Looking at our decorated Christmas tree this evening after a week of having old wounds reopened, I feel a kinship.
Hanging beautiful ornaments on the outside amidst glowing lights doesn’t make the tree truly valuable or any more loved. It is still dying and finally, fully aware that it is not what is beautiful. It’s pine needles, pointy, are not desirable to have any contact with.
Moving through the pain, asking my Father what lessons He has for me, and trying to believe that I am valuable doesn’t negate the lack of value to so many. In this moment of clarity, I am trying to remember what my purpose is. When the “cons” list is much longer that the “pros” list, I am undone.
My Father loves me. He created me and has a beautiful purpose for my journey. Satan lies in order to destroy. I know all of this, but in this valley, it’s hard to believe it. So, I wait and invite Him into my pain. I pray that He will lead me through and guide me to His truth because mine is absent of hope.
Our proverbial empty nest has been so for a little over a month now. It has definitely been an adjustment.
There are some awful things about this chapter of our lives and some things that are not awful at all, some good and some great.
I love cleaning a room and knowing that it will stay that way for a pretty long while. I can’t even remember that last time any room in our home stayed picked up and clean for more than a day… y’all it’s been decades.
On that note, I only do 3 – 4 loads of laundry each week, and some of those are only because I’ve been going through and cleaning each room, so I may have rugs, etc. that are not typically weekly laundry. It wasn’t long ago I was doing 10 loads a week, so this is a major for this girl!
I spend SO much less on groceries for the two of us. Except I spend more because I know that Aaron will stop by daily to eat at least one meal, Caleb and Hannah a couple of times a week and then I have to pick up a few things for each of them to get through the week without starving or eating non-organic foods… or chemical laden cleaning supplies… or…
I have peace and quiet. I am able to read more, write more, spend more quiet time with Jesus. We can watch whatever we want to watch, play whatever music we choose, eat the dinner we pick… My Honey and I, not Jesus. Although, I like to think He influences our choices.
When they were younger, Bob would take the kids out for a day or evening so that I could just enjoy the quiet. It was rare for me to be without my babies, so I would just relish those hours and feel so rejuvenated by the time they all busted through the front door.
Last week my Honey worked 3 nights and this week 4 in a row, after working his full time day job. I’m not relishing my time alone so much anymore. I can only rejuvenate so much, and then you can call me lonely. It probably sounds silly to some, but learning to be alone, again, is a skill I’m struggling with a bit now that I have so much time with just me.
I have room in my refrigerator. Also, not an occurrence in our home for decades. I tend to find my security in food – “As long as my children have food to eat, everything is okay,” so it’s still pretty full, but it’s not the norm of shutting the door before anything squeezes out and breaks all over the floor! My pantry also has room – because I had time to reorganize it and I gave approximately 1/2 of it to my children a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes I just go into my kitchen so that I can look at my organized pantry and refrigerator. It makes me happy.
You should maybe be worried at this point.
I miss my kiddos something fierce. I probs call them too much… maybe not probs. I’m filling the void by making my Honey breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday. He’s LOVING it! This morning he told me that his love language is good food…
I’m rediscovering myself and it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s good, too.
It’s such a weird concept to be independent as a young adult and then meet and fall madly in-love with a man and become one with him in marriage. Then came the babies and the decades of pouring yourself into them, losing yourself a little even though you said you wouldn’t…
and now you are finally able to date your incredible husband again (without paying a babysitter, or being too exhausted to enjoy yourself or feeling guilty for spending money or leaving your babies behind…), and you can spend actual big chunks of time doing the things you love again. It should be pure joy, and, yet, it feels so unfamiliar and even a little scary. But I’m finding moments of joy in all of it and I can see where this will become a truly lovely norm in time.
In the meantime, it’s a little uncomfortable and that’s okay.
I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years. Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof. They were my life’s work. I poured myself into motherhood. It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption. It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws. Nothing grew me more than being a mama…
Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl. I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others. I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves. I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children. And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”
My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things. My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely. My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know. She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54. For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.
Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.
I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way. I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me. When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged. The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete. Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys. It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama. Life was good. When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound. It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally. After a pretty scary emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy. Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.
Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance. I loved raising my children. Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways. I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave. It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong. My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay. They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.” Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes! Right?!
As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years. You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring. Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.
And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it. I’d do it all again.
But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay. Mostly…
moreso in a month, maybe.
Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest. After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed. The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator. It was kind of glorious. Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard.
The most important work of my life has ended. It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that. She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over. She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t. She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama. This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.
Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich. And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.
I loved my children well. I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be. We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another. We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s. As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done. I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama. I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon. I have this hope for my life as well.
I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about. I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year. It has been hard and wonderful. I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be. He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center. Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud. My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling. So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down.
This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago.
Here’s the great stuff… My life’s work is pretty much amazing. My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do.
My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider. I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember. There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple. We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that. Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world. He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known. He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that. He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition! He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together. God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years. It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!
Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice. Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me. This is the stuff. When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company. My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be. Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding. I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.
I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions. It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side. I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends. After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.
I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before. I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate. I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice. I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.
So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now. I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife. I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years. All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction. There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.
None of my friends of color are surprised by what’s happening in Charlottesville. By contrast, almost all of my white friends are shocked that it’s 2017 and this is happening in our country. The land of the free, the home of the brave…
I don’t believe that most of White America agrees with the alt-white, or the Nazi demonstrators carrying weapons and/or attacking the counter-protesters. I do, however, believe that most of White America would prefer to not be involved. They don’t hesitate to accuse their white brothers and sisters of being divisive or stirring the pot when we write about racism or talk about it. The problem is that there’s no sitting this one out. There is no “not getting involved” because it’s happening all over and the hatred is growing. It’s palpable. We all must take a stand for what we believe to be right and true in our heart of hearts. Silence doesn’t only imply consent… It is consent. The irony is, that if more silent people would’ve spoken up long ago, we may not be all wondering what happened and where all of these haters came from. Because, the truth is, they’ve always been here, they are simply feeling more comfortable to be openly hateful racists because the donald normalized it during his campaign and we, snowflakes, are still in shock that there are so many truly hateful people sitting next to us in our church pews, working beside us and living in the house down the street from us.
Polo shirts, baseball caps, khakis, screaming, “Blood and soil. You’re not going to take this away from us!” while carrying tiki torches into the night.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. Psalm 5:4
Recently, I had an old school friend share a rather offensive post on facebook attempting to shame anyone who says or does anything negative about the donald or his family:
GONNA VENT HERE. I have lived through Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. In my lifetime have I never seen or heard of a President being scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public to the point of wanting to hurt someone, slander, ridicule, insulted, lied to, threatened to murder him, threatened to rape our Beautiful First Lady, and have his children also insulted and humiliated.
I am truly ashamed of the people of this country. I am ashamed of the ruthless, hating, cruel, Trump haters who have no morals, and news reporters who feel they have the right to purposely lie and do the things they are doing. Every other President after they were elected and took the oath of office were left alone, they weren’t on the news 24/7 being dissected by every word out of their mouth, ALWAYS BEING PRESSURED to do this or that and never being given the support to do the important work that needs to be done. ENOUGH is ENOUGH is ENOUGH, LEAVE THE MAN ALONE AND LET HIM DO HIS JOB FOR GOD’S SAKE!
If you agree, copy and paste this to your timeline and put your name under the last name:
My response was: “For real?” because I honestly was surprised that this person would post this. I’m shocked ANYONE would post this that has been living in this country or any country with newspapers or television, to be perfectly honest. I mean, this is America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave? We aren’t living in a dictatorship, correct? Mostly people agreed or “liked” my comment. A few, however, tried to throw the sorry white evangelical guilt trip on me by commenting things such as:
“Let’s concentrate on being Christian, not the need to argue over things we cannot control. Passion is better spent in our children, families and community….”
“so sad you cannot express your opinion without being taken to task – but I guess that is what the world has come to”
SOOOOOO, I’m going to address these two comments, first.
Since when does being a Christian mean not being involved in social injustice? When in the world did Americans begin thinking that speaking out and being involved in governmental decisions was ineffective and not Christian?… – These same people were defs not silent when Obama was in office! Where were they spending their passion then? I’m trying to spend my passion where God tells me to, so there’s that… Also, I call white privilege, because it must be nice to be able to focus our passion on simpler things when we don’t have to deal with racism on a daily basis.
“Rescue the poor and the needy, delivering them from the power of the wicked.” Psalm 82:4
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
IMHO, if you post something to your facebook page that is political, you should probs expect that there will be others just as vocal responding, especially if it’s a shame post defending the least popular POTUS in the history of ever. Probs…
Okay, now I feel a need to go through that obnoxious post (in red) that is apparently circulating through facebook.
Paragraph 1: GONNA VENT HERE. I have lived through Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. In my lifetime have I never seen or heard of a President being scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public to the point of wanting to hurt someone, slander, ridicule, insulted, lied to, threatened to murder him, threatened to rape our Beautiful First Lady, and have his children also insulted and humiliated.
I, too, have lived through the terms of these Presidents. I’ve seen every single one of them bashed, scrutinized, ridiculed, teased, etc. over every aspect of their lives. Carter was not tough enough, Reagan’s wife ran the show, George H. W.’s wife was a heartless witch, Clinton was a skirt chaser, George W.’s daughters were party animals with no respect, Obama was just pure evil (THIS was the POTUS MOST scrutinized and lied about, imho, and the man leading much of this was the donald, btw), mostly because he is black and not a white evangelical. And when it comes to threats, in October of 2014, the Washington Post reported that “Since Obama took office, at least 65 people have been indicted on charges of threatening to harm him,” as well as in “2011 a White House shooting occurred on November 11, 2011, when Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, an unemployed 21-year-old man, fired a semi-automatic rifle at the White House.” Reagan was shot in 1981. George H.W. Bush was not long in office when 16 men plotted to kill him with a car bomb. Osama bin Laden attempted to kill Clinton with a bomb in 1996. Robert Pickett, an accountant from Evanston, Ind., shot at the White House when President George W. Bush was inside. I have numerous memories of various past Presidents’ children and wives being ridiculed for being unattractive, bossy, manly, disrespectful, etc.
