Fridays are for Grace.

I live my life unlocked. At least I try to. When we were first married my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco and did all of the touristy things. Except for the prison. I just couldn’t get on a ferry and end up in prison. But we did the chocolate and the pier and the trolleys and the bridge and all of the not going to prison things. One of the days after waiting in line for a bazillion hours for the trolley to come, I started to pass out popcorn to people.Random people. Every people. I had a large bag of popcorn and figured if my stomach was growling than theirs was too. This was the first glimpse that my husband had at my “there is no stranger in this world” policy. He stood back and watched me walk around and just offer to feed people. No strings attached, just buttery caramel hands and hungry bellies.

When we moved into our 100+ year old house ten years ago the first thing that I pointed out to him was how old the doors were. They were the original large plated glass doors with the original, maybe Abraham Lincoln touched them, door handles. Don’t judge, I am not good with history or numbers, I am just guessing.

Anyways, I made it very clear that we could not lock our doors. I didn’t want anyone breaking in and smashing the windows. So in my mind it was better to always leave our doors unlocked. My mother thinks I am crazy but I think it just is how I live. How I want to live. And how I want to teach my kids to live.

That our doors are always open. We live our lives unlocked.

As someone who had to wear her friends mothers clothing for an eighth grade dance ( yes you read that correctly) I know what it is like to not quite fit in. To stand on the outside looking in.

So I always wanted to make sure that my home was always too small to fit all the people I love.

And then this summer happened.

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and then held my head underwater.

Parenting became the hardest it has ever been. The ugliness that Satan wanted to kill and destroy everything in my marriage and family came boiling up to the surface. We felt like everything we had ever read in stupid parenting books never had a chapter on what we were facing. ( I also think that if you have not lived through teenagers you should not be writing parenting books. Ok. Now I will step off my soapbox).

Oh right, and then we left our church of twelve years.

Maybe not the perfect time to make that choice but it is where God was pushing us and everything in me wanted to pull back.

For the first time in my life I wanted safe. I wanted to lock my doors and stop sharing popcorn. I wanted to hide under my covers and binge watch every episode of anything on Netflix just to disconnect.

When my soul was aching to connect.

I was feeling all of the feelings. I had just started reading “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans and was screaming from the underneath the covers and locked doors “AMEN”!

I wanted someone to talk to and understand all of the feelings that felt to shameful to say.

When the kids went back to school and I was left by myself for the first time in eighteen years I realized that the pity party I was throwing for myself was getting lonelier and lonelier.

During all of my un-showered partying time I read over the years of therapy notes that I had written, hoping that something I had heard would make me want to get out of bed.

And then I read this….. “ Create what you need…….do not wait for others to give you what you expect…..create it”

It was also during this time that everyone had started arguing about whether we should allow refugees into our country. I may or may not have lost friends online and had family members block me. They had forgotten where I lived. That our block is filled with refugee families and some of our dearest friends are from other countries with stories that they could never fathom.

So it made me feel even more feelings. And a lot of them were anger.

And then one day I showered. And I got out of bed. Well I got out of bed first.

And I created what I needed.

I needed community.

I needed a safe community.

I needed grace.

I needed people who owned their brokenned.

I needed a space to be heard.

So I unlocked the doors and I started making popcorn.

Well, I made coffee. But you get it.

I made coffee and tea and bought pastries from a local bakery and I prayed over my table that people would come.

The first week eight people came.

And since then every week there have been more people.

More people and different people.

It is one of the most sacred times of my life. Opening up my home and gathering others around the table.

No expectations. No agenda. No judgement.

Just grace and caffeine.

Since I started this I have gotten so much feedback. Friends from around the country wishing they lived closer. People loving the idea wishing they could come. Wishing they could do the same.

You can.

We all can. We can find one morning a week to open our homes. To not worry about the crayon on the walls or the dust on the lamp that has been there since the first Bush was president. It doesn’t matter.

People want to feel welcome and welcome doesn’t mean clean.

In fact when people’s houses are perfect and clean I feel really uncomfortable. Maybe that is just the type B in me but for the love throw some cheerios on the floor!

One of the greatest gifts we can give people is hospitality. Jesus met the people he loved at the table. Not a perfectly set dining set. He met them in their brokenness. He met the outcasts and the prostitutes. He met the confused and frustrated. He met the questioning and the seeking. He met them all.

