoyed.  My Dad enjoyed his Griswoldesque Christmas Light decorations, always trying to create something that would stop traffic in the neighborhood.  Like the year he creates a Christmas Tree of lights taller than our house.  My Mom loved Easter, surprising us with Easter baskets way past what was considered age appropriate.  She even drove to college and put one on my doorstep Freshman year.

Growing up, we had a lot of family holiday traditions that just quietly existed.  They weren’t big productions, or recognized as family traditions that had to be upheld…they just were, year after year, because we cherished them as a family.  The hanging of ornaments, my mom’s homemade hot cocoa in a huge glass jar on the kitchen counter, family Thanksgivings, Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Family pranks, HUGE stockings… I could go on and on.

So what happens, when the family falls apart?  I was in High School when my parents divorced.  I tried living with each parent at different times.  Both situations were difficult for different reasons.  Neither was my family as I knew it.  I had to learn how to live in a new family.  I didn’t want a new family.  I didn’t want new traditions.  I was just a mad teenager.

My Mom and I tried to keep things the same at first, but that was too painful.  The truth was that nothing was the same, and was never going to be the same again.  We needed new traditions.  My Mom was just too sad to celebrate anything, so holidays became this thing of darkness for her.  I am so thankful that this changed before she died.  We had several years, making new traditions with just the two of us before she died.  It did take time though, she had to mourn the loss of her marriage and heal first before she was ready to make new memories.  When she came around though, she dove back in full heartedly.  She loved every holiday!

My Dad remarried, which created an entirely different dynamic.  We had to incorporate someone else’s traditions, as well as, make new traditions together.  That took time in our relationship as well.  There was also distance, and time sharing with my mom to take into consideration.  My Stepmother has kids also, so her family had to be considered…

Divorce, death, distance, blended family, marriage, adoption,  school…when any of these outside factors start impacting holiday plans and traditions, it is stressful.  Sometimes, it is painful and confusing.  Give yourself room to breathe, give each other room to grieve, give the pain somewhere to go, and give the holidays room to evolve.  Change isn’t necessarily bad.  Traditions can get better.  The more, the merrier!

Some of my favorite things in life now, are the traditions that I have created for my family as an adult.  When I had my own kids, I knew that I wanted to give them traditions and memories that were solid and unshakable.  I might have gone overboard, as now they joke about how many traditions we have.  Secretly, I think they are proud of it though, because I know how envious their friends are of that family life.  They have the house that they invite friends over to share in their traditions; to share in something special.  I enjoy knowing my kid’s friends, and they are always welcome in our home.   My prayer for the future, is that each friend we have shared a memory with, will take that feeling and remember it so fondly that they want to share it with their kids someday.  I hope it inspires them to start traditions like it with their own kids someday; and share with their children’s friends.

So, if this Holiday season finds you struggling in a similar situation, unsure in a new life, I encourage you to find new traditions.  It won’t be easy, but it can be fun if you let it be.  It can be interesting, if you let it be.  It can also be encouraging to someone else, if you let it be.  Be open to new possibilities, and open your eyes to those around you who might also be hurting this season.  If all else fails, there is always a tradition waiting for you at my house.

Happy Holidays!

Selfie Sabotage

I have been trying to write this blog for quite some time now, and just haven’t been able to find the right words.  I’m just going to go for it, and hope that it lands on it’s feet with the right understanding and kind intentions with which it was written.

My heart aches every single day that I am on social media and see girls posting selfies of themselves in provocative positions with captions that are obviously begging for attention.  Ladies, I know some of you are lonely.  I have been there and I know it hurts.  I know how it feels to just crave that one compliment…to think that if you hear someone tell you something nice about yourself, you can survive today.  The problem with that, is it doesn’t last.  You need more compliments, from more people.  Just like any other craving, it becomes addicting.  One compliment feels nice, but one hundred feels amazing.  Before you know it, your entire value comes from what other faceless people have to say about you.