Here is a link that shows all of our former POTUSes who have been shot at during their terms: http://timelines.latimes.com/us-presidential-assassinations-and-attempts/ I think it will shock you how common this is.
Paragraph 2: I am truly ashamed of the people of this country. I am ashamed of the ruthless, hating, cruel, Trump haters who have no morals, and news reporters who feel they have the right to purposely lie and do the things they are doing. Every other President after they were elected and took the oath of office were left alone, they weren’t on the news 24/7 being dissected by every word out of their mouth, ALWAYS BEING PRESSURED to do this or that and never being given the support to do the important work that needs to be done. ENOUGH is ENOUGH is ENOUGH, LEAVE THE MAN ALONE AND LET HIM DO HIS JOB FOR GOD’S SAKE!
I am ashamed of the people who support this narcissistic man who has been married 3 times, speaks of his daughter incestuously, whose wife is of questionable character, imho, who we all saw on tape talking about “grabbing pu****” and has made his racism abundantly clear as of late, in case anyone was wondering. There’s also Russia, the KKK, & White Alt affiliation, the outrageous number of firings and terrible hirings, as well as his numerous vacations on our dollar, and the list goes on, but there isn’t enough time for all of that now. I’m pretty sure the guy with no morals is the guy in our White House.
New reporters purposely lying?! Seriously, the donald is world famous for lying. Our country is fast becoming a joke to the rest of the world because of his administrations regular lies, embarrassing tweets, and chaotic behavior coming from the White House since he took office.
Again, NO POTUS has ever been left in peace to do their job. This is America. We are allowed to speak our minds. Our high governing officials are mostly elected, so we do have a say and we usually step up to that opportunity because we tend to remember and appreciate that some other places in this world are not allowed such privilege. IMHO, the donald would love for us to be gagged while he and his alt-right cronies greedily take control of this country under the guise of making it great, again. His great again was when the rich, white folks had all of the power. Back then it was only great for rich, white men. He plays off the fear and ignorant of many, playing the bully on the playground and too many fearful, and ignorant people think they’re on the right team, instead of seeing that they are just being used by the bully and all of his rich, white friends to make America great for themselves, again.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. It’s time for him to finally do some work for our entire country without a personal agenda that hurts the disenfranchised and moves our nation to a place of normalized fascism, where he justifies controlling the press because he’s convinced uninformed and paranoid people that the media is dishonest, where women are second class citizens, where there are no checks and balances.
If the events in Charlottesville don’t finally open your eyes, then I guess they probably won’t be opened. I’m fearful for what this country will endure as long as he is the President. Now, this is where some will tell me that if I am a good Christian, I won’t be afraid. I wonder if people said this during the Holocaust. I’m appalled that so many have supported this man because he claimed to be a Christ-follower and be against abortion because he will do nothing about the abortion laws and he obviously doesn’t believe all lives matter from womb to tomb, based on his violence-inciting language during his campaign and his term thus far. Where is the fruit of his walk with Our Father? Where is the love we should all know him by?
It isn’t un-Christlike to call out hatred or lack of fruit. It’s wise. It isn’t okay to not pray for the President and his administration. It’s expected. I pray for him. I pray for his administration. I do not hate any of them. I stand against the evil that has been revealed. I am called to stand for the disenfranchised. I am called to love, but I am not called to be silent. He calls us to speak for people with no voice and this doesn’t mean only unborn babies.
I would challenge you to visit a BLM meeting. You will find, as I have, a group of human beings who are tired of being oppressed and simply want to be treated as if their lives matter AS MUCH AS everyone else’s lives. They have all different personalities, just like any group of people.
I would challenge you to get to know SEVERAL people of color, and to NOT tell anyone you aren’t prejudiced because you have a couple of friends of color. It’s hard. I was terrified to say the wrong thing and be found out as the privileged white girl I have always been. I’ve been married to a Hispanic man for nearly 30 years and I have bi-racial children with him. My daughter-in-love is black. I still struggle with my deeply ingrained prejudices at times. This is a journey, a long journey. I haven’t arrived, nor can I see the station, and that’s okay. I am always working toward more understanding. I am learning to listen more to my brothers and sisters of color and speak more to my white siblings. He calls on us to speak for those who are oppressed and so I must. We all must. We mustn’t sit in our homes and close our eyes and hearts to what is happening in America to fellow Americans. We must stand beside them and use our voices to speak for justice. We must face our prejudices, go to Our Father in repentance, and begin the journey toward reconciliation.
