My Wandering Wilderness Years…

They say that hindsight is 20/20…again, those sayings take on such a new meaning when you have defining moments that you would actually stop time and change if ever given the opportunity.  I think we all have choices in our lives that we aren’t necessarily proud of, but we have learned to find the good in the end result.  We love “Pinning” the beautiful quotes about how the bad choices are sometimes the ones with the best endings, or the road less travelled, how our struggles are what made us who we are…

Yes, I have PLENTY of those in my life I assure you.  I have made many a detour on my life’s journey that I’m sure made God do a proverbial face-palm of sorts.  I have countless missteps in my life that I can fully, 100% say, without question, the Lord made right again.  Just as I have said before, even when I tried my very hardest to leave God, I could still always feel His spirit trying to call to me.  I know that most Christians like to believe that God has their entire life mapped out for them, and every step set in stone before they are even born.  I personally, after my own experiences, believe that God has His map but also gave us free will.  We do have a choice about following His map or not.

As christians, I think sometimes we use His map more like bumpers at the bowling alley than as a walking path.  Like children, we walk up to life with reckless abandon and make decisions without consulting our Father who could teach us how to actually bowl.  We believe that no matter how we do it, we can’t fall over the edge.  He has us on His path and we are going to safely stay there – no matter how we approach the lane, no matter what we throw down there.  I have learned that there are no bumpers in this life.  God gave us a path, He provided directions, He points the way and provides ample opportunities to help us along the way.  I think the reality is more like a super reliable Siri than bowling bumpers.  Navigation for life, if you will.  Just like in your car, you can choose to turn it on or leave it off.  You can totally think that you know where you are going and decide to ignore the route that the navigation is telling you to take.  Sometimes the navigation knows about traffic delays or an accident along your route and tries rerouting you, but you don’t listen and just continue on…only to be stuck later.  Also like navigation, as we do inevitably make mistakes or change the course of our lives by using our free will, God always still has us on our path.  He never leaves us, He just updates our route.  Updating…Updating…Updating…(That’s probably what mine sounds like)   I’m not saying that He didn’t know that we would eventually have this crazy, messed up route instead of the direct route He had planned.  But I am saying that this is the only way I have found to explain what has happened in my life.  God can always get you back…from anywhere.

Here’s how I know…

After my Mom died, I was trying to amble through life in my fog.  I tried so hard to be the same person.  I wanted to be happy and myself again.  I just couldn’t escape it…I was constantly being asked if I was ok, or being looked at like I was going to crumble any moment.  Which was fair because it was a possibility.  I had to get out…I had to get away.  I just didn’t care about anything anymore,  I really didn’t care about anyone anymore the way I should have.  I don’t think I knew how to act right then because I was numb.  I acted how I thought everyone needed me to act while I was shrinking on the inside.  Literally, I would sit with people, and while they were talking, I’d be screaming in my head.  Just screaming mad…I would ask myself, “I wonder what they would do if I just screamed out loud?”  I wondered if it would make sense to them?  Would that person grasp the depth of pain that would cause a person to do that?

I was a Junior in college at this point and certainly none of my friends had ever dealt with anything like this before.  Everyone looked at me with such pitying eyes.  My favorite was when people would say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it, my Mom is my best friend.  I don’t think I could live without her.  I don’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t here!”  Yeah, Hi, welcome to my nightmare!!  Are you seriously saying this to my face right now?!  So, I went to Daytona Beach on Spring Break with some friends.  This was probably the beginning of my unraveling.  We met a group of Frat guys from a Northern college who were also there on break.  They couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful Minneapolis was in the summer.  I saw light…and down the tunnel I went.

After many more near breaks, I packed up everything I owned and moved to Saint Paul for the Summer.  I had a plan that seemed good enough at the time (to me at least) and I didn’t really care if it worked.  I only wanted away from anyone that knew me before…before everything got dark.  Saint Paul in the summer is bright green, sunny and happy.  But I quickly had no one…what I thought I had there was gone.  The cost to live there was far more than I had anticipated which put me in another awkward situation.  I was far too proud to admit I had made a mistake and move back home.  So I stayed in Minnesota and moved from bad decision to worse decision.  I couldn’t afford to live anywhere nice.  I was lonely and miserable.  At one point, I finally got a good job that would pay enough for me to get a nicer apartment but I’d have to save up for the security deposit.  I actually lived in a friend’s car workshop for 3 weeks, during winter, so that I could pull together enough money.  I had a nice office job though so I had to look nice…I still had a gym membership that was pre-paid, so I’d go in there to use their showers and get ready for work.  No one ever suspected a thing at work.  I was just always really vague about where I lived.  I walked around shrouded in shame.  I would lie awake at night in my car and ask myself, “How did this happen?”  Seriously, how had I gotten to this point?  Less than a year ago I was only worried about a paper I had to write on Frankenstein and now I’m a metal shed away from being homeless in a Minnesota winter??  Last winter I probably couldn’t even have found Minnesota on a map…and I was ok with that.  I had no idea who I was anymore.