I want to be a home that mercy draws you in and grace finds you a seat at the table.

Will you join me? Will you be brave and unlock your doors?

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.

Bob Dylan and Birkenstocks- when you love someone else.

I remember sitting in the therapists’ office that early August afternoon biting my nails. I think it was the one with the dying plant on the basement office window that smelled like wet towels. The therapist looked like Napoleon Dynamite or someone who really needed a good haircut. I recall sitting there on the burnt orange couch thinking I cannot believe I am here telling my life story to someone who literally looks like he  just graduated high school. He was our fourth therapist if you were not counting priests. The fourth one in five years of marital bliss. It wasn’t the best track record and I was sure that this one was going to tell us what I wanted to hear.

God forbid I hear the truth.

My truth was the layers of bitterness that held my husband at arm’s length.

I was in love with someone else. I had been for years. I loved someone that was not in my life anymore. Yet he was in my every thought. There was not a day that went by that I did not think of him. I would replay the last time we had seen each other and beg God for us to meet again .He was a English major who played Bob Dylan on his guitar with curly dark hair and my hippie heart had fallen head over Birkenstocks in love with him.

And here I was married. Sitting on another therapists couch and carrying this secret inside.

Except it really wasn’t a secret.

Every silent moment. Every slammed door. Every night my body said no. Every tear stained pillow. Every blaming word. Every layer of resentment was always through this deceitful filter I carried around.

And I painfully made it clear that I would never be in love again.

The therapist that August afternoon told us to get a divorce. He told us it would be less painful for our children if we just walked away now.

If we drew the line in the sand.

 

Instead I did what any irrational stubborn Catholic school girl would do.

I decided that I would change who I had married into who I loved.

I would put the filter of who I needed him to be and judge every word and action through it. If he did not meet that expectation I would throw the D word back in his face.

This may have not been the healthiest thing to do for our marriage.

He in turn would shut down and refuse to speak to me or include me in any family decision.

While I was tearing our little family apart he was trying make sure I didn’t  do anymore collateral damage.

 

That was over twelve years ago.

This past weekend I had the privilege in the most tragic way, to witness again why I walked down the aisle to the one I share this marriage with.

I sat in the middle of the crowded somber church on Sunday afternoon and listened while my husband gave a eulogy for one of his beloved students. I listened as he tenderly told story after story of a life that ended too soon. I watched as he shuffled the papers in his hand and tried to hold back the tears of grief and confusion.

As tears filled my eyes I thought, how can this be the same man?

How can God still let me be married to him?

For so many years I had put an unattainable filtered expectation on him and yet he stayed.

God had seen fit from the beginning that he would refine us and continually mold us into one.

Even though we had both walked down the aisle with years of dysfunctional baggage he unpacked it all.

The truth is so much ugliness still comes out. My heart still finds itself putting filters on my marriage. On my kids. On my friends. I expect that they will meet my desires instead of letting God shape them into his.

As I watched my husband this past week deal with the grief of losing a child loved. I saw him rise to who I never knew I needed. To hear others say what they love about him as a teacher, as a leader, as a man I was humbled and embarrassed.

Embarrassed because this was the first time I was seeing clearly who these children and parents and community had seen all along.

They saw a man who was true to his word. A man who adored the work he does.  A man who knows his students and will do anything for them. A man whose heart is genuine and gentle. They saw a man who could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. A man who believes his faith holds him together and isn’t afraid to talk about it. A man who got to see that the work he does matters.

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we treat each other that way. If we treat each other without filters of fear. Filters of manufactured regret. Filters of jealousy. Filters of expectation.

What would happen if when we talk to each other? When we pray for each other. When we fight with each other. What if we were just brave enough to set those down? Brave enough to say that who they are is enough.

Brave enough to believe that God will make them and transform us into exactly who we are meant to be.

I want to go back to that therapist’s office today. I want to go back and tell him he got it all wrong. The parts where he said to walk away. The parts where he said we could never make this work.

I want to show him the line in the sand.

The line in the sand where Jesus says watch how I will reconcile it all.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, owe are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Corinthians 5:18-21

Tears on the pavement- why I let my son cry.

