Wrong Side of the Sidewalk

Do you ever feel like you are walking through life on the wrong side of the sidewalk?  Like everyone else is going one way, and you are going the other?  Do you ever feel like everyone else gets the joke but you?  Like they’ve all heard the beginning of the story, and understand the ending?  Like you’re at a dinner party where everyone keeps whispering?  I’m in a season like that right now…

The worst part of it all, is if you ask me to pinpoint exactly what is making me feel that way, I can’t tell you…because I’m not in on it.  That’s the problem!  I feel like so many things in my life are in transition, that I can’t possibly be moving in the right direction.  It feels like I’m almost moving backwards at times; or worse, I’m standing still like a deer in headlights, when I’m supposed to be doing a thousand things at once.  Sure, some will say this is a lack of faith.  I’m sure most of us control freaks will admit that we struggle in the area of really letting go of the things we pray about.  Trust me, I pray about that too.  I’m still a work in progress.  Any mom who says she hasn’t wrung her hands over where her child will go to college, or how they’ll do on their SAT/ACT, or Senior year in general, Christian or not, is just not being honest with herself or anyone else.  We are human, and we are moms; moms worry, by definition, moms worry… ALL moms.

So, I guess if you ask me what is going on with me, I’d honestly say –  life.  The fact that I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, a caregiver, a tutor, a dog whisperer… each of these roles has so many unique challenges.  I am so blessed, and I love my life.  I wonder though if I am enough.  Do I make a good enough lunch?  Are the uniforms wrinkled?  Are the uniforms clean??  Did I sign up to volunteer?  Are my kids well-rounded?  Am I helping them enough, but not too much?  I struggle with the comparison game on social media.  Suddenly, if you don’t post pictures on certain days of certain pics, it directly correlates to how much you love your kids.  I’m not sure if you were aware of this fact.  But social media will sell you this lie.  I struggle with the comparison game at school events. Am I dressed to the 9’s, even though I didn’t leave my house all day?  Is my hair and make-up perfect?  Is my body perfectly toned in my 40’s, like I’m in my 20’s?  Did I “assist” with a school project that looks more like a craft project, bake something for the front desk that looks like a shower gift, and craft a goody basket for the teacher’s first day that would fetch $100 at a boutique?  Don’t even get me started on holidays, teacher appreciation, or last day of school.  I’m just as much to blame as the next mom, because I play into the madness thus perpetuating the game.  Who will stop the madness??  Who?

I find myself wondering if I am wearing so many hats, that the really special ones aren’t being showcased.  Am I being spread too thin?  Some call that mom guilt.  Well, I am drowning in it.

I love helping the people in my life.  I am certainly not complaining about that.  I hope that isn’t what this sounds like.  I just feel lost sometimes in finding my own purpose among those tasks.  Maybe that is my purpose though, and I’m just missing the point.    I look at my current life, and there isn’t one thing that I would omit or change.  Well, I might get my kids to listen to directions all the way through on the first time, so that I don’t have to repeat myself 3 times…that would add about 3 hours to each day.  Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I take that back, there is one more thing…I do think now that all the kids are up to speed on the “magic” department, I think they should do some payback and give me their remaining years at home with the Dish Fairy and the Laundry Fairy.  It only seems fair turn of play.  I’m not even asking for money.

I’m just overwhelmed by things I can’t control.  Somethings I can’t even influence.  I keep saying that it feels like I’m in that movie The Fugitive, where he couldn’t get anyone to believe anything he said.  The more he tried to prove his innocence, the more he looked guilty.  That is how I feel when I am trying to take control of things…like no, really listen, I should be in control.  Nope!  I’ve been here before, when the older one was graduating.  I know that I can survive this.  I know that I will grow from this time.

How can a child who literally has to always just go with the flow, and has everyone else take control of her body, telling her what is best for her 24/7 handle life with such grace?  How is she so trusting?  She truly does have the faith of a child.  She trusts that I will take care of her, and that I have her best interests at heart always.  That even when things hurt, they are for her own good.  She doesn’t get angry or bitter, she doesn’t hold a grudge, or grow distant.  She doesn’t run away, or try to take over.  She certainly has never tried to tell me or the medical team how things are going to be done.  Why can’t I learn to be more like her?  Why can’t I have more faith like her?  If anyone has a reason to act up, it would be her; but she doesn’t.

I guess sometimes I get in these funks… I look back and I just question things a little bit, more than I probably should.  Look at my life… what has it been for?  How is this being used?   All of this past pain and heartache.  All of these “lessons”.  Was it wasted?  I just don’t see where I am going.  It feels like I am living each day, with one foot in front of the other; making it to the next day.  Is that what I am meant to do?  Am I really moving in the right direction with my life?  I just want to go in the right direction.  I want all of the things I have been through to mean something.  I want to do something with my life.  How do I take where I have been, where I am now, and turn it into a direction?  How do I continue to wear my many hats, without letting them completely bury me as an individual?

Have you ever felt stuck?  Walking backwards?  Going down, on the up escalator?  How did you get going in the right direction?

For me, this blog was my first step in that direction.  Sometimes finding my way here is difficult.

What was your first step?  Have you taken it yet?