Things are not like they’ve ever been in this country during my lifetime. No matter what happens, I am a child of God. One day I want to stand before Him knowing that when He called me to stand with His other children, regardless of the consequences, I stood with His love in my heart and spoke the words He led me to speak. It would be easier to sit in my lovely little house and enjoy my lovely little life, but He calls me into discomfort in this passion He has placed in my heart.
We are all His passion and He gave Himself over to indescribable discomfort for all of us. Jesus loves us this I know and there are NO exceptions…
This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.
For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu. We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them. Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.
At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!
I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life. Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher. She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it. She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes. I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it. I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon. But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.
I was a bit of a drama queen back then. I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me. I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging. I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.
I was completely enamored with this novel. I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it. I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.
It never happened…
In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time. I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour. After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron. He agreed.
A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron. And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight! We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter. We felt like our family was complete. We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription. The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms. I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment. In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.
A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were. I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay. They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late… I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.
My pregnancy was fraught with trauma. My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her. She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having 2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies. A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy. I was in that same room for 3 months, solid. I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window. It was terrible because I felt fine. It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus. I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey. When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands. I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…
As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me. As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another. Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers. So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies. Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!). I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy. I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me. When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening. My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash. I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful. Can you let my husband in here? I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”
Everyone chuckled. We were both still clueless. Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better. He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body. Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately. Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive. After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face. That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.
Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me. But I’m alive, so I’m good!
They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own. Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning. They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen! Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”
We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive. Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive. Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on. I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together. It melted and broke open. So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital. It was torture…
The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home. They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted. Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone. The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.
One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home. Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?” She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!
We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick. I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest. Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain. Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land. Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.
What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad. He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill. We don’t have to be victims. We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be. When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.
When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel. I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times. They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life. I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel. The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts. Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities. The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time). Of course they have struggles, as we all do. I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill. They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory. I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.
SO… it was time. We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.
I’m 53. I still am not sure of what my real purpose is. When I think of my life ending, I am quite sure I’ve mostly wasted my time here.
I raised 4 and a half children and I thought that was my calling. I always believed I did a pretty great job of it as far as human mamas go, and that all I poured into our precious children over their growing up years would blossom into deep and abiding relationships with my adult children, who were all secure and successful in their lives.
Not so much…
I have been a mama since I was 22 years old. I gave it everything I had and figured I would do something with my talent and passion once my babies grew up and had their own lives. It became pretty easy to get behind my husband’s and children’s dreams and over a few decades, it got more and more difficult to remember what my dreams were. I also don’t mind admitting that being a cheerleader for my family wasn’t nearly as risky as going after my own dreams and perhaps failing miserably. Cheerleading is not only safe, it is lovely and encouraging, so I was just the good mama.
As I stand here, feeling as if it’s time to take a leap of faith and finally figure out what I’m here for, I’m overwhelmed with the pressure of this being my last hurrah. If I don’t get it right this time, then that’s pretty much it.
I feel as if I’m old and I don’t really have much to offer. I’m NOT saying this so others will tell me lovely things about my worth. This is the reality of my life. I don’t have many years left. At least 2/3 of my life has been lived. At Least. I’ve spent most of my life raising children. I’m an excellent teacher. It comes naturally to me, but I have absolutely no desire to ever work in a school system again. I don’t want to waste anymore time doing things that He’s not calling me to. I especially don’t want to work at a job because it pays a lot of money when I’m terribly unhappy and don’t feel called to work there. That’s a hard one for me.
I live in fear of this scenario:
I quit my job that pays quite well because I believe He has called me to step out in faith and over the following weeks, several things go wrong – car breaks down, one of the kids can’t make rent, my husband loses his job or gets sick and can’t work – and I realize my decision was based on my own selfishness and now my family is paying for my terrible mistake.
Do you feel me?… Irish guilt. It’s the worst…
Unfortunately, it may just be that satan knows exactly where I live. He knows that planting guilty thoughts and fear will keep me just where I’m at. It’s worked SO well for TOO long.
And while all of that is probably 100% spot on, still my fear of failure and hurting others is paralyzing.
My hope is that my dread of living my life with so little to show will overshadow the other fears and I will finally have the courage to leap into the unknown with nothing but faith and hope. I pray that when I fall on my face I remember to extend as much grace to myself as I have to my husband and children throughout the years. I want to be able to laugh at my mistakes, and then pick myself up, getting right back on the path He intended me to be on.
It’s funny to me that our 3 youngest children all have “faith” as their most dominate spiritual gift. I’ve always coveted people that have such strong faith. Recently my daughter (How did she get SO wise?!) reminded me that faith is like a muscle and we have to exercise it to strengthen it. It’s time to get my faith to the gym… and put my fears in His hands.
It sounds so easy. It’s not for me or else I wouldn’t be here at 53…
I’ve decided I’m going to watch this video once a week:
to remind me what determination and courage look like.
And then, I’ll watch this one: https://www.facebook.com/gatewayaustin/videos/10155175627423692
I think I’ll also make a poster of my age so that I remember I don’t have all the time in the world anymore.
Are you familiar with her?
