When I was in the first grade and lived in a perfect little suburb of Livonia, my parents sat us all down and told us we were going to visit a farm in the country because we might be moving there. As I recall, my older teenaged brothers were not terribly thrilled about this announcement, but I was beside myself with excitement. My dad told me that we would have animals and a garden and all of the awesome trappings of living off the land! I couldn’t wait to get started! All seven of us piled into the car for the hour long drive to the village called Byron. The people who were selling the house were just finishing up a HUGE breakfast that Sunday morning and the whole farmhouse smelled of maple syrup. There was a barn and a big old shed and the yard was gigantuous! My dad talked about the property having 20 acres. This 6-year old city girl had heard of blocks, cul-de-sacs and corner lots, but never an acre. He explained that one acre was about the size of our yard at home and the three or four yards touching our property, combined. It all felt like such an adventure!
We went out to visit one more time after my parents bought the property and before we moved in. We met the neighbors who lived about a quarter mile from us and they had a little girl named Kim, just a year younger than me. She had her very own pony! The family also had barn cats, a dog or two, chickens and a few head of cattle and I couldn’t wait to live just like them – especially the “my own pony” part! I had a bunch of fun that summer with Kim. Her mom made homemade bread and jam, and let us collect the eggs from the chicken coop. We layed on the grass and found pictures in the clouds. I liked the country life just fine! I was very nervous about attending a new school in the fall, but I had a friend, so at six, I just lived in the moment. Unfortunately, she lived on the other side of the county line, so she attended school miles away from me, and as September neared, I became increasingly sad about that.
That first week of school another girl from the Detroit area showed up in my classroom. We were fast friends. I just loved her and her family was so cool. Her dad had tattoos and he was so friendly, her mom reminded me of Cher and her brothers were older and kinda cute! We spent almost every weekend at each other’s homes. When we got a bit older our parents would allow us to walk to meet each other halfway, so we would call each other to leave at the same time and each walk the 1/2 mile to see each other. I would always be a little jittery until I got over that first hill on the road. Once I got to the top of that hill, I would usually see my best friend and it was all worth the fear of walking that road alone for the first stretch.
One of my favorite parts of going to Byron Elementary School was morning milk break. My mom would give us a quarter for milk break milk for the whole week. We got to drink our little pint of milk, laugh with our friends and just be kids every morning for about 20 minutes. It was glorious! We did not do that in the city school I came from and one of the things I loved about this was that we got to do it all through elementary school. When we got into the upper grades, we were allowed to play music that we brought in during the break. It was the bomb! I often wonder if they still do that at Byron Elementary…
I don’t remember how or why but for some reason an older girl, named Shelley, used to come into my classroom during milk break and kind of watch over us. She was a cheerleader, as I remember, and she always had the sweetest smile on her face. She had freckles like me, but she was SO much prettier than I ever hoped to be. As I’ve mentioned before, I was not an especially likeable little girl. I was also gangly, with red hair, freckles and a bit brash… So, when Shelley was kind to me, I was just shocked! I wanted to be just like her in every way. Probably every child in my class thought s/he was Shelley’s favorite. I remember knowing that she genuinely cared about me. She listened to me and really talked to me. I don’t remember her ever saying anything bad about anyone or anything. I was completely enamored with her. I even told my older brothers that I wished one of them would marry her – and I wasn’t kidding…
She would show the girls in my class differ cheer routines and moves. She would always choose me to lift up on her shoulders! I felt so special! At some point, Shelley came to tell me that “they” told her that she wasn’t allowed to lift anyone up anymore because it was dangerous. I thought “they” were crazy! They were ruining this little girl’s life! Ha! That school year ended and Shelley didn’t come to my class the following year. I remember a couple of years after that when I didn’t really see Shelley much, wondering if she just felt sorry for me back then or if she really liked the unlikeable freckle-faced girl I was. That would only last until I saw her and she smiled her big beautiful smile at me and said, “Hi,” and ask how I was doing. I knew then that she was the real deal and she saw something in me that no one else seemed to see and she truly cared about me.
I’m a kindergarten teacher now. I try to remember what a difference Shelley made in my life. Somedays my kinderbabies will get on my very last nerve by being unkind to each other or being self-centered – as children will be… I still strive to be as loving and accepting as Shelley was to me. I continually ask Him to help me love my babies with His love. I fall short much of the time. I wonder if Shelley knows what a difference she made in this awkward little girl’s life. I still want to be her when I grow up…
There are a bunch of reasons why I believe in God. Until my faith was TRULY tested a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare if and when that all came about. I mean, sure, I thought I was a regular Job (the guy in the Bible, not a career) when I went through some struggles in my life – financial, minor health issues, my scary pregnancy with our twins, but until my world was completely upside down, I had NO idea. We just can’t know until we’re there…
What brought me to consider Him began when I gave birth to my second child. I thought I was all modern woman, agnostic, guilt-free. In fact, I had struggled with my past choices for years, but had managed to shove it all down pretty well for a very long time. When I first saw my son, I could not believe that I got to have such a perfect, precious being – not after I had done something so horrible…
I was 19 years old and a freshman in college. I had dated the same boy since I was 15 and a freshman in high school. My roommate and I had saved up our money for months to buy a loft in order to have more space in our obscenely small dorm room. The loft beds were wobbly and not really safe for us to sleep in, but we could afford them and so up they went!
