What the Peanuts taught me about 2016.

The other night we were watching the “Peanuts” movie. Or ask my youngest son what we were watching and it may make you blush.

 

Those silly speech issues.

 

All seven of us were discussing who we thought each character would be in our family. Such a fun thing to do. Until they got to me. Then the fun and games were over. I wanted to be Sally Brown. Well, because of her impeccable style and come on….those curls. Who wouldn’t want to wake each morning and have those luscious locks? Yet my children quickly pointed out where I knew my heart was.

 

I was Lucy.

I was a “know it all” Lucy.

I have been for years now.

I had a solution and answer for everything.

Because somehow being a college educated, mom of five kids and married for 18 years, in a marriage that we can say is challenging, I seemed to take it upon myself to know more things than others.

 

I was a full blown Lucy, without the great dark hair.

 

Five years ago a dear friend of mine went through a horrible, life altering tragedy in her life. It happened to her. To her family. And yet what happened to her I thought I had all the answers for. I went into protective” I will kick your ass if you ever mess with my friend “ mode. I was not a good listener. I did not build her up. I reacted. I told her what I thought she should do and pointed out everything wrong that was happening. She would try crying to me and I would just get frustrated and tell her how to fix it. I sucked. I was a Lucy.

 

I look back now and think how many times in my life I have tried to control when others were in crisis. I have gotten behind my little advice booth and would gladly give it out, and didn’t even charge. It was really a lovely service I was giving.

 

I am embarrassed how many times I stood on my pride mountain and told those I loved how they should live their lives.

 

It was pretty lonely up there, on “Know it All Mountain”.

 

The more insecure I felt the more advice I gave. I felt so out of control that I thought I needed to take control.

 

And then this year happened. And  suddenly, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know who to ask or how to even utter it out loud. I googled for any article or book that could help make sense of our reality. Every time I looked for answers I kept feeling more shameful and not enough. I told my best friend there was no support group or t-shirt for what we were going through. No one was running a race or making a bumper sticker for the crap show we have been living through.

 

I thought I needed a Lucy.

 

And in reality my soul needed a Linus. A faithful friend who is quiet and sees the good in it all. Or a Schroeder who wants nothing more than to play you soothing music and help you at any chance he could get. I imagine he would diffuse essential oils, make you delicious meals, clean your house and then hold you while you cried.

 

Really the opposite of Lucy.

 

Not advice givers.

 

They are life-givers.

 

I have learned through this past year that what I yearn for. What we all yearn for are life-givers.

People who speak life and hope into our hearts.

 

When you are in the midst of realizing what you need to be healed and whole you need to surround yourself with those that breath life into your heart.

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1

 

One of my friends in particular is amazing at this. She will tell me who I forget I am. Reminding me of who she sees in me. She calls out life.

 

This is who I want to be. A life-giver.

 

One who does not remind me of my situation or limitations. But one who sees more for others than I see for myself. One who unveils the courage that is waiting to be released. A foot washer, a hugger, a listener, a bring wine over and sit on your porch girl, a text you in the middle of the night because you can’t breathe girl.

 

I want to be a girl who gives what has been given to her.

 

As a result of what we are walking through, I  have become highly sensitive to others walking through deep pain and grief. Entering into the pain and sitting there with them until the darkness goes away. Finding it a privilege to be on such holy ground. Because suffering is holy. It is messy and lonely but it is also where you will find the barefoot Messiah.

 

Last night we went around the table and said our goals for 2017. Which if you have ever done with your tribe, it is quite enlightening to hear what they deam a “goal”.

 

Let’s just say someone at the table wants “better hair” this year. ( yes, it is a 13 year old boy)

 

Don’t be jealous at the level of depth in our family. It is a gift.

 

When I told my family I wanted to stop being a Lucy they all kind of giggled at me. The youngest pointed out that I couldn’t be in a movie on TV. Thank you dear child, another dream crushed.

 

I went on to explain that we have all had the privilege of being loved deeply this year. By those that have not run from our pain and mess but have come closer with mercy. We have experienced such a life -breathing, foot washing community around us, that we need to learn how to give what we have been given. So although my goal is not as deep as others around the table, I still feel that this is all I am called to give in 2017.

 

Life.

 

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19
What would it look like if we all breathed more life this year and less advice?