 

Last week my little man joined cross country camp. I am not a runner. Unless you count the ten times I started the couch to 5k app then yes I am a marathon runner. Obviously then I have no idea about running. Except that you sweat a lot and it really hurts us bigger chested girls. So here I am dropping him off at cross country camp at his new middle school and he is sitting in the passenger seat biting his fingernails like it’s his job. I am trying to ignore that he is biting his middle school boy nails filled with god knows what and try and focus on the why. We are going over the plan. I will drop you off now and be back later this morning before you get out. With the nods across the front seat he asks if I can walk him to the coach. Well you know anytime your eleven year old son asks you to do anything that isn’t gross or doesn’t involve a bodily function you do it.

We checked in with the coach and he sat down to tie his shoes that we just got that morning. ( I know, big runner mom mistake). As he is bent over I see that he is either already sweating a lot or tears are hitting the pavement.

“Buddy, what’s wrong? “ I ask in my I have already had coffee momma voice which is actually pleasant.

“I don’t know ANYONE” he whispers as tears continue to drop to the ground below.

It is one thing for my hormonal teenage daughters to cry or even for the littlest to cry when he sees that broccoli is being served for dinner. But when your athletic tender hearted eleven year old boy cries it reaches a whole new level of hurt in your mama heart.

And then I had a choice to make. In that moment it was a fight or flight moment. A moment where I could agree with him and then we run to the car together. Where we forget the whole running nonsense and go eat bagels instead.

Or we choose to fight.

I chose that morning to fight his fear and teach him to do the same. I asked him if I could pray over him and ask Jesus to give him confidence and peace. I prayed that he would meet a new friend and not be afraid of being alone, even if the answer was no.

And then I walked away.

I walked away from a son who was afraid and scared. Because sometimes mommas that is what we need to do. We need to stop being their saviors and teach them the way to Him.

I may have sat in the car for a while and had an ugly cry but I walked away.

This past week we had the opportunity to stay with a friend at their lake house. It was breath taking. Our original vacation that we had planned had to be cancelled and this was a last minute invite. It turned out to be one of the most amazing three days.

At one point we were all out on the speed boat and the kids were all learning to wake board. They all wanted to try and see if they could do it and try they did. After about ten attempts little man still had not made it up on the wake board. His skinny little soccer torso could not maneuver himself enough to stay balanced.  Yet the whole time he was floating in the water he had a smile from ear to ear. As we helped him back into the boat my husband complimented him on his persistence in trying.

There were no tears. There was no complaining. There was no comparing. There was only resolve.

Resolve in the trying.

The truth is this summer has been a summer of fight or flight. A summer of making the choices to stay in the fear and work through it or run away and numb ourselves with something or someone else.

As parents we have a choice. We can choose to teach our kids what we ourselves are working through or we can teach them the behaviors that keep us numb.

We can teach them that work will fill the void. We can teach them that eating is crap is okay. We can teach them that Netflix solves everything. We can teach them that silence means peace. We can teach them that drinking needs to happen at every social function. We can teach them that being busy is a good thing. We can teach them that their grades matter more than their character. We can teach them that a size defines who they are. We can teach them that they matter more than our spouse.

Or we can teach them to stay. To stay and fight.

Some days I am better then others. With some issues to put it nicely I still suck at. But I own it. I own my crap and call it what it is. My kids know my pile and see it. They also see me digging through it. Piece by piece calling it what it is and not walking away from it. I am choosing to fight through the fears that my behaviors are covering and realizing that this is just another thing for Jesus to redeem.

So while you may not see me running any marathons you will see me cheering little man on from the sidelines with his Target tennis shoes.

Yellow Ceiling Spots

There is a yellow spot on my ceiling in my living room. No it’s not from smoking. Although that would be a better story. Have you ever seen the episode of Modern family where Phil finds a yellow burn on the couch on Christmas morning? Netflix it now. He cancels Christmas until someone fesses up to smoking on the couch. He literally drags the tree out the sliding door onto the porch, while the kids cry and try to take responsibility, even though none of them did it. It is hilarious and true. (You don’t need to write me and tell me I shouldn’t be watching Modern Family, I watch it to know we are not alone on the crazy train.)

We all see things and assume the worst. I look up at ceiling from my couch and I assume that the yellow mark on the ceiling means that our ceiling is falling in and that one day I will be crushed by a bathtub from the second floor. I know. It’s morbid and crazy. Or perhaps I watch too much Rehab Addict or Modern Family. Either way I assume things that may or may not be true. Or I avoid what I know is true.