A Filtered Life

My kids get so tired of the broken record in our house…The song that is playing telling them to stop looking at what everyone else is doing online and start living their own lives.  I’m pretty sure at this point we just sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to them… “Waaa whaa wuu whaa waaa waa”.  I have definitely learned that it isn’t just our kids, this is something that is prevalent among their age group.  They are voyeurs in an online society.

We have the whole world at our fingertips today; unlike when I was a teenager.  I’ll never forget my Senior year in US History having to write a HUGE research paper.  This was the first time we were expected to include all of the tedious extras like headers and footers, all the crazy stuff that I’d never be able to do today.  Anyway, the paper had to be typed…OK, this might seem obvious, but let me remind you that this was before the average household had a computer.  Our school library had maybe 8 computers for the whole school.  My boyfriend had a computer, so my mom let me go over to his house to type my paper.  This was a treat because it was a school night.  Well, I was not very proficient on the computer, so it took me forever.  I think it was 10:00 P.M. and the doorbell rings.  Now, my mom had never met the boyfriend’s parents, until that horrific moment.  There stands my mother, in her bathrobe, hotter than blue blazes because I was out so late without calling.  She of course had visions of me lying in the ditch somewhere.  This was also before cell phones.  Embarrassed doesn’t begin to cover it.  I just think about what I went through trying to get that paper finished…from the research, all the way to the typing and printing.  Nothing about that process was easy.  Kids now, have the ability to get any information they want  instantly.  Anything they want to buy, Amazon can get it to them almost instantly.  Pictures are now instant; not like the ones we used to take and not realize how bad they were until after we waited days for them.  Movies are On Demand, so they can watch what they want, when they want.  Everything is geared toward fulfilling this need for instant gratification.

Not only are we leaning toward instant gratification, but we are beginning to guarantee instant gratification with complete satisfaction.  So now, if you don’t get exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, you are guaranteed to be compensated in some way.  Companies are going above and beyond to try to make everyone happy in all circumstances.  Our kids are being taught that they should never be uncomfortable, do without, or have to wait for anything.  How then, can we be surprised when they act entitled?  Trying to raise “normal” kids in today’s world, is a full time job.  We have to constantly undo what the world is trying to ingrain subconsciously.

I know when I was a teenager, I thought my parents didn’t understand me and what my life was like.  Honestly, I think that is pretty textbook teen angst.  However, I do believe that kids growing up in this “social” world do have it harder than we did.  Think about it… I always compared myself to the popular kids in my school.  There were maybe 30 kids that I, at one point or another, envied for some odd reason.  These kids today, are constantly comparing themselves to thousands of other kids.  I am so thankful that my childish antics were never made public.  We didn’t have cyber bullying like these kids do today.  We also just didn’t have access to as much information as these kids do today at such a young age.

These kids put their whole lives online for everyone to pick apart.  I can’t imagine being in school, and having that fear looming in the back of my mind all the time.  The fear that my every move was being documented for everyone to see.  The old adage used to be true, that if you give it time, they’ll forget and start talking about something else.  Today, we have the internet to make sure that our mistakes and failures are documented forever.  Like I said, I’m just so thankful that the internet wasn’t around when we were teenagers.  Who’s with me?!?

I’m just so tired of this fake online world.  Everyone posts the picture perfect life:  The clean house, the perfect picture with the perfect filter, the kids before the chaos.  Two stories about two of my favorite Facebook people from High School.  I respect each of them so much for their authenticity.  I strive to be more like them when I go online.

#1.  Woman posts amazingly gorgeous picture with her beautiful daughter and receives overwhelming amount of compliments and likes.  She notices that in the comments a large number of women are comparing themselves to her and feeling bad about themselves.  She immediately comes out and tells everyone that she is no different than they are, she has lines and wrinkles too.  There was a filter on the photo and she posted the real photo without the filter.  She gave a little pep talk to all of the women about being kind to yourself.

Yeah, so much love for this woman and her taking a stand for authenticity.

#2.  Woman on numerous occasions has posted on Facebook, or other social media sites, her “Mom Fails” as she calls them.  Like, she does post pics of her messy house, or grass stains on Easter, or just life in general.  Life is messy and sometimes we don’t have it all together.  We need to get to a place of acceptance ladies.  This is real life.  I adore that she posts with no filters and lets us know that we are OK, because we are doing the best that we can.  She is such an encouragement to so many other struggling moms.  Those posts, although intended to be funny, are lifelines to some women who feel like utter failures.

When did living life through a filter become a good idea?  I would think it would be exhausting trying to be perfect all the time.  I just don’t have that kind of extra energy.  Living the normal day-to-day is hard enough, without touch ups and edits.  We need to be teaching our kids that in real life, the world doesn’t always give us a chance to polish something before others see it; sometimes there is no filter, only consequences.  We need to be teaching our kids, that some things are worth waiting for, and most things we must work to achieve.  Instant gratification is usually gone as quickly as it came.  I want my kids to have a life, not a ‘Story’.  I want my kids to have memories, not ‘Likes’.   I want my kids to have relationships, not ‘Friends’.  Most of all, I want them to realize that there is a world all around them that is full of amazing possibilities, if they will just look up and look out.  Break free from the online social trap and start living their own lives.


