Thursday, June 25, 2015

a trust thing


When you chase so hard after something you are certain is part of your story --

. . . and you find that it's not what you wanted, necessarily,
          it's just what you believed would be true . . .

. . . and all those years of worrying that you might possibly be wrong,
          that there's no guarantee your dreams will ever come to be . . .

. . . and something monumental actually does happen . . .

. . . and it happens in you . . .

Such was the case with me.

: : : 

I wanted to believe.
I wanted to know God is real.
I wanted to know in my own knock-my-socks-off way.

I thought I wasn't good enough, that perhaps He was annoyed and irritated with me like I was with myself, and like I imagined so many other people were with me.
   
All my fears, all the anxiety I carried around with me . . . it all became asked of me as possibilities to consider.


     What if my groom dies while we're still in the midst of raising him?
     What if our son dies?
     What if we die and leave him alone?
     What if I lose my job?
     What if I get sick and die?
     What if this dream never comes true?
     What if I never have the close relationships I longed for all those years?


To face fear is the only way to move through it. 

To avoid it or be quiet about it, only allows it to stick around longer and take up residence, keeping me frozen.

Do I trust Him? That is actually the real question to all my anxiety.

I always made every anxiety about Me.

I tried to ensure certain possibilities by eating a certain way, or working out a certain way, or learning all I can to fix all the things.

What if it isn't really about me?

What if someone in the crossfires of my story actually needs to be there for God to do some miraculous work in their lives?

What if the challenges my groom and I face with our son are really the way God will draw Boy-Man to His heart?

What if my imperfections are a way for someone else -- possibly someone who isn't even within my close knit circle -- to see the Hand and Face of God?

Do I trust Him with life, as it is?

: : : 

I think about the times I've lived reckless, the times I threw my hands up and pitched a little fit, pretending I didn't care. I contrast those choices with how my life is at this very moment and I am utterly amazed, incredibly humbled, and in slack-jawed awe.

Where my life is at is nothing short of a miracle. It is most definitely a reflection of the Hand of God, there is simply no other explanation. Because, I certainly haven't done enough good to be here, and it certainly can't be luck that brought me here.

My life is a reflection of Grace that says I am loved, as I am. 

There is nothing I need do to earn favor when my heart longs to honor Him, even though I can tend to selfishly want what I want.

I've realized that I can trust Him.

I can be naked, fully exposing who I am
     . . . and I will be held
     . . . safe and secure.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

learning the ways of rest


I was deceived. For years I was under this misunderstanding of Grace.

Scratch that. I didn't know about Grace. Really, I hadn't heard of it.

For years I judged women. Admittedly, I still do.
     Mostly, I judge myself.

So when the Physician's Assistant asked me four weeks before my due date how I was feeling, and I told her the truth (because I've learned its importance), I wasn't quite ready for what she offered me.

I had a plan to be out of work on a set date and even that plan was a generous helping of rest I hadn't ever considered nearly 11-years ago when I was last pregnant and down to the wire, so to speak. Back then, I worked until Noon on the day of my scheduled induction . . . two-weeks after my due date. Yep. I sure did.

Everything had been going so well and I truly didn't even consider an end date for work except unless something happened that would require being taken out of work, or actually being in labor.

This time, I mostly had the same viewpoint; except, I thought about how difficult it is to go to work each day and wonder if it'll be any day, and I thought about my nearly 11-year-old Boy-Man and how I'd really like some time together before we become a family of four. So, I planned to take a "vacation" starting the week preceding my due date and just continue a stay-cation until the delivery, at which time maternity leave would begin.

Knowing our "plans" can get sidelined, I was prepared for the possibility of potentially getting taken out of work earlier than expected, or of something going quirky that would derail all of my highfalutin plans. So, I kept my ideas loose-ish.

What I hadn't considered was being offered to be taken out of work "to rest," and it not necessarily being because anything is wrong. 

I told my PA how exhausted I am . . . how the baby is "so low" . . . how I'm incredibly uncomfortable . . . and of the regular-ish (Braxton-Hicks) contractions.

She reminded me of the magnitude of pregnancy and encouraged me to consider resting even more than I'd so diligently and deliberately focused on (and was) doing.