I saved the money for the deposit and got the apartment.  It was great having my own place again but I had never lived in a place like this before.  My first day there, a boy knocked on my door and asked me if I had any extra food stamps.  Mind you, I was 21 years old and had never even seen a food stamp.  He told me that his mom had traded theirs for cigarettes and he and his sister were hungry.  My heart broke…I tried to explain why I didn’t have food stamps but then just gave up.  I made them peanut butter sandwiches and often did for several kids in the complex who routinely ran into similar circumstances.  Living there was hard.  I just wanted to go home.  I didn’t belong here.  I had no idea who I was anymore, but I knew this wasn’t me.  I had to get out of here.

The worst part about living there was that I hadn’t spoken to my Dad in over a year at this point.  I was too ashamed.  He and my Step-mom had moved back to Texas during my Senior year of High School to be closer to me.  They moved back out of Texas around the same time I had moved to Minnesota…and I dropped off the face of the earth.  I just couldn’t face them.  I couldn’t explain what I was doing to anyone because my behavior didn’t make sense (even to me).   I knew that I was making horrible decisions.  I was again being self-destructive, just in a different way.  I was looking for a love to fill that void or something to numb the pain.  I was looking in all of the wrong places…AGAIN.  I surrounded myself with people who didn’t see my behavior as destructive.  They loved me.  Right??  I felt so alone and trapped.  I just wanted a family again…home, safe and sound.

During this entire detour, I could feel myself pulling away from Jesus.  Looking back on the picture of my life during those years, I see it like a scene of a Child clinging tightly to a parent’s pant leg.  The child is holding on for dear life but then lets go and just sits there on the parent’s foot for a while before sliding off.  Then I see the child sitting on the floor next to the parent’s foot, noticing that there are other toys in the room.  Slowly the child’s attention gets drawn to the other toys and the foot is left just standing there.  Eventually, the child notices a window, and beyond the window, a playground outside…so out the door the child goes to play.  The parent is left standing in the room, all alone, waiting for the child to return.  Jesus never went anywhere, He didn’t let go of me during any of my struggles…and He never stopped asking me to come back to Him.  I could always hear His voice and feel the Holy Spirit calling to me.  It was just a little harder to hear Him from the playground.

The great news is that Jesus is always right where you left Him!  I found my way back to Him and it was just Satan putting my pride and sin in the way.

Like I said before, I have some things in my life that I wouldn’t change for the world, because despite my best attempts to mess things up, God still made something amazing.  God doesn’t make mistakes, but He’s really good at fixing mine!  I do have a few moments in my life that I do wish I could take back forever.  Those are the moments that I am most thankful for God’s grace and mercy.  Those are the moments that I think we all struggle with…the ones that we can’t put a positive spin on, no matter how deep we dig into the Christian catch phrase grab bag.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is just me.  I guess this is just what I tell myself to explain these years that I wish were a little different.  You tell me…Am I alone?  Does anyone else struggle with the time you’ve spent in the wilderness?

I’m conflicted about this part of my story a bit and about moving forward because I want to be fair to my family.  To be honest, originally I had intended this blog to be anonymous.  I had every intention of spilling my entire story start to finish, every gory detail as a means to my own healing.  Well, obviously God had a different plan.  Shocker!  As I was taking my youngest into a doctor appointment, I hit the publish button without un-checking the public share function.  When I came out of the appointment, I was receiving notifications about people liking my blog…Um WHAT???  At first, I was petrified.  Then I realized that I had been called to write this Blog in my heart for a while.  If God can use my winding path for anyone else, please let Him.

So…all of you that think I was brave…I’m sorry to disappoint, but that was a God thing and I really had no intention of bravery.  I will, however, have the courage to leave it up and continue my story since many of you have commented on how it has affected you.  I think perhaps someone needed to hear something in one of these ramblings and that will make it all worthwhile.

The next chapters of my life get messy… but then I promise you, they have a beautiful ending well worth the read.  If any of this has helped you in any way, I pray that you will continue to read my story.  I want you all to see how richly God has blessed my life especially through the heartache and trials.