Crawling Out of the Wilderness

I have no idea what I am going to say, I just know that most of you feel like I left you hanging when I stopped telling my story.  I really don’t know how to continue without betraying parts of my story that aren’t mine to tell.  I’ve decided to try though, so if parts seem a little vague or like I’ve skipped over something, please understand that is because I’m trying to respect the people I care most about in this crazy life.

When I say, crawling out of the wilderness, that is precisely what it felt like to me.  It took me years to find my way out, and even then I didn’t make a quick exit.  I would see glimpses of light and start heading in the right direction, but only slowly and very close to the ground; so as not to call attention to my strategy.   I had been wandering for so long, I was scared to even think about what my life could be like on the outside.  I didn’t think I deserved a life free of strife and uncertainty.  I was so beat down and ashamed, I couldn’t even fathom walking out of this wilderness.  But I did eventually meet the right friends who convinced me otherwise.

I would never have made it without those friends in my life.  They offered shelter, and guidance; free of judgment and shame.  These friends just loved me.  We all had our scars, and we didn’t have to hide them from each other.  These friends picked me up, dusted me off, and reminded me of who I once was…the girl I needed to be again.

I’ll never forget, at this point in my life, how I wouldn’t let people hug me because it would make me cry.  I would cover my face and hold them at arms length…please don’t hug me.  One night, my friend’s mom grabbed me in her kitchen and just held me against my will and cried with me; she rocked me back-and-forth, just holding me.  I have no idea how long we stood there.  It was the first time she had ever met me!  That woman would later change my life…again.  That night she cracked a wall that had been standing for years.  I was hurting so much and I needed to let people in, but I didn’t want to feel that pain.  I really wasn’t sure that I could handle it.  That group of friends would walk that path with me for years.  The pain of losing my mom, walking away from college, moving away from my childhood friends, estrangement from family, feeling like a failure…the list goes on and on.  Not to mention a list of sin a mile long.

Being the only one of your friends  to have kids at a young age, kind of makes you the wet blanket of the friend group.  They didn’t really understand me a lot of times.  Why couldn’t I go out on a moment’s notice?  Why couldn’t I go out every night?  Why was I so tired?  Why did I not care as much about their drama?  I was a very young mom, and that changed me.  I hope for the better, but it was still very hard at the time.  As a family, we had a lot of growing up to do.  Priorities shift as you get older and people naturally change…that is difficult on any relationship.  We had growing pains just like everyone else.

We tried to do the right thing and be active in church.  We wanted to raise the kids right.  I never thought that was going to be so hard for me.  I couldn’t even pray in front of anyone.  I felt like a hypocrite.  I still carried so much shame, that I felt like every sermon was about me.  I thought the other moms at school were secretly judging me for my past.  To be fair, I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt outlining my sinful past or anything, so I doubt they even knew my sordid details (or really cared for that matter).  I made a friend with a similar sketchy past and we became fast friends, since she felt the same way.  We were both unnecessarily paranoid.  That church and school were amazing and everyone loved us no matter what.  The problem was in my own inability to forgive myself.  That wouldn’t happen until years later when I came to the Women’s Conference at Prestonwood.  I was going to the North Campus at the time and my friend asked me to join her at the conference.  I was hesitant because of the hotel stay, and time away from my family…I am a total home body.  I went though, and God moved in a mighty way, like He tends to do when we try to resist.  I was completely broken.  I mean, ugly crying, snot faced, uncontrollably broken, on my knees.  I was running in just about every area of my life, and I was still hurting so much.  I felt like that day in my friend’s mom’s kitchen…I needed to just be grabbed against my will, and held until I caved.  That is what God did in that sanctuary, when I prayed that day.  I felt this massive weight fall away for the first time in 15 years.  He had forgiven me, I just had to forgive myself, and walk away from those dark days.  Leave it at the cross and be free from it.  Grace and mercy go hand in hand.

That was when things started to really turn around.  In fact, that is when I even learned about the wilderness I had been trapped in for so long.  I knew that I wanted out, and I knew that He was the way out.  I started really focusing on each area of my life and trying to be kinder to myself.  I set new goals for my life and really kept faith that they could be achieved.  The wallowing stopped.  The me as a victim stopped.  The world out to get me stopped.  I was renewed.  I was hopeful.  I had joy again.  I was finding my way back to the clearing.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have dark days.  I think we have established that I definitely do.  The difference now, is that those dark days aren’t lost in the wilderness days; those dark days are just temporarily overcast days.  I can handle some days without sunshine.  Not all of our days are going to be beautiful and bright.  We just have to know that the clouds are going to pass and the sun will shine again.  Ride out the gray days and wait for the beautiful ones…they are worth it.  And you know, sometimes the gray days can be nice too, we see more when we aren’t squinting from the bright sunshine.  Maybe there is something you’ve been missing…it’s OK to feel pain and process those feelings; no one is happy all of the time.  Just don’t lose your joy.

Now that I am older, I think back to that mom who didn’t listen to my request not to hug me.  That simple gesture, in her mind, changed my world.  How many kids, young people, or friends do we come into contact with that need us to make a simple gesture that could change their world?  Are we paying attention?  Are we looking beyond their words or actions to see what is in their eyes or in their hearts?  There are hurting people all around us; take the time and the risk to reach out and be there for them.  I am forever grateful that someone did that for me.  Like her, you might not even realize what you did at the time; that is the greatest gesture of all, when it just comes naturally to you to love them.