About two weeks after we got the lofts, I got terribly sick. Just as I would wake up, I was having to jump down from my unsteady loft to lose my cookies down the hall in the community bathrooms. One morning my roommate asked me if it was possible that I was pregnant. I told her that of course I couldn’t be because I was on “the pill.” When it kept going on for several more days, I decided to visit the campus clinic. The doctor called me in, told me that I was pregnant and informed me that because I was on the pill, the baby would be born with many health and development issues, if it even survived the pregnancy. He then gave me a card with information about how to terminate my pregnancy and told me I should do this as soon as possible. I acted very “college-girl” and agreed that there was no other real choice.
I was a modern woman and I had little patience for those girls who “trapped” their boyfriends into marrying them with a baby, so I called my boyfriend, told him I needed $200 as soon as possible and informed him that I did not want to see him anymore. My mother called me a few days later and even though I had no intention of telling her anything, I broke down (mostly from shame) and told her I had an appointment for an abortion. She told me that she and my father would take me. I objected a little, but I think I wanted them to be with me deep down. I remember my mom telling me that she would support me in whatever decision I made. She asked me if I wanted to keep the baby and I quickly told her, “No. I can’t.”
I told myself that this wasn’t a real baby, yet. I told myself that it would be born with too many problems and that wouldn’t be fair to the baby. I did not want people to think that I did this on purpose because I was having a hard time adjusting to this huge college and wanted an easy excuse to quit and settle. I also knew I should not marry my baby’s father.
The day that I went to the clinic was nightmarish. My parents were hard for me to read. It was a long, silent ride to the clinic. The pain of the procedure was excruciating. The people that worked there were very kind. Afterwards, they told us that I should get something to eat right away. The one vivid memory I have of my parents that day was pulling out of our parking spot and my dad asking me if I wanted to get something to eat at the Big Boy restaurant that was near there. My mother abruptly said, “NO! Just go home.” I was so sure that she hated me then. I’m sure now that she had a million emotions going on inside of her, but I was 19 and all I could seem to do was focus on closing my heart to what I had just done. I couldn’t show any emotion because I was not the victim, my baby was, so I did not deserve any sympathy! I slept most of the weekend and then returned to school with very little outward evidence as to what had happened. A liberal arts college is the place to be if you want to behave like a liberated woman and stuff your junk down in the name of being modern…
It wasn’t long before I began to date my boyfriend again. I drove him crazy with my accusations of him blaming me for killing our baby. He never said a word about any of it, but everytime he did or said anything I saw it as a way to punish me for what I had done. Guilt had become the ruler of my life. Our relationship was awful. It had always been a rollercoaster ride, but now it was even worse. So, of course, we decided to get married. Months later I called it off after everything was planned because I had a moment of sanity. He moved several states away, my parents sent me to California for a couple of months and it seemed we were getting on with our lives. He came back to Michigan for a visit and we decided we should get married again, and I would move to New Mexico with him. My poor parents… I was a train wreck happening over and over again…
See, I thought he was the one because I had shared myself with him and deep down I believed that I was bound to him forever. I also believed in my heart that I had murdered his baby and I had to make it right somehow. I didn’t think any of this consciously, I had worked very hard to entomb my guilt and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that I could begin to see why I had made so many terrible decisions as a young adult. I remember my father saying once that he couldn’t believe how little I cared about having an abortion. I didn’t have any response. How could I begin to tell him how I felt at 19, just trying to do what I believed was “right” for everyone and struggling to hang on to my sanity?
My marriage was awful in almost every way. I cringe when I think of who I was during those three years. The one thing that I still can hardly believe is that God blessed me with my precious son during all of this. The truth is that without him, I would have probably stayed in that mess for longer than I want to believe. I didn’t believe I was worth more than that. I knew my son was. I understand why this sounds like crazy logic, and it sounds very unfair to my son (and it WAS!), but I believe that it was His plan. I found Him because of Scott. I didn’t immediately become a full-fledged Christian. It was several years before that happened, but I KNEW when I looked at my baby that very first time that there was a God and He loved me. Unfortunately, my next thought was that if I was a good enough mom, He would forgive me for what I had done to my first child…
So, that’s what I did. I tried like crazy to earn grace. It seemed to work really well while he was young. When he was three years old, I married my husband, whose father is a pastor. We began to visit his church and I asked LOTS of questions. I drove my husband crazy. My father-in-love was such a patient teacher. He never got upset with my doubts or my questions. He helped me see Jesus in a whole new way. Four years into our marriage, I was pregnant with our daughter and Scott was almost 7 years old, I was baptized and crazy about Jesus. The one thing I still claimed to not completely agree with other Christians about was abortion. I taught at an innercity school where I witnessed some unbelievable life situations. One of my special ed. girls had two children. One of them was her biological father’s and the other was her stepfather’s – both of which were in jail for what they had done to this child. I used to tell my Christian friends that this was one situation where abortion may have been the answer. It helped keep all of my junk stuffed and no one any the wiser.
In 1995 we had twin boys! I was in the hospital for months with complete previa and they were born 6 weeks premature with several issues. I lost so much blood during their delivery that they lost me on the table briefly. It took us awhile to get back on our feet again, but less than 18 months later, we were moving into a wonderful new home in a cul-de-sac with a beautiful inground pool and 4 bedrooms! The first thing I did was had a fence put up around the pool for safety after walking out there with our little ones for the first time and watching them all scatter three different ways. When it was done, I took our three youngest out into the backyard to run around freely. It was a gorgeous sunny day and my babies were poetry in motion running around back there! As I watched them from a bench in our yard, I was suddenly overcome with deep mourning. The emotions were so strong that I remember feeling overwhelmed with fear of such sorrow. I took my babies into the house, laid them all down for their naps and went into my bedroom down the hall.