To be continued…



My Story Continues

At 20, I thought I had this amazing testimony.  I was helping to lead our youth group while my church searched for a new youth pastor, I led small groups at camps and discipleship weekends.  I was on fire!  I gave my testimony whenever I could because I had my life back in order.  My friends were awesome, my Mom was awesome, school was awesome…everything was awesome.  The summer after my Freshman year of college, I had moved back home with my Mom.  I realized over those few months what I had been missing all year.  Yes, I had discovered so much about myself and that was great but I needed to align that with my faith.  I never would’ve tried to divide them in the first place but I was 18 and I did.  So, at the ripe old age of 19, I began finding who I really was as a daughter of Christ.  This was exciting stuff to me.  Somehow I felt whole again.  So when sophomore year came, I moved back to school but continued to drive home on weekends (as my Mom had always wanted) to attend church with my Mom.  I took on leadership roles and grew in my faith.  My Mom grew too while I was at college.  For the first time, she was on her own and she was so sad at first.  I had chosen a school close to home because I just couldn’t get over the guilt of leaving her all alone.  Now I was seeing that she could do it.  She was making new friends…great friends.  She was making plans and doing fun things without me.  It was great to see her so happy.  She had found a job that she adored…she worked at a Job Corps working with kids who needed a little love and guidance.  She loved those people that she worked with so much.  My Mom had a heart for people.  She knew everyone’s name and could tell you who they were…not just their name but really who they were because she cared about their hearts.

So, at 20 I would tell you that I had a testimony that some might not live in a lifetime.  Right?!   Home life, divorce, over came cutting and eating disorder, sadness, disappointment, heartache, and despair.  Turned to Jesus found redemption, joy, and a new life of freedom.  It was pretty much the iconic testimony but not usual for a 20 year-old girl from small suburban town in Texas.  Going through those times, I sometimes questioned God before I really even “knew” Him.  The classic, “Why me?”  Then after becoming a Christian, those rough patches in my life became parts of my story or God “not giving me more than I could handle”.  All of the Christian catch phrases.  I thought that I had heard them all…I was sadly mistaken.

I had volunteered to teach Vacation Bible School at church – which meant early mornings during the summer.  I was also spending that week at school with friends since a married friend of mine was expecting her first baby soon.  Her husband worked nights, so I was keeping her company.  Anyway, late nights and early mornings were not my friend, at 20, during the summer.  So that Monday morning, the first morning of VBS, I was running late.  I knew that this was frowned upon; but in my defense, I was driving in from school, in the rain.  I pull into the church parking lot, and there are groups huddled around everywhere looking odd.  Some are crying, some praying.  No one will look at me as I walk around looking for where I am supposed to be.  I try asking people where I am supposed to go, but they just keep telling me to find the Pastor.  Ok, I know I’m late but is it really necessary to get the Pastor involved??  Others that I pass ask if the Pastor has spoken to me yet.  Ok, yes, I know I am late…Good Grief people!  I am like 15 minutes late!  By now I know that my Mom is going to flip her lid when she finds out that I was late and created such a fuss…I must have really messed up the plans for the morning at VBS by being this late.  She was the secretary at this church for 12 years and knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING that goes on.  So I know that she’ll hear about it and then I’ll hear about it.  As I walk around looking for the Pastor, the church gets creepier and creepier… I start to notice that no one is doing anything VBS related.  Everyone is either crying or praying or just staring at me in stunned silence.  Seriously…WHAT IS GOING ON HERE???  Then the Pastor finds me…the Pastor that I have known since I was like 6 years old.  He tells me that this other pseudo pastor/family counselor needs to talk to me in the parking lot.  Now, please understand that I barely know this guy and I’m not a huge fan.  He walks me out to my car and stops.  I ask him all the way to my car what is going on, but he just keeps walking and says we’ll talk in the parking lot.  Then it happens…my world stops.

We finally reach my car…He stops and turns to me.  He looks at me and says that he finds in times like this, it is better to deliver bad news like a band-aid and just rip it off all at once so…

“Your Mom was driving to work this morning in the drizzle and lost control of her car.  She was in an accident.  She was killed.”

I just stared at him for a moment in disbelief before collapsing.  I couldn’t even process what he had just said to me.  I had just spent the day before with her.  She was just saying that she needed new tires on her car.  I just talked to her on the phone last night. I was a little rude to her because I wanted to get off the phone and go be with my friends.  She told me that I should be nicer to her.  That someday she might not be around for me to be rude to.  That I shouldn’t take her for granted so easily.  I laughed it off.  Yeah right, where would she go?  She joked that she might just run away someday.  That’s what she did…she ran away to teach me a lesson. This is a joke.  This is just some elaborate scheme to make me appreciate her more.  You know my Mom and her elaborate schemes.   She’s just mad at me for being late to VBS this morning.