And what I know to be true today is that I suck at forgiving. Maybe there is a better word, but the thesaurus wanted me to say slurp. And forgiving doesn’t slurp anything. I am just not good at it. I am better at forgiving someone that did something to someone else. But when I have to forgive someone that hurt me, it feels insurmountable.  I want to dig my first grade heals in the playground and justify why I don’t need to forgive them. I want to shout it from the mountaintops or at least a very tall building, because who am I kidding I have never been to a mountain top and I am in no shape to climb one. Anyways, I want to shout it from a very high elevation the list of things this person did to me. How I was wounded so deeply by things that were said and the “sorry’s” that never came. I want others to turn their backs on this person and join me by digging their heels in the playground with me.

But this unforgiveness is heavy. Not like the “winter weight” I have put on. But more like the weighted blanket that my littlest girl sleeps under very night. Except this doesn’t calm me down, it tears at my bones and makes the most inner parts of me afraid and alone. It makes me brittle and broken.

I was a chaperone a few summers ago for my eldest high school camp. (I know, could I be any more of a helicopter parent?) (Actually, I had no idea where she was 95% of the time, so I am really good at keeping track of kids) I was there and heard this for the first time. Or maybe just HEARD it for the first time- that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Okay, maybe they didn’t say “die” at church camp but that is what my heart heard.

I want the people that have hurt me deeply to feel the humiliation and weight of what I feel. Of what I wake up every day and carry around. I want my pain to be justified. I want freedom. But if I am honest I want it to come by someone else carrying the shame that I carry every morning when I wake up.

Yet I am learning. Slowly. This isn’t about this person. Or people. It is about me. It is about the sin in my own heart that I can’t let go of. It’s about the years of shame built up in my own lesions that this just reopens like wounds that are still healing.

That is what this is about. It is about taking ownership of your own crap before mulling around in someone else’s. It is about claiming your own baggage at the airport and not trying to make others take their own. They are not ready yet. They are not ready to open up what you are already dealing with. And that it ok. It is ok to begin to heal and to walk away. You don’t. I don’t, need everyone to understand me or like me to be ok. I need to be ok because I know that I am a messy work in progress just trying to figure out my truth.

Ring the Cowbell.

When I was younger I played softball. Geared out in the tight spandex and hot pink aluminum bat. I was more concerned with how my hair looked in the god awful hat I had to wear than my ERA. (Don’t be impressed that I know what that stands for, I grew up in a family that lived and breathed baseball. I even wanted to marry Mark Grace, but that is a whole other story). So there I was, an awkward preteen too tall for her spandex and too young for contacts trying to “fit in” with the athletes. Needless to say my athletic career as a softball player did not go far. Yet the memory I carry most vividly from those days on the dusty field are who was in the stands. My grandfather came to every game (that is the memory I want to keep) with his cowbell. Yes a cowbell. He was infamous at the local high school for bringing that same bell to the football games. He would ring it loud so everyone would know whose back he had. I knew without a doubt whether I caught the ball or struck out every time up at ba.t that bell would ring. People would stare in annoyance while others would cheer along with him. Either way I knew I mattered. That I was enough.

These past two years have been gut wrenching in the parenting department. When you find out from school officials that your beautiful girl has been mutilating her thighs under your own roof it opens a door of anguish you never knew you could feel. We later found it was because she was being bullied day in and day out. She didn’t want to bother us with it because we were also dealing with a newfound diagnosis of our youngest daughter. She took it upon herself to “feel” what she needed to feel. Knowing that we her parents were overwhelmed with doctors appointments all over the city and medication that never seemed to work, she in her middle school way thought she was “handling it”. And I as a mother knew in that moment sitting across from the school dean watching her show me my daughters deep wounds I knew that I had failed her. I had not been paying attention and listening to the cues she was giving.

That winter we decided after attempts at counselors who told her this was “normal” that perhaps we would take another angle at this. (Side note, do not EVER tell a grieving parent that their child carving themselves is NORMAL. If I would not have gotten in trouble or perhaps arrested I would have leapt across the therapist’s office and kicked her in the gut. I didn’t. But the mama bear in me wanted to). As parents we decided to call upon “our people”. The women in our lives that have stood in the gap for us on numerous occasions, because we all know it takes a village, and asked them for feedback and how to help her best. One of my very best friends SHOWED UP. She became her mentor. Pouring into her, listening to her, hearing her. She discovered that she had a talent for basketball and encouraged her to try playing. She met her where she was at and opened her eyes to more that was lying within. She took her to basketball games, fed her (cause we all know that is the key to a middle schoolers soul), and showed up. She showed up for her games, her injuries, her life. She showed up.