So, I guess that is what really brought me out of my wilderness on many levels…friendships.  Friends that loved me enough to see past my mistakes and friends that loved me enough to see my pain and bring me to the one place I needed to be most… at the cross.   Most of all, my best friend, my husband for sticking by me and growing with me through it all (well, most of it).

There is still so much to this amazing story, I hope that you will stick with me as I gain the courage to tell more of it.  Maybe I’ll get more creative in how I can tell the really good stuff without betraying any confidences…

Thanks for reading.

The Shed

Have you ever had something test a relationship to the breaking point?  Sometimes it is with your spouse or significant other, sometimes it is with a really good friend; whatever the case may be, y’all are tested.  For me, it was the day very early on in our relationship, when my not-yet husband asked me to help him build a shed.  Now, he was a very handy man, and I knew a thing or two about simple construction from my dad….But that wasn’t the kind of shed he had in mind.  This was the shed of all sheds.  When I agreed to to help with this, our first co-project, I had no idea that this would bring us to our breaking point.

Looking out at the backyard; there was a clear side, and then there was a completely dense with brush and debris side.  The clear side was already level and open, the other side was anything but.  Now I ask you, which side would you have thought he wanted to build the shed on?  Right??  NOPE!  He wanted to clear and level the OTHER side!  Oh my word!  OK, so first struggle, we aren’t talking about grass and weeds.  This was stuff taller than us and basically trees.  We get out there and start grabbing stalks to cut when our arms start burning like fire.  Oh, so this is actually Stinging Nettle, a plant that causes a burning rash when touched.  Very nice!  Long sleeves, gloves, pants…back at it.

Have I mentioned that he wanted to do this project in a weekend??  Yeah…

So, we clear and level the area for the new shed.  Mind you I do NOT have a willing heart at this point.  I am mad at the location as I’m constantly looking at the nice open, level piece of land just sitting there mocking me.  Finally, it is clear.  In this time, he has decided that because of this location the shed should sit on a concrete slab.  Now let me interject that we are in our mid 20’s and have little to no extra funds…I knew we would be doing this concrete work ourselves.  We mixed concrete in a wheel barrow and paint buckets with a drill and screw drivers…I still to this day can’t imagine how we survived not killing each other that day.  I was literally on my hands and knees spreading wet cement while he mixed and poured.  We were both cut to pieces from the rough mix.  It was hot and were beat up and tired.  I doubt a lot of you have ever mixed concrete by hand, but it gets heavy.  Not to mention, we didn’t get the ratio exactly right; so that slab is solid as all get out.

Are you noticing that we haven’t even started the shed yet?  The shed came in one of those DIY kits from the hardware store.  The instructions were confusing because so many of the pieces, which weren’t labeled, looked exactly alike.  On build day, his parents came to help, probably trying to mediate so we wouldn’t kill each other.  In reality, they were snipping and we were snipping…it became a guys vs girls scenario because us girls wanted to follow the instructions and the guys just wanted to get it done.  By this time, I hated this shed so much.  I hated everything about this shed.  I hated talking about this shed, I didn’t really care if it ever got done.  I never wanted to see this shed again.

But we all pulled together, and the shed finally did get finished…after we realized that we had put the shingles on upside down.  ARGH!!!  In the end, it was beautiful, it was the best shed ever.  We were able to keep so much stuff in there and nothing was going to get in there with that concrete slab.

Over the years, after the rawness wore off, that shed became more of a barometer for our relationship.  It became a symbol of our strength, as silly as that sounds…if we can build a shed together, we can do this.  The idea is this, we tackled something early on in our relationship that made us work together, compromise, communicate, and apologize.  Funny enough, that shed also made us do all of those things in front of other people…his parents and our neighbors who came to gawk at the crazy young couple building a shed.

I often worry about this new generation of kids who expect instant gratification and believe that they should never be uncomfortable.  When that mentality overflows into their relationships, will they have the fortitude to build sheds?  Will they just expect someone else to build it for them?  Those uncomfortable moments are the times when you learn the skills to cope with the bigger moments life is going to throw at you.  That silly shed wasn’t actually the hardest thing we have ever dealt with in our married life, but it did prepare us for those days.  It let us know that we could handle them together; because somehow even in the middle of hating that shed, we had still made each other laugh at the ridiculousness of the moment.  That is something we can still do today.  Maybe not in all circumstances, we definitely face some dark moments…we just hold each other through those.

The point is this: whether it be a spouse, a friend, or a family member, we all need someone that we could build a shed with if the time called for it.  We need to build those kind of deep relationships; instead of 1,000 superficial acquaintances.  Focus on strengthening the relationships you hold dear.  Be present in those lives instead of worrying about what all of your acquaintances are up to online.  Pay attention to more moments when they are happening instead of photo ops for posting online.  Look up, look out, and be there, where ever you are.  The people you are with are the people who deserve your attention.  I think in this day and age, we are all guilty of this.  Let’s just try it and see what happens…if you are with a living, breathing person, don’t check social media.  You have a friend right there!  I wonder if we will all feel a little more valued and special to the people we are with…a little more listened to…a little more connected….I just want my friends back.  Don’t you?  To be able to go to lunch with someone, and actually just have lunch with them?  Connection, that is how you build a shed.