Why you need to send out fat Christmas cards.

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail.

All the time I wish that for the month of December the mailman would only deliver packages and Christmas cards. He could hold onto all of the bills until February, because if I am honest that is when I will pay them anyways.

I string the cards up across the walkways of our living room with clothespins and twine. I like to think of it as a display of those from near and far that have carried us as a family. And that we vow to carry too. A tangible glittery display of our village.

One thing that that bothers me or just stirs my heart when I get cards though is when the whole family is not in them.  It is just a picture of a perfectly behaved GAP dressed child/children.

I used to do this. I would send out a picture of my angelic, straight “A”, prodigy children to all of my family and friends. After skimming through dozens of photos where the kids would look their best and no one was picking their nose I would put a stamp on it send it out. I purposely did not include a picture of my husband and I. Telling myself year after year that when I lost weight or had my hair a better color, then I would consider putting myself in the Christmas card. When in reality the reason we were not in the card is because we were sending a picture out of what our family really was. It was our kids.  Our children were holding our family together. Our children were the center of our world. And if we were honest if it wasn’t for our kids we would not be together.

And I thought no one wanted to get that Christmas card.

No one wants to know that you can’t stand the site of yourself and you are embarrassed to show the world. No one wants to know that you’ve put on thirty pounds and you’ve never felt so empty.

But the thing I am understanding. They already know. If you have a village of people around, a healthy village, they want your picture. They want to see your people and YOU. Your village does not care what the scale says. They do not even care what your therapist says. They want to see you. They want to cover their walls and their doorways with you. They want to pray for you. The not happy with yourself you. The your marriage is falling apart you. The you are in so much debt you can’t afford Christmas you. The your spouse is struggling to get out of bed you. The your child has been in and out of rehab you. The you are not sure you even believe in the church you.

I think that if your village only wants to see your kids and your perfect marriage then you need a new village. It took me years to find my village. It has wavered very little in the last eight years though. When we were first married I had no idea we needed people. No idea we needed a village. I just looked in from the outside at the Christmas cards people were presenting to the world and I thought that we must be the only ones who wanted to tear each other apart. We must have been the only ones who looked up the cost of divorce lawyers and cried themselves to sleep.

We were not alone and neither are you.

Your village wants the truth. They want to know that they are not alone and want to help carry you.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that our village is what heals us or destroys us.

Be a village of truth and healing.

So when I open the cards and see that only the kids are on them I think….sweet one, they are not your world. Your world needs to be bigger than what you brought into it. I learned this the hard way and many therapists later. I learned that I my schedule and my days revolved around my kids. I learned that I forgot who I walked down the aisle to. I learned that my marriage was and is hard and is a daily decision to choose my spouse OVER my kids. I learned that the truth I present to the world is the same truth I am presenting to my kids. If I show the world that my world is my kids I am showing my kids that they are the world.

I don’t want that for my kids. I want more. I want to show them that their dad is what matters. That our marriage is the most important thing under our roof. I want them to know that their dad comes before them in every moment. To show them that our family means all seven of us. I mess this up all the time. I get wrapped up in five kids with five different schedules and then wonder why my marriage is struggling. I spend money on their activities and making sure they have everything they need rather than saving it so the husband and I could go on vacation together. I make these mistakes all the time. I still do. But I want to do better. I need to do better.

I want to hang truth over my doorway this year. In turn I want to send truth out to the world. Even if my truth is messy and a little pudgy this year

 