I mourned for several days. I mourned the death of my little girl, because I always knew she was a girl. I mourned the choices I had made because of what I had done. My Heavenly Father sat in that room with me and it was as if we opened each drawer in my dresser of stuffed junk and He helped me clean it out with such love as I had never known. Drawer by drawer, we cleaned, folded and put each thing away neatly. He showed me that I could never do enough to earn grace. So, I asked Him to forgive me, even as I told Him I didn’t understand how He could. It was a lengthy process that took days to work through. It was beautiful and sorrowful. My tears seemed never ending.
I couldn’t share anything with my husband until my Father was done with me. He already knew about the abortion, but he didn’t know for several days that God was dealing with me about it. At one point, Bob came to me and said, “I’ve been trying to figure out why you’re so sad and I want you to know that if you’ve done something, found someone else, we can work through this. I love you and I don’t want to lose you.” I don’t think I had ever loved my husband as much or felt as loved by him until that moment.
When it was time for me to close the last drawer, I had a new understanding of His love for me. I had a peace that was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I felt lighter and clean… Really, really clean, inside and out.
Since then I still have moments when I ask Him to help me accept His grace, love and forgiveness. I find that I love more fully now. I am able to extend grace in a way I wasn’t able to before. I encourage people to open their drawers and deal with their junk, because we all have it and I believe we’re supposed to help each other not feel so alone by sharing our stories. I hope my story helps someone else feel less alone and more able to be transparent so that He can show him or her His grace, love and forgiveness. He knows when we’re ready and He’s waiting for us to allow Him to help us. That is one of the things I hold onto when I have my doubting moments. He came when I was ready. He didn’t condemn me in hate, but He convicted me in love when I least expected it – when I thought I was all better and it was all over and life seemed so good, even though my past choices were controlling so much of my life still.
That’s what sin does in the dark.
Do you ever just feel like stomping your feet while loudly proclaiming, “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!”? When our children were growing up and one of them would indignantly tell me this, I would respond with, “You’re right. It’s not fair. I’m not sure who told you life was fair. They lied to you… It isn’t.” I didn’t say this to be insensitive to my children. I thought I was preparing them for life. We just get hurt if we go into this stuff thinking things are going to go like they do in the movies. The good guy does not always win. The truth does not always come out. Sometimes people just don’t care to know and it’s too much trouble to make things “right.”
There we go. Put a pretty bow on it and everything is crystal clear and life will be smooth sailing now that I’ve imparted some more “wisdom” and “truth.” … Yeah … No
Recently I was having one of those (couple of) days when I’m spiritually stomping my feet and inwardly proclaiming to Him that, “It’s not fair.” I’m feeling beat up and I’m just kind of tired of the whole thing.
Last night I was was having a little pity party. I was skipping dinner, going to bed at 7:00 and hoping to wake up with a new attitude. I let Him know I knew life wasn’t fair, but I needed to be a baby for a short bit. He’s cool with that, if I’m honest with Him about it.
Both of our oldest sons texted me within minutes of each other. One to tell me that our grandson was home from the hospital and doing better and the other to see how I was doing. Blessed…
I told our oldest about my pity party and said I’d be better tomorrow. He offered to come over with my daughter-in-love and hang out. My Honey thought it was a wonderful idea since his wife was wallowing and he couldn’t seem to help her shake it off!
Our Hannah ordered Chinese food, our Caleb and Aaron went and picked it up. Scott and Bailey showed up with Donut (my grandpuppy), who immediately jumped up on my bed, made a beeline for me and made me smile ear-to-ear! Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we get more than we deserve.
We talked, laughed, told stories, hugged and ate. It was just what we all needed. I know it was what I was aching for. I didn’t feel all alone anymore.
I realize that I feel very isolated in this other situation I’m in. Some of the inmates are running the asylum and sometimes there isn’t a thing you can do after you’ve done all you can. You have to wait it out and then move on. Life isn’t fair. I want to believe that it will be like a heroic movie and truth will win out, but I’m not so sure I’ll get my happy, fair ending. And it’s funny to me that I still believe on some level that life should always be fair. I think He instilled that in us because it is supposed to be what we desire and fight for. Unfortunately, I know this is a broken place and we run it with human imperfection.
So, I think figuring out how to balance all of that is what I have trouble coming to terms with on occasion. Do you struggle with this? I feel like when I stop struggling with this, I will become a very bitter, albeit, realistic girl, but sometimes I wonder if letting go means I’ve grown up…
Nah…. I just can’t do it…
We were all at church this past Sunday, my Honey, our babies and the youngest baby’s girl and the messages have all been focused on the 12 Steps this month. This week we had gotten to Steps 4 and 5. Years ago, I attended a recovery group at our church in Michigan and since then I’ve realized it is an essential part of growing for EVERYONE, not just those people, because we are ALL those people. When I first started going to the meetings back then I remember feeling like I didn’t really belong because I was not as screwed up as most of the other people at the meetings. I’m not an alcoholic, or a child molester. I’m not a recovering drug addict or a cleptomaniac. My life seemed pretty Holly, Molly, Polly to me back then. I kept attending because I trusted friends that encouraged me to go. When we moved, I was surprised to find that the churches we attended in Texas weren’t really familiar with the program outside of AA. It was something I wanted to continue when I came here seven years ago. It was a lot of HARD work that I led to great peace, but over the years I’ve become complacent and gotten pretty good at remaining anonymous. So, I’m full of mixed emotions now that I have no excuses because my church is all in about this ministry, and now I am completely aware that I am just as screwed up as everyone else.