So, to end my long story, we finally finished our shed…in a weekend.  We stayed together and were actually stronger in the end.  It did take a while before we really thought the whole incident was funny.  Now, years and so many construction projects later, we find our antics quite humorous.  We must have looked quite foolish, but very much in love, to put up with each other the way we did.  Today, I hope we don’t look as foolish when things come our way, but I do hope we look every bit as in love.

Hold on tight and build a shed, you’ll thank me for it someday.

Ugh, Mother’s Day!

OK, hold on…before you get all irritated, hear me out on this one.  I LOVE Mother’s Day, but I also dread Mother’s Day.  Every year, I endure this inner battle that my psyche is waging with itself; and it can get pretty brutal at times.  I’m not going to lie, I have had some dark years.

When I was a little girl, we always went and ordered my mom a fresh flower corsage to wear to church on Mother’s Day.  White, since her own mother had long since passed.  I loved this simple act of choosing which flower she would like and designing the corsage.  Going back to pick it up and “hiding” it in the refrigerator.  Somehow I always thought she was surprised by this gesture; and she always made me feel like she was.  We would buy cards and take her out to eat after church.  Mother’s Day was always a production, but it was an honor.  The favor was always returned in June when Father’s Day came around.

I’ll never forget the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach as my family started to break apart, and my parents stopped doing those little gestures for each other.  I can still remember going to a special horse event with my dad, and realizing that we hadn’t ordered a corsage for my mom yet.  I panicked and called the florist from the event.  I cried and cried.  It was that day that I understood that I would have to start celebrating them on my own from then on.  They wouldn’t be celebrating each other anymore or helping me coordinate any more surprises.  I was heartbroken but resolved.  That was the first time Mother’s Day changed for me.

Then years later,  when my mom and I were celebrating Mother’s Day, I was 20 years old.  We had the best day…it was just like old times.  I ordered her a white gardenia (one of her favorite flowers) corsage, I went to church with her, I had bought her a new dress to wear, and we had bought new matching purses.  After church, we went to lunch together.  All-in-all, it was the perfect day.  I would have given anything to have known that was going to be our last Mother’s Day together…she was killed a month later in a car accident.  That changed Mother’s Day for me for many years.  Although I had a Step-mother who loved me, I saw no reason to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I wasn’t a mom and I had just lost my mom.  I just felt dark and empty.  I resented the holiday and everyone celebrating on that day.  I hated the commercials, the Lifetime movies, the cards…I hated everything about that day.  In reality, it wasn’t the holiday I hated, it was my loss and pain.  I resented her being taken away from me too soon.

Then I became a mom myself.  That was probably an even bigger struggle because then I had to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I couldn’t hide from it anymore in good conscience.  It wasn’t fair to my kids to not let them celebrate me.  At first, I was there as a shell, but I was still obviously miserable.  I was still so stuck in my own misery that I was unable to receive their love and appreciation.  They felt it, I felt it.  It sucked.  One day, I just really got sad about my mom and missed the woman she was.  I was thinking about who she was and who I was missing out on…it dawned on me as I sat there; she would be really mad at me for wallowing in my sadness when there was all of this goodness around me.  She used to always say the craziest things, sometimes they were really prophetic.  One of the things she used to say was, “You can’t see past the stick on your face.”  If you just focus on what is right under your nose, the problem closest to you, you’ll miss the forest.  Sometimes, you have to get past yourself in order to move on.

Please don’t think that this means that I don’t miss my mom every single day.  Some days, especially the difficult days, I can’t imagine how I’ve lived without her for 20 years.  I’m just saying that I would miss out on so many daily blessings if I focused more on what I lost in her than what I have been given all around me.  Yes, I was robbed when she was taken too soon.  I have also been blessed time and time again.  She would not want me to focus on her loss more than I focus on my blessings.  She would never want to know that I am so sad about losing her that I can’t enjoy my life.

If I learned anything important from my mom that I hope I have passed on to my kids, it is this…Be a friend to the friendless.  Family is who you make it.  There were many times over the years when our friends were our family.  I have seen mom’s come in all shapes and sizes.  I have been “mothered” by friends, friend’s mothers, aunts and grandmas… I have myself mothered those I have birthed, those I have acquired, those I have wanted, those I have borrowed, those I have visited, those I haven’t even known… Trust me, you don’t have to give birth to celebrate or be celebrated on Mother’s Day.  Yes, it is a special day that should be held sacred for those of us that love us some kids and take time to do some raising.  However, some of us have lost those special ladies in our lives and some of us have lost our kids…they still deserve to be celebrated and loved on.  We all come from somewhere, and sometimes these special days are painful for whatever reason.  So, follow my mom’s example and just be a friend to the friendless.  Love on someone who might need loving.  Maybe they are missing someone they’ve lost.  Maybe they are missing someone that they’ve never been able to have.  Either way, they could probably use some love.  I’ve got 3 amazing kids that tell me how great I am and I still feel the hole that my mom leaves.  If you are blessed to still have your mom, hug her extra tight.  If you miss your mom too, hug your kids extra tight.  Just don’t hide and wallow…I know she wouldn’t have wanted that.

