I saw God in 4th grade- and other lies I told.

 

When I was in 4th grade I saw God. Well, at least that is what I told my friends. Brenda G had invited all of the important girls over for a sleepover. And by important, I mean, all the girls in class. Sleepovers were a big deal. You see, we only saw each other during school, wearing our plaid little skirts and white knee high socks. So to see each other outside of the Catholic confines was a big deal. Who knew what we even looked like not wearing a sweater vest? The possibilities were endless. Also sleepovers for me meant processed food, unless it was Janna’s house, that is a whole other story. Janna was paleo before it was cool. So here we were, eating all the processed food and calling into the radio stations to request the latest WHAM song, laying in our Care Bear sleeping bags not a care in the world.

 

And then I saw God.

 

Somehow we were talking about the virgin Mary, because all good little Catholic girls do. We also talked about boys and rollerskating, but the virgin Mary always got a good shout out. One of the girls was saying she saw Mary herself. We must have been studying the feast of our Lady Guadalupe or had way too much sugar in us. Either way,we all wanted to see celestial images on the walls of that small house in western Michigan that Friday night.

 

And right there, that night, after many cans of pringles were opened and many Hail Marys were said, kneeling in our nightgowns, I told my friends I could see God above the mantel.

 

I know.

 

I should have been struck down with lightning or at least choked on a cheese puff. I blatantly lied about seeing God.

 

But if I am honest. Since that night, I have always been aching to see him.

 

I wanted to see his face.

 

I needed to see him.

 

Don’t we all?

 

This past summer I wrote about “goldfinches”.

 

About seeing these tiny yellow birds all the time after tragedy hit our family. I still see them. People send them to me. (not real ones, although that would be cool too, just don’t seal the box).

 

And yet seeing goldfinches for me, isn’t about the bird. It is about God. The goldfinches were just a way that he visibly showed me how present he was and how limited I make him.

 

I stood on the dirt road that summer morning and saw three little birds dance before me.

 

God gently turned my head to the field next to me. He needed me to see the field singing with hundreds of tiny goldfinches. Saying over and over. “ You think I love you like the three…..let me show you the way I LAVISHLY love you. Let me show you just how present I am. How present I will be.”

 

I still have countless days I can’t see God. When the darkness of our reality covers me like a weighted blanket, making it hard to even breathe.

 

So because God is God, and I am not, he sends others to me.

 

My mother in law sees when it is hard for me to breathe. She is the quietest person I know. But the way that she loved me this winter speaks volumes into the depth of her heart and the goodness of God.

She was visiting from southern Ohio and quietly decided to show me God again.

 

She had been collecting small goldfinch figurines. One afternoon, while I was away, she placed them in different eye level places around my house. Little tiny delicate gold birds reminding me on the darkest days. On the days I was so angry with the injustice of the world. Those days when resentment had creeped its way into my heart. The nights when anxiety has kept my mind spinning and I am scared to get out of bed. The moments I am so angry I can hardly exhale and the moments I am so sad that even inhaling is exhausting.

 

For those moments and every moment in between she brought me tiny little bird reminders.

 

That even when I stop seeing God. He doesn’t ever stop seeing me.

 

But I make my world too loud to see anything but myself.

 

When all he is asking me to do is lift my eyes and see him.

I can hardly catch my breathe when I think of that moment. The moment I  will actually SEE HIS FACE.

This is his promise. His PROMISE. I cling to this. This hope. This coming home.

“And I in righteousness, I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” Psalm 17:15

Even now, just typing it, tears fill my eyes. Some days I beg for that moment. I tell God I am ready. Anytime he is ready, I am too. And then other days, most days, I am content living here on the earth not even searching for him. Not even thinking about him. I am comfortable being consumed by the world.  

Living a numb life.

Yet if I am honest, it is when I am fully living in the “in between” that I am alive. The place between pain and healing. Actively aching to see him.  When I am fully aware of the suffering and fully aware who can heal it all. It is in those moments that I feel fully present. That pull between heaven and earth that makes me feel hopeful. Hope-filled like the little girl kneeling in her nightgown aching to just see his face.