     But, it just seems so silly . . .
     Women have babies all the time . . .
     There's not really a compelling reason . . . 


     What will people think? 

My perception of pregnancy had deceived me from reality.

I thought mean things like:

     Women who didn't enjoy their pregnancy weren't appreciative. 
     Women who complained about the discomfort of pregnancy are weak. 
     Rest is for the weak ones.

Yeah, I was a judgy one -- tight-fisted, insensitive, irrational, and incredibly intense!

I'm not sure I ever considered all that pregnancy requires of a woman's body, especially in the last month of pregnancy. I'm not sure I ever considered kindness, either.

So here I am with nearly two-weeks until this baby's due date . . . with a tween-age Boy-Man who is so happy to have his Momma home . . .

     And I'm still learning the importance of rest . . .
          I'm still learning the ways of Grace.

You can preach truth at me all the livelong day to loosen my grip and rest, and I'll nod my head in agreement that I get it. I write about it. I preach about it.

But growing is a process, and it requires my patience.
Even though we know truth it doesn't mean our "muscle memory" automatically reprograms. 
Though I am willing and aching for a life with less fear-based living that is the reason for my tight-constricted way of living, I'm definitely a work in progress and still growing. 

     I'm continuing to chase hope for my "muscles" to further develop . . .
          that I will live less clenched and rule-based.
   
     I'm learning to be patient in and with the process.

Maybe this whole experience of letting go and saying "yes" to the opportunity for rest, offered by one sensitive, understanding, and wise Physician's Assistant was one of those moments that will bring me ever further into living the kind of life I believe I was created to live.

I was hardwired to be a hard-worker, a "go-getter," and (at least slightly) Type A. This is a good thing. It helps me get things done and accomplish goals. Yet, it isn't all of me.

About my concern of what people might think?

I'm hoping that like my Physician's Assistant ultimately did, others might look into my eyes and with honesty say:

     "I get it. I so get it. And, I'm with you."

Because, as much as we all know loosening our grip is important, and we want to grab our friend's by the shoulders and shake them until they get it, I have to believe we're all a work in progress . . . we all struggle to fully rest.

And one of my biggest realizations?

    There is no shame for the difficulty in ever more fully learning this truth.

It was a couple of friends who stood in the gap for me, holding space for my continued growth. They walked alongside me in my struggle and didn't judge me or make me feel inadequate.

These few friends didn't try to fix me. They didn't tell me to get over it and command me to "simply" loosen my grip.

These few simply held space for me by opening their hearts, offering unconditional support, and let go of judgment. These friends honor the necessary part of the process.

As one dear friend prayed for me, I also pray, for us all:
"That the paths you are so prone to go down -- the ones of production, the ones of appearance, the ones of showing yourself worthy -- that the rigidness of those routes would soften, and that what spills out the edges of that would find new ground and new ways to make paths . . . for newness of life to grow . . . and a new strength to come from giving over to the work of God."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

when you open the door


We hadn't seen each other in about six years.

In that time, we'd spoken over Skype once or twice. They were good conversations, meaty and rich with sweetness. Yet, still, the times we even corresponded were few.

His life this year has involved giving a daughter away in marriage and seeing her move on, something he didn't experience with his first and oldest -- me. I've thought about the strain of his recent experience contrasted with the one that he lacked and empathy has risen in my heart.

We haven't had the idyllic father-daughter relationship through the years.

He moved away when I was young and our time together became splintered. As I grew older, so did our relationship.

I wanted to know things and was too afraid to ask. When we were together I wanted the happy and fun to last, so I resisted "going there" in deep conversation with him. I didn't want to risk how talking about the heart could affect our time together, making it feel uncomfortable. Eventually, I'd ask a few questions and attempt to gain some color to the foggy parts of our story, only to be met with resistance.

Back and forth we'd trade accusations through the years, mostly by phone because I'm not sure we were ever brave enough to talk face-to-face. We both probably wanted to preserve the sweetness of what little time we had together, yet we both had words we so longed to be said.