Her first husband was Nabal. He was extremely wealthy. He was a mean, sloppy drunk. His name literally means “fool.”
Abigail had to make amends to their neighbors on the regular because her husband was such an ornery cuss. The choices he made make it obvious that his number one priority was money and stuff – stuff that had value, which meant more money. He treated his wife much like angry drunks treat their wives in this day and age, with contempt and disrespect. My first reaction to this information was that of an upper-middle class white woman of the 21st century. I kept thinking, “Why in the world did she marry this guy in the first place? He was abusive, embarrassing, not attentive to his wife. What did she see in him and why, oh why was she still married to him?!”
Well… Abigail didn’t marry Nabal a few years ago. She married him in a time when men made the decisions about such things. Parents chose mates for their children based on their stations – how much land they owned, how much wealth their families had, etc. It wasn’t a really big deal if a husband took out his frustrations of the day on his wife, with his angry words and/or hands. Wives were acquisitions, more like property than partners, especially when their husbands were insecure and broken, as in the case of Nabal. The part that still confuses me is that Abigail loved and served the same God that I do, but her husband did not. My Bible tells me that Nabal was a “son of Belial,” meaning he followed this false god who was known as a devil, and not at all the same God his wife served. Her actions and conversation in the Bible make it apparent that she was raised in a Jewish home with parents who loved God and trained her well in that belief, although, I can find no evidence of who her parents actually were. It seems strange that who her future husband worshiped wasn’t a deal breaker in her father’s decision. It makes me wonder if her parents had passed away or became destitute, and she had no other choice. By all accounts, Abigail was a beautiful, very wise and kind woman, so it’s not difficult to imagine why Nabal would marry her.
Her story goes something like this:
She was married to Nabal, who was despised by his community. He was selfish, greedy and a volatile alcoholic. There is no mention of any children between them. He offended their neighbors frequently, and Abigail was known for wisely making amends without dishonoring her husband in the process.
During the time that Saul was after David and both were claiming to be King, David and his men were protecting Nabal’s livestock in the fields. During the time of festival, David sent word to Nabal, who was shearing the sheep David and his men protected, that he and his men needed food and he humbly requested that Nabal return the kindness and feed him and his hungry men. The response David received was insulting, at the very least. He indicated he didn’t even know who David was and suggested that he could be one of many escaped slaves.
Upon receiving this response, David, told his men to sword up because they were going to visit Nabal’s home, where they would kill his entire family and his servants and their families. One of the servants reported to Abigail what had transpired. She assured Abigail that David and his men had been wonderful protectors in every way, that Nabal had wronged them, and urged her to fix things or they would all perish.
Abigail quickly loaded up plenty of food for David and his men with her servants’ help and without a word to her destructive husband, rode out on a donkey to meet the hungry, angry men. I just love the way she got things done without a bunch of hoopla or drama. She saw the problem, and was SO connected to God and His will, she knew just what to do and how to do it. She intercepted the men and instead of arguing with David or justifying anything, she told him how much they were owed because of their hard work and protection. She bowed down before him, with her face to the ground. She connected with David by telling him she had been treated disrespectfully by her husband for years and that Nabal was a fool who was followed by folly wherever he went. She then prophesied over David the blessings that the Lord had for him in the days to come: becoming the true King, and a man who pursued God with all of his heart who would leave a lasting legacy. She reminded him that killing Nabal’s entire household would only mar his reputation and his future as a respectable king… Brilliant!! David and his men accepted her generous gift and he sent her home with a blessing over her.
Upon arriving home, her husband was very intoxicated and had guests over, so she decided to wait to tell him what has happened the following day when he would be fully present and less reactive from his alcohol consumption. Upon waking, Abigail told him everything. My Bible tells me that his heart failed him, he then turned to stone and about ten days later Nabal died.
When David heard the news, he rejoiced at God’s justice and then he sent word to Abigail that he desired to marry her. She went willingly, even happily. They had a son together and I’ve no doubt Abigail lived a much happier life than she did married to Nabal.
It’s funny. When I first starting studying her, I was shocked to realize that the Abigail who was married to Nabal was the same Abigail who was married to David. I just didn’t put it together. She was such a leader, wise, kind, strong, brilliant, and beautiful. I wish the Bible told us more about her life. That she stayed with her abusive husband until he passed away is quite a feat. That she worked so hard to keep their people safe and respectable is impressive.
I love that she didn’t play the victim in a situation that could’ve warranted such behavior, especially in the time she lived in. She didn’t become bitter or turn inward. She chose to think of others and see the big picture while putting out her very difficult husband’s fires pretty regularly.