I think we are all called to be a people who SHOW UP.  To stand at the top of the bleaches and ring that cowbell the loudest. To be that teacher that shows up. To pour into that student that continues to act out. They are acting out because they need someone to show up. To be that student pastor that shows up to kids events. To cheer them on outside of the church walls. To enter into their mess of a life and say “ I am not leaving”. To be the friend that forgives lavishly and pours mercy over others like it’s the only way to live. To be the coach that shows up. To set aside your frustrations and expectations and believe that each child on your team deserves to know they are somebody. To be the parent that shows up when everything in you wants to hide and not listen to another “recorder” concert in your living room. To be the spouse that shows up and says no matter what I believe in “us”.

I think this is what Jesus taught us. To be people who show up. To be the ones who see the mess and still enter in. To know that we will probably get wounded and hurt but in the end it was worth it. It’s worth it knowing that the ones we are cheering for need it more than we need to be comfortable.

Because the world is loud and full of lies. It is full of bullies. Telling us we are not enough. Telling us that we can do things on our own. That we don’t need anyone else. That if we hide and handle it ourselves that somehow that makes us stronger. When in reality we are strongest when we show our mess to those we trust the most.

But you see, this is Jesus. He is a God of second chances. He is a God of hope and healing. He brought others in to our lives, so we could hear the cowbells again.

 

As a mom. As a wife. As a friend. Do not think I take for granted those of you in our lives that have “shown up”. You have shown up for my marriage. For my children. For our faith. And we are so grateful.

8 things I remembered about my husband- guest post by Kaelyn Benham

 

 

 

kae

 

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to surround ourselves with those who speak truth and share their stories. Kaelyn Benham is joining us again this week to share a part of her redemptive story. I am so honored and blessed to call her friend. She not only lives in freedom but loves in it too. 

 

I have been purging everything lately. EVERY. THING. Donating things, selling things, and handing things down and over to move them from my house. I am doing this in attempt to “ keep the main things the main things.” The process has been time consuming, but part of a larger focus on only the things that matter.

This past weekend the bookshelf was my target. As I pulled books off the shelf that we no longer need to refer to I started noticing things. A note fell out of a book that my husband and I were reading shortly after my first son was born. He had begun traveling and while he was away I would find these notes tucked in all kinds of different places telling me he loved me and that he was thinking of me. Some were silly and some were deeper and more meaningful.

As I sat there with note in hand, I started looking through the books that I was about to get rid of and was flooded with this appreciation for all we had been through together. With the kids, our growth, the travel, our healing, and all kinds of other ways the Lord was reminding me of who my husband was.

8 things I remembered about my husband while cleaning out our bookshelf

  • He takes his responsibilities seriously

He read every one of the books we have on parenting. When he knows that he has something he is responsible for, he does HIS best. He doesn’t go around it he moves and learns his way through it. He steps up to the plate.

  • He knows love is an action

He loves us all with his words of course, but He acts in love by sacrificing time and efforts to make sure we know we are loved. He was the “master-swaddler” and really took all that he had read and put it to action to provide a safe and secure place for our kiddos and me.

  • He makes me a priority

He keeps our marriage sacred by honoring it over all other relationships in the house. We check in with each other and work together so we both have what we need. He recognized in books where it said this was important.

  • He needs to be reminded

Just like he marked these pages as reminders, he needs to be reminded on occasion what is REALLY important. I should not expect that if he heard it 1 time he knows it completely.

  • He knows he can’t do it alone

He often seeks counsel and reads about topics that he is leaning about. These books are just a fraction of “resources” that were engaged when we first started to experience parenting.

  • He is humble and not ashamed to say he doesn’t know

I remember after our second son was born he asked to get the books out again so we could practice and get a refresh on some techniques that really were helpful to us.

  • He is not perfect, but shows up to practice

We would argue some about our different approaches and sometimes it would cause a rift between us for some time, but we would always come back together and “practice” what needed to be worked on TOGETHER.

  • He always wants to learn and grow

This is the CORE of who my husband is. Humble and always knowing there is more to learn.