There is just no way that my Mom is dead.  No way.  It just isn’t possible…I’m 20 years old.  What does a 20 year-old girl do without her Mom?  She hasn’t finished teaching me things yet.  I haven’t asked her all of the important questions yet.  I had time for that.  I had years to still be selfish and young before I grew up and cared about the things that really mattered.  There was supposed to be time for her to teach me how to sew.  To teach me how to fold sheets her way.  Time for me to stop rolling my eyes and really pay attention when she tried to teach me how to iron or do laundry the right way.  There was supposed to be time for me to trace the lines in her hand and memorize the lines on her face.  Time for me to have her write down all of her favorite things so that I would never forget…her favorite book, poem, quote.  Time to teach me how to cook a turkey or pumpkin pie. Time for me to pay attention to all of her quirky little sayings so that I would be able to say them to my kids someday.  Time for her to teach me the songs she used to sing and the stories she would tell me when I was sick or hurt that always made me feel better. There was supposed to be time for medical histories and ancestry…I didn’t need to know that, I was just a kid.

Well, this “kid” was now learning about urns and gravesites…police reports, coroners, memorial services and obituaries.  Insurance policies and family heirlooms.  It was a blur.  She had standing room only for those who didn’t come early to her service.  More people than I could count came to say goodbye to her that day.  I don’t think she ever realized how very loved she was in her lifetime.  Amazing Grace was sang by one of her dear friends and I clung to every word of that song.  In that moment and for several years after, I don’t think I fully understood how God’s grace was going to cover me.  In that moment I felt abandoned by God.  I felt too ashamed to actually give voice to those emotions but I absolutely was angry with God.  It wouldn’t be until many years later that I understood that was ok.  So, I listened to those words and they grated on my heart like steel wool.  How could he have done this to us when we served Him so well.  How could He leave me like this?  How could people look at me and tell me that God needed her more than I did?  Or that I should be happy because she was in a better place?  Or because she was finally at peace?  Or somewhere that she would know no pain?  I was told that I was selfish for wanting her to be here when she could be with Jesus instead.  So I was angry.  Angry at God.  Angry at my family and friends that I still had around me.  Angry at myself.  Angry at anyone on the road.  I was angry.  But I didn’t feel like I could be, so I acted like I was ok.  I was a ticking time bomb.

Adding to this, I  learned that her car had hydroplane on the wet road and skid across the expressway and median.  There was only one other car coming at that time of the morning and it was a pickup driven by a kid my age.  My heart broke for him to live with that scene playing in his mind.  He wasn’t injured and tried to help my Mom.  I have prayed for him every time I have thought of her accident over the years…that he has found peace.  People actually asked me at the time if I was mad at him or blamed him.  Seriously?  NO!  It was an accident of circumstance.  I was angry that mere seconds would’ve made the difference in my Mom’s life.  It was that close.

I was so numb after her accident, that I tried to just keep going forward.  I had so many people around me pushing me forward.  Everyone constantly telling me that is what my Mom would’ve wanted me to do.  She wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad.  She wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold.  She wouldn’t want me to kept grieving.  All of a sudden everyone around me was an expert on what my Mom would’ve wanted for me.  But when you are lost and seeking, sometimes you grab at anything offered.  Unfortunately, I was so angry at God but not admitting it to myself that I was listening to all the wrong voices.  This is when I began to take my first wandering steps into the wilderness.

And so it continues…

Follow my Blog to hear the rest of my story…

My Testimony Continued

If you asked me to tell you my testimony again as I was 18 years old…graduating High School and starting College, my story would have been a little different.

My Mom was no longer the church secretary and my Dad no longer served at our church.  My Mom and I were still at church every opportunity and participated in all of our same activities as before but now it was just the two of us.  We had become very close in those past 3 years as we learned to depend on each other for just about everything.  Sometimes, we depended on each other for too much.  I just wanted my Mom to be happy and I tried everything to make that happen.  This was more pressure than a teenager should have to face.  I know that my Mom had no idea that I felt that way because she never would have willingly put me into that position.