I was blessed for 20 years with my mom.  I have those years to look on and pull from to make me the kind of mom I want to be.  I ask myself, do my kids have that in me?  I need to be living the life that would make her proud.  The best way to keep my mom close is by living a life that would make her proud.  I’m not going to do that by living a life of resentment because she’s not here.  I can see her in my kids, I can see her in myself, and I can see her in little memories all around.  Most of all, I hope to honor her this Mother’s Day by being happy and enjoying the best day with my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Finding the Purpose

I’ll be real honest…I’ve been struggling lately.  There have been so many days that I have started writing something and walked away mid-sentence unable to put what I’m feeling into words.  I just don’t know how to wrap my brain around all of the thoughts and emotions swimming around inside of me right now…But at the same time, I feel this overwhelming call to speak out and tell our story.  So I’m just going to go for it…Please forgive all of the no-doubt countless grammatical mistakes and such.  I just hope that you are able to see past the words on the page and really hear the words that are in my heart.

God has given me one of the most remarkable girls with a life that has been a constant uphill climb.  Despite all of her tests and trials, she wakes up each day with a happy heart and a song on her lips.  I promise that a day doesn’t go by that this girl isn’t singing.  Her strength is both inspiring and overwhelming.  She has gone through more in her childhood than most people will in their lifetimes.  She faces each and every new challenge head-on with purpose.  She really believes, as do I, that God gave her this path for a reason…we don’t have to know what that is right now, He will reveal it in His timing.  I do know that I don’t know if other kids her age could handle all of this the way she has.  Doctors are always waiting for her to be depressed or angry, full of self-pity and resentment.  The day may come, and we would cross that bridge with her; but so far, so good.  She has an old soul.  Somehow she just gets it.  That makes me sad for the lost innocence of a carefree childhood, but I have to trust that we will find the purpose in all of this someday.

She has been sick from the very beginning…she really doesn’t know anything different. Our difficult road with doctors began with that first pediatrician that told me she was too young to really have asthma.  She wasn’t.  First experiences with powdered cereal were fun – with allergic reactions that the doctors told us couldn’t be “real” allergies.  Finally, when we started jarred baby food, her reactions were severe enough (with her skin in a constant state of being cracked and inflamed) that they said we should just avoid those foods.  Still unconfirmed allergies.  We began adding foods to that “Avoid” list until it just became categories…All berries, anything with Red Dye, that sort of thing.  To prevent any accidental consumption, she had to be taught from the get go what her allergies were and what types of foods and drinks that meant she had to avoid.  The saddest part of this process was the reaction she got from ADULTS at events when she would politely turn something down.  She wouldn’t go into detail about why she didn’t want it, she would just say, “No thank you” so as not to call attention to herself.  Later on, we started taking her a personal treat to parties to quietly have so that she didn’t have to completely miss out on the celebration.  This was also a nightmare to navigate.  People would accuse her of being a picky eater.  People said she was rude for not eating the cupcake/cookie/cake.  Others just tried making jokes about her being difficult or high maintenance.  Even those closest to us have made hurtful comments about going the extra mile to try keeping track of her laundry list of allergies.  Believe me, I know how difficult and frustrating it is trying to find things she can have; we live with it every day.

As her allergies and asthma were worsening, she was also starting to get sick with strange things on a rather regular basis.  If even one child at church or gymnastics had something weird, she was going to get it.  Then she started preschool.  This was when it got real.  I don’t think she has felt well since.  Honestly, I’m not sure she even knows what that feels like…to really feel well.  School meant constant exposure to sickness and germs.  You see, you might sit in a room and not even notice a sneeze.  You just say “Bless you” on autopilot and never even leave your trance or look up from your Facebook.  I can’t.  Every sneeze, every sniffle, every cough is a potential threat to her.  I sit there trying to diagnose those sniffles and coughs in my head.  Does that sound contagious or like allergies??  Did they properly cover their mouth and nose when they sneezed/coughed?  Every scraped knee, splinter, turf burn leave her susceptible to infection.  I don’t mean an infected wound requiring some ointment.  I mean a systemic infection requiring IV antibiotics and probable hospitalization.

On our road to a diagnosis, we have been on one crazy roller-coaster of emotions.  We have been told that she had Cystic Fibrosis.  We had to wait days to schedule the test and then when we got there, the tech explained (in front of her) that the test was just a formality because she definitely had CF.  We waited another 4 days, over an excruciating weekend, only to find out that she doesn’t have CF.  We were told that she had Lupus. Another long wait for results…she doesn’t have Lupus either.  She does have a cyst on her heart that we had to wait a month to find out if she was going to need open heart surgery to remove.  Countless other times we have gone for testing of various horrific diseases, requiring painful testing procedures, only to find out what she doesn’t have.  So many nights rehearsing in my mind what life would look like if the test came back positive.  Only to end up in another dead-end, facing another Mack truck, with another possible devastating diagnosis and testing.