When you need a wounded healer

We all have things that make us feel loved. Things or people that no matter the circumstances we walk away feeling that a part of us has been healed.
My oldest son is an old soul. He was born I think doing yoga. Everything about him moves at a slower pace. Unless he is on the soccer field then I apologize because he probably fouled your child. The competitiveness always wins on the pitch.
I know when he is struggling when he comes and sits right next to me. It is his way of telling me that life today is hard he needs to refuel. He needs to be hugged and listened to. He is already a quiet child and doesn’t express his feelings too well. But I am not sure of any middle school boy that expresses anything but body odor well.
So he sits next to me and I know what he needs. He needs me. He needs me to be present and reachable. He needs me to listen and not speak. He doesn’t need me to buy him anything or even say a word. He just needs to know he is not alone.
For me it is words. I know my day will be filled abundantly when I open the mailbox and see a card addressed to me. It is usually the same person who writes to me. She knows me. She knows that when life seems out of balance and I am feeling lonely in a room full of people, that I need words to remind me of who I am.
For many writers this is true. We communicate with words and are healed in the same way.
So it is no surprise that we are also detroyed the very same way.
A while back I received an email that was scathing to put it nicely. I was ripped apart and told who I was. For so long I let it play over and over in my head. I could see the words that were written and I could hear them throughout my day.
It had never occurred to me until recently why this email had done so much damage to me. I knew who I was. I knew I had friends who loved and cherished me. I knew that I served a God who poured grace over me daily. I did not need to let this one person’s opinion consume me. Until I realized that the same way that words heal me they also wound me just as deeply.
If my language of love is words, then using them against me or about me will do more damage than anything ever could.
For my son it is time. He needs time. He needs to know that I am around and that his time with me is valued. So while one child may need me to hug her all day and other likes to be surprised with little gifts, he needs me to play basketball with him until the streetlights come on. So there I am in my Birkenstocks tearing up the court. Just kidding, I am just trying to get it in the basket.
But for me it is words. It is the words that you say to me and the words that you don’t. It is the words that you write and those that you speak.
Every time I write I am laying a piece of myself at your feet. I am pealing back another layer and exposing a vulnerable piece of who I am.
I think as humans, especially fellow writers, we need to be careful with this. The way we talk to each other. The way we critique each other. The way we “encourage” each other. And the way we tear each other down trying to make enough room at the table.
There is room. At the table. For all of us.
But I want to be at a table where we are listening to each other. Where we are using our words to heal.
We all have the power to heal. We have the power to be a part of the healing process. By our words. By our time. By our gifts.
So know your people. Your people around you. In your home. In your life. In your world.
Know who they are and how they are loved. How they know that they matter.
Because if you know how they are loved then you most likely know how they were wounded.
And we all need wounded healers around us.
Be a wounded healer.

What Donald Miller taught me.

I read an article not too long ago by Donald Miller. He was exploring the idea of who we would be in five years is in direct correlation to who we actually spend our time with now.

His perspective was not only convicting but revealing in how I lived and how I choose to live now.

I ache for community. I have since I was little. I wanted to know that I belonged.That I mattered.

I was the oldest of the five children and like a million cousins so I always had people around me. Yet at times felt like the loneliest girl in the room.

As I got older I would surround myself with those that had the same desires and likes as I did. Even though they were not healthy or sustainable I still felt a sense of belonging there. We tend to flock to those that will keep our dysfunction functioning. So that is where I stayed.

Throughout my twenties I was a young mom who had no idea how to birth a human much less parent. Unless parenting meant finding the cutest outfits at Baby GAP and then dressing all of my children the same, then I guess I nailed it.

I was so consumed at the time with all of the loss in my life that I paid no attention to who I was spending my time with. I remember being drawn to people who were older than me and somehow knew what they were doing. But I did not have many friends who were the same age as me. Probably because they were still in grad school or serving in the peace core. Who am I kidding they were following around Pearl Jam and Lilth Fair.

In my thirties I found faith. Or more like faith found me. I had three little ones at home, had just quit my full time job and had never felt less of who I was. A mom at school had asked me to go a meeting at a church where other moms sat around a table and cried about exploding diarrhea and Jesus. I was more interested in the diaper situation than Jesus but I kept coming back.

That was a game changer.

This Jesus thing.

I began to realize that who I wanted to spend my time with acted nothing like who I used to be. They were by far not uppity Christian soap box people. They were more like “ I will wash your feet and then have a beer with you people”.

Through the years I have not always decided who I wanted to spend my time with. Circumstances and apathy decided it for me. It wasn’t until I realized that who I wanted to be was in direct correlation to who was around me.

If who we want to be in five years is determined by who we spend our time with now, then who will you be?

Are you surrounding yourself with people who are arrogant and self-absorbed? Are you having playdates with moms who are consumed with every thought and action of their child? Are you going out with those who are rude to waitresses and those around them? Are you friends with those that make racist and sexist remarks? Are you consumed with your work that you forget your family at home? Are you choosing to be with those that make judgmental statements like it’s their job?