 

 

Face pressed to the glass.

A few years ago I was in a horrible argument. I had sent a text I should have never sent. The minute I pushed send,I knew I had made a mistake. I had severed a relationship that I valued.I took and still take full responsibility for my part. But what happened after was not at all what I had expected. I began to apologize and plead that the people on the other end of the message hear me, it was not my finest moment. I explained that what I had sent meant something that they did not understand. One person in the conversation within hours was at my dining room table and we were figuring it out. We were hearing each other. I cried and asked for forgiveness and she showed mercy and let the healing process begin. The other person never did. In fact things just kept getting worse. I felt like a little kid, faced pressed against the glass of the classroom, that everyone could see but no one could hear. That I was never given the chance to tell the whole story.

The last few days I think a lot of us feel that way. That we are not being heard.

A few weeks ago when the Christian community took Jen Hatmaker to the shed for an interview that she did with Jonathan Merritt, it stirred the same feelings inside of me.

No one was hearing her.

No one was asking her any questions. We were just putting down the books and blogs and picking up the stones.

No one asked her what in her life had changed that her views had now shifted. No one invited her to the table to be heard. No one asked what had broken and how could they see more clearly.They just let her stand outside of the window with her face pressed to the glass trying to be heard. But immediately we shut the door,  turned our backs and dismissed the voice we had all been worshipping and tweeting for years.

I am not saying you have to agree with her. I am not even saying you have to ever had to read another blog. But what I am saying is that maybe we need to start asking questions.

Maybe it is time again to hear.

I think if people that have known me for a long time would look at my life in the last two years they would say that I have changed. That my views and stances have shifted. That something is different.They are right. I have. But to know why, that is not for the world to know. My people know. My circle knows. And to many of my conservative acquaintances  they would perhaps argue that I am not following Jesus the way they believe I should be. That I don’t fit in a box anymore.

But they do not know the whole story. They do not know my why. They do not know the shattered parts.They will just leave me in the hall with my face pressed to the window.

I feel that we are all have our faces pressed to the window this week. We all want to be heard, but no one is brave enough to open the door.

Or if the door is opened it is met with

“God is in control”, “ You need to trust in God”, “God bless our new president”, “You need to respect him”,“The election is done”,” This doesn’t affect me”,

But friends what if we responded with” let me hear you…..”

Let me hear what in your life happened or is happening that you feel so strongly about this.

Let me sit with you in this grief and not say anything.

Let me open up my house and give you a seat at the table.

Let me understand you more.

Let me just hear your story.

You see we all have stories. Some of our stories are broken and bruised and raw. And if  we continue to only know a piece of the story and respond the way we are, we will continue to keep the door shut.

Instead of pushing each other out of the classroom into the hall, with our faces up to the glass, we let each other in.

We hear the pain. We hear the fear. We hear the families. We see our neighbors.

We realize that to dismiss a person for one check-mark, that we have reduced ourselves to the same.

“Somehow I wonder if it’s in shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ”- Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Goldfinches and Grief.

Sometimes I think we miss God. We miss him all around us. He tries to talk to us. For us to see him. In people. In moments. I think we make our world too loud to notice him. We turn the music up louder. We keep checking our phones, we make more coffee dates,  turn on Netflix, work more hours, or drink one more drink and all he wants is us to be. To be there. To feel. To notice. To see.

My therapist says that I need drama. That I was born with it in me. And that this a part of me that rarely gets praised. He says that too often what is really good in us, gets told from an early age, to be quiet. That somehow, who we are, is not okay.

Not God breathed.

He though, is good at that. Calling out what I have been told is wrong, and showing me that God knit me together perfectly. I don’t always think he is good, my therapist. Sometimes he pisses me off, when he calls me out on my crap. But today. Today was good. Because I needed to hear truth and love. And sometimes when you are grieving you can’t hear either. I can’t hear truth because I am so weighted down with sadness that truth can barely peak through. It is choking at the possibility that it will never be heard again.