Finally last summer, a diagnosis…Primary Immune deficiency Disease (PIDD) and more specifically, Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID).  I had never heard of that before.  Well, come to find out, I had actually seen some of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation commercials but had never really paid them any attention.  They didn’t apply to us, right?!  Wrong.  That was our answer.  This would be the beginning of another long journey.  For those of you, that are like I was (in the dark), Primary Immune Deficiency (PI) is a gene mutation that affects the B-cells and T-cells responsible for fighting infection and producing antibodies.  This essentially means that part of the immune system is missing, or not working properly, from birth.

PI comes in all shapes and sizes since no two patients are exactly alike.  PIDD is considered a Rare Disease by the World Health Organization.  Only about 1 in 25,000 people, like my daughter, have CVID …and not many of these are kids.  Unfortunately, doctors are trained to not go looking for the rare.  They have a saying in the medical community, “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras”.  They are taught, as a general rule, to focus on the likeliest possibilities when looking for a diagnosis, not the unusual ones.  The fact is, zebras do exist.  Sometimes, those hoof beats aren’t horses at all.  The PI community has adopted the zebra as their mascot to represent this shift in thinking.  The other cool similarity is that no two zebras have the same exact stripes; just like no two PI patients have the same exact symptoms.

We struggle with the medical community’s lack of understanding when it comes to Primary Immune Deficiency.  Some doctors are still waiting for the horse to show up because they have no explanation for the zebra that is sitting before them.  Others are worse because they claim to be well versed on PI, but then they continue to try forcing CVID into the same neat little boxes that they know how to deal with.  I can’t tell you how many times we have heard that she couldn’t possibly have _____________ because her labs came back normal.  I have to remind them that perhaps with her CVID, the numbers would be different or skewed from normal values.  Sometimes they look again, sometimes they stick to their opinion, and sometimes they are wrong and she pays the price.  Delay in treatment when she is getting sick, only means that whatever is attacking her has more of a jump start.  That usually means, heavier antibiotics and steroids will be required…never fun.

I often find myself questioning whether or not we are doing the right thing and listening to the right people.  I mean, when you are trying to come in out of the dark, how do you know where to start looking for the light switch?  I had often prayed for people who had chronically ill children.  I remember thinking how strong those kids and their parents must be to endure; wondering if I could ever find that kind of strength.  I remember seeing scenes in movies that would depict a mom having to do something that caused her child pain for their own well being.  I even remember saying that I didn’t think I could ever do that…I didn’t think I could ever hurt my own child; even if it was for their own good.  Well, it isn’t easy, but I’ve learned that you’ll do whatever it takes to make them better; and you just pray that they understand.

Now let me tell you about my epiphany.  We were at the hospital one day…one day that was the third day that week for more testing.  I remember that day like it was yesterday. We were sitting playing with our Story Dice; making up stories (as usual) but on this day, her stories were sad and dark.  No matter what I tried, not one of her stories had a happy ending.  Frog waiting for a kiss from the princess?  Nope, frog gets eaten by something and never gets his kiss.  That kind of thing.  I was sad for the first time in a long time. Please understand that if you take nothing else away from reading this, hear this…we truly enjoy our life.  We are happy (most of the time) and joyful (all of the time).  We have the most amazing family, and we honestly love being together.  I’m not sure if other families genuinely enjoy each other the way we do, but I certainly hope so.  We don’t wake up and count spoons, we don’t make sad videos with flashcards, and we don’t focus on what life can’t be…This is why her sour mood really stood out to me.  She is always happy…maybe not ALL day every day but she is happy every day.  She finds something that makes her happy in just about any situation.  If you know her, I bet that you would agree.  But not on this day, at this moment.  As I sat there trying to figure her out, I watched a mother wheeling her adult son out of the hospital.  He was wearing a mask, just like my daughter, to protect them from infection.  He was just a shell of a man and most likely had cancer.  I was heartbroken for her.  I was angered at the injustice of her life…having to watch her son suffer like that.  Then like a ton of bricks, my epiphany…I suddenly, for the first time noticed how the other people waiting in the area were looking at me.  They were looking at us with the exact same look I had given that mother and son.  I saw my daughter in their eyes and my heart broke.  She sat pale and sunken in the wheelchair, curled in a ball, swallowed up in her baggy sweats, wearing a mask.  I wanted them to look past the mask and see her strength and medical maturity, her acceptance of the road God has given her to travel, her amazing personality and sense of humor…I wanted them to see that she doesn’t go around feeling sorry for herself.

Do we all wish this away?  Absolutely!  It is a difficult road to travel when those around you can’t truly understand your struggles.  The road is lonely and frustrating.  We feel like we spend a great deal of time trying to explain ‘How she’s doing’ in response to a polite inquiry that just doesn’t have an easy answer.  People mean well,  most genuinely care, but they have no concept of how deep their question goes.  In their minds, she was sick last week…Is she better?  Let me see….yes, she is over what ailed her last week but she’s not better.  They are still waiting for her to be well…Please understand that currently there is no cure for PI; there are treatments that can make the disease more manageable, but no cure.  On top of that, infections and numerous other complications are pretty much a given for PI patients.