The other day I was not having a good day. At the time I could not pin point exactly what was wrong but I felt so off. One of my best friends sent a group text and asked us to name three things we were grateful for.

I was in no mood to be Pollyanna that day. I wanted to stay in my pity party and invite everyone else to join.

Yet here is the thing. That text. Those friends. Those are my people. The people I choose to be around. They are the funniest people I know. I actually think Jimmy Fallon would think so too. ( We can send you a video Jimmy). They are also the kindest most generous people. They give of themselves every day to make sure that our friendship is fed and healthy.

I look at them and think, yes they are who I want to be.

I want to be a woman who knows who she is. I want to be mother who fights for her children. I want to be a wife who puts her husband before her children. I want to be a generous giver.I want to be fully present to those I love. I want to speak hope and life into people. I want to know that taking care of myself physically is important. I want to be a truth teller. I want to be an encourager. I want to be an author. I want to be funny. I want to be available. I want to say no to things that do not bring me life or joy.I want to be the best friend I could ever be. I want to be a gentle soul. I want to be healthy. I want to be always wanting to serve more. I want to take risks. And most of all I want to ache for Jesus every day.

That day I had a hard time coming up with what I was grateful for.

They pushed me. They pushed me to find what was needing to be spoken.

 

You need. We all need people in our lives who see more for us. Who push us to see things we forget to see. Who know that we can be more than we ever imagined.

We need people around us who remind us that where we are is not who we are.

GNO’s and NGO’s – how authentic community heals

 

I sat on the floor of her formal living room. I don’t think I had ever been in there before that night. We usually walked by the serious room and made our way to the family room. The room with the large couches and TV. The off white carpet between my toes in the middle of February that winter night. Hummus, nuts, chocolate laid out on the table before us. Chai tea steaming in the kitchen as we each took our places.
We had been having our GNO’s ( Girl’s Night Out)  for years. We would meet at coffee shops restaurants, bakeries. We each had our favorite spots and each month we knew it was something to look forward to. We made a commitment to the friendship that we would pick at least one time each month that we would all four set apart for each other. When I was in Africa I just pretended like they stopped. Like one of the four wasn’t there so they stopped talking and having any fun. That is what I told myself. That the fun stopped because I wasn’t there. Very humble of me.

These girls know everything about me. I am my best when I am with them. I sometimes am my worst as well. They have traveled across the world with me to Liberia and have seen first-hand the work of selfless people living their lives in servanthood. And we have been there when babies are being born or brought home. We have inside jokes that no one else gets. We also have inside pain that no one will ever hear.

That winter night as we sat on the floor around the coffee table I shook with fear as my truth was revealed. We had not gotten together as a group since I had come home two months before. Depression had stolen the normal rhythm out of my life. And the truth was is that I was afraid. I was afraid to be outside. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of night. I was afraid of myself.

I sat with my back slouched over with tears rolling down my face and admitted why we were here. In her home. Not out in public. Not dressed up and feeling fancy. Because what I was feeling was far from fancy, I was feeling raw and exposed. I had just told my truth. Told the truth about what PTSD was doing to my mind and my reality. I felt on that night that I may be saying goodbye to this normal. My life as it was I believed this too would be over. I was no longer going to function in their world if I were to expose the monster inside of me.

But this is the thing. When you have authentic relationships in your life. They don’t leave. They don’t follow any rules. They lean in. They see the pain and come closer.

So I told my truth. The truth that Satan was having a field day with my sanity.

The silence in the room was beckoning mercy to come forth.

Pain and truth had opened the door for a new layer of trust to be born.

And born it was.

These women sat on the floor next to me crying. Not for me. With me. They were entering into the pain and not leaving. They were not getting on their theological soap boxes and quoting scripture at me. They were not deleting me from Facebook. They were not thinking of a way to escape, they were crying.

They were putting a stake in the ground and deciding that what I was going through did not define who I was to them.
So we sat and we cried. We cried for the honesty that was revealed. We cried for the reality that things may change. We cried until I was done crying.

Authentic community does that. Someone very wise recently told me that “Authenticity is not bulimic truth telling. Digest the pain. Then share wisely.”

I chose very carefully who I told my truth to that night. I was living a hell inside my head that a casserole could not heal.

My pain needed a safe place to heal.

That night if I am being honest was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I was terrified that I was out of the house. I had come to the table a shell of who I used to be and yet the three most beautiful friendships were made clear.