I was young and single when that stupid website, “Hot or Not”, first came out.  What a brilliant idea this was for society.  I’m so proud to share that I was right there to put my face online.  I couldn’t wait to be told by a myriad of guys, whether or not, they thought I was “Hot”.  This stupid website polled thousands of internet men, based solely on your picture, and gave you a percentage of hotness 1-10%.  I was instantly hooked.  I lived and breathed this website.  I checked my “hotness” CONSTANTLY, and was devastated if I dropped a fraction of a percent.  I would dig through every guy to see how they had rated me.  I needed to see if it was a cute guy that rated me poorly.  I needed to see how much I valued his opinion of me.  The problem was, I always valued their opinion on some level because I was giving it my time and attention.  I was letting it affect how I felt about myself, and how I valued myself.  I had no opinion of myself outside of that website and those guys.  That spilled over into my dating life.  I started treating guys very bad because I felt like I was better than some of them, but less than others.  I had this whole ranking system going on in my head.  It was the “Hot or Not” of the real dating world in my life.  It was a sickness.  It was just sad.  My friends were getting so tired of my issues.

“Hot or Not” may not exist anymore (thank God), but that mentality is still alive and well with social media and selfies.  Girls posting these selfies, and guys reacting to them online, are creating the very same situations.  I see myself in these girls, and I worry about them.  It isn’t the kind of attention that you deserve.  If you had ever had the right kind of attention, you would know the difference, and that is what makes me sad.  Now that I have my wonderful husband, I can recognize what a fool I was being, and how foolish I looked.  I’m embarrassed of how I acted.  I’m embarrassed that friends tried to help me stop, and I didn’t listen.  I couldn’t see it at the time.  I thought I looked beautiful, the guys were telling me exactly what I wanted to hear, and they convinced me that my friends were just jealous.  Super embarrassing now.  Guaranteed my friends were NOT jealous of my stupid behavior.  I fear some of you may be caught in a similar trap.

Girls, we have to stop giving guys everything they want, just because they ask for it.  Stop making fools of ourselves just to get their attention.  Stop bending over backwards because they might not stay.  Girls, we are stronger, smarter, and better than that!  If you are talking to a guy, and all of his profile friends are women who take a million selfies…he might not be boyfriend material.  If a guy is asking you to send him inappropriate pictures, he is a scumbag.  If a guy is comfortable commenting on your body, before he has even met you, he is going to hurt you in one way or another.  No gentleman ever started a good relationship with a lady by commenting on her body parts.  Beware of the booty call.  Guys who just want to “hang out”, but never take you out on a date; are not worth your time.   Justify it however you want, but my point will still be valid.  You will never be anything more to him than a piece of property, or a conquest, as long as you let him treat you as such.

If you are a gentleman reading this blog, you are not innocent; if you have female friends that post selfies and you like them.  Stop liking their pics, stop encouraging them to put themselves out there in ways that you know your male cohorts use inappropriately.  You know as well as I do, that men aren’t seeing them as ladies, but as pieces of meat.  Be a real friend and tell them the truth about how guys think of girls who post pics like that.  Are those the girls that they ever really want long term?  Are those the girls that they want to treat nice, marry, make their queen?  No, they treat them like a mistress.  They treat them like the fantasy that the girl is portraying herself to be.  And tell your guy friends to man up and stop treating girls like garbage.  If you know guys who are using these girls, tell them to stop buying into it.  If guys didn’t give the girls attention, girls wouldn’t put it out there.  It is a vicious cycle that has to be broken on all sides.

Ladies, you have the power to make the change.  Stop taking cleavage shots of yourself on your bed.  Stop posting bikini pics in your bedroom.  Stop posting pics of yourself  with your phone angled down your shirt.  Stop taking selfies of you in your nighties, bras, or in suggestive poses.  Stop posting provocative quotes and jokes trying to constantly associate yourself with sex.  There is nothing sexy about being lewd.  Stop making everything about guys.  Focus on yourself and what makes you happy.   Let your smile with friends be what attracts him.  Take a picture of yourself doing an activity that you enjoy.