After church we went to this yummy, cheap Mexican restaurant with our three youngest, plus Aaron’s significant other. Just as an aside, the whole meal for 6 of us cost $35.00 and was delish! We started talking about church and asking each other what we thought our “thing” was – and reminding each other that if you think you don’t have a “thing,” then denial is probably your “thing.” (I’m sure Aaron’s girlfriend was thrilled about this discussion!) A couple of people asked to have “thing” redefined. “It’s what holds you back, what gets in the way of you being who God means for you to be,” someone said. If you can’t think of what yours is, you are supposed to ask those closest to you, because they definitely will have an answer for you. We’re helpful like that, aren’t we?! I reverted to several years ago and tried to think of a “REALLY BAD” thing (UGH!). Of course, when I couldn’t think of one, my daughter said, “Mom, you KNOW what your thing is,” and then gave me “that” look.
Several seconds passed while I racked my brain. (Is that how you spell r-a-c-k?…)
OH, yeah… I shut my kids down, in the name of “respect me because I’m your mom” and treat them with no respect when I feel threatened or insecure… Now I remember…
and I remember the other thing that was said at church was that step 4 was the most difficult – because you have to honestly face your junk and you have to do it continually. I’m confessing right here and now that because I have previously admitted that I do that to my children, I had kind of put it away. I wish it was because I’m over it and I won’t ever do it again, but I’m pretty sure it was because I just don’t want to look at it anymore and I want to think I’m all better… Yeah, no… I need to work on being so defensive.
The next step is making amends. I’ve admitted this to my children. I’ve even apologized to some degree… I mean when I do this it is because one of my children is being a disrespectful brat and I’ve had enough… Doesn’t that make it a little bit okay for me to raise my voice and shut him/her down?…
Hmmmm, I’ve got some work to do, more submitting to Him, more confessing to them and sincere apologizing.
Now I know why these two steps are so difficult and SO necessary. I also realize that it’s important for me to follow through with these steps continually throughout my life if I want my children to be all that He means for them to be. I want to be an example to my children and to my grandbabies. I want them to respect me because I’m transparent, and after God’s heart.
I wish we could just line up the “junk” and work on it for a couple of weeks and then be completely clean! Wouldn’t that be the BOMB?! Wrap it all up in a nice box with a pretty bow and move on to Eden…
My pre-step, Step 0, as it were, is to find a 12 Step small group to be a part of. Right now that feels as huge as steps 4 and 5 combined. I know that this is an answer to prayer on a couple of levels, so I’m going to try to shed my complacent skin (another one of my “things”) and follow His lead. He knows what I need more than I do and I really want to be in His will. I’m pretty okay with answered prayers for the most part, too…
Last weekend our daughter streamed the movie, “Stuck in Love” into our gameroom for all of us to watch. I was not thrilled with a few things at the beginning and had a bit of a negative attitude for the first 20 minutes or so. About halfway into the movie I was starting to wonder what was wrong with Greg Kinnear’s character. I loved that he was so dedicated to his children and his ex-wife, although I couldn’t believe that he hadn’t given up on her since she was remarried and the holiday placesetting and the stalking thing was a bit much…
When he reveals to his daughter, who thinks he’s crazy for waiting for her mom to come back, why he refuses to give up, it is simply beautiful. By the time the credits rolled, I felt like this was one of the top 5 movies I’d ever seen. I’ve come to realize that deep, abiding love is not typically born on easy street. It is difficulties and trials that show our true character and honestly, I’ve learned that while we may have played a scenario over and over in our minds and feel sure that we know how we would handle a traumatic event such as a death, a betrayal, or any great tragedy, we just don’t know until it happens. I used to take great comfort in the confidence I had that I knew how I would handle things based on what a strong person I thought I was and my mores. When tragedy hit our family, I found that I was shattered into a million pieces and I couldn’t pick myself up for a very long time. I was so broken, that I spent most of my time planning my suicide. The pain was deep and excruciating, and I just couldn’t seem to find any relief. I spent months trying to find a way to “go away” without leaving too big of a mess, just in case my children found me. I know there are people reading this who are appalled that I would think like this, but if you knew me, you would know that my family is my everything and this is just proof that I was in more pain than my “self” could endure, and I was learning that we never know how we will react when tragedy strikes. I kept crying out to God to bring me some relief and then I would let Him know how pissed I was that He allowed this to happen to me, to us. The cool part was that I would be doing something and I would suddenly realize that I felt peace – the inexplicable peace that only He can bring. It wouldn’t usually last long, but it was like coming up for air and feeling my lungs fill again and I believed in Him and His love again.