They were my safe place. They were my net. They were where my truth would be sheltered and held.

That is what we all need. We all need those in our life that have seen us at our unhealthiest and choose to stay.

They may not agree with you. They may argue with you. They may even be Republican. But they stay. They stay and love you and laugh with you and heal with you.

They have become the filter I put every relationship through. How authentic can you be with me and how safe are you that I can be the same with you?

I believe very strongly that Jesus calls us into community.

But when he was at the table. When he was with his twelve or one on one is where true community happened.

It happens when we allow ourselves a safe place to be heard. A safe place to be understood. A safe place that is sheltered and held. A safe place where truth can be revealed.

 

Ham, peas and organic family

We called a realtor.

We made the decision to call her after another shooting happened within blocks of our house a few months ago. And I say another because people make bad choices and sometimes the media chooses to only show the choices made in certain areas. And before you get on your privileged soap box and pretend that it doesn’t happen around you. take a step down. Suffering and pain happen all the time. Money doesn’t take away emptiness. Horrible things  happen all the time and patterns of expressing it happen too. It sometimes just looks more politically correct but just as devastating. We just happen to live in the second largest city in Illinois and we live in the most populated part. With that said, we also live in the most beautiful part of the city. The part where no one looks the same. Where many different languages are spoken. Where many different countries are represented. Where there is a celebration happening on any given night till any given time. This city is filled with voices that are all trying to be heard. And if we are open enough to receive it then we are blessed enough to hear it.

But we called a realtor. And if I am honest my fear called her. Gratefully she is friend and so she overflowing with grace. Because this is a hard decision. We had a list a list of reasons why we should move schools, 4 bedrooms, a garage that closes, maybe a bigger kitchen, safety. None of these reasons make sense. They feel very superficial to me as I type them. Very first world problems. Very princess like. So we make the list and let it sit in our hearts. Months have gone by and we looked at other homes. We dreamed of a place where the kids could ride their bikes around the block and I wouldn’t have to follow them or say a Hail Mary every time they played out front.

And so we looked. We joined Zillow and got daily updates about homes that we were drooling over in a neighborhood not too far from where we were at. We talked and imagined what it would be like to have five children in their own rooms. Or a kitchen that more than two people could be in at the same time.

We also applied for jobs in Michigan. Again. Because if you know me at all you know that I am a mitten state girl who has been misplaced for the last 17 years. My feet feel planted when they are in the sand and I really want my kiddos to grow up with their cousins. My cousins are some of the most beautiful people in the world and I want my kids to feel the same way when they are forty. I also want them to have matching monogramed wool sweaters but that is a whole other story. So the husband applied for jobs that replies never came back from. And it is the middle of July and we are still here.

There is no for sale sign in our front yard. There are no signs of DE hoarding. Although I am pretending I am on an HGTV show and getting rid of everything….don’t tell the kids.

When we got married my husband was let’s say “ a bit overwhelmed” with the time my family spent together. And by family I mean grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. As husband likes to say if someone sneezed and we had a party. We did a lot together. Of course they came to all the sporting events. Every recital. Every emergency room visit. Every Sunday after church we were together.

Grandma would make a ham, frozen peas, peach jell-o salad, candied yams, and mash potatoes. Oh, and don’t forget the rolls. The rolls sopped up all the gravy. And then grandpa would be called into the kitchen away from watching golf and start up his electric knife. I would sit on the stool next the phone by the junk drawer and just below the police scanner and watch each week as he carved the ham with pineapples and maraschino cherries on top.

Every Sunday we knew where we belonged.

As we got older I am sure we complained. We complained about having to eat ham every week or playing with our cousins or only watching golf on the television.

I miss that now. Being hundreds of miles away from family I miss those Sunday afternoons. I miss pretending I was sleeping on the davenport while grandma gently scratched the back of my neck and into my hair. She would tell the same story. How when I was a baby this is how she put me to sleep. I miss that.

After moving to Illinois seventeen years ago I would cry every time my family in Michigan got together. Which was all the time. Or when I would call and happen to catch them having an impromptu pizza night. I ached to be home. To be around those that new me and the familiarity of comfort. The peace in the known.