I was sometimes tempted to revert back to cutting but I knew that I had left that behind.  It was as if once I knew it was a self-destructive behavior, it was wrong to go back to it.  But I could find something else and “pretend” like I didn’t know what I was doing was hurting me.  Basically, I was lying to myself…just not very well.  It started before my Dad left.  I would just not eat, or just act like I was eating enough to not raise suspicions.  Again, they were so wrapped up in their own issues, they didn’t really notice mine.  Until my Mom took me clothes shopping my Junior year of High School and nothing fit.  I was tall but skin and bones.  It got worse when my Dad moved out-of-state and I couldn’t see him at all.  My mom and I were trying to live on her income which was never enough.  She had been left with destroyed credit from their divorce.  We had no place to live so various friends of my Mom let us stay with them.  Here I was in High School, bouncing from house to house with my Mom.  We were usually crashing in the homes of my classmates…and sometimes they were the “cool kids” that I wasn’t necessarily friends with myself.  Yeah, that didn’t really help my reputation at school.  Again, life in chaos, I sought something I could control.  I could control what I did or did not eat.  By the time I graduated High School, I was 5’6″ tall and I weighed 95 pounds.  My Mom had asked the Assistant Principal to randomly check on me at lunch to make sure I was actually eating my lunch.  So, usually lunch was the only meal I would eat during the day.  I could make excuses at night around her that I had snacked after school or eaten with friends.  Breakfast early in the morning made me “sick”.  Whatever I had to do to avoid food.  The more negative comments I received from people noticing how skinny I was getting, the more in control I felt.  At least this I was doing to myself.  At least this was taking the focus off of the other horrible things they could be saying about me.  Things that I couldn’t help.  I couldn’t change the fact that we had no money, or a house of our own.  I couldn’t suddenly afford the trendy clothes or nice cars.  I couldn’t fix my nose or hair color.  I was fair skinned with auburn hair…features that coincidentally enough are now quite a popular trend that people pay good money to achieve.  But at 16, 17, or 18 years old in High School, these are the things that we let define us.  I struggled with my definition and I wanted to change it so desperately.  I was just looking in all of the wrong places.

Then came college…A whole new world of possibilities.  A whole new world of people and experiences.  I could be whatever and whoever I wanted to be.  These people didn’t know my past.  They didn’t know how many couches of cool kids I had slept on before.  They didn’t care how much money my Mom made, or what kind of car I drove.  We all lived in the same apartments (sort of), walked to class, and all that mattered was learning and experiencing.  I made friends and got to know old friends so much better.  I got to know myself. I got to know food again. I got healthier again.  I still struggled with control…and during stress that was always my first coping mechanism.  I hated that about myself for a long time.  I wouldn’t learn that lesson for several more years…you’ll have to wait for that one.  Unfortunately, college did not bring me closer in my faith.  Just like I said, I found MYSELF not God.  I was obviously still a Christian.  Jesus doesn’t leave us, but we can definitely try to leave Him.  We can try not to hear His voice.  I wasn’t living at home anymore or near my home church and I made no attempts at finding one close to school…much to my Mom’s dismay.  I know this broke her heart a little.  School was only about 30 minutes from home and she would always ask me to come home and go to church with her but after being out with friends on Saturday night, nothing sounded worse.  Not to mention, my guilty conscience.  I chose that path and I have regrets but I learned from them.

During all of my twists and turns, my Mom was always there.  We talked at least once a day.  My friends would joke because we would hang up the phone and then it would usually ring again within seconds because she would remember something else she wanted to tell me.  I’d sit by the phone and wait for the second call…always.  We fought like banshee but I never doubted that she loved me like a bear loves her cub.  My Mom could be gently explaining the rudeness of  wearing white shoes after Labor Day  and then someone mistreat me and without skipping a beat, she could take them down to a mud puddle with a simple look.  I trusted her opinions and beliefs and I knew that nothing bad could ever happen to me as long as she was there to stop it or fix it.  That’s what Moms do, they fix things.

But what happens when the something that needs to be fixed is your Mom?

There is still more to my story…

To be continued…

My Testimony

Like most people, my testimony has changed over the years…many times.  Now at 40, I watch others sing praise songs with such fervor, and I often wonder if they have any way of really knowing what they are singing about.  I don’t mean that from a seat of judgment, more from a perspective of my own experience…how I thought, once upon a time, I knew that kind of faith.  That kind of faith, is not a gift that is just given to you, it is learned through tests and trials.

