Monday, March 12, 2018

Hey Dad, It's been Awhile

It's been 28 years since my father's death.  I've danced with every imaginable emotion over and again as I process his death through every stage of life.  God has brought me to a place of understanding that has been painful and beautiful as I continue on this journey of life at an age when he had already left.

I've come to know how one could succumb to such a fate.  I've come to realize how futile judgement is. I've come to intimately know the darkness he knew.  I've also seen how light can emerge out of nowhere to save me.  I've seen God's hand reach down and pick me up from the pit.

I raise my glass to you Dad.  I'm sorry your life ended as it did.  I'm sorry you were so tormented in this life.  I hope that my life will continue to follow the light and that my children will know a different life.  I pray for hope to keep me afloat. 

I wish you had known peace...but maybe you didn't so that I could.  Maybe your tragic ending has been part of the reason I have the life I do.  I don't know whether you are in the depths of darkness now or not, but though you seemed a monster in this life, God still loves you.  You have children and grandchildren that God takes care of with such gentleness and kindness.  What you could not do, he does. 

Maybe someday I'll know the real you, but if I never do, all is well with my soul.  I have a Father who has given me his name, his favor, his love and his protection.  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Advice for New Moms

I remember playing with baby dolls as a young girl knowing that this is wanted I wanted to do when I grew up.  Above all else, I wanted to be a Mommy.  Sure, I wanted to see the world and have a career, but I knew in my heart, at a very young age, that the job that would be most important would be Motherhood.

So, when I was pregnant with our daughter, I was elated.  My pregnancy was relatively easy and delivery was quick.  Now, the parenting began.  While we were in the hospital, I called the nurses in the room every hour it seems with questions.  They were very kind and gracious although I know they had to be a bit annoyed!  I wanted to do everything right.  This was our precious little angel after all, and the pressure to be the best parent ever was there from the start.

Once we were home with her, it was our job to figure everything out, and we fumbled our way through. It was harder than we ever could have imagined, yet it was sweeter than we ever could have imagined.  I read parenting advice from every source I could get my hands on.  How do we get her to sleep?  What helps with teething?  How and when should we introduce solids? What's the best way to wean?  Yep, that first year was filled with questions and answers we had to figure out by trial and error.  I realized that my child is not going to necessarily be like the average, and we have to find what works for our family.

Time has passed, and two more babies have been
born.  Though I am far from a veteran at parenting, I've started learning the value of not sweating the small stuff.  It's hard for a Type A person like myself to just "let go", but it really is so much more enjoyable.  There are SO many opinions out there about what is best for kids these days, but the opinion that matters most, is yours as their parent.  God knew what he was doing by giving us these particular babies.

Parenting grows you and forces you to face your own issues in ways nothing else will-unless you decide not to admit to your mistakes.  So many times at night I lie in bed feeling guilty about my mothering that day.  I get frustrated and impatient with children that are beautiful yet sinful just like me.  God is teaching me daily to stop trying to be that perfect Mommy that I had hoped to be when I was a little girl playing with my baby dolls.  I will never be her.  She doesn't exist.  What is real is the love of our Savior through our faults.  So, I try to remind myself and my children that Jesus loves us both no matter how many fits each of us has!

My advice to new Mommies is to go into each day with the mindset that God will provide what you need that particular day as you ask him, because you are not going to have all the answers, or even any of the answers some days.  Take care of yourself, too.  I neglected myself for years, and the result was depression.  Get connected with other moms, get a babysitter and get out.  Don't neglect your marriage either.  The pressure of having kids and all that comes along with it can put a strain on a relationship, and your partner needs to come first.  Issues that may have been swept under the rug for years, may pop up.  Deal with them.  We teach our kids to work out their problems with others, so we need to lead by example.

The greatest advice is probably to trust your gut and PRAY.  Then, pray and trust your gut, over and over again.  This will help you gain confidence as a Mommy when voices from all around start to confuse you...and there are usually plenty of voices!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I Was Blind, but Now I See

How often do we make judgment calls about other people's lives when we don't really know what we're talking about?  How often do we see ourselves as wise in our own eyes, when it's really pride?  I see this in myself through each passing tide that rolls in and out of my life.  I see that what once gave me confidence is really selfishness and arrogance.

It feels good to think you know.  It's nice to feel like you have a handle on life. 

When unanswerable questions arise, we can shrug our shoulders and move on, put in our two cents based on what we think we know, or we can postulate ourselves before the living God in humility-not running from the unknown or trying to nail it down, but bowing before the one who knows all.  When life is void of answers, he is the One that soothes our souls.  There, in his arms, is where we find solace, wisdom, grace and love.  There is where we truly see.