Last night Hannah and my Honey were telling me about one of the former trainers at Sea World who had been attacked by a killer whale and survived. This morning I immediately watched the attack on my computer. The whale grabbed his trainer by the foot and took him under numerous times for several minutes. The man was a deep sea diver, so he understood about expanding his lungs in order to be underwater for extended times. Each time the whale brought this man up, he would pet the whale and talk to it soothingly, all the while, his foot was clamped in this killer whale’s mouth! At one point, the whale releases his foot and they “play” for a few minutes and just when you think it’s over, that the man will escape, the whale grabs his other foot and takes him down again! I kept thinking how amazing it was that this man stayed so calm during what could’ve easily been his last moments on earth. It was very obviously the reason he survived… But, we never know, do we? We don’t really know what we’re made of until that moment is staring us in the face and we only have seconds to make our decision…
I was brought up to think that suicide was a terribly selfish act. My parents had always been quite vocal about feeling that way, so I naturally felt the same way. Feeling and acting like this went against everything I had been raised to believe about suicide, although I’m sure the reason I was so secretive about it and wanted to leave as little mess as possible, had to do with trying to be as unselfish as I could in doing this. Yep, I know that sounds ludicrous, but that’s how it was then.
After a couple of months, our oldest son began to suspect I was planning something. He confronted me and I was filled with shame. Gosh, what kind of mama puts her 22 year-old kid through that kind of pain?! He saved my life… Thank God, he saw my pain and had the courage to confront me about it. I’m so glad that when he was faced with this reality, he chose to look me in the eye and hold me accountable. He fought for me, for my life.
I decided at that point not to make any life-changing decisions for six months. I knew I wasn’t emotionally prepared to make the right decisions and as much as I wanted to just be away from the pain, I knew without a doubt, God wanted me to calmly sit in the pool and pet the killer whale until I came to terms with the lessons He wanted me to learn in my pain.
I wish I could say that everything got better that day. It didn’t. The whale took me down several more times and I wondered when he would finally let me go. I didn’t do what I had always said I would do if this happened to my family. You just never know…
I am much more aware of my weaknesses now and, in turn, much more aware of my total dependance on Him. I am amazed at the difference grace has made in my life. After sitting in the pool for almost 3 years, I am astounded at the strength and endurance I am capable of. I am coming to terms with how fragile I am. I remember during one of the dark early days I was talking to an old friend and I told her through tears that I felt like I was broken into so many pieces that I would never be whole again. Lovingly, she quipped, “You know, some of those pieces weren’t all that great to begin with, Honey, so just leave those ones down there!”
She is a wise woman.
Sometimes we panic, sometimes we’re heroes… We just never know.
But He does…
Do you ever feel like if you are one of the people that step up, give it all you’ve got and then some, that the “powers that be” often expect more and more? And that part is not such a big deal… The kick in the pants is that the people who do very little and seem more concerned with themselves than their responsibilities are the ones that get the support from the “powers that be” and if the “step-up” people don’t jump on the bandwagon, they are considered ungracious, mean-spirited, etc.
I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time now. It’s gotten so bad that I can feel a root of bitterness rearing its ugly head now and then. I’m a huge team-player kinda girl. I’m all for picking up each other’s slack and behaving like a community. I think that is essential in this world. I’m not okay with being criticized for having healthy boundaries, being expected to not speak the truth, and not wanting to be part of an enabling crusade. At some point, the life just gets sucked right out of ya, doesn’t it?!
Yep, I know this doesn’t sound very Christ-like on my part, but I’m not writing this to impress y’all with my holiness. I’m trying to work things out and I’ve found that being transparent with my ugliness, helps me to get closer to where He wants me to be. He wants me to have boundaries. I’m finally getting comfortable with that, even though it’s always been hard for me to not be run by guilt since I became a believer…
Isn’t that silly?
The irony is that I’ve seen this at most of the churches I’ve been a part of, schools my kids have attended, as well as teams they have joined. What are the stats? Is it 10% of the people do the work for 90% and 90% do the work for 10%? This isn’t anything new is it?… I think I’ve just had my fill. It’s why so many good people quit. They get used up, burned out and hurt. I want to have my priorities in order and honor the parts of my life that deserve honoring and the people that deserve honoring. I want to be a cheerful team player that is allowed to say “No” on occasion. I don’t want to feel like this about the stuff around the parts I adore. I want to encourage the “step-up” people to take care of themselves and I want to be sure they know how much I appreciate their dedication to the rest of the team.
…. I know it may sound silly to you, but I feel so much better already. Thanks for listening.
I’m getting there.
Earlier today I was told that if you keep having the same relationship issues then you must be the problem. I’m not so sure how I feel about that. I know I feel a little defensive (the truth hurts). I feel a tad convicted (the truth hurts a little). I also agree completely, but it’s been a long, difficult road for me to be honest about my motives, my weaknesses and my needs, so that I could stop having the same relationship issues and move on (the truth frees).
I have always had a thing for the underdog. Heck, every animal we have had to be rescued and/or was the runt! When I was in school I felt this need to protect the kids that others picked on. I was an outspoken young lady and a bit sarcastic, so I didn’t simply remove the victim from the situation. I typically did my best to lay-out the more “popular” student who was being unkind to the student I was “protecting.” The tongue is a sharp sword. I really believed that s/he deserved the tongue lashing and I had done nothing wrong. I referred to this as “Reverse Discrimination.” Ahhhhh, Youth…
I fell into a pattern of befriending people who “needed” me. In my adult life this led to an abundance of disfunctional friendships. I was always trying to “save” people. At first I would think she was wonderfully brave and then I would think it was my responsibility to show my friend unconditional love and then I would shift right into fixing mode. Of course, then I would often get frustrated when my friend didn’t follow my advice and/or kept making the same bad choices over and over. UGH! Who did I think I was?!
