when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.

The emptiness that screams….

There is this void inside of me. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have this.

I think I’ve always known mine was there. An emptiness that screams. Like me. Need me. Invite me. Laugh at me. Hold me. Notice me. Love me. Listen to me. Hear me. Believe in me. Trust me. Walk with me. Dance with me. Pick me. Don’t leave me. Want me. Fight for me.

When I returned from Uganda a year ago I came home with a chasm of emptiness. I am sure all that were there noticed it when I walked through the gates at O’Hare. Although I am sure it was masked by the fact that I was looking just so ravishing after traveling 26 hours straight with a child that was bighting me .

After being in Uganda for over eleven weeks and only released from the country because a certain large organization was called in, you could say I came home with some “issues”. One of the biggest issues was my overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong. I didn’t know how to fit back into my own family. I had left that role for so many months that my family didn’t even know where I belonged. And I had this devastating ache that I would not be able to ever reconnect with my friends. That we would never see things in the same light again.

It wasn’t until recently that I could voice exactly what that need was, I wanted to be heard. Really heard. But I couldn’t. I wanted others to understand the depth of what I had been through. I wanted them to see international adoption in the same revealing way that I now am understanding it. I wanted someone to tell me that they understood the deep pain that suffocated me. I wanted someone to realize that I missed out on three months of all of their lives and felt like I never caught up. I wanted someone to see that I was struggling to know what my role was in the home. The older kids had to be in charge so many times that they had a difficult time letting me be mom again. And here I was scared to be mom because I carried so much guilt around for being gone. I wanted someone to know that I needed to reconnect. And I didn’t know how.

In retrospect I know this wasn’t fair. To them. To me.

I wanted others to fill a deep longing. A deep pain. A deep fear that only Christ himself could heal.

This morning it was apparent I still have parts of the emptiness that are still exposed. I was feeling so alone and disconnected from others. I was drawn into the lie again that they will fill the emptiness that only He can fill.

So in the emptiness I will cling. In the emptiness I will heal.

In the emptiness He will make me whole again.

more elmo less emailing.-things I am learning from just being present.

Last night while riding in the car with my oldest she asked how she could be praying for me. Now before you go all “my kid never asked me that before! I can’t even get a full sentence out of my teenager!” You need to know that the youth pastor just minutes before had given all the kids an assignment that night to ask their parents the same question. And if they were too nervous or weren’t on the same spiritual walk as their parental unit that they could ask God to bless their household.

It wasn’t long after she asked that I knew what had been on my heart for a while now.

“To be present. With you. With all of you.”

I have a close friend who has five little bambinos. She has told me on numerous occasions that she does not volunteer for any projects outside of her home at this time in her life. And without even questioning it I completely agree with her. This sweet one has her hands full and then some. I have never viewed her as selfish or self -centered. She is basically the opposite. She pours her heart and soul into what is before her. That happens to be five precious blessings at her feet. In fact I would never think of asking her to head up a project or expect her to ever be on a team for anything.

A few days ago though the thought came to my head as I was dropping off my fifth child at school for 2.5 hours. I have five kids! No it’s not a surprise to me. I know how many kids I have. And although they are not all little they are still a lot of work. At times I think that having teenagers and toddlers at the same time is the ultimate parental test. Although the needs are different they still need me, the needs just come in hormonal waves. When I had one child I went to play dates, story times, watched Elmo, read book after book after book, and took naps. I did not volunteer to be any more than who I was. Yet now with five I seem to think that I can do all of that and take on any and every project that comes my way. While the projects may be good. I am learning again it is not good for my soul.And its not good for my families soul.

I have come face to face with the reality that I have limitations. I need breathing room. I need quiet time. I need to exercise. I need to lay my face on the floor before my God. I need to talk to my husband. And this is hard to do with the phone ringing, email sending, text answering life I have been trying to keep up with. I do not thrive on this. Others might. I don’t.