Faith is not an abstract form of religion.  Faith is personal.  Faith is what grows inside.  Faith is what we lack.  Faith is not something we can conjure up.  It is a gift, yet how often do we sincerely pray for that gift that's there for the taking?  Isn't it easier to trust in our own wisdom and make ourselves god than to be humbled?  To take the form of a servant, seems below us. 

Yet, the tiniest speckle of faith changes everything.  True faith given by the Holy Spirit, heals, forgives, and creates life.  Faith says, whatever comes, let it come.  My God is with me.  He will sustain me.  He is my rock and my shield, my defender and protector.  This current heartache will not last and is but a drop in the bucket compared to the glorious life I will live in heaven for all time.

Though I was blind, now I see.
The Creator and me,
Walking together, side by side-
Gloriously blinded in the dead of night.

Though foe and fiend try to take me,
He will not let go of his sheep.
There is nothing to fear or figure out.
My God, my love, has erased all doubt.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Poverty, Abuse & Despair do not See Color

After getting to know people and telling them a little bit about my childhood, I often get a somewhat shocked and confused response.  They look at me, cocking their head to the side, and saying in a serious and slightly high pitched voice, "I never would have thought that about you" or "You don't look like the kind of person who would have had a childhood like that."

I never know quite what to say after that.

It is what it is, and this is what it is.

I was born into a family that most would consider white trash.  My father rarely kept down a job.  He was abusive and mentally ill.  He was an alcoholic and ended up purposely overdosing, killing himself on his prescribed meds after a stint in the mental hospital.  He died alone and miserable.

My mother tried to take care of us, but she had her own battles that kept her from being emotionally present.  She managed to keep us fed and clothed.  I remember having a love of meat that still exists, because this was a luxury for us.  I still get a warm feeling after I go to the grocery store, put all of the food in the cabinet and step back to look at it.  Full cabinets of food are a gift.

My mother often worked several jobs, and we were by ourselves or under the "care" of our father a lot as kids.   This is when he did things like put beer in my cup when I was 3 or 4 years old to get me drunk and laugh when I couldn't walk.  He would put his hands over mine and my brother's mouth and nose so that we couldn't breathe, start laughing as we'd flail about, and then let go right before we passed out.

When my father was still in the picture, my mother would leave him over and over again just to be sucked back into the abusive cycle.  Sometimes, I didn't know where I was when I woke up...a shelter, a friend's house, or a new place my mom had found.  Nothing was stable.  Nothing was sure.

I loved school, because the schedule and routine provided safety for me.  Yet, I remember being a little girl in outdated, faded hand me downs feeling embarrassed around the other kids.  As a first grader, my teachers noticed the bruises and called me into to talk to the principal and school counselor.  I was honest, and this elicited a visit from social services to my home which my mom took a major beating for.

Our houses were often run down.  My mom tried to fix them up, but you can't fix something up that's about to fall down.  There were bugs, smells, decay...we moved constantly.

Despite all of this, my mother always had us in church and this influence began my spiritual journey.

At the age of about 10, I knew.  I knew I was not going to live the life that I was being raised in.  This was after my father died and my mom was a single mom still struggling to make ends meet.

I remember studying Geography in school.  I was enraptured by all of the different cultures and places in the world that were unique and beautiful.  I knew I didn't want to stay put.  I didn't want to live in the town I grew up in.  I didn't want to stay in the place that I found myself.  I didn't want to continue the path that had been laid out for me.  No, I would fight.  Fight to get out physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And that's what I did.

With the hand of God guiding me and sustaining me, I got out of that pit of despair.  I prayed and cried and prayed.  Jesus Christ is the reason I live-not just physically but as a whole person.

He's why I didn't get pregnant at 16.
He's why I didn't end up with a jerk that would abuse me.
He's why I don't live in poverty.
He's why I am more emotionally stable than I ever thought possible.

I don't write all of this to elicit pity.  I write to remind people not to judge based on appearances.  I have battle scars that you can't see.  I was not born into privilege despite how I dress, speak or my skin color.  I was born into a big fat mess that began generations before on both sides of my family.  I made choices that led my life where it is now.  The power of God took me on a different path.  His influence is what changed my mindset.  I could have rejected him, but, by his grace, I didn't.  Even though it has been one scary and uncertain ride, I would NEVER change it.

I continue to battle demons from the past.  I always will.  It will always be worth it, too.

We can blame our society.  We can blame other's opinions.  We can blame everybody else in the world...but that doesn't mean that those things are responsible for the way that our lives turned out.