I didn’t expect my friends to “be there” for me. In fact, I rarely shared my struggles with any of my friends. I used to tell myself that it would reflect badly on God if I showed people my ugly junk. I also thought that they wouldn’t want to hear about my problems. I was a professional martyr. The truth of the matter was that I was afraid if I shared my stuff with anyone, she would run as fast and as far away from me as she possibly could. Truth be told, that did happen a time or two. I thought if I could do enough for my friend, then she would see that I was worth something and come through for me when I really needed it. My deeds went into the “friendship bank” and if I accumulated enough, then she would prove herself a true friend and I could trust her to love me and accept me one day.
I didn’t think these things consciously. I don’t think I even realized half of this until I moved to Texas and spent years with no close friends. I didn’t really want to know. I was too busy running from my lie, “I’m not worth fighting for.” I was hiding behind doing all of these “nice” things for my husband, our 5 children, our church, our extended family, the kids’ schools, and our friends. People don’t typically question a Christian “Stepford” wife when she’s doing it all.
We moved to Texas about 7 years ago. I knew absolutely NO ONE. Our church had split back home, our pastors relocated, our small group friends were dealing with this, as well as serious health and financial issues, and the group of ladies I had befriended had been very hurtful to me before I moved, so I didn’t feel like I could reach out to anyone. We were trying to sell our home there while buying a new one in Texas, which was a HUGE financial strain. My family of origin was going through a massive crisis and after a few months in Texas, our marriage began to become unhinged. At that point I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life.
I couldn’t seem to connect with anyone here and my confidence level had dipped considerably. It is very difficult to familiarize someone with your life and/or yourself when you are already 40-something.
Not being known is kind of a kick at first. It’s fun to go grocery shopping a mile from your home and not be recognized by ANYONE. It felt a bit surreal. It didn’t take long for the thrill of anonymity to wear off and be replaced by old-fashioned loneliness. But trying to make connections, even knowing where to begin was overwhelming. Trying to fit in with people who have already established friendships and lives, is not the same once your children are older and don’t attend the local schools. It was extremely lonely, but it gave me the time I needed to reflect on the friendships I had had and to decide that I needed to find healthy relationships this time around.
It has been seven years and I have yet to find a close friend here. I have a group of women from my church who are so very dear to me and know me intimately, but we are all very spread out and live very busy lives. I enjoy their company a few times a year, but I don’t have the kind of relationships with them that fills my need for regular companionship. I have friends in Michigan from my small group. We get together with them when we visit and they’ve come here a couple of times, also. Their friendship is a treasure to me. Unfortunately, in a good year, we see them about 3 times.
So, here is my want ad:
Wanted: Female friend who is close in proximity and wants to spend time with me. Someone who sees my value, because I will treasure her. A friend who will listen, as well as share and hold me accountable in love. A woman who is reasonably healthy in the mental department and who wants to grow and doesn’t want to waste her time being a victim! Someone who will celebrate my successes and sympathize with my losses. Most importantly, she must have the desire for a friendship that is honoring, that extends grace, and that has give and take from both people – not always equally, but in the degree that is needed in each season.
It seems like too much to ask. Maybe it is. I just know that I can’t really engage in any more highly disfunctional friendships such as I’ve had in the past. I don’t need to be anyone’s hero. I don’t need to save anyone anymore to feel good about myself. I’m a good friend. I have some good qualities and some junk, as well. I’m wise enough to know that I’m not strong enough to engage in a relationship like that again. The martyr is dying, but she ain’t gone, yet!
I realize I may sound arrogant. It’s taken me a long time to get to this healthy place and it’s been very lonely to go this long without a friend – especially during the traumatic last several years of my life. I understand that people go through seasons of want, as well as plenty. I don’t expect that someone I am friends with won’t have their junk, just as I do. I simply want a friend who is willing to look at her junk and be willing to really work through it because she realizes, as do I, that to do anything else is wasting this precious short life we have here on this earth. I want a friend who chooses joy because she understands how blessed we are, in spite of the junk we have to work through.
I have really crappy days when I wonder what the heck is wrong with me that I can’t have a best girlfriend here. Mostly I feel like He’s telling me to trust Him with this. I’m where I’m supposed to be for now and He’ll work it all out for me when it’s time. And except for the very rare crappy days, I’m at peace with this.
I understood that I was the problem because I kept having the same issues… He helped me understand that I had to work on me before I would be able to have healthy friendships that He could bless. And so, I wait and work on me…
I’m the problem…
What is a reputation? If it’s good, you must work long and hard to maintain it, but if it’s bad, you can’t seem to shake it. Are people looking for the worst in us? And if that’s so, why? Do we feel better about ourselves and our junk if we can find fault in others? Do we want to save ourselves from being disappointed later when we find out that person with the good rep is actually human and has sin in his/her life? Do we just find it impossible to believe that anyone could be “good?”
What is your reputation? Good?… Bad?… Something in between? Does it depend on the crowd? Do you wish you could change it or is it something you have worked very hard to attain and you are proud of?
Women like to think that things are evolved enough that we can be strong, opinionated and confident and we will be respected in the same way most men are. I have found this to be mostly untrue in my relationships.