I need to do laundry. I need to clean the house. I need to prepare meals. Grocery shop. Make and go to doctor’s appointments. Sporting events. Concerts ( and yes that included the infamous recorder concert, don’t be jealous). Sporting awards. Mowing the lawn. Shoveling the snow. And try to catch the stupid dog that ran away again. Somewhere in there bring all the kids to school and remember to pick them back up again.

I need to be present. I crave it. To be all there. If I am not there and I am everywhere else I start to fall apart. I start to get anxious. I start to catch my breath. I start to get really ugly with myself and with others. I start to lose sleep. I start to forget things. I start to think that these other things are more important that the five little (some not so little) at my feet. So why is it ok for me to give grace to others who have multiple children and forget to look in the mirror and breathe grace in for myself?

It’s not. So I am choosing grace. Just grace.

In denial

It’s August. Or as I like to call it, denial month. I am running the other way from this month. When I was younger in Michigan I had no anxiety about it. Because they actually do summer the right way and don’t start school till after Labor Day. Like it should be. Instead I live in a state that has decided to send kids back to school the hottest month of the year. And we go to schools that lack central air or air conditioning. I know “first world problems” but I would not enjoy being a teacher with smelly fourth graders who don’t realize they need to use deodorant or brush their teeth more than once a day. Forgive me I digress.

I also am feeling a whole bucket load of guilt. I have been carrying it with me to the beach and every play date this summer. The mommy guilt rears its ugly head anytime I start paying attention to what others are doing around me. I was homeschooling all of the kids over the past few years. I loved it. I had all my little blessings with me and we had a lot of fun. Then last year happened. And we had to make the decision to place a few of them in school. And now I am officially a homeschool dropout. All of them will be attending school in two weeks. In case you’ve lost count that is five kids in four different schools. This thought in itself makes me want to crawl in the corner and rock back in forth. I am not about schedules or waking up early. I am not even about getting dressed before ten. Needless to say public schools frown upon bringing your kids to school after ten every day. Believe me I know. I know that I have failed. I really wanted to do unit studies and go on field trips and do math in our jammies. But my sanity knows that I can’t. My reality is that my mind and body need to heal . I need adult interaction. I need to finish writing projects. I need to shave my legs by myself.

This all may seem selfish. When I read it over, it does. Yet in order for me to be a better mom, a better wife I need to be a bit “selfish” for this season. I am doing a fine job of beating myself up with dropout guilt. I may or may not have even been browsing unit studies and avoiding even looking at that stupid list of school supplies that haunts me at night. I have nightmares about my kids being the only ones without all their pencils sharpened or the wrong shade of markers. I avoid answering questions or even making eye contact with other homeschool moms. I want to just wear a sign that says “ I’m sorry I failed”. Until then I will just be sharpening pencils…

Infomercials and other things I believe.

My nine year old likes to announce to us the latest infomercial that he has seen. He gives us all the reasons why we should invest “three easy payments” for the newest gadget. As his skeptical older sisters like to point out to him that just because it’s on TV or even the internet does not mean that it is real. His sweet tender heart cannot fathom that. That someone would try and sell us or tell us something that wasn’t real. He wants to believe.

I too within the last year have wanted to believe that everything that others were telling me or selling me was real. My husband likes to point out that my naivety about the world around me is one reason that he loves me. That I truly believe that people were good, and true, and that a plate of cookies on their doorstep would make anyone be my friend. I just wanted to believe.

But when it comes to my relationship with God is where I stop believing. At least that is what you would think if you heard my prayers or saw my anxiety level at times. That I really don’t believe. I want to believe but my actions and conversations at times play out differently. I am human. With a human heart. And my human heart although born solely to worship my Savior is swayed to believe others.

Believing that I am still the girl with a scandalous past. That it will always define me. I believe the voice that tells me I am always on the brink of another panic attack. I believe the voice that tell me to make idols out of people around me. And when they disappoint me I am easily frustrated. I am drawn to believe that I will never be pretty enough to keep my husband around. I listen to the voice that tells me that I am not smart enough to write the book that needs to be written. I fall asleep to the voice that tells me that the darkness will win and people are better off if it does. I believe the scale when it says that I am not and never will be the size I was in college. That I cannot be healthy and strong. I believe people when they tell me I am not who they need me to be. I believe the magazines and blogs I read that tell me that my kids need to be in better schools and that it is all my fault that I can’t give that to them.