Take responsibility for yourself.
Work...get off your butt and work if you want a better life.  Work to make yourself more educated, more healthy on the inside.  Work to be financially secure.  Work to make your family what you want it to be.  Stop sitting around complaining that you don't have what everybody else does.

An entitled society is a dangerous society.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Little Purple Fish

Once there was a little purple fish that lived in a pond with other purple fish.  The purple fish were sick, and most of them spread their disease to one another.  The pond she lived in was murky and always dark.  Living in the pond started to make the little purple fish sick too, and she didn't want to stay in the same pond with the other purple fish anymore.

One day while exploring, she found a hole in the side of the pond that led away from her pond. She didn't know where it led, but she thought, "I have to try to have a life without being sick.  I have to try not to get as sick as the other fish."  So, she pushed her body through the hole and swam with all of her might.

As she scurried along through the dark hole, she began to be afraid.  She hoped she would see something soon.  She persevered, and came out of the other side of the hole.

She was in a completely different pond.  "Wow!", she said in amazement. 
The new sights, sounds and smells enveloped her.  It was beautiful, scary and exciting all at the same time.  The water was more clear.  The colors were not muted.  The orange fish she met were friendly and looked healthy.  It was a dream come true.

The little orange fish gladly joined the orange school of fish. She felt loved and included, but sometimes, it was hard for her.  She came from a very different place with very different kinds of fish.  Her new orange friends didn't quite understand why she said or did things the way that she did.  

The little purple fish didn't always understand the orange fish, either.  There was no one else like her in her new home. This made her feel very alone.

She had a routine that helped.  Her favorite time of day was right after the sun came up.  She loved when bright flashes of light that shot downward into the pond splashing on her face.  It was so peaceful; so still.  

One day, she was basking in the first light of day when she noticed a larger light up above.  It was all by itself.  She thought the beaming light was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. She realized the flashes of early morning light in the pond that she enjoyed so much came from the bright light that shone down on her without fail every day.  This was the first time she knew in her heart that she was never really alone.

After that day, the little purple fish looked up at the sky every day thankful for the sun.  She even told her orange friends about the light.  The light brought them together.  

Somehow, they didn't seem so different as they all gathered to look up at the sun, because they weren't seeing the differences in one another.  They were looking at the sun that united them all.

The little purple fish knew this same sun shone down on the pond she came from, but they just couldn't see it because of the darkness.  She felt sad for the fish she once lived with and went back to tell them about the sun. Some believed and swam to the pond filled with light.  Many did not believe choosing to stay sick in the dark pond. 

This deeply saddened the little purple fish, because she loved them, but as time passed, more purple fish swam to the light.  

When the little purple fish was very old, the last of her kind left the darkness to come bask in the sun with her.  This made her very happy and very glad that her little purple and orange family would grow in such a world of light and love.   

The sun had saved them all.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Helicopter Mom's Rant

I'm what many would categorize as a helicopter mom most days.  I watch my kids like a hawk when we're in stores, the playground or large crowds.  I anticipate a broken bone and try to prevent it before we're in the ER.  I try to protect and guide my kids, but I also try to give them freedom and push them to do things themselves when I feel they are ready.   It's just me, and I don't expect others to necessarily agree or adhere to my style of parenting.  I don't want others to expect me to parent the way they do, either.  Yet, it seems my style of parenting can be judged quite harshly these days.

Related imageI recently read an article where a mom pretty much bashed the way I parent.  She felt that she was being judged for being the mom sitting on the picnic bench across the playground while her 3 year old fumbles on large monkey bars.  This mom felt that a mom like me who was worried about her little one falling and breaking a leg was being paranoid and judgmental by looking around to see where she was.  This mother further went on to explain how she lets her children explore their worlds on their own with her at a safe distance monitoring.  She says these are great opportunities for her to have time with other moms.

Okay.  I get it.  You need to let your kid figure things out.  I totally agree with that.  Kids have to try things for themselves if their ever going to gain independence and confidence, but I think this lady's guilt was what motivated her vehement response to us helicopter parents.

I've been in these situations, and it stinks.  I'm trying to help my two year old manage a high step when her kid is dangling on the monkey bars that are way too high for him about to fall and break something.  I look to find her as her son is slipping with a look of terror on his face and desperately asking me for help . This isn't my kid, but is mom looking?  Usually not.  She's deep in conversation or her head is buried in her cell phone.
Image result for mom on cell phone park

Do I get upset?  Yep!  I'm trying to make sure my kids are safe, not only from getting hurt, but from some creepster coming up and trying something, and she plops the responsibility of helping her kid on me.  She'll say it was never my responsibility, but really?  I'm just going to watch your little boy, who has no business trying to climb monkey bars made for a 10 year old, get hurt?