You can imagine after having this moment with the books, I ran to find him and told him I was thankful for him. Not because he is perfect. Not because our marriage is perfect. But because I remembered the “main thing” and I was focused on that.

To read more about Kaelyn and find out where she will be next you can follow these links.

http://www.kaelynbenham.com/

http://bit.ly/1zE6033

I sold myself…..and now I know why.

red

I started selling myself when I was 14. Not the on the corner selling. Not online selling. But the please pay attention to me and love me kind of selling. Please tell me I am enough selling. My mother did not drop me at a brothel in order for my siblings to survive. I did it to myself. Some choices I made. Some were made for me.

Me in my skin tight jeans. Me in my overalls. Me in my long skirts. Me in my short skirts. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing or who I was. It had to do with who I wasn’t. I don’t ever dare compare myself to the millions of children each year that are forced into sex work. Or the girls who are walking the red light districts in their villages to survive. Never. I would never even think that the horror that they experience every day is in any way comparable to my mid- western choices. But one thing I thing I can relate to is the shell of the person that I became. When you give yourself away and are left with just a shell of disconnect.

I turn forty next month. If I think about it long enough I can get anxious and start thinking of all of the things I have yet to accomplish and the things I never became or missed. Having lived forty years I have to say that the last five have been the hardest and yet produced most growth. Through being stuck in Uganda and not knowing when I would see my whole family again. To suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and attachment issues when I returned. And then to be hit with more news of another child who had been suffering all along. And to watch as she went through years of testing and evaluation in order to receive a diagnosis that is lifelong. I have walked through grief and relief all on the same breathe.

But nothing can compare to knowing that I more fully myself than I have ever been. I am confident that I am stronger and braver than I ever thought I could be. I am more confident that my experiences in the past are ONLY used for good. And thank you Jesus that he is letting me see the fruit of that pain today.

But me taking off my clothes for years did more damage than anyone could see. It left me lonely for the next 25. I know that others argue when you give yourself away it won’t affect you. God forgives you and you are fully redeemed. Yes. Yes to all of that. But it does not take away the reality that you are not all of you were supposed to be. There was so much of me missing. So many parts of me still lay in backseats, parks, beaches, hotels, and beds. So much of me lingered there for years waiting for my soul to collect me. Waiting for me to forgive.

And I think all the time of the sweet angels all over the world tonight that are asking others to love them. To buy them. To sell them. I want to scream and plead. I want to hold them and love them and tell them “you are already enough. “

I want to tell them it will take years for the pieces of you to fully return to a new healed soul. But this is not my job. My job is to be there voice. I can. You can. I now work for an organization called Trades of Hope. We partner with marginalized women all over the world. We sell jewelry that is ethically produced by using Fair Trade principle. By marketing their creations we offer artisans a way to provide for their families without entering into slavery, a way to keep their children rather than giving them to orphanages or to the sex trade. I love everything about this company. But the thing I love the most is that 25 years ago God saw the mess that I was making of my life and continued to make for years and whispered gently “I will make all things new.”

Yet it wasn’t until now I that I hear Him.

But he said to me , “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2Cor 12:9

Grieving the high chair.

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I bought the high chair at a rummage sale. It was wooden with chipped, white paint flaking the sides. I had known from the moment I saw it that I wanted it to be mine. It reminded me of high chairs I would see in vintage black and white photos. It had no safety precautions, yet I am sure it had stories it could tell. Stories of the families and children it had served.

At the time that I purchased it for ten dollars,  I was not even pregnant. We had just started the process of filling out the paperwork for our adoption. And as we all know that high chair did not get used for a very long time. What we expected to take months took years. Years of waiting. Years of praying. Years of hoping. Years of anxiety, anger, frustration, signatures, home studies, finger prints, and did I mention paper work?

Yet after three years we were sitting across from our sweet little boy.

That high chair became the place where my little one ate his first meal as a family of seven.

It became the place where he clearly showed us that broccoli was never going to be one of his foods.

It became the place where he fell asleep when days were just too long for him and he couldn’t make it through dinner.

It became the place where he discovered pasta for the first time and decided the walls needed it too.

It became the place where his personality began to emerge and he entertained us all.

What I didn’t expect is that it would become a symbol of grief for me.