Last Sunday in church though as I sat there listening to a song during communion I heard truth. I heard the voice of God so clearly whisper to me “ live in freedom”. I sat there with tears streaming down my face in awe of how perfect God is to me. He knew that my past had been on my heart for the entire service. That I sat through a sermon on Lust thinking that this was a sin that I did not struggle with so really it was a ”free pass Sunday” . I could just pray for those around me who struggled with it. Instead images of my past kept coming back to me and I found myself heaving tears. I couldn’t catch my breath. The vivid the images of myself in past situations from over 15 years ago still haunt me. As I sat there I knew that I still carried it. Carry it. Everyday it still defines me. I am still listening to it. Listening to the past that wants to clutch me there and never understand forgiveness. To experience freedom. And to hear truth.

Truth is….God. He alone can heal me. He alone is my comforter. He alone will protect me. His will alone will be done. He is my freedom. He is my love. He is my beauty. He is my father. He is my all in all. He is the beginning and the end. He has control. He is the only voice I need to hear. He is my truth.

15 years and other miracles.

I remember a card my dad gave me on my wedding day. It was a beautiful card with a little blonde haired girl blowing on a daisy. It was filled with love and words of affirmation. I still have it in my bible today. One thing he wrote in it that I may have skimmed over was that the marriage was going to be work. At 22 I am sure I thought well work won’t be too hard. I work as a lifeguard and I love my great tan and I am basically “off work” when the sun goes down. And still at 22 I was more concerned with who was going to be at the wedding or how thin I looked in my dress more than the “work” that this was going to be.

15 years later and my dad was right. He perhaps should have said it will be like the worst job you have ever had but hold on. Keep coming back. Don’t worry about not getting a paycheck. Keep opening the door. Keep working and serving when the other has walked away. Open the door. Because the good will come. And it will be better than you could have ever imagined.

This week we celebrate 15 years. 15 years filled with things we never would have imagined. Five kids. One before we even walked down the aisle. Unexpected deaths. Moved far away from family. Raised many children who we didn’t birth. Finished college. Came to know Jesus. Baptized. Part of a church we call family. Loss of jobs. Loss of friends. Didn’t know how we would make Christmas happen. Loneliness. Bought our first house. Homeschooled. Public schooled. Private schooled. Master degrees. National Boards. Many tears. Many fights. Many slammed doors. Pride taken down. Liberia. Post-partum Depression. Sierra Leone. Adoption. Uganda. Just to name a few things.

For those of you that said we weren’t going to make it. (I was one of them). We didn’t. But God did. It is only by God’s grace and redemption that we are here. I know that many of you have seen our struggles and the pain that we have encountered. And those that we adore came right alongside of us and entered in the ugly muddy part of our hearts and carried us through. They weren’t afraid to call. To ask the tough questions. To make the late night visits. To pray over us. For us. And between us. These 15 years have been hard. And at times we have felt like giving up. But the amazing thing about God. He doesn’t. He doesn’t give up on us.

Our God knew from the very beginning that Tim was supposed to be with me. That He would make him into the man of God he is today. That Tim would be an amazing dad who loves his children completely. That he would be the leader in his family, to teach them how to walk through an enormously difficult time. That he would meet some of the most Godly men when he moved his family to a new church. Men that have become his brothers. God knew what Tim would need to learn to be the kind of husband his wife adores. A man of grace and love. A man who stands up for his wife. A man who supports her and encourages her to be better today than she was yesterday. A man who faithfully prays the darkness away from his wife. A man who God himself transformed.

In 15 years we have grown, taken a few steps back and learned to kneel before our Jesus with grateful hearts. I would have never thought 15 years ago that God could make something amazing out of the mess that we were. But He did.

Happy 15 years babe….you’re still the one.