Marilyn Monroe was a little mysterious.  I don’t think anyone would argue her sexiness.  There is a difference between exuding sexiness and screaming sexiness.  Please, stop screaming it all over social media.  It gives all females a bad name when it screams of desperation.  The attention will come when you least expect it.  I know it did for me.  I took my face off all of those sites, I purged myself of my  addiction.  I had decided to just let it all go.  Then he found me…when I least expected it.  When I wasn’t looking, when I didn’t really want it.  Even when I didn’t really feel pretty.  He saw me right away.  He wasn’t my usual type; but turns out, he was my perfect one.  Stop trying so hard.  Stop craving the constant attention from the wrong sources.  Find your own worth.  Your true value can’t come from another human being, we are imperfect.  we will always fail.  People will always let you down and hurt you.  Don’t put your value in people.  I love my husband, but he doesn’t define my value and worth.  Learn to love yourself.  Remember that you were created by a God who loves you more than we can ever understand.  Strangers will never be able to tell you what you are worth.

I challenge you to go look at your social media pics and clean up your images.  Take down any pics that don’t represent the person you want the world to see.  Who do you really want to be?  Not the person who craves the attention, but the real you.  Be authentic, that is what is truly attractive.  Trust that you are enough.  I promise you are.

A Letter to My Chickens…

Dear Chickens,

How can I begin?  How can you ever really explain to another Human Being how much they mean to you?  Most especially, how can I ever make you understand the depth of my love for you, until you have children of your own?

Losing my own mom when I was only 20 years old, I felt so cheated…it seemed like there was so much left to say, so much left to learn, so many milestones left to reach.  Now I would have to do all of those things without my mom.

At times, I have definitely felt that pressure and anxiety in my own mothering of y’all.  I only have a brief window in which to pack as much as possible.  In those 18 short years, wisdom has to be shared, comfort has to be stored up, and moments have to cherished.  It is such a delicate balance though, because if I close my eyes to cherish one milestone for a second too long, I might miss another.  You grow up so fast, and whether or not you agree; 18 years is but a moment.

How can I possibly make sure that I am getting it all in?  Have we made you wise, and not just smart?  Have we given you the tools you need to go into the world and make wise choices?  Thriving under my wing is easy…expected even, but can you fly?  We have this discussion often when you get into the comparison game about what you think those around you are accomplishing.  Some parents, pave a path of least resistance that makes failure impossible.  The runway is perfectly smooth, your friends might look like they are gliding along; it doesn’t mean they can fly at the end of the day.  If all you do is spend time preparing the runway, and never spend time on the actual flying lessons; you still just have a nice runway and a flightless bird.  I don’t want that for you.  I want you to have the deep potholes, the black ice, and the short runway to practice on.  I want you to freak out, and have to call “MAYDAY”, or whatever a bird would yell if they were in trouble.  I’m not really sure what goes through that little bird’s mind as they are spiraling toward the ground, when they think their mama might not rescue them.   Probably the same thing that goes through your mind’s sometimes.  In the end, you know that I always will scoop you up…and recently, that has probably been more than I should.  I think every mom is guilty of some runway paving from time to time (or at least putting up a few detour signs).

It is the worst kind of pain to watch your baby hurt; especially when you can see the pain coming and you can’t do anything to stop it.  So basically, the teen years.  I could try to sit here and wax poetic about how beautiful these moments are…helping you navigate these treacherous waters of self-discovery, BUT let’s not lie to each other.  This is hell, on everyone!  I’m not saying it has all been bad, obviously.  There are absolutely Pinterest Perfect moments now and then.  There are also You Tube Epic Fail worthy moments… I sometimes wish that I could bear to be a head-in-the-sand mom, so that I could miss some of the epic fail moments; but that would mean I would also risk missing some of the best moments too.  Through pain we learn some of life’s hardest lessons.  If I shield you from the pain, I also cheat you out of lessons that we all need to learn eventually.

Don’t ever mistake my lack of intervention for a lack of caring; it is actually because I care so much that I don’t interfere sometimes.  Other times, I will teach you how to fight.  You are still young, and you need to learn when and how to wield your powerful voice.  There is also great power in peace.  Learn how to make peace with others, and you can control situations that seemed utterly doomed.  Most importantly, you need to know when to fight and when to make peace.  There is a need to know both.