If you had asked the 15-year-old version of me for my testimony, you would have heard something like this…

I grew up in church, always knowing who God was and in church every time the doors were open.  My Mom was the church secretary and my Dad served as close to a Deacon as he could come (since my Mom was previously married).  We are Southern Baptists to the core…Ice Cream socials with homemade ice cream on the church grounds, no dancing, lunch after church on Sundays before choir practice but before Sunday night prayer meeting…Church on Wednesday night…you get the idea.  I could quote the Bible, I lead Bible studies, I went to church camps and I had been baptised when I was 6 years old after praying with the Pastor.  This was what I wanted everyone to see…while the real me was dying inside.  My home life was a wreck.  I had no control over that side of things, so I started locking myself in the bathroom at night with little things at first, like paperclips or sharp tweezers.  That first scratch was so freeing.  I could finally control something that was hurting me.  The more other things spiraled out of control, the deeper I scratched…until they really weren’t scratches anymore.  I started finding sharp metal nails, broken plastic, staples…I convinced myself that these were still “safe” everyday objects that didn’t seem “crazy”.  No one would find this weird.  I think I was 11 years old the first time I left a mark on my arm.  I was much younger when I started scratching at my legs.  At that age, I had no idea that this was an actual thing.  I had never heard of “cutting” or that there were other people out there dealing with these same feelings.  I honestly believed that I had invented this personal hell for myself.  I thought I was alone.  Once I had reached the point of drawing blood with the “safe” objects up and down both arms, and had not worn a short-sleeved shirt in months, I moved on to scissors and broken mirror pieces.  Part of me desperately wanted someone to catch a glimpse of the marks and at other times, having this secret with me was power when my world was chaos.  I could just touch my arms and the world somehow lost control over me because I knew what I was doing in that bathroom.  I wasn’t suicidal, I was self-destructive.  There is a difference.  I needed help, that is clear, but a different kind of help than someone who wants out.  I wanted back in.  I wanted to have my world put back together.  I needed the adults in my world to stop being in their world long enough to see my heartache.

But then, I went to one more camp and a new message spoke to me about faith.  The speaker asked us if we were living our own faith or simply repeating the religion we had been taught by our parents.  In that moment, I realized that I knew all of the right church answers, I had the attendance record, but I didn’t have the faith that He was with me and loved me through it all.  I needed Jesus!  I went up to the cross they had on stage and I put it all down…my home, my life, my cuts.  I learned to pray during those dark times instead of hurting myself.  Satan truly does come to steal, kill, and destroy and that was exactly what was happening in my life before Jesus.  So, at 15 years old, I thought this was an amazing testimony of strength and overcoming adversity.  I had moved beyond something in my past that traps so many without a voice.  Unfortunately, a lot of cutters become suicidal and will eventually take their own lives if they never receive help.  I never publicly gave my testimony, but I certainly learned to recognize some of the early warning signs and tried to be more sensitive to those in need of help.  I became more active in my youth group and became a leader of small groups and bible studies.

But God wasn’t finished with my story…

To Be Continued…

You’re Welcome.

Dear Everyone in ANY form of Customer Service, Hospitality, or the General Service Industry:

I have personally worked in various degrees of service over my years; I have been a receptionist, a waitress, a massage therapist, a store clerk, a party planner/hostess, plus many more.  So please indulge me for a moment as I bend your ear with a few tidbits of advice.