Massie Family-Massie Family-0058

faithful.

Today was the National Day of Prayer. I didn’t stand by the flag pole or go to any ceremony of special significance. I instead went to be with some of those that have been instrumental in these past few years. Women who prayed fervently for me when I didn’t know what to pray. Women who prayed for our sweet youngest before we even saw his face. Women who get all the “adoption issues” and laugh when there is nothing left to do. On this day of prayer though I am reminded while scooping out buttered noodles for all of our little ones to eat, that our God is so faithful. Nothing like buttered noodles and a house full of little children from all over the world to bring the National Day of Prayer to another level.

I was reminded so clearly this past Sunday about how far He has brought me. It was four months ago that I was dreading going to a large gathering at church. I didn’t want to go; I was afraid to go. The people. The questions. The answers I couldn’t give. The eye contact . I would have rather just hidden in the ladies’ room all night and hand out towels than have an adult conversation. I dreaded anyone asking about adoption. Uganda. My life. My heart. All of it made me want to wear a sign on my forehead that said “now an introvert” or “too damaged; stay away”. But I went and made it through and begged God to start healing me.

And then He healed.

Last Sunday as we gathered for our church’s corporate prayer and worship services I stood with arms open wide ready to receive what that Spirit has in store for me. I was no longer crying the whole way there trying to conjure up a story as to why I couldn’t speak with anyone. I still didn’t talk to as many people. And I am ok with that. I know what healing feels like. I don’t know the exact moment it happened. It took weeks, months, and long nights. I do know what it is like to not be afraid to wake up in the morning. I do know what it is like to have God so intimately speak to me and show Himself to me that I only I could see it. I do know that it is like to lay everything down at His feet. I do know what it is like to speak the darkness out loud and it lose its power over me. I do know what it is like to bathe myself in Scripture day after day just to be able to breathe. I do know what it is like to ask for help. I do know what it is like to feel the hand of Jesus lift me from the pit. I do know what it is like to have people I have never met in person before reach out to me and just encourage at just the right time.

I do believe in a healing God. I believe that HE heals. I do also believe that we need to participate in the healing. That we need to be honest with ourselves and others; that we need to die to ourselves every day. I believe that part of healing is realizing that I needed to take better care of myself. I had been separated from my kids for so long and then came back in a depression that I no longer wanted to miss out on life. Part of that is knowing that God gave me this body and mind and I need to take care of it. It honors God when we take care of what He has given us. I do know that He heals. I have felt it. I have seen it. I am a product of it.


 

This song has been my anthem.

circles.

Keep your circle small. Words a once die hard extrovert had ignored for years. I thought well they must be talking to my introvert friends when they say this. I thought I needed my friends all the time and the more the merrier. But that came with my people pleasing attitude. I wanted others to be happy. I wanted to be happy. All the time. I wanted to talk to strangers in lines and know their stories. I wanted to be available to anyone anytime to meet for coffee, play date, lunch, pick up their kids, watch their pets all the time I wanted to be available. You could call me day or night and I would probably pick up the phone. Or text and I will surely get right back to you. Can you say codependent much?