In addition to his two other daughters besides me, he has an adopted son just a year younger than mine. It's crazy to think we're raising kids nearly the same age, both in the throes of raising tween-age boy-men. We share a similarity and a bond of understanding, more than just biologically speaking, even though our worlds are different.

While he lives and works in a third-world country, he's in the States for several months to connect with the people and organizations who financially support him. His schedule is exhausting to fathom -- driving miles and miles across the country, sleeping in other people's beds, and living out of suitcases. They still have three more months of this kind of living and I can see the toll its taken on him already.

I could see the strain, not just sense it. 
And it's all because I said "Yes". 

When he offered to visit in between his traveling from here to there, I felt love swell in my heart. I was thought of and loved. I was wanted to be seen. Just knowing this was enough of a gift, even if something happened and we couldn't coordinate schedules.

Our time together would only be a few hours, yet it was more than we would have if he didn't make an effort and if I didn't accept.

In our communicating back and forth about schedules, I considered that perhaps he had a bit of fear and anxiety in seeing me and maybe even in simply reaching out to me. I've been welcoming on so many occasions, and yet there've been others when I've kept the door sealed shut. Would I open it this time? What would be the condition of my heart? 

I thought about what to do, wanting to make sure I didn't have expectations this time.

I wanted to fling the door wide open in love. I wanted to say, "Yes! Come!"

I wanted to connect. 
     I didn't want to think about the strain and the pain.

His second grandchild is expected to be born any week, or any day now, and I want him to meet the babe, and he will, someday. But that doesn't matter so much now. This was our time and I had a choice to accept and be grateful for what we were given. So I did.

After nearly six years apart, we had three hours together. Three precious hours.

Our boys interacted with each other as if they weren't strangers. I talked with his easy-to-be-with wife and got to know his now teenage college-bound daughter a bit. And though we hardly spoke to each other, I watched him from a distance as he played yard games with my groom and our sons. I saw him smile and laugh.

When he spoke, he was funny and reminded me of my groom's humor. I laughed a lot in those few hours and I imagine looking down on us, there were a lot of smiles.

Though we didn't exchange many words, we still connected. 
We shared the human emotion of joy and thanks for the gift of togetherness.

As he drove away, I wished we had more time together and I figured that's a good thing. We didn't cry or make a big deal out of the holes that still remain in our wounded hearts. Our time together was lighthearted and not at all heavy or uncomfortable.

(Tween-age boy-men have this way of distracting a person from being so serious.)

I awoke the next day nearly two hours later than I'd been sleeping of late and was awake in the night much less frequently than has been typical in this, my ninth month of pregnancy. I awoke with memories of my father's smile and laughter, and my heart felt full.

This is what happened when I opened the door instead of keeping it shut tight.

Boundaries are good to an extent and then at some point, they're just not necessary anymore. I needed (and perhaps we both needed) some time and space apart for healing to really begin versus trying to make it be.

Forcing something usually ends up in even more brokenness.

I've seen this occur so many times on such a literal level. My groom reminded me of this when he and our son had set up the badminton net. He instructed Boy-Man to "slowly unravel the net and if it gets stuck, don't keep pulling . . . like you would usually do."

In opening the door and letting us be as we are, and our story as it is, I experienced joy and peace. I didn't need the holes to be healed. I didn't need the fairytale relationship I had longed for all those years.

In opening the door, I saw another human. 
We connected and it was good. 

Our time together wasn't perfect, yet it many ways it was. It was so good -- rich and sweet. And I'm so glad I said "Yes! Come!"

I no longer wish for the idyllic relationship I thought I always wanted.

Now I see that what we've been given -- though crackly and gravely in nature -- has been a gift. We've grown and will continue to grow in ways we never could've if we didn't have this kind of story.

Acceptance is the greatest gift of all.

In opening the door I chose to accept another frail and faulty human, and the story that was perfectly scripted for us -- as it is.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

on the messiness in relationships


There are a few people in my life who I would rather not be around.

Mostly, my reason is because of how their fear affects me.

I sense certain people get paralyzed to voice their perspective of something I've said or done out of worry that I might close my life off to them altogether, yet they stew and wring their hands all because they made assumptions about me that may or may not be true. Imagining this makes it difficult to be around these people.