When I was a young girl I was always encouraged by my father to speak up, to believe in myself – he used to tell me he thought I had moxie. I would just soar when he told me that. When I looked up the definintion of moxie, it said something like, “force of character, confidence, determination, or nerve,” and I thought I was good, in some way. I remember feeling like I wasn’t just a big-mouthed, embarrassment of a daughter. I felt like my father really liked me and saw me and my mother just wished she had gotten a different model.
Of course, now that I’m a mom and I’ve had a child or two with “moxie,” I understand that my mother was trying to temper my big mouth and soften my edges a bit. Growing up as an only daughter with my personality was not easy on my mom or this little brash girl. I think that because my immature self believed that she was ashamed of me and wanted me to be like almost every other docile young lady we encountered, I fought even harder to be who I believed I was meant to be.
My dad was my hero. He defended and protected me so much when I was a child, that my brothers resented me terribly. I was such an spoiled little girl and I played it for all it was worth. This is the part of my reputation that I have a hard time shaking with some people…
When I was around 13 years old, I went to a slumber party at one of my friend’s houses. We ate, watched some t.v., giggled a lot, and then later when we were all in our pajamas and nestled in our sleeping bags, the young hostess began telling us that the reason her father wasn’t home was because he had moved out after her sister had accused him of molesting her. Soon, almost every girl at the sleepover shared a similar story that they had either heard from others or knew of within their extended families. My entire world was shaken. I knew some of the people in these stories. I just couldn’t wrap my head around family members doing such things. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. Getting home the following morning was the most important thing on my mind when the sun came up.
My mom was appalled. I don’t think she really knew how to handle it. She asked me to stop talking about it and told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to go over to that friend’s house anymore. When I saw my dad later that afternoon, I was disturbed. I remember withdrawing from him and I remember him pulling away in turn. I wanted him to assure me that fathers didn’t do such things. I wasn’t sure if my mother had told him about what had happened and I didn’t feel like I could bring it up again. Over the next several months my relationship with him became more and more distant. I don’t believe our relationship ever recovered after that. So, there I was a teenage girl whose brothers disliked her, whose mother didn’t know how to deal with her and whose father seemed lost to her suddenly. All I seemed to have left was myself and my humbled moxie…
I found out when I was in my early 40’s that my dad had never forgiven me for treating him the way I had. He told me that he felt I had ruined our relationship forever. It took me a while to work through all of that in my heart. It must have been difficult to have the adoration of your only daughter and then feel as if she suspected you of something so horrible with no personal evidence. Of course, I didn’t suspect him of anything, I was just a very young girl whose world had been terribly shaken and needed the reassurance that this wasn’t going to happen to me.
My reputation with my family of origin hasn’t changed much. I think they still think I’m a self-centered brat. It’s ironic how when you know people see you negatively and have probably described you that way to others, you seem to stumble all over yourself trying to prove you haven’t been that person since you grew up. The result is usually that you seem like a bit of an imbecile and convince no one of anything good.
The thing is, if this was an acquaintance or something, it would be easier to change or walk away, but since it is your family of origin, you are forced to deal with it whenever you spend time with them during holidays, weddings, funerals. Spending time together is something you look forward to, but there is still this inward battle going on. Even if you have a career where you are very respected and friends who know and like your updated self, even if you are nothing like that self-centered child (most of the time) in your adult, “I have several children, a spouse and many things I care for immensely (including them),” life, somehow you are reduced to being squeezed into that old uncomfortable skin, trying to get them to see you for who you really are now instead of the child you were decades ago.
Do you apologize for that old you that you were decades ago? Do you simply chalk it up to childhood? How many years need to pass before we are able to let it go? Do we just grin and bear it, being thankful for the slight improvement each year – otherwise known as the “sweep it under the rug” approach? Obviously, I don’t know what the universal answer is. I do know that we want to be seen. We want to be heard without judgement and with love. I’ve seen the damage sweeping things under the rug can do and it ain’t my drug of choice!
How to get from point A to point Z is the messy part that I don’t claim to know how to navigate.
I’ve decided to do the best I can with my own family. I try to keep the lines of communication open and speak unconditional love to all of them – again, this is not doormat love, but it is not an easy road to travel. I stumble around in the dark a bunch and I mess up more than I care to face, but love covers a multitude and grace is there for the asking, so I hang on to these promises and I punt with all of the sincerity I can muster…
And I wait…
Have you ever had someone share their story with you and you are just blown away?! I’ve had people tell me a piece of their history and I can’t even believe that s/he is still standing. I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the stories of broken relationships others have shared with me. I am always struck by the different reactions and choices people make when dealing with this. I know that every situation is unique and comes with it’s own (usually very complicated) baggage/history, so I don’t mean that I’m surprised when every person I meet hasn’t made the same choices. I’m moved by the people who are “in” no matter what and by the people who have chosen to draw their line firmly in the sand.
How do we find that healthy, “in His will” path? I know plenty of folks who believe that in family relationships you should always extend grace – which can mean being an emotional and/or physical punching bag to another family member with no consequences to “slugger” at all. Sometimes s/he isn’t even aware of the pain s/he is causing because the family dance is such that no one ever confronts “slugger.” I know this can be considered unconditional love and very Christ-like. I’ve known people who have ended some of their closest family relationships because they lost all hope for any change and felt a part of their lives or others in their lives were being destroyed by continuing. I’ve known families where everyone is in everyone else’s business ALL of the time. I’ve known families where there is almost no relationship between anyone or where the family has been split into two camps.