The world is waiting for you.  The world needs you to be ready.  If you aren’t ready for the world, the world will eat you up.  It is my job to make sure you are ready.  This reality haunts me daily; sometimes over the most mundane realities, like sorting laundry, or using an ATM machine.  Have I prepared you to face anything?  Have I exposed you to enough real life circumstances, that you will be able to roll with actual punches in your life?  Can you deal?  Can you survive on your own when you are pushed out of the nest?  Can you fly?  Sometimes you’ll do something spontaneously awesome, and I beam with pride because I know you are so ready for the next step.  Other days, you call me from the grocery store because you can’t find something.  We keep doing this one step forward, two steps back dance to adulting.

The crazy thing is that I’m positive my mom had these same exact thoughts about me at various stages…I just pray that you don’t put me through anything close to what I chose for myself.  Learn from my missteps.  If you never hear another word, hear me now; being smart is not the same as being wise.  Don’t try to ignore the voice of discernment.  Most importantly, always remember that we are your safe place, we are your soft place, we are your home.  There is absolutely nothing you could ever do that could change how much we love you.  We are proud of you.  We are proud of who you are as people; just because of who you are.  We like what you; most of the time.  We think you are remarkable human beings, but that isn’t why we are proud.  Our family wouldn’t be our family without each and every one of you; being just exactly who you are.  Always stay true to who you are.  If you forget who that is, ask us and we will remind you.

I want you all to grow into the people you need to be in this big, crazy world.  I also want you to know, that I will never let you fall, and not be there to help you get back up.  I am always here to support you, as long as you want (and probably longer), and to love you through all of the ups and downs that will come your way.  I will love you, and support you; but I will not carry you.  I just want you to stand tall, and grow into your own person.  Trust God’s path for your life, and trust yourself to walk it.  If ever you are not strong enough to walk alone, you have a mighty God and a loving family walking with you every step of the way.  You are never alone in this big scary world; but you do have to walk on your own two feet, we won’t be carrying you or pushing you.  You are strong enough and brave enough to do anything you put your mind to; so go do it.

Always remember who you are, and return with honor.  I love you more than anything.

Love,

Mama

XOXO

No Mistakes…Just Happy Accidents

A terrified, lost girl, made an impulsive and rash decision.  A decision that would completely change the course of her life.  Friends and family called her stubborn and silly…confused and bullheaded.  Maybe I am stubborn, maybe I am bullheaded, but looking back on my life today, I wouldn’t change a thing.

You hear people say all the time, their struggles have made them into the people they are today.  I can promise you, my scars are my story.  My kids are my story.  My family is my story.  Nothing would be the same,  had I not made the choice that day to pack up all of my belongings into a U Haul trailer behind my Chrysler Sebring. I moved by myself to St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had nothing waiting for me there…just some empty promises from some people I hardly knew.  My friends and family were right, I was too stubborn to turn around and go home.  I couldn’t admit that I had made a mistake.  I felt like I had no life in Texas anymore.  I guess that isn’t completely accurate…I didn’t want the life I had in Texas anymore.  I didn’t want to know that girl anymore.  I just wanted to escape.  So I ran.  I ran to a place where no one knew me.  No one knew my mom.  No one knew my past.  No one knew anything about me or my family.  I could start over.  I could be anyone.  Or I could be no one.  No one expected anything of me.  No one cared if I did nothing, became nothing.  No one cared if I didn’t show up.  Or if I disappeared.  No one cared if I didn’t go to church.  No one cared if I looked sad.  They didn’t know me well enough to realize that I seemed to be having an off day.  It was wonderful, for about a month.  Then the reality of the situation set in.  I was alone.  I truly was invisible.  I thought that was what I wanted, until I was.  Then all I wanted was to be seen again.