This past Sunday I was laying in our backyard in a hammock we bought for me husband for Father’s Day. I was exhausted. It had been a physically and emotionally draining few weeks. I was texting husband that there was another job posting in Michigan that had just come up. I asked him to look into it and send his resume right away. Because that is what you are supposed to do right? Make a rash decision because that has to be from God. Why wouldn’t he want us to move back after seventeen years, it’s what I have always wanted.

And then husband said he would apply but…how can we move from this.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal.

This is what we have. We have a tribe. A village. A community.

A family.

Yes I adore my mitten state family. I miss them every day. I call them almost every day. I still ache to be there at every birthday and every baby being born and every softball game or even just someone sneezing.

But then this happens. Your family people become something so organic that you cannot imagine living anywhere else. So this is where we are.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal

We squeeze in a little tighter. We pray a little harder. We work through the hard emotions and opinions of why we live where we do. But where we are placed is beautiful. No it is not gated and not everyone believes the same things. We don’t all look the same and celebrate the same. We don’t all have the same education or the same bank accounts. But we do have this.

We have each other.

 

( all photos by Sabrina Nohling )

Sorry Richard Marx I am so over you…..

 

When I was younger I had posters all over my walls. I had my Kirk Cameron phase of childhood crushes where I never missed an episode of Growing Pains. I would lie on my bed and plan out our wedding in my head. I was always shorter in my dreams so his height was never an issue. It was a very sweet wedding with lots of pillow kissing. I also went through an embarrassing Richard Marx phase of which we do not speak of anymore.( A mullet does not need to enter the conversation) And then there was a delusional stint of Michael W. Smith. Yes, you read that correctly. I had a crush on a man who was old enough to be my father. I even met him in person one time at a bookstore. There was a lot of thirteen year old blushing going on.  I then went through a phase of Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, and Alanis Morissette. This is what we called my “angry at the world but at least I knew what good music was” phase. I may have even waited for days on Michigan Avenue to hug Tori Amos. I seriously was obsessed. Anything that she believed in I wanted to believe in. Anything that she liked I willed myself to like it as well. Pasty white girls unite.

Here I am at forty and realize I still have posters on the wall. And if we are honest we all do. We all have people in our lives who have taken the role of idol on our walls. People who we admire can easily become people we want to be. We see someone else trying to lose weight and we think “that is what I need to do”. Not taking into account that you have no desire to lose weight, you just want to be like the other person. You just want to be a part of the “sweaty, drink lots of water crowd”. You hear that someone you admire is taking a vacation later in the summer and you convince your husband to spend money you don’t have just so you can measure up to a person that isn’t asking you to.

I have even been guilty of thinking that I need to be doing foster care again. Yes, I know it is a great thing. However, right now my marriage and the kids in my home need me to pour into them. This is such a critical time in their lives that I need to be present. And yes I wish I could be like a friend I know but God did not call me to follow others. He called me to follow him. And following Him looks like engaging with my teenagers, going out on dates with the hubs, making my home a safe place for others to enter into and trying to balance it all with grace.

I know that I have struggled so many times. In fact I just recently realized that I have tried to live up to someone’s expectations of me just to have them accept me. I have taken on roles that I don’t even enjoy just to have a certain person say I am valuable.

Not too long ago I needed to confess to a friend that I held another friend on such a pedestal that I thought I needed to everything she did to gain her approval. It wasn’t that it was bad things I was doing. They were all good things. But they were good things for her. For her family. Not for mine. My family did not need to look like hers to be enough. We are enough. Enough mess. Enough chaos. Enough spice. Enough loud. Enough brokenness. Enough room. Enough crazy to be enough.

So let’s tell the truth. Let’s look at the posters on our walls and start to take them down. Because sweet one, you are enough. You don’t have to be anyone else. It is exhausting trying to live up to someone you were never called to be. There is room enough for all of us.

Are you a marriage warrior? A story of a marriage that shouldn’t have lasted.

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I feel like every day I hear of another marriage ending. When I was in Uganda two years ago my best friend called to tell me that someone that I had put on a pedestal for so long had left her kids and marriage. I was overwhelmed. I remember falling to my knees in heaping mess. I needed her to stay on the pedestal I had her on. I needed her to be a constant. I needed her example of gentle selfless love to be true. But it wasn’t. It was ugly. It was going to get even uglier and I was stuck on the other side of the world. Feeling helpless and sad. And if I told the truth, I saw the end coming for a long time. But did nothing. I stood by and said “it’s none of my business”.