I've been in another such situation at a fast food restaurant in a play place area.  Mom and Dad release their children into the multi-colored indoor playground separate from the dining area while they sit outside of the glass windows and occasionally glance over while they eat and have a conversation .  My husband and I have been in one of these play places with our two children and at least 10 other kids.  We were the ONLY adults in there!  There was a boy bullying all of the little ones that needed to be corrected and another with a water bottle which expelled water from one of those tall slides and then he threw it a few inches from my 1 year old's head.  Did the parents of these kids know what was going on?  Nope.

In yet another instance, my barely 3 year old was being bullied by other girls, and the moms had absolutely no idea that their 4 and 5 year old girls were doing this.  They were lost in conversation and still didn't seem to care what was going on after I went over as my daughter was sobbing.  These girls wouldn't talk to her or let her go down the slide.  I corrected them, because of course, I was burning up inside about it.  Not only were they acting very cruelly to my very sensitive child, their mothers were completely oblivious the entire time.

I totally understand the exhaustion of parenting.  I totally understand the need for breaks and adult time, but I do not appreciate being a babysitter for your kid without being asked!  Go get a babysitter and go out!  Don't pawn your kid off on the nearest adult.  If you don't want to hover around your kids, fine.  At least pay attention to them especially if they are little or little ones are around them.

Our kids need us to help them learn how to start to navigate those big monkey bars, and then they'll be able to go across after we've helped them a few times.  They need us to correct them when they're doing something unkind, and they need us to help them have the confidence to speak up when needed.  I think we can be involved as parents without taking the responsibility away from them to try new things.  Shaping does not stop at the playground!  We need to find a balance between anxious parenting and hands off parenting and not judge one another!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Come, Let us Worship Together

Remember the Sabbath.
Do we?
Keep it holy.
Are we?

A knot develops in my stomach as I think of the "worship" services I've attended in my lifetime. Many were far from worshipping Jesus Christ.  A handful of people performed on a stage singing "Christian" music evoking an emotional response while a crowd stared up at them.  As emotions heightened, the performers amped it up lifting their hands higher, waving their arms harder, skipping across the stage at times.  The crowd loved this. Lyrics chanted repeatedly flashed up on a screen often reminding us of what we needed to do to be in good standing with God.

As everyone took their seats after the mini concert, a charismatic speaker wearing trendy clothes took the mic.  He was very engaging and personable.  He told some funny stories, used a few verses from the Bible to support his points about living a Christian life making heartfelt comments along the way to make us feel better about ourselves.

When his talk was done, one left feeling more of a duty to be a better Christian, yet no real tools to do so.  There was always the nag to be better.  There was never true peace.

You could sign up for service opportunites that had to be filled.  You were doing your part if you helped clean up after church, helped with parking duty, worked with the children in their "church", gave of your musical talents, etc.  This was called service, and the people who are recognized were the ones who gave a lot of their service.

So, this is what the Sabbath is supposed to be?  I don't think so.

It seems to me many churches have lost focus. The focus is turned inward while Christ is used as some sort of banner to adorn the church walls.

The Sabbath is the sign.  It points us to Jesus.  Our REST!  That is what Sabbath means.  The Sabbath is about preaching the Word, not a self help sermon with a few Bible verses sprinkled in for good measure.  It is about the Holy Word of God that is to be heard and learned.  It is about coming together in fellowship to participate in the sacraments.

I think Christian culture has confused what Psalm 26:8 means.  "I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells." Why are we begging God to come.  He is in his house where his people are.  If you don't "feel" anything, that doesn't mean he isn't there.  That's pretty self centered of us to think that a feeling is what is needed for God to be present in his house with his people.

What happened to the service of loving our neighbors?  Service doesn't mean you fill every service slot at church or have to raise tons of money to travel overseas.  It means you show love to the mean old man that lives across the street.  It means you support a friend who is having a hard time.  It means you make time for your own family and their needs.  It means you pray for God to mend relationships and change parts of your heart that need tending.  You don't have to go far to serve God.

We complicate something that is so simple.  Worship cannot be conjured up.   We cannot make ourselves better people.  We are wretches saved by the miraculous grace of God.  "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2

After many frustrating years of filling my obligatory duty, worship on a Sunday morning has become my favorite time of the week.  I sit with my brothers and sisters in Christ singing sweet hymns about our Savior, listening to the Gospel being preached, and breaking bread with them at the Lord's Table. I am reminded of my sinfulness, but also reminded that the debt has been paid in full.  I am forgiven. Thanks be to God!

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42