Loneliness does strange things to a person.  Loneliness can make a person completely forget who they are, who they want to be, or where they come from.  Loneliness can breed desperation…and desperation is never pretty.  Never.  I had never felt as ugly as I did in those first months I lived in Minnesota.  So how does a young girl, lonely, desperate, and feeling ugly get over her loneliness?  Probably in all of the worst ways…I know this young girl went looking for the wrong kinds of attention, in all of the wrong kinds of places, in the most embarrassing ways.  I sought attention from everyone, at all times…I’m so humiliated even remembering those times now.  Yes, I was young; but I think it was more about my extreme unhappiness with myself than my age.  I craved that attention because somehow I felt like that would fill the void.  I was miserable.  I just wanted something, or someone to make me feel better.  I wanted someone to like me enough for both of us.

The trouble with desperation, is that animals and losers can smell it like fear.  When you are desperate, that is all you attract; animals and losers.  I became a magnet for losers.  I began to think that was all I deserved.  I started to think that these were the only guys attracted to me.  I never paused to consider the vibe I was giving off, or to look at my behavior.  I never reflected on my part in the equation.  I just let these guys slowly peck away at my self worth and eat away at everything I had ever stood for.  I was becoming someone I didn’t even recognize anymore.

During this time, I am hearing my inner voice trying to guide me…feeling the Holy Spirit tug on my heart strings; but I’m fighting it.  I continue choosing my own way.  I guess I like the difficult road.  One night, I break.  I just can’t do this anymore.  I can’t be this person anymore.  I miss the old me.  I want to know her again.  I want to be someone that my mom would recognize.  I want to be someone that I would recognize.  I want to be someone that my mom would be proud of.  I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror again.  I want to know the girl that I see in the mirror; right now, this shell of a person just scares me.  I decided that the time was now or never to make some serious changes in my life.  I packed my car, and drove to Michigan to visit my Dad for a few days.  I hadn’t seen him in quite a while at this point.  I even toured the local college, considering going back to school.  I just knew that I needed to get back on track.  I had no idea where to even begin.  I was so lost, that I didn’t even know which way was up.

I went back to Minnesota, deciding that running away again was not the answer.  I found an apartment, got a good job, and was somewhat settled.  Life was alright.  Minnesota was not Texas though.  Think about it…no one sings about the North.  Every good song is longing for something Southern.  Southern charm, Southern nights, lightening bugs, creeks, magnolias, cicadas, sweet tea and blue bonnets are what the South is all about.  People sing about the South for a reason, it’s worth singing about.  I was so homesick, but I didn’t feel like there was still a place for me in Texas.  My family had all scattered.  My friends lives had all changed dramatically in the years since I had left.  Some were married, some were still away at college, some had moved away…everyone’s lives had changed.

Eventually, life in Minnesota became my life, and I made some amazing friends. Friends that shaped and changed my life forever.  These friends were with me during some of the biggest times of my life.  They laughed and cried with me, they experienced every up and down that life dealt me.  These are people that, to this day, still hold special places in my life.

A silly, spur of the moment decision to move 945 miles across the country, changed the map of my life.  The direction my life would have gone, had I stayed here in Texas…who can say…

I do know that moving to Minnesota, brought me to my husband and gave me my kids.  I most certainly would not have the family I do today had I not moved to Minnesota.  You might have a different opinion about how God moves, or destiny, or whatever…but I know, that in my experience, I needed to be in Minnesota.

When the timing was right, God opened the door for us to move back to Texas.  He brought me home.  When the timing was right, my friends were here, their lives lining up with mine once again, we picked up right where we had left off.  When the timing was right, my family returned to Texas also.

Funny how life has a way of twisting and turning.  Sometimes I feel like the story of my life is like watching a balloon artist… you can’t figure out what they are doing, you can’t see how it is ever going to turn into anything, you seriously begin to doubt their credentials as an “artist”, then they pop a balloon seemingly on purpose, they just keep twisting and turning…and then out of nowhere, suddenly before your eyes, there is a majestic balloon creature, plain as day.  Every twist and turn suddenly seems so obvious, once you know what the creature was meant to be.  The road getting there might not have made sense to you, it might have seemed rather roundabout and senseless at times, but the end result is no less wonderful.  My life now, my family, my story is that balloon animal.  You don’t have to understand how I got here, you just have to know that I made it.  Sure, I popped a few balloons along the way, and I’m still fragile; but there is no question that it took an artist to make me and form me into what you see today.  Scars and all.