  1. Waitress, if you are carrying a tray of Cokes out to my table and cannot remember which one was the Diet, please for the love of everything, DO NOT put your nose to the beverage and sniff it to try to determine which is which before playing Russian Roulette with my drink.
  2. Restaurant Staff, if you are trying to clean your area and my family is still eating in your section, please DO NOT proceed to sweep right next to us and then have the audacity to ask us to lift our feet so that you can sweep under our table.
  3. Hair Professionals, I completely understand that you are trained to recognize a split end from a mile away but I come to you to feel beautiful; I do not need you to tell me how bad my hair looks (that is why I’m sitting in your chair in the first place).  Since when are backhanded compliments socially acceptable AND you can charge for them?!?  I didn’t ask you to tell me how gray me hair is getting, my husband doesn’t want to hear about the genetics of thinning hair, and I don’t want to hear how damaged my hair looks.  I’m paying you to make me feel beautiful when I leave your salon.  Period.  Shampoo, cut, style.  Offer advice on types of shampoo, styling products and hair styles but that is all.
  4. As an addition to the previous statement…The High-Pressure Up-sell.  Lately I dread going to salons or any spa that sells products because I know that they are going to spend my entire “relaxing” service time trying to convince me that something is so terribly wrong with me and only their product can help me.  Lucky for me, they sell this miraculous product up front.  Usually it is a product that I could just as easily purchase myself at Sephora or Ulta for a lot less if I wanted to bother.  But that isn’t the point.  The point is that I don’t want to feel like I’m at a sleazy Time Share pitch when I’m at a spa.  I just want to relax and not be fending off wolves the whole time.  I expend so much energy trying to think up good enough excuses that will shut them down that I’m so stressed and exhausted and in need of a spa day.  I always want to give them the right answer to the first question so that they won’t ask another question…I haven’t found the right answer yet.  And we all know that a simple “No” doesn’t work because they don’t ask the questions that way.  So I vote for this to stop, let me relax and if I want to buy something I will.
  5. Spa employees can be just as bad with the insults as the hair stylists.  I’ve suffered my entire life with extremely dry skin.  When I was little, I was teased when the skin on my legs would crack and bleed.  It hurt so bad when I took a bath or a shower that I would scream bloody murder when the water hit my skin.  As I’ve grown up, it has gotten a lot better but I still have scars on my lower legs from those younger days; and my skin still gets very dry.  So, yesterday I went for a day of pampering and the girl tells me that I have very dry skin.  Oh really?  I hadn’t noticed.  Then she tells me that I should try putting lotion on my skin to moisturize it because lotion helps dry skin.  Holy cats girl!  Where were you years ago when I was tortured and teased?  You would’ve saved me so much pain if only my parents, doctors, or I would’ve thought to try putting lotion on my dry skin.  She is an absolute genius!  I’m so glad that I found her and her extensive training.
  6. My other favorite is a Customer Service Agent telling me that they didn’t do it…whatever “it” is at the moment.  If I have an issue with your company and you are in Customer Service, you represent whomever did “it” and you therefore better take care of “it” AND apologize for “it”.  Understand that whatever happened isn’t personal but it is your business when you work in Customer Service to take good care of the customer.  No one cares about you personally… all that matters is the customer and the business.  That is what you get paid for by the company; to take care of the company that serves the customer i.e. Customer Service.

So, as you can plainly see, we have a few issues to work on.  I realize that customers can be rude and unreasonable BUT I also have firsthand experience at completely turning the worst customer into the best.  Your attitude, work ethic, and character determine your outcome.  True you might not always be treated fairly or with the same respect and kindness that you are putting out there but you will walk away with your head held high knowing that you can be proud of the job that you did well and that you carried yourself respectably and with strong character.  All we can ever be in control of is ourselves…control yourself well because you influence so many every single day so make it count.

With Sincere Thanks,

Notorious Mom

Take my breath away…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away”

Hearts are melting, you’ve all seen this on the pallet sign you have saved on your Pinterest boards to hang above your bed…or print on wedding invitations.  This has become the hipster Carpe Diem of sorts.  I just wonder if every marriage that displays this quote, or every woman that claims these words as her own can remember them even when the storm hits.

I absolutely love this quote but probably for reasons far different from the average mamma bear.  I lost my my mom in a tragic car accident when I was 20 years old.  I had just spent the day with her the day before and I was volunteering at church that morning.  I had grown up in that church and she had worked there for over 12 years as the church secretary…she knew and loved everyone.  I got there a few minutes late and everyone was looking for me (I wasn’t that late and this was before cell phones).  What happened next I will never forget as long as I live…the family pastor took me to the parking lot and told me that my mom had been in an accident and had been killed.  He said it was like a band-aid, you just had to rip it off and deal with the pain.  Did I have any questions?  I never understood his lack of caring in that moment.  But that moment, took my breath away forever.  I have healed in many ways but in some I never will.  I am forever changed.  I am a daughter without a mom.  This year I have now lived as long without her as I did with her.

I remember people asking me during the early days after her accident how I was dealing with everything…my answer was always GRACE.  God wrapped me in His grace and carried me through.  Then the anger hit and I tried to do things my way on my road.  That didn’t go as well.  I had several years in the wilderness.  God didn’t go anywhere, I did.  I pushed and I struggled and yet still I could feel His spirit tugging at my heart.  I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted.

When I met my husband, I felt like God sent neon signs and construction road crews to get my life back on track.  Our life together has been amazing…not perfect or easy but AMAZING.  He is my best friend.  That means that we love hanging out together more than with anyone else.  He is the first person I think of when I have something juicy to share or an embarrassing moment to confess.  He also annoys me sometimes but I know that has no bearing on whether or not he’ll still be my best friend.  We have faced things with our children that most people only see in made for TV movies, we started his company on a house note and a prayer, we’ve remodeled houses together that most people would’ve walked away from… somehow we just get closer.  A marriage of moments that have taken my breath away.  Like the day we found out our daughter has a cyst on her heart… and we had to wait together to find out exactly what that means.  I couldn’t breathe.  When my son broke his tooth in half and my husband swam in the pool until he found the other half on the bottom so that it could be fixed right.  Small examples of moments shared in this crazy life together.