Unfortunately, I know of very few families that get along beautifully – enjoy each other’s company, talk about things openly, and always want the best for each other. Lots of families look that way from the outside, but not so many are once they are truly known. I have a friend whom I have known for years and she has that kind of family. They have family vacations every few years and everyone does all they can to make it. They have dealt with some big issues, such as drug abuse, infidelity, cancer, like most of us. They work through it with honesty, accountability and grace. My friend has shared with me how difficult this has been at times and I am always drawn to her stories. She has shared with me when she has overstepped, when she’s had to step back and take some time, and when she has determined to be all in even when she didn’t want to be. She has shared with me how frustrating it is when others simply won’t believe her about her wonderful childhood. How sad is that?…
I want this for my family. Well, really, who doesn’t? I used to think there was a magic recipe for happy families – a “One Size Fits All” – and if I could just find it, then life would be a breeze! I tried to be as Christ-like as I could and I was confident that everyone else would see my sincerity and my life story would be wrapped in a pretty bow. I forgot how much I mess up and overlooked the part about freewill of others. Honestly, I was a bit peeved when everyone didn’t just fall into line and help me keep the fairytale alive…
I still get my feelings hurt when I believe I’ve gotten a bad wrap. I go back over all of the reasons that the other person shouldn’t see me that way and make a list of the loving things I’ve done in my relationship with that person. Sometimes I’m wrongly accused, sometimes I don’t even begin to know what the heck I’ve done and sometimes I have offended, plain and simple – NO excuses. One of my favorite and least favorite things in my life is making things right when I’ve screwed up. Gosh, that moment when you realize what you’ve done to someone else and that you have to make amends just sucks! Especially if it’s someone you don’t have a close or completely trusting relationship with… I always try to go to Him and ask Him to humble me (after I throw a little self-righteous tantrum or two and try to justify why I shouldn’t have to humiliate myself in front of HIM/HER!). That is one of the moments I am absolutely sure He is real and loves me. The work He does in me is a complete 180! He changes my heart and compels me to go to the person I’ve offended. I wish it always went well when I did. It doesn’t… But I always know when I’m completely where I need to be based on my reaction. If I hear the other person’s heart without thinking first of my own pride, then I’ve done what I was supposed to do and I can be at peace with the idea of this taking longer than I had hoped to heal or accepting that it may never be worked out and wrapped in that pretty little bow. Of course, this takes time. In the midst of emotion, I usually need time to sort it all out.
I’ve had terribly unhealthy relationships that I stayed in for years for a variety of reasons. I’ve had wonderful relationships that I’ve messed up because I didn’t believe I deserved that kind of love and loyalty. I have relationships that are all over the spectrum at this point in my life. I’ve walked away from some toxic relationships after doing everything I could do to make things better. I’ve worried that I’m not showing my children unconditional love when I’ve made this choice because sometimes, in the midst of emotion, I forget that unconditional love doesn’t mean being a doormat. Walking away doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them and it does not mean that I don’t love that person deeply.
I think what has stayed with me most as people share their stories with me is how much some people pour of themselves into others. I am often mourning what others have lost and how heavy their burdens are. I am moved greatly by the ability of people to endure. So many of us carry such heartbreak around with us and sometimes life just doesn’t have a path for resolution anytime soon. For me, the acceptance of this has brought me BIG peace. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on anything except the idea of things always working out like they used to on my favorite weekly shows when I was a child in 30 – 60 minutes. I’m learning to follow His lead in my relationships – not a “one size fits all” recipe, but a “size for everyone” recipe. It’s not always easy to swallow, but it sure is better for me.
Ah, Michigan! We’ve been here for just 2 days. It’s amazing how much a person can fit into such a short period when that’s all one has to work with. It makes me wonder why I usually accomplish SO little in my regular day-to-day life. Of course, not having to go to work definitely frees up a little time…
I met my niece yesterday. Perfection… It still amazes me how deeply you can love someone you just met – someone who can’t talk or even hold up her own head for more than a minute. I completely adore her. She is such a beautiful blend of my brother and his gorgeous wife. She is so well-loved and that just makes my heart sing. So many things in this world are highly valued, but this: family/love/relationship, it’s the THING. It’s what we yearn for above all else, even when we don’t know what it is we are missing.
So, I’m thankful that they let me hold her and spend time with their family. I’m thankful for friends that have given us a place to stay and make us feel so at home. I’m thankful for a big brother that makes time for us.
I also found out the morning that we left for Michigan that my aunt passed away. She was the aunt I was always closest to while growing up. We named our Hannah Elizabeth after her. I really love her. She gave me a picture when I was a girl of her Sweet Adelines singing group. All of the women had on these gorgeous blue dresses with feathery things in their hair. My aunt was breathtakingly beautiful. I remember feeling so special when she gave me that picture. I always knew she loved me. She was a gift to me growing up. Some of life’s junk in recent years caused us to lose touch until a few months ago. When I saw her I was a bit terrified that she would reject me. But true to form, she loved me. She hugged me and we told each other how much we love each other and then we spent the evening holding hands and being happy in the moment. Another gift from her and Him. I’m not sure if I can convey in written word how thankful I am for that time with her.
I want to be an aunt who communicates love to her nieces and nephews without condition. It’s harder now that I’m far away. Family dynamics get in the way sometimes. So, I pray, I love, I hope.
Michigan is always SO complicated for me. Never just a simple visit. So much baggage, history, emotion… The irony is that it isn’t really Michigan, it’s family/love/relationships – the THING that I long for.