I believe that God used my unbelievably misguided decision making for His good.   I believe that in my life, to quote Bob Ross “there have been no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

Choking on Fear

A sweet, dear friend just gave us a book to read about a young girl’s life mission in Africa.  This girl felt called to Africa right out of High School, and has lived there with her 14 adopted children ever since.  This book was a gift to cheer up my sweet girl after 3 days spent in the hospital; undergoing tests and procedures that were rather unpleasant.

In the past, when she hasn’t had the strength or energy to read a book on her own, we have taken turns reading the book aloud to each other.  These books have become some of our favorites; whether or not they have been the best books ever written is a mystery, but they remain our favorites still, because of the way we read them.  This will be one of those books.  First, how we acquired the book, and then, reading it to each other.  All of this to say, that we were having a special moment, reading a special book.

My son went on a mission trip to Uganda last year, so the descriptions in this book were all lining up with stories he had brought home to us.  We could imagine the children’s faces in the book from his pictures he had taken on his mission trip. I kept thinking that my son had basically gone on the same trip as the girl in this book.  How cool is that?

When my son had returned from his mission trip, he told me that one of the thoughts that hung heavy on his heart while he was in Africa, was about his sister.  He wondered if she would ever be able to take a mission trip like he and all of their classmates do each year.  Will her Primary Immunodeficiency keep her from going on the trips that her heart so desires?  He has been to Guatemala and Africa, and this year he is going to Prague.  He just prays about the trips offered and picks whatever trip he feels called toward.  Since her body lacks the ability to build antibodies to infections, she gets sick from just about any bacteria, virus, and foreign pathogen.  Going away on missions to a third world country, while being totally selfless, is a rite of passage in our school.  Unfortunately, it won’t be like that for her…there will always be fear.

Will she ever be able to go on a mission trip, like me?

So as we are reading this book, with this girl’s amazing testimony, I bury my fears.  As she speaks about a country riddled with disease, swarming with insects that carry disease, and covered in other possible dangers, I bury my fears.  I picture my son there serving among these joyful people, and my heart swells with pride, and thankfulness that he came home unharmed.  Then it happens…my daughter says she wants to do something to help.  She wants to help these people, she wants to serve them too.  I tell her that she can find an organization to give to, or she can start one of her own.  Then I quickly start reading again; I start reading again about the young girl who risked it all to go and do something.  I make it maybe another chapter…another chapter about kissing fungus covered heads, and open sores, HIV, and malaria.  I read another chapter before she says that she wants to go to Africa.  Doesn’t she realize?  Doesn’t she know?  She can’t kiss fungus covered heads, or doctor open infected wounds, or get stung by infected bugs…she can’t get cuts and scrapes in a dirty country.  She can’t get cuts and scrapes in our country.

I can never say these things though.  I can never let my own fears or understanding of her disease limit how she lives her life.  If I did, she wouldn’t be living her life.  So, I just gulp and try to keep breathing.  I would find a way to make it safe for her, if that was what she really felt called to do.  God would either pave the way, or slam the door.  In the meantime, I will bury my fears, and tell her that she can go to Africa, someday, if that is what she needs to do.  She faces limits every day because of her illness, I don’t need to be there to remind her of things that she might not be able to do in the future.  The future isn’t here yet.  Science is doing newer and better things all the time.  I still pray for a cure to this disease; by the time she is old enough to go to Africa.  If not, I won’t be the one telling her she can’t go.  I will be the one helping her figure out how she can go safely… all the while choking on my own fears.

If she isn’t afraid, it isn’t my job to make her more afraid…maybe sometimes, it is her job to make me a little less afraid.

Amazing Grace

Grace.  Such a beautiful word, and such a beautiful concept.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.  Yeah, I remember growing up singing those words, hearing those words, even thinking that I understood those words.  Even when I lost my mom, I remember attributing my peace and calm to God’s grace.  That was the canned response that I had heard so oft repeated by those hurt and grieving in church.  That was the proper lingo.  Rest in God’s grace.  Oh my goodness how I felt like a failure when the numbness (aka peace and calm) wore off and I actually felt the raw pain of losing my mom suddenly at the age of 20.  I felt a lot of things, but God’s grace wasn’t on the list right away.  There is a distinct difference between feeling God’s love, and having God’s grace.  Grace is what saved me and allowed me to come crawling back to my savior even after I had run, kicking and screaming in every direction, to get as far away from Him as possible.  Grace is what told me that He would still be right where I left Him, with arms open wide, waiting to receive me.  Despite my fall, despite my decisions, He was still there.