Abigail challenges me not simply because she was kindhearted, wise, and possessed so many other virtuous characteristics, but more so because she was so connected to Our Father. This is where we find our wisdom because we seek His will and not our own human and often self-serving desires. This is where we see others through the correct lens and extend love and kindness without judgement and with humility. I know that I often try to feel overwhelmed by doing all of the right things at the right time in the right fashion. When I slow down and stop trying so hard to DO and I, instead, spend time BEing with My Father, the other things usually fall into place, and even when things get crazy (because things WILL get crazy for everyone here and there if you’re a human being), I’ve found that if I look to examples such as Abigail’s, I need only to be in regular, intimate relationship with Him to make wise and thoughtful choices. Choices that He leads me to are always best for me and for the situations I find myself in. I know this may seem like an oversimplification, but I believe that when I’ve struggled the most, I’ve been the farthest from Him. I get busy with the wrong things, I don’t make Him a priority, I sabotage my relationship with Him for various reasons, laziness, brokenness, busyness, etc. and then when the big junk comes, I’m trying to figure it out on my own or by asking everyone’s opinion, except My Father’s. Have you been there? I think we all have. Sometimes I beat myself up because I believe I shouldn’t still be wrestling with this at my age. That’s just where satan wants me, so it’s imperative that I pick myself up and spend some time with my Father who loves and forgives me without condition. I’m not Abigail, yet, but I’m thankful for her example. I’m His beloved daughter. I’m not a quitter and I’m no fool.
What kind of dad did you have? Not the face he wore in public, but the dad you had at home. Was he steadfast, loving, encouraging, generous with his time and attention? Did he love your mother tenderly, deeply and show you what commitment looks like? Did he play ball with you in the backyard, or board games on Friday nights? Did he work hard for your family, mow the lawn, take out the trash and provide for your family’s financial needs? Did he attend your school functions, your sporting events, and take you out for a “date” now and again, just so he could get to know you more intimately?
Do any of us have this experience? Is it even possible?
My father loves my mother very much. He wrangled us all up to clean the house on the weekends when my mother worked, so that she would come home to peace and be able to enjoy what weekend she had left. He took me out all by myself once when I was 18 or 19 years old to a Chinese restaurant and I was beside myself. He asked me questions and told me about himself as a young adult. It remains one of my most treasured memories of my life. My father and I have a very broken relationship. He has been broken since his childhood and unfortunately, the brokenness has seeped into and affected his children and their lives in untold ways.
When I was very pregnant with our daughter, I was baptized. Just a year before that I began my serious search for Jesus. Even as a child, I had always been curious and when I delivered my first child seven years before my baptism, I also birthed a certainty that He was real – right there in the hospital delivery room. My husband and I were attending a little church in Michigan. I struggled with God for a bit, not willing to give up the “fun” I thought my life was full of, afraid of what following Him would really mean, but eventually, I gave in and asked Him to help me be who He wanted me to be. That’s when the real fun began.
I kept hearing about how loving Our Father was, but every time I did something wrong, I was sure He didn’t love me anymore. I would begin to “hide” from Him by skipping my devotion time more and more, by not praying as often, because I was pretty positive He wasn’t listening anyway. When someone asked me about my relationship with my earthly father, I began to see the connection. I was projecting the conditional love and rejection I expected from my human father onto my Heavenly Father, and since I can never be perfect or completely without sin, I was telling myself regularly that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God. The tragedy is that, over that past many years since my self-discovery, I have found countless other Jesus followers who are struggling with the same thing, to different degrees, in their journey with Him. Their broken relationships with their fathers are having a significant impact on their relationships with Our Heavenly Father.
The truth is, I believe that if satan can attack and destroy the men in our culture, then he knows that eventually he will destroy our entire culture. He’s been at it since Adam in the garden. If we don’t have God-following men, who are willing to lay down their lives to pursue His will, then it all crumbles, doesn’t it? Children need fathers they can look to for a godly example. Wives need husbands of integrity to lead their households in deep abiding love.
So, what’s happened? How did we end up with epidemic proportions of families broken and wounded by husbands & fathers who have physically and emotionally abused them, who have betrayed their wives, who are addicted to pornography, who are more concerned about the approval of their co-workers than their families?
Is it that men are just jerks? Selfish, weak, cruel?
The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added by me).
I’ll admit to you that I struggle with this at times. When my husband displays his weak and very human qualities, I sometimes resent that he isn’t a little more Christlike (because I always am. HA!). I have this American idea in my head that he’s supposed to earn my respect. God, through Paul, made it very clear that I must respect my husband regardless of my current mood. It’s how He made men. They require unconditional respect. He infused me with a need for unconditional love and if I had to earn it from my husband or the other people I hold dear, I would be an empty shell. I know the deep and lasting wounds of feeling like I can never be enough and being unlovable because of my relationship with my earthly father. I am often not very lovable. The irony of my marriage is that for many years now, my husband loves me unconditionally and with abandon. He continually reassures me that I am worth loving, even when I am being ugly and seemingly unlovable.
We are inundated with examples of alpha females and beta men in television shows, books, and movies. Are we really surprised we’re all beginning to follow this example?