After little one clearly could not fit in the high chair any longer I scrubbed it all down and left it in the corner of the room for months. I would walk by it and think about what was next for our family. I would dream of my belly expanding and getting to wear cute maternity jeans. I would rationalize that I was keeping it for my grandchildren some day. Knowing full well that any mother would not let their infant sit in a chair with zero safety features.

And breathing in that I knew why I was really keeping it.

I was keeping it because I wasn’t ready to face my truth.

My truth, that I would never carry another child in my belly again.

Seven years before I lay on a hospital bed, sobbing as I signed on the dotted line. I wanted someone to save me. To save me from the choice. I needed someone else to make the decision for me.

I knew that the level of depression that I had suffered after each of the four children I birthed, had only gotten worse. I knew that I needed to make a permanent decision that I later would come to grieve. I knew at the time that I was scared of who I was after each child. And although I firmly believe in medication and that God created Prozac on the eighth day,  I could not function as a human.I knew that depression would swallow me if I chose to continue to grow our family through childbirth.

I remember the day I sold that white high chair in the corner. It went to a woman who loved to refurbish furniture. To make things new.

My truth, is that I grieve every moment when a friend or loved one is struggling with infertility or a miscarriage. The truth is, that I feel like I was so selfish to take that choice away from my family.

But I know this.

I know God uses everything. He opened my eyes to adoption, to safe families, to foster care and to taking in those around me. He shows me daily how I am that high chair. Chipped, tired, and covered with messes. But in His grace and mercy He is making me new. He is filling me with joy and wonderment. He is letting me heal and rest in in Him.

Where ever you are sweet one. Worn. Tired. Lonely. Grieving. Searching. Empty. Anxious. Fearful.

He is there.

He is binding Himself to you.

Making you new.

 

“Let us then approach God’s Throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Leggings & Superheroes – hills not to die on moms

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When I was younger. Much younger. Like I had a crush on Richard Marx younger, I shaved my head. Not my whole head cause that wouldn’t be cool. But only half of my head because apparently that was way cooler. I decided one day that I would feel better about myself if not only I had bleached blonde hair but I also willing took half of my hair away. Now don’t go thinking I went all crazy. I was conservative enough to only shave underneath all the bleach blonde Drew Barrymore hair. Yes, in my eyes I was fitting in. I was edgy. If I even knew what edgy was. Because when you grow up in Catholic schools it can be considered edgy if you hike your plaid skirt above the knees some days.

So when my second oldest decided that she wanted half of her gorgeous hair shaved off or when my youngest decided that he wanted The Flash symbol into the side of his head I said okay. But I didn’t say okay because I had done it before. Lord knows if I said okay to everything I did when I was younger I would basically be running a juvenile detention center. And since I don’t really look good in orange I do have some boundaries. Yet I have learned after being a mom for 17 years I choose to not die on every hill.

When I was a very young and new mom my girls dressed alike and always matched. They also always had brand new clothes. The staff at baby GAP knew me by name. I had retail issues. I admit it. I equated dressing perfectly with good parenting. I honestly thought when seeing other moms that this is what we did. We played dress up with our kids, went to story time, provided crafts for every moment, and made sure they only ate organic cookies. Well many years and children later I figured out that if I can just get them to brush their teeth a few times a week and actually change their underwear I am hitting it out of the park. I decided that I was not going to argue with a seven year old why she could not wear the same sweatpants every day. It was more important for me to connect than me to correct fashion choices. I decided that I was not going to live under the rule of Gymboree but by the peace in my home.

As my children have gotten older I have begun to hear that if I let my teenage daughters wear leggings then I am letting her look like a streetwalker. Um. Seriously? I am just wondering how we got from comfy leggings to streetwalker in the matter of one clothing change. This too is not a hill I am going to die on. My girls have extremely long legs and they are growing at rapid speed. Jeans are expensive. Jeans are uncomfortable for them. And let’s just face it leggings are so comfy. Yes they cover themselves and no I do not let them walk the streets. I have some standards. But I have chosen to not die on the hill of leggings.

I choose to die on the hill of character, and honesty, and strength, and family, and loyalty, and health, and laughter, and kindness, and empathy, and courage, and faith. I choose to die on hills that matter not hills that others think determine our worth.

I choose to decide to be a mom who cares about what is going on in my children’s hearts and souls. I choose to discover the reasoning behind their fashion and hair choices. I choose to be a mom of superheros and leggings.