I get that I can be difficult to understand sometimes. I can be harsh. I can be inconsiderate.
     That said, a lot of the time what I say and do can be completely misunderstood.

Even though certain people don't actually tell me they're making assumptions about me, and I have no real definitive idea what it is they are even all worked up about, I feel badly about myself and they probably feel badly about themselves, too.

Just like that, we've made assumptions about each other.
We're all a brambled mess, each of us.

In these times, I wish I could just bolt and never look back.

I can't stand how certain people make me feel. Yet, I know how I feel is my doing not theirs.

Fear is nasty in how it can color our perspective.

It can make us freeze up and avoid interactions with the very people we treasure most in our lives, sometimes even tempting us to think our lives would be better off without them. I'm sure there are a few people who feel that way about me.

The thing is, relationships are connections not by our design. We can think we were responsible for the connecting when really, we couldn't be further from the truth.

I learn a lot when I'm around people who I sometimes don't like, the ones who I want to blame for the reason my skin itches, and who everything within me makes me want to avoid.

I venture to guess, they could learn a lot from me, too.

     What if I'm bold enough to speak up when I sense someone is disturbed by me?
     What if I'm brave enough to invite them to go there with me . . .
          even if what they have to say might hurt? 


They might not feel comfortable to be honest with me.
They might still yield to their own fear.
They might tell me I'm altogether wrong.

I have to be careful not to expect my speaking up might change things between us while remembering that if I don't try, the discomfort between us -- imagined or not -- will certainly never get better.

Ultimately, in all relationships, my motive can't be to comfort me. 

When I sense someone is uncomfortable being around me and is weighing his or her words ever so carefully, I want to be willing to ask because I care more about their heart than about what they might think of me.

I can't give up on people, especially the ones who annoy me with their unspoken fear. Besides, I wouldn't want them to give up on me.

     We simply can't give up on each other.

There's so much we can learn from each other, even by sitting amidst the discomfort and letting it be.

To those who fear, might you be bold enough to speak up?
To those who are uncomfortable around someone else's fear, might you be bold enough to stay?


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

the swing dance of parenting


He's learning to husband me and it's beautiful, though sometimes it hurts.
He's occassionally out of line and out of place and a bit wonky.

He puts on a front, pretending not to care about any thing, including the things I know he really truly does care about. I'm reminded of myself and how I pretended for so long, how I erected a facade to portray a stronger than I was image.

We're not sure what to do with him. My groom and I wring our hands in angst as we try every approach to reach him, including stepping back and letting him be.

Parenting is a responsibility that requires stick-with-it-ness.

Maybe one of these days we'll say something that will make a difference, so we keep trying.

He's only ten and yet, he's going to be the (much older) big brother. Our life reflects a very different kind of story than most people we know with their kids scripted to be 18 months to two years apart.

We didn't script our life, though I wanted to and tried to -- many a times.

And here we are, battling it out day by day with this tween who knows we cannot make him do a darn thing.

He puts up a stink when we say things and someone told me the other day that it's good, he's learning to stand up for himself. I tuck that away in my Hope-file.

I'm learning to love him as he is and not pine for who he might someday be, because this could be it. These hard days could be our only days and I think . . .

     What if these are the glory days? 

I look for a reaction from my every day attempts, as if what I say will illicit some sort of chemical reaction that will be positive and perhaps puff a colorful cloud.

I'm looking for something to make me feel good, to know that I am doing the right things and making a difference.

I take what he says so personally and if I haven't said something in just the right way, I've often thought I am not good enough. I don't worry about being a bad parent as much as I worry what kind of a person he will become because of me.

I often have to remind myself we all have something -- we all could use counselors in our lives, and . . . perhaps God will use my weaknesses as my son's mother to draw him ever further to His heart, where He is the boy-man's God and not me.

God is bigger than the expectations and criticism of the world. I have to remind myself who each day I will serve -- them or Him . . . my comfort or Him.

I have worn the letters right off the keyboard in my tap, tap, tapping for a cause, a cure, and even confidence. I've choked myself with the pressure to solve and diagnose every reason for why I can't seem to right all that is not working.