This first struck me years ago when I was watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with my husband. We were laughing uproariously at Deborah rolling her eyes at her t.v. husband, Ray, doing something childish and selfish, and frustrating his wife, as well as once again choosing to placate his mother, while his wife felt taken for granted. It suddenly wasn’t funny anymore. It hit too close to home and I felt as if I had stopped drinking the kool-aid and was seeing how harmful this mentality is to our culture at large. Yesterday, as my husband and I were watching “The Big Sick” at the Alamo, Ray Romano was playing a very similar role, and it reminded me, once again, how saturated our culture is with “dumb, juvenile husbands” and wives who tolerate them, as my fellow movie watchers continually laughed at this dysfunctional relationship on the screen. We are products of our environment to a large degree.
This is one of the main reasons we decided to disconnect our cable several years ago. I did not want my children taking in the normalized version of men on the regular, nor did I want that for my husband and me. While I’m aware it makes very little difference to the networks, I still couldn’t be comfortable with paying for something that was so destructive for my family. I wonder when exactly this trend began. Mr. Brady was a wonderful father who loved his wife and was respected by her and their children. He had faults, but he was a good guy. In the 80’s, the only show I could find that fit the theme and may have started this trend was “Married with Children.” Shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Mr. Belvedere” had strong male leads with strong women as well. Unfortunately, money voted for imbecilic men and strong, disgusted women, so this is what we see on the screen, by and large.
Here’s another theory of mine: Perhaps the mamas and daddies of the previous recent generations were raised by dictator fathers and so, on some level (consciously or unconsciously) they raised sons who are more relational, but display less leadership qualities.
I know that there are people who want to blame this on the feminist movement, but I don’t think women wanting to be leaders is a negative thing. I think the Bible has many instances of strong women. Jesus treated women with dignity and respect. I believe it is a twisted male need for control that ignores Jesus’ example of the role women should fill in our society. But, this topic is a whole other blog…
So, I want to stand against satan and protect my family, protect my husband. My part in that is to speak out when I see disrespect for men being awarded. I need to work harder at treating my husband with UNCONDITIONAL respect.
Also, I need to support movies when the lead is a strong, loving, leader. So, I should tell you the “The Big Sick” has this. Kumail Nanjiani is kind of the anti-Raymond and the story is based on his real life, so that gives me hope. He isn’t perfect, but he steps up and stands up. He’s a man with hard-won integrity. I like that.
The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added).
So… in my experience, when we submit to His ways, things typically fall into place. Also, His ways usually are much easier said than done for this girl. That’s not me making excuses, that’s me admitting I’ve got a long way to go. But, I’m going… and I’m going to keep reminding myself how blessed I am to not have to earn my husband’s unconditional love. I’m also going to remember that even if he didn’t love me so completely, I am still called to respect him unconditionally. There’s no “if” in Ephesians 5:33…
Remember the night you came home with your first, brand new little bundle of joy? It is usually utterly terrifying – and, yet, most of us survive it, and come away with a comical story added to our repertoire. Raising toddlers is tough, and mildly exhausting, especially if you have more than a couple of those little buggers at the same time. Once they go to school, all kinds of new drama, etc. is added to the menu. The teen years almost killed me, or at the very least, they made me wish I was dead a time or two. When they become real adults, it’s such a stone soup of feelings. It’s really wonderful and doing life with your spouse, kind of alone, is a thrilling prospect, if you’ve kept in touch with one another along the way. It’s also the end of the most important and longest part of a mommy’s life, and that’s a little heartbreaking. THE end. The END. When did this all happen?! Am I ready for this?…
I’ve always told myself that I would culture my interests, marriage, and friendships so that when my kiddos grew up and started their own lives, I wouldn’t be left not knowing what to do with my time, with myself. I have never wanted to be that needy mama. I’ve seen too many women lose themselves in being wives and mamas, and I’ve never wanted to be like that. I have many interests. My husband is my favorite. I have several other dear friends.
Yet, I struggle to know what to do with myself. I’m not sure how to not wear my mom identity like a shield. It’s who I am at the core of my being…
I’m flailing. What I know in my head and what I feel in my heart and show in my actions are not lining up. I’m not sure what my next step should be. Also, I’m beginning to experience menopause, so my emotions are not always spot on… But, I’m hesitant to admit this to my family because I’m afraid they’ll use that as a scapegoat for every difference of opinion we encounter and that just makes me frustrated and defeated, as if my ideas and feelings are invalid.
I mean, having a clean house is A-mazing. Spending 1/2 as much on food AND not hearing anyone complain that A – there is no food in the house worth eating or B – there is no food in the house, period (when I just shelled out $300 at the grocery store yesterday), is good stuff. Having time alone with my Honey is lovely. Having time to read, pray, lay around, make kombucha, go wherever I feel like going is something I haven’t been able to do in 4-ever.
I know I’ll get used to this and I expect to fully enjoy it someday in the future, but right now, in this very moment I’m trying to figure out where the time went. I’m trying to figure out how to support my kiddos’ independence and trust that they’ll choose to be in relationship with us in a way that is life-giving, not just obligatory. And, yes, I understand I don’t really have a choice in all of that, but I’d like to do my part well, however, my insecurities, past wounds and lack of experience are not making that easy for me.