Those of us that have been married for a while we all know that divorce doesn’t just happen. We don’t just wake up one day and decide to “uncouple” or walk away on a Tuesday. Well maybe some do, but I know this is not true of myself or those around me.

Sixteen years ago I walked down the aisle as a scared little girl. We were young, stupid, selfish, scared and had no idea what we were headed into. We started off with a three month old as cute as a button but that sure was not enough to keep the regret from smothering us. I was naïve enough to think that marriage would be a lot like registering for your wedding gifts. Sure there would be a few disagreements as to how many servings of silverware you needed, but eventually all was ended with a kiss and a great list from Crate and Barrel.

Our marriage from the beginning was lacking. In support. In truth. We had lost all of our friends at the time. They were in med school or grad school hundreds of miles away and here we were trying to just make it through the day. And the only truth I was seeing was the daytime shows that filled my day. Those around me were trying their best to “give us space”. We didn’t need space. We needed help. So everything we were just manifested in socially acceptable behaviors.

I was jealous that he got to go to work. He was resentful that he was no longer the soccer star. I was angry that we had to move so far away from my family. He was confused as to why family was even important to me. I was frustrated that I had lost who I was. He was pushing to reclaim what he had lost. I was bitter that he got to go back to grad school. He was exhausted working and going to school. I was lonely and filled my world with friends and causes that gave me value. He was lonely and the silence had become deafening. We were both trying to make ourselves feel better, look better, be better but in the process were lost as to who we were really supposed to be.

Eleven years ago and we found our way into a church that would turn our “it’s all about my happiness” world upside. There we met people who called out truth in us. Who got in our face, sometimes with grace and sometimes with reality to call out the ugliness. We had people who prayed fervently for our marriage. That our pride, anger, resentment, and fear would be washed away. We had people that showed up on our doorstep without being asked. We had people who were not watching from the outside but entering in and pealing back the layers. We had people who when we fell, just picked us up. We had people that told us that divorce was not an option. We had people that we were not called to be happy, we were called to be holy. We had people that were not afraid to get messy with our filth but just looked for the next mess to dig through.

To those of you that are “our people” you know who you are. We are. I am. He is. Eternally grateful. I am crying as I am writing this. I see your faces and can’t imagine our lives without you. Some have been with us for years and a few just in this past year.
Thank you. Thank you for not just talking about us behind our backs or putting us on a prayer chain but for entering in and telling the truth. Thank you to those that didn’t just stand by and watch it happen. Thank you for never claiming “well it’s none of my business” as your excuse. Thank you to those that knew it was your business. That when someone around you is hurting you don’t politely stay quiet. You got loud. You showed up. You listened. You cried with us. You encouraged us. You laughed with us. You called out the good in us. You let us see that it wasn’t about us, it was all about God. You were gentle with us. You were grace filled. You told us your stories of pain and defeat. You showed us that authenticity is healing. And healing will make us whole.

Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for believing that God could wreck us only to piece us back together.

Thank you for not being done with us. For knowing that we still need help. For calling us out when you see old patterns emerge. For wanting us to be better. For knowing that we can be. Thank you.

So on this anniversary of 16 years I wish I could hug each of you. Each of you for being marriage warriors. Truth tellers. Grace givers. God seekers.

Thank you….all my love…..Sheli

you are worth the fight.

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Let’s be honest. Sometimes January is hard. Some call it the “after Christmas blues”. I call it ” I want to have sand between my toes blues”. I am done with schedules and making lunches that don’t involve swimming somewhere in the day.  Don’t get me wrong I love the snow. I am a Michigan girl threw and threw and I love big sweaters, cute boots, gingerbread lattes, homemade bread, stews and building snowmen with my kids.

But January also brings with it a grayness of that blankets me. There are days when it feels just too heavy to breathe.

Last January, was the lowest that I have ever been. From December to March I daily battled fear and anxiety that left me feeling like I was screaming underwater and no one heard me crying for help. I tried to paint a picture to those that were not in my daily life that we were all holding it together. Because that is what we do. When we feel like our world may come crashing in on us. We hold it up. We need others to believe that things are going great. Because if we actually took the pictures of reality we would have to face it. And facing it seems just too raw. Either way I was held captive inside my own mind by one who only brought darkness and lies. I couldn’t bear for that truth to be known.