Before I even left to go to Africa this past fall there were signs that life had gotten out of control my circle had gotten so big that it was more like a circus ring. I wasn’t present anymore. I wasn’t a good friend. I sucked as a mom. And don’t’ even get me started on what kind of wife I was being. But so many people had supported us through this adoption and I wanted to make sure that I please them. I wanted to make sure that I had said goodbye to everyone. That I had taken every chance I could get to meet with my sweet friends and even people I barely new. Because if I was being an example for my church and faith community than I had better run myself ragged and burn out right? That is what being a “good Christian” is all about. Seven days before I got on the plane to Uganda I experienced my first full blown panic attack. I lay on my couch as my friend talked me off the ledge and told me what was going on with my body and spirit. I continued to have panic attacks until I boarded the plane. If that wasn’t’ a sign that I needed some space than I am not sure what it. In order to give myself space and room to actually think on my own God had me fly thousands of miles away and look myself in the mirror. In Africa I never experienced another attack. I was limited as to who I had contact with and the only communication I had with people back home was all dependent on if we had power that day. Yet they came back again before I even got on the plane to come back to the states this past November I knew my circle needed to be smaller. God had so clearly shown me that things needed to change. I was bringing home the sweetest little boy who was dealing with horrendous fears of his own. He needed space to grieve and this mama did too. Even the thought of walking in to the airport with all my family and friends there to welcome us home sent me into a panic attack. They continued throughout the next few months. Some days were better than others. Then there were days when I needed someone physically to remind me that I was ok. That I was safe. That God is faithful and He alone can save me. I asked for help. I actually participated in the help process. Many times we ask for help because we feel like it is the right thing to do but we fail to actually “do” the healing process. So I took meds, I changed the way I ate, I showed up for therapy, I stopped any alcohol consumption, I exercised my tail off trying to raise my serotonin levels, I said no, I stopped watching 99% of what I used to watch on TV. I am sensitive to what I see and hear. I choose to leave conversations. I choose to not be around those who make me anxious. I am not ready to have a house full of people yet. I made my circle much smaller. Although some are are upset with me that I cannot be who I used to be I need to be ok with that. I cannot meet up with them when they ask. I cancel when I feel that my anxiety is coming to the surface. I am not volunteering for anything without running it by my husband and family first. I try and avoid being away from my family especially during the week. I confide in only a couple of people. I need to feel safe . I want to feel safe. I am healing. And in healing my circle is small.

“ It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or with those whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter and leave, but you will find yourself losing your soul.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

done hiding.

I am struggling. There I said it. I am done hiding. I am done pretending. I am done making excuses. I am struggling.

I can lie and tell myself that I didn’t see this coming. That I didn’t see depression and anxiety creeping toward me in the middle of the night. That many nights I feel like the walls are closing in around me with such darkness that I am afraid to even move. I can’t lie and say that I have been begging for someone else to tell the truth and tell me that adoption is hard. That being away from your family in a third world country for 12 weeks isn’t hard. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t begged God for mercy. That I haven’t screamed at Him and asked Him why I wasn’t let out of the country sooner. I rant and rave for days about all the injustice I saw and babies who were not orphans taken out of the country. I get so angry about all of the bribery, threatening and entitlement I saw others Americans around me display. How the nightmares of it all keeps me up most nights. I can’t lie and say that the images of my friends suffering to feed their own children doesn’t go away when I close my eyes or turn the music on louder. I won’t lie and tell you it doesn’t make me question God. Asking him why? Why do I have clean water? What makes me so special that my kids can be educated? Why do I have a roof over my head that doesn’t flood up the walls every time it is rainy season? Or why don’t I have to worry about malaria every time my child gets a fever?

Yes. I am wrestling with God. Some days are better than others. But other days I feel like Jacob. And I know I will never win. That God will continue to wrestle with me until I get it right. Until I lay it all down. All of my fears. All of my anxiety .All of the nightmares. All of the helplessness. All of the hopelessness. All of my depression. He wants it all .

When I got home I had realized just how much I had endured. How many times I had been told that I could not leave the country. How many times I had seen and felt suffering of those around me and now it is all coming back . All at once. Adoption is not rainbows and unicorns. Adoption is messy. Especially in the country I was in. There are so many more questions I have now that I am back. Don’t take me wrong please. I am for adoption. But I am also for families staying together. I am for sponsorship. I am for supporting the family so they can “be” a family. I am for health care for mothers and education for children. So don’t take what I say the wrong way. Just know that I am really struggling with all levels of ethical choices things right now.

And when I am struggling I need some space. I need space to breathe. Space to feel. Space to be angry and confused. Space to pray and think. Space to get the help I need. Space for those who really want to be in the mess with me. And yes I do believe in meds and therapy. Believe me I believe God created Prozac on the 8th day. You don’t have to wonder why I have turned into an introvert. Or why I am “ignoring” you. I am not. I am just feeling. And feeling is hard.