Exhausted from all the attempts to fix all the things and all the people, I decided to try God.

     "You can trust Me," are the words that stir in my weary heart. 

All along I've thought it would be me leading him. I'm stepping back and considering how perhaps it really is the child who will lead me.

___________________________________________________________


Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to Me.
Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with Me and work with Me --
watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

-- Matthew 11:28 The Message (MSG)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

on public school and my fears for our son


We took our son out of public school in the midst of third grade and decided to home-school him for reasons that even we weren't certain about.

That year was hard and we were asking lots of questions.

We didn't know what to do about our son not paying attention or following directions. We didn't understand what was going on, and our suggestions to be partners with his teacher in talking through his issues weren't responded to as we had hoped. It wasn't his teacher's fault, necessarily; she had lots of other kids and priorities that limited her time to give our son the attention we thought he deserved and needed.

This was our first go-round with parenting and we didn't know all the questions to ask.

Suddenly we found ourselves faced with the option of homeschooling and after taking a crash course in the how to's, we decided to have our son complete his third grade at home. People probably wondered what was up with us and what could cause us to suddenly veer left. When family voiced their concern we simply kept on with what we thought we needed to do at the time.

Could we have kept our son in school like most other kids and fight the good fight? Sure. But we didn't have to and so we chose not to.

Fast forward two years.

After test upon test to determine whether our son has a learning challenge of some sort, we found out what we already know:

     Every person learns differently. Period.

We still don't have any answers to why our son continues to not pay attention or follow directions.

Maybe his stealth strong-will promotes a decision-making in his mind of what he thinks is important and not important.

Maybe he tries to be creative in answering questions and approaching school work, thinking he can try a different way.

Only God knows. And truly, the why doesn't really matter, anyway.

Did homeschooling him help? Did it enable him? We will never know.

Should we have kept him in school? Let's not go there.

All I will say is this: I do believe there is a lot to be said for developmental readiness. Also, and perhaps most importantly, there is not one right or perfect methodology for teaching our children.

Homeschooling did things for our son and our family we can never fully define. 

     I watched joy and creativity find its way again.

     Time together was simplified and savored.

     Frantic was a thing of the past.

By having our son home we've had the flexibility to do things we wouldn't have been able to do if he were in school. We have gone together on a few of my business trips and discovered parts of cities -- partly just for fun and partly because they have connected to something interesting that he studied.

The place where I work gives us access to facilities that allow our son to hone his sports skills and we've seized those opportunities. College students use those facilities, too, and so my son and my groom have met people who they otherwise wouldn't have met if our son was in school.

There have been good things about having our son at home for the past two years and there have been challenging things.

My groom is a hero in the eyes of most people when they hear he has been the primary teacher. I just nod my head in agreement, because I don't know if I could do it either. Yet, according to him, "you do what you have to do". He says those words because he cares deeply about his commitment to love and fatherhood and he is passionate about exercising his gift of teaching and helping. My groom doesn't necessarily care more than me, just differently than me.

It wasn't always easy for me, though. I sometimes judged my groom's approach and scowled when I wanted happy-clappy lunch hours and evenings instead of continued lessons that sometimes fall on our son's seemingly deaf ears.

Life is about learning. It's not always comfy.
     Growth is a necessary part of the process and it hurts.  


This past school year we were faced with the sorts of challenges similar to those of kids the same age as our son's. Motivating our son to care enough to try hard is difficult and we often feel helpless. This is his challenging thing right now and though we hope it won't be his forever thing, it is for now.

We decided at the beginning of this school year to use this year as a preparation year for our son to return to public school next year. He will re-enter as a sixth grader in the Middle School -- aka, the dreaded years. Honestly, I'm excited for him, yet I'm also quite afraid.

     I'm excited for our son to learn from other people.

     I'm excited for him to influence other human beings on a daily basis.

     I'm excited for our son to come home and tell us all most of the details about his days.

     I'm excited for him to get called on and be challenged.

     I'm excited for our son to raise his hand with confidence.

     I'm excited for him to have variety and multiple teachers on a daily basis.

     I'm excited for our son to navigate his interests beyond athletics.