I think when we see this quote or print it in a wedding invitation or hang it above our bed, we better be ready for ALL of life’s moments.  There are going to be amazing moments that leave you breathless for sure…walking down the aisle, holding your child for the first time, passionate kisses…I could go on and on with the positives because those are easy and happy to think about.  Those are easy to face and embrace together.  Everyone wants to measure life by those moments but those aren’t really the moments that make you I’ve learned.  Job loss, sick kids, death…those are the moments that test the fibers.   I grew into the person I am today in those dark and difficult moments that I had to survive.   They might have taken my breath away and they definitely changed me, but the real key has been learning to decide how they would change me.  Learning that I did indeed have that power to decide and live accordingly.  I have chosen to live a life well measured…in other words, not stuck in one moment defined by the odds.  I want to move beyond certain circumstances and grow from them.  Yes, they have changed me but not destroyed me.  I’m still breathing and living.  I love this quote because it reminds me that no matter what life brings, it will be the life defining moments that change you and grow you.  Anyone can bide their time and navigate a day…only the brave truly live.

Are you serious???

Seriously???   I find myself asking this rhetorical question sometimes to myself, sometimes out loud in general and most commonly of those around me.  Like… Seriously?  You can’t spell school, yet are allowed to homeschool your child.  Seriously? You don’t want to work but want everything handed to you.  Seriously?  You think your child who bullies everyone at school has a heart for God and a future in missions.  Seriously?  Skinny jeans are an adjective not an adverb…you must be skinny BEFORE you put the jeans on; the jeans do NOT magically make you skinny by wearing them.  Seriously, whatever happened to manners?  Two things I see missing from these equations… Brains and manners. That is the conclusion I have come to in response to my own question. Although I might think these things all day every day, I would never dream of saying them out loud…unsolicited anyway.  Now that is not to say that my face does not betray me at times…but the point is that I try.  Here’s a good point…etiquette is knowing not to put your elbows on the dinner table while manners is not pointing it out in front of everyone when your neighbor is practically napping across the dinner table.  I am a southern girl who was raised to have good manners and as much etiquette as my mom could squeeze in in the brief 20 years I was blessed with her in my life…the rest I have had to pick up on my own.  Still, I find daily head shaking examples of mannerless people in the world.  Where did these folks come from?  They didn’t grow up around my Momma because I’m pretty sure she would’ve set them straight…manners only says that you don’t call people out in public, nothing says that you don’t “gently” inform them of the error of their ways.  My Momma liked to call it a “Comin’ to Jesus meetin'”.  You only had those for extreme offenses,but I think some of these school bullies I’ve had to deal with would’ve had an engraved invitation for sure!  Anyway, I hope that we can find a way to get back to some serious manners in our homes before it’s too late.  The rest of the battle involves common sense and integrity among other things…like modesty, can we talk about modesty for second??  My husband and I just got home from Las Vegas recently and since we don’t consider ourselves old, we were out hitting the local hot DJ scenes.  My eyes will never be the same as I am now scarred by the sites of total fashion massacre I was subjected to every night.  OK, seriously?!?  Let me just be the one to tell you (since your friends obviously don’t love you enough to) you probably don’t have the body for that dress, it’s ok; very few people actually do have a body worthy of spandex.  If you wear the spandex dress, you might want to consider full body spanx and for sure forego drinking so that you can concentrate on stomach control exercises and full dress control to avoid any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions.  If you aren’t this committed to wearing the dress, please opt for a different outfit.  Girls please hear me when I say:  THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SEXY ABOUT A TUMMY PONCH (food baby), in an ill fitting dress with parts of your body hanging out that shouldn’t be wearing it and you so uncomfortable that you can’t stop yanking on the dress.  Modest and classy is actually the most sexy of all.  A girl that gets along with his family and is confident is sexy.  A girl that he thinks about and has to wonder what she is like IS sexy.  I can tell you right now…the girls we saw out in those clubs in Vegas, no one had to wonder what they had, we ALL saw everything they had!  It wasn’t sexy, it was just gross and pathetic.  The guys weren’t flocking around them.  For the first time ever in Vegas, I couldn’t differentiate the clubbing girls from the “working” girls.  SAD!!!  Having a teenage son (and daughter for that matter) in this world is terrifying!  Seriously???   Pull it together people, have some self-respect and for crying out loud PLEASE teach your children what that even means anymore!!!  Thank you that is all. Seriously though, why should this even have to be a conversation?