So I did what I needed to do. I went to counseling. Every week I sat on a couch and poured my fears out into those walls. I sat there as my therapist reassured me what was true and what were the lies that kept beating into my very being. Because at that point I could not discern the difference.

I let people in. And by let people in I mean that I was very selective. Very. Only a handful of those I love know the truth of what the battle looked like in my soul.

But the in between. The in between moments were just for me and Jesus. I learned how much I needed my Savior. His word was the only thing I could read. I came to understand the depth of His love for me. I was such a mess and I needed Him to be gentle with me.I clung with everything in me to Exodus 14:14.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. He does. He needed to. I would lay in bed closing my eyes picturing him building a wall of protection around me fighting the battle that was determined to take my soul. And he fought. He guarded. He won. He won long before I was thought of but the spirit inside of me needed to believe.

This year. This year I know and am aware of what my triggers are. The things that draw me under quickly.

Lack of sleep– this girl needs it. Like at least eight hours a night. I have a friend who goes on like four or five. Yeah, not over here. Lack of sleep gets my thoughts all jumbled up and my judgment less than par.

Food– I feel better when I eat better. So if I am all about the junk food then I am not caring about myself well. Even though I do crave the most delicious Pistachio ice cream from Grahams something fierce.

Exercise– I actually have just realized this more in the last year than before. I love exercise. I love feeling stronger and more in control of my body. It also raises my serotonin level and self-esteem.

Connection– When I am feeling depressed I become an introvert. Not like a Zen introvert. More like a “you just piss me off” introvert. Not saying that a day or two of regrouping is a sign that I am in trouble. It saying that if I am ignoring phone calls and texts for days you might want to show up on my doorstep. I might be angry but I need to know I’m not in this alone.

Jesus– most of all I need him. I need to soak in his grace. I need to know I am still being fought for.

So sweet one, if this is you. If this is where you are at or where you have been you are not alone. Keep fighting. Keep choosing love, as my sweet friend begs me. Choose to believe that you are more than the lies that tear you apart. You are worth fighting for.

the best me.

Image I secretly love watching people post all of the amazing things that they are going to do each year. I do the same thing. I start out determined that no carb will ever touch my lips again. That this will be the year that I will run a marathon. That this will be my best year. I place these outrageous expectations and goals on myself without seriously thinking how long it took me to get this far. I forget how many times I needed to fall flat on my face before I realized that I was worth the fight. The fight of being a better version of myself.

And if I were being honest.  I believed that the better version was always thinner with great skin. I believed that the better me would never have to deal with anxiety and depression again. The better me would do crafts with her kids. The better me would be published and accomplished by now. The better me would have enough money to not have to worry month to month. The better me would not lose her temper and want to run away. The better me is strong and can hold it all together. The better me would have the energy and the capacity to homeschool her children. The better me would be comfortable in her own skin. The better me would be able to balance life with a perfect looking home. The better me would be an amazing wife full of patience and encouragement.

The better version of me though is the forgiven me. The forgiven me doesn’t care what size jeans I wear or what you wear. The forgiven me knows that anxiety is crippling but is where I feel the most protected by my Savior. The forgiven me knows that I will constantly struggle with sticking my finger down my throat and that this reality is ugly. The forgiven me knows that there is a better way to health and is fighting daily for it. The forgiven me craves scripture but at times forgets to even say hello to God some days. The forgiven me knows what it is like to confess my sins to a friend and they just be held closer. The forgiven me knows that to admit that every day I wake up scared that I won’t be a good person much less a good mom is humiliating. In reality I know the forgiven me is flat on my face broken at the feet of Jesus. The forgiven me feels loneliest in a room full of people but understands that it is just  another issue that is just being kneaded out of me. The forgiven me knows that being a wife is something that I wrestle with every day. The forgiven me knows that I wrestle because of the choices that I made in my past. And the shame I carry haunts me.

And the forgiven me. The best me, knows that this is all being worked out. Worked out not for my best. But for His best. So whatever I need to wrestle with, or fight for, or cry myself to sleep for is sufficient. It’s for the best. He will make all things new this year.