And then there is love. I cannot bear the thought of love right now. In fact, love I just want to punch in the face. I really could use someone to punch in the face right now. God bless those that are trying to love me right now. Because one moment I am a puddle of tears and the next minute I want to punch them in the throat and scream that they have no idea the hell I am daily living through. Don’t send me scripture or prayers unless you are willing to sit in the darkness and not leave. Bless.

And then God. Because he is God. Just starts to gently whisper. Because he knows right now that is the only way I am going to listen. Because if he yells I will just get out the sledgehammer. He already knows that the world is too loud for me right now. And I don’t need more advice or more “ I would do it this way” . What I need is a dramatic whisper. Because he knows me. He knows what my heart is longing for. It doesn’t need more talking. It doesn’t need more unsolicited advice. It doesn’t need more people doing things for me. I don’t need fixers. I need more whispering. I need more being.

So he whispers.

And because I am weaved and made in all the drama goodness that he made he weaves his way right in front of me.

And it all has to happen that way.

Michigan. With water. And woods. And dirt roads. And quiet.

Walking.

And there in front me were three little goldfinches. Just playing tag with each other. Chirping with each other about how cute they are. Because they really are the cutest birds. And there they were just fluttering in front of me.

Dancing.

I stood there and just started to cry. One, because the weight I am carrying around is so heavy right now and two because I knew it was God whispering.

I had been feeling very abandoned.

If he really believed me when I said I wanted to follow him years ago, then all of this shit would not have happened. None of this was making sense. None of it.

Yes I know bad things happen to good people. I know. But I also wrestle with why does it continue to happen? And if you could think of the worst things to happen to a family, they have all happened. All. And as a mother it is just too much to carry most days.

And here I was on that dirt road confessing to the creator of the universe that he and I were done. I had carried enough and I could not bear one more burden in his name for his glory.

I know.

Lightening was going to strike me. But this was my Jacob moment. Crying to God that this mother could not breathe one more night of agony.

On that dirt road all he needed me to do was to see.

He asked me to turn to the right.

And there to the right was a field. A field of purple thistle. And above the thistle were hundreds of dancing gold finches. Hundreds.

According to birdlife.org the gold finch is most often found in the religious paintings in the hand of the infant Jesus. Symbolizing and relating to the healing of the sick and thus redemption.

Healing.

Of course. Healing.

I didn’t know this pertinent information until weeks later than that late morning in west Michigan.

I was actually in a park with my youngest daughter and a group of finches flew right by my face and I immediately start crying. There are only so many times that you can ignore God trying to whisper his love over you until you break wide open.

So I googled what goldfinches meant and that is what came up. Like Jesus himself wrote it. I think he works for birdlife.org on Thursdays or something like that.

I sat there on the park bench and sobbed.

I hear you. I know you are here. I see you pushing through all of the darkness that continues to daily be layered on us but I see you pushing your way through.

Yesterday. Today. Everyday. I see him pushing through. If I am quiet enough I see the goldfinches.

I see.

John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

 

Palms Up- The Mudroom

I tell my kids all the time, they will become who they spend their time with. If you want to be a video gamer then spend your time with games and people that are not real. If you want to be mean, spend your time with the mean girls. If you want to be shallow spend time with those that care only of themselves and things.

But, if you want to be brave, find the broken.

If you want to be courageous, find the ones who believe that one day they will rise again.

 

You will find the rest of this post over at The Mudroom…..

Do you create what you need?

Last night was New Year ‘s Eve and I was alone. Not usually a big deal.Me being alone. I actually like to be by myself. It reenergizes me. But for some reason last night really bothered me. My husband had been gone for a few days with the littles and the older two were gone working. So being alone wasn’t the issue. It was for how long I had been alone. When he is home, I am home. For some reason it triggered a fear in me. I woke up feeling frustrated and sad.