I often see young people, that remind me of myself at their age.  While I would NEVER in a million years wish anything like what I have experienced upon them; I do often wonder how deep their understanding of grace goes.  Have they ever truly experienced grace, as I hadn’t at their age?  Are they singing about something that they only think they understand?  We never really know the depth of another’s story, but I often watch people during praise and worship.  I find myself feeling the words, and wondering if those around me feel them too.  Like when we sing Amazing Grace, I am touched by those words because I was set free.  When we sing about healing, all I can do is call out to the great physician on behalf of my daughter.  There are so many twists and turns in my life that I think, if only others knew my whole story…Other times, I’m grateful that they don’t.

Sometimes, I think about my testimony and how complicated it is from the very beginning.  I wonder if God ordained my life to work this intricately, or if I just really complicated things this much; and He just had to figure out a way to use my foibles for His glory.  My life now is so beautiful, that I find it hard to believe that God could have had anything else planned for me.  Perhaps He had a little more direct route to get here though.  A few less potholes and pitfalls might have been nice.  The truth is, the times when my life was the absolute darkest, were the times when I was fighting that voice of the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart; the voice that told me He had something far better for me, if only I would listen and follow.  My own selfish desires, and guilt made me bury that voice deeper and deeper under my own plans for my life.  The here and now took precedence over what would be better for me down the road.  I hated even looking into the future because I hated looking at my life and the choices I was making.  I didn’t like thinking about consequences or the repercussions of my decisions.  I was hurting myself and the people who cared most about me.  To say that I was on a downward spiral was an understatement.

I was so isolated in my pain, that I wouldn’t even hug people or let people hug me.  I would cover my face and look away to avoid eye contact that was sure to make me cry.  I just wanted to disconnect from my feelings; feelings that made me look at the person I once was.  I’ll never forget the first step that brought me back.  My first saving grace.  I met a girl who would change my life forever.  We were 21, a bunch of friends heading to a birthday party for a guy I had never met.  I was still new to the area, so I had never met most of these people.  Our mutual friend introduced us, and off we went.  In the car, she was playing a song that she was going to sing in church on Sunday…I had sang that same song for my youth group years before.  We were both stunned that anyone else even knew the song.  It was a song by the christian artists, Point of Grace.  How fitting.  We bonded instantly.  I told her about my mom…the abbreviated version, and we were fast friends.  We had to stop by her mom’s house to pick up the birthday present…this would be the second step of grace.  We all went in to see her mom, because this was a home where everyone was welcome and comfortable.  To this day, I can’t tell you what happened when we walked into that house…I only remember that she briefly told her mom who I was, and that my mom had been killed in a car accident a year ago. Before I could deploy my usual defense mechanisms, her mom had me in the tightest hug of my life.  I hadn’t been hugged in a year.  We just stood there, balling our eyes out in a group hug that lasted forever.  She hugged me until I couldn’t cry anymore.  No one cared if we arrived to the party on time (I’d later realize that she never arrived anywhere on time), they only cared about loving me.  I had just met these people hours prior.  Over the next few years, they would change my life in immeasurable ways.  God used them to start drawing me back to Him.  To me, that is grace.  That is what grace feels like.

And that is only one example…when I sit and think back over my life, I stand in awe of all the times I was shown amazing grace.  Yes, I have known amazing pain, but in each of those circumstances, there have always been love and grace also.

There will be pain and sorrow in this life.  There will be crazy and unfair.  The important thing, is to not miss the beauty of the amazing grace that is all around us.  Sometimes, you have to look for it.  Sometimes, it isn’t what you were hoping it would be; or wanting it to be.

Sometimes, you just have to remember that His grace is sufficient.