We live life with a chronically ill child.  To have a single week in a month without some kind of medical appointment is rare.  She has her weekly infusion one night a week.  A bucket of medications is perpetually on our counter.  I can’t remember the last time we left the house without a medical bag.  But this is just our life.  This is our normal.  This doesn’t define her, or our family.  We are learning, which requires  time and adjustment.  She lives as normal a life as is safe and possible for her…she goes to school, sings in the Honor Choir, plays volleyball, takes piano lessons, and lives in our pool pretty much May through September.  Like I said, we don’t go through life focusing on what she can’t do.  We make the things we can do that much better.  We don’t go to movie theaters anymore; these days, we wait for it to be available on iTunes, and then we have the best family movie nights.  We like to point out that at our home theater, the candy is better, the popcorn is better, the chairs with blankets are better, and we can pause the movie for bathroom breaks, but best of all…our great Danes get to enjoy the movie with us.  I won’t even get into that sticky floor at the theater…

So, what is my point in writing all of this?  Well, if you stuck with me and read this far, I hope you have a better understanding of what is going on with her and with our family.  I need y’all to understand how hurtful it can be to be judged by the “normal” standard when we are living an “extraordinary” life.  For instance, we have pulled back from our church attendance, not because we wanted to, but because being there was literally making our daughter sick.  We can watch the sermons online…it isn’t the same and we miss the fellowship, but this cuts down on her exposure to infection.  The judgment from fellow church members has been painful.  I often wonder, if in my shoes, would they be able to sit and focus wholeheartedly on a service knowing that they were putting their child at risk every minute they sat among the people?  Would they go anyway, the way they think we should?  My biggest struggle is with prayer requests… I know that sounds awful but please let me explain.  I would give anything for a miracle of complete healing…because please understand that is what it would take for her to be healed; a miracle.  Do I believe that God could heal her if He wanted to?  100%  On the other hand, we can’t live our day-to-day life expecting a miracle.  Before you try to correct my approach, please hear my heart.  My daughter is currently sick, she requires weekly treatment to keep her as well as she isn’t, and we must live with certain precautions to protect her from infections.  Telling us to live each day as if she has been healed, just isn’t medically responsible.  I equate that to telling a mom that she shouldn’t treat her son’s cancer because they should be expecting their miracle.  Do I still pray for one?  Yes!  I also understand that healing might not be His chosen path for her.  My prayer for her, and for our family, is for new research and understanding so that a cure can be found.  I pray for protection and her health, and I pray for new treatments to be discovered that would improve her quality of life.  Not waiting for my miracle is NOT a lack of faith on my part.  If you want to believe only in miracles of complete healing, I think you might be missing her miracle.  She has strength of character and compassion for others that only comes from trial.  She has been an amazing witness of God’s strength and faithfulness to every medical professional she has encountered, and that is a lot.  God has a huge plan for her life.  Put yourself in our position, could your spirit handle waking up every day disappointed that it wasn’t “miracle day”?  Realizing that God didn’t answer your prayer…I’m not trying to tell God the answer, we are living and celebrating the life He has chosen for us.  So please pray for her; but pray for comfort, her health, research and a cure, her quality of life, her spirit…and a miracle.

After reading this, I hope that you are curious to learn more about PI and CVID.  You may be wondering how you can help show support…Donate plasma if you are able.  My daughter’s weekly infusion (SCIG) is immunoglobulin replacement therapy.  Immunoglobulin (IgG) is the part of blood plasma that contains antibodies.  Just to give you an idea, her small dose takes 8 plasma donors a week to produce.  So that is at least 416 plasma donors a year just to treat my daughter.  Blood and plasma donations help the PI community immensely.  You can find some great information about Primary Immune Deficiency, CVID, and plasma donation at the following websites:

http://www.info4PI.org (Jeffrey Modell Foundation)

http://www.primaryimmune.org (IDF – Immune Deficiency Foundation)

http://www.donatingplasma.org (Information about Donating Plasma)

I think my last point to all of this is friendship.  In our busy world, we have started using, “How are you?”  as a synonym for “Hi”.  Since I lost a few people in my life to suicide, and all of these struggles in our life have intensified, I have purposely tried to stop doing this.  If I don’t have time to stop walking, look you in the eye, and REALLY listen to how you are doing, then I will just say “Hi”.  We need to watch the weight of our words…if you ask me how I am doing, I’d like to feel like you care to hear my answer.  I don’t want to say, “Fine” or “OK”, when I’m really not.  I understand that we are all busy…so just don’t ask if you don’t want to hear how I am.  It’s really OK not to ask every time we see each other.  Just understand that I am at a place now where I feel we, as a people, need to be seeing each other and trying to show more compassion.  If I ask you, I really want an answer.  If you ask me, be prepared to get the real answer.  Deal?  In this same vein, if you don’t fully understand something that we are going through, and you would like to, please just ask.  I’m certainly not a doctor, but I do feel like one some days.

Thank you for reading this and for your love and support.  I sincerely hope that you have a better understanding now of where we are in our journey.  Please follow her example, always look for something that makes you happy every day.  We appreciate your prayers and your friendship…we are so blessed by our family, friends, school, and church community.  If I have hurt anyone’s feelings with any of these words, please forgive me, that was never my intention.  At no point was I thinking of any specific individuals when writing this, only circumstances and events.  We love you all.

Look out for the zebras in your life, they truly are special.  If you are a zebra, kudos to you for living each day zebra strong.

Thank you.




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…