Being a mama is hard. Not kinda hard or very hard. It’s the hardEST, the WHOLE time.
The beauty is that it is also MUCH more wonderful and lovely and joy-filled than hard. So, there’s that.
Here’s to flailing
and becoming Tricia, again.
And to embracing the adequacy of myself –
not because I’m a mom or a wife, but because I am me and I am His.
I can do this.
This has been a year of faith growing for me. If I’m painfully honest, I am the poster child for, “Ye of little faith.” My security has been cash for as long as I can remember. When my husband and I were first starting out, I wanted nothing more than to be “comfortable” in the finance department. I also wanted “the latest, greatest,” as many 20-somethings do. When our kiddos came along, we had the 4 bedroom with a huge yard and an in-ground pool in the back. They were dressed to the nines for school (as some of their report cards will attest), and took every lesson and played most organized sports available to children of their age. We had a membership to a very posh gym and drank chain coffee drinks on the regular. I spent much of my time keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and secretly envying our friends and family members who had more than we did.
At some point, I realized how absolutely ugly all of that was and how little I cared to continue running on the hamster wheel I had created for myself. It also became very important for me to teach this to my children before they flew out of my nest. This was not any easy goal, as I had spent their entire lives modeling the polar opposite of my new conviction-turned-passion.
Simplicity is my destination. I don’t mean I just want less stuff, I mean I want simplicity in my relationships, in my closet, in my schedule and in my home. Initially, I thought it would take about a year to clean out the garage, our house, etc. I believed it was an easy “weed through” kinda thing, and then I began the process. It was not simple nor easy. I’m embarrassed to admit how attached I am to too many things. The most humiliating facet of this process is how long I am willing to hang on to things I haven’t used or needed in decades, just in case I may need them one day. Secretly, I envision myself saving money just when we need it most because of an item I’ve been hoarding in an overstuffed closet for 16 years. You know, that perfect, authentic piece for my child’s Halloween costume (our youngest are 22 years old!), or that kitchen tool that I received 20 years ago in a bundle from an elderly relative, that I’ve NEVER used, but washed many times – in case I needed it suddenly one day… (Truth be told, I didn’t even know what some of those things were!) Of course, I had outfits that I would never look good in again or purchased on a whim and never even wore. Not a few, but 4 LARGE trash bags full. I also had 7 huge crates of books that my family had to pretty much force me to part with. I was saving those for the grandchildren I don’t yet have. Broken appliances, hideous, worn-out furniture, bags, jars, vases, rags, lotions, expired medicines, partial sheet sets…
Our 2-car garage was filled to the brim and there was very little room in our home. Last year we gave away, sold and threw out more than 1/2 of the “stuff” we had accumulated, and still our new tiny 1-car garage is filled, not to the brim, but the floor is about 80% covered.
I work in a very wealthy part of Austin. My employers live a life I used to covet and yearn for. Almost inevitably when I am driving to work, passing mansion after mansion, I look up at God and thank Him for the life I have and for not giving me the one I used to think would bring me joy. He has freed me from that. I don’t just accept that I don’t have a life like that, I celebrate that I don’t and more importantly, I rejoice that I have the life He has blessed me with.
Last summer I quit my job as a teacher. I was quite terrified, a little heartbroken, and a smidge thrilled. Every year the powers that be (tptb) in my district made things more and more complicated and less about teaching my precious students, and I found that I just couldn’t do it in good conscience anymore. I’ve been nannying/doula-ing for families with newborns and toddlers since then and my work life is SO much more relaxed and rewarding. I’m still not sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, but my stress level is much lower and when I leave my job, I am actually done until I return and I’m on the clock again. When I’m home, I am present. There are no papers to correct, endless lesson plans to complete or ridiculous t-tess forms to fill out to convince admin that I can actually still teach after doing a bang-up job for 20 years already! I have fun on my 3-day weekends without working late all week or shutting myself in all day Saturday or Sunday. I am also not exhausted when I get home.
I’ve pursued healthy christian relationships with other women who want to grow and truly love Jesus. I’ve spent some time looking at and praying about the relationships I’ve had in the past and I’ve chosen to walk away from some unhealthy ones. My new home is peaceful in a way that I have desired for a very long time. There is a place and a time when drama is a part of life, it is inevitable, but I just refuse to entertain it unnecessarily. While this has been the most difficult part of my life to simplify, and often the most painful, it has also been the most rewarding.
I still have a closet to thin out a bit and “stuff” in the garage that needs to go, but I’m recognizing what we have accomplished, not beating myself up for what still needs to be done. It is all a journey, to be walked with our heads up, noticing the beauty all around us and living in the moment. As I lighten my load, I find I am enjoying everything a little more, looking up, sitting back, jumping in. I’m finding that the best provider is not my husband, certainly not me or our bank account, but He will provide my needs and often my wants. As I let go of more and have less, I find I am trusting Him more and realizing I need and want less. It doesn’t make sense in this culture, but it works better than anything I’ve ever done and that’s enough for me to continue on this journey He’s leading me on.