With all there is to look forward to about the differences between home-school and public school, there is also so much that I fear.

Surprisingly, it isn't the infamous and much debated Core Curriculum that I'm afraid of, or the teachers having so many students and so little time, or that our son still hasn't figured out how to follow.the.blessed.directions (!), or that he will have to face the consequences of reality discipline. It isn't even the social stuff that comes with puberty, or the pressures of life.

Sure, those are all things concerning me, though to be honest I'm mostly afraid our son will decide we're a couple of loons and he will decide to be who he wants to be, and who he chooses to be won't be who we think he was created to be . . . and that I'll mostly be right about all of this, because it's quite probably how it will go.

He probably will decide to live differently than how we've raised him. At least for awhile.

I'm afraid our son isn't ever going to stretch before practice or after practice, or drink even one sip of water all the livelong day, or eat anything other than peanut butter or poached eggs on English Muffins.

I'm afraid our son will do his own thing whenever he wants and won't ever realize how working hard does more than one can ever imagine.

The thing is, we can't protect our son from the bullies of the world, or discouragement, or make people pay attention to him. I can't force my son to pay attention, or to follow directions, or to take notes, or to ask questions to verify his understanding. I can't make him drink and stretch and eat the way I think he should. I can't make sure my son actually learns what I think is important and not what I don't think is important.

I can't ensure my son will achieve his dreams or become who I think he was designed to be.

It isn't the school I have a problem with as much as it is Myself.

It's my fear keeping him entangled in my grip and keeping me up late at night, contemplating the next guilt-trip I can impose that might "inspire" him or "light a fire under his butt".

I fear my son becoming someone who totally isn't the storybook character I often forget I didn't script him to be.

As much as I fear and want to hold him back from the meanies in this world and the crazy, mixed up education system that just confuses me all to pieces, I need to let him go. Not for the "social" reasons so many people are focused and concerned about for home-school students, but because he needs to make his own choices and discover his own need for God, and that it isn't a sign of weakness to need Him.

Letting my son go feels irresponsible in some ways, a little bit like throwing him to the wolves, so to speak. But, I can't protect him forever or guarantee every late-night lecture and early-morning hug will stick and give him the courage and peace (and instructions) he needs for his life.

I can't solve his problems for him or create a sunshine and rainbows kind of life for him.

     Life will be hard. It will hurt. He will make mistakes. 
          All I can do is trust God's got him.

God chose me as the mother for this specific child, knowing I wouldn't know how to do even the basic kind of math or be able to explain how to write (other than to say, "just do it as you feel led").

God chose me, knowing my son would need to be taught to clean up his crumbs from the lunch table, even though I don't always clean up my own from breakfast.

God chose me because He has purpose for me, in spite of my imperfections.

I trust God's got my son, no matter where he goes to school and what he does.

     If my son needs to fail, then may God use it.

     If I need to disappoint him, then may God use that, too.

After all, I didn't create this person, God did it. And so, it all comes down to the smallness of my faith I am most afraid of, my struggle to trust God's ways, and how much longer my fingers will stay white-knuckle gripped.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

a prayer for the naked and afraid


We're all hurting. All of us in our own ways.

You know our hearts and the exact place to elicit a response in us.

Help us to look at the ugly parts of our hearts where Your Hand reaches.
Help us to resist the urge to cover up what hurts in an attempt to make the discomfort end.

Give us the courage to let You have your way, with us.
Give us the courage to trudge one more step in the muck.

Help us not to stay frozen in fear and bewildered at the ugly.
Help us to step, trusting You won't leave us to drown or suffocate.

Humble us to surrender our want for Your glory.
Humble us to say "Yes" to one more moment of what feels impossible.

Might we be people who want to see Your glory more than our comfort.
Might we be people who trust You for the humanly impossible.

You are good, even when nothing looks as we wish it would.
You are good, even when nothing makes sense.

Lead us ever more to knowing Your love for us.
Lead us ever more to knowing Your love for all.

Heal us from our own addictions and obsessions and shouts for comfort.
Heal us from our own pride.

Teach us your definition of "Strong" in our naked moments of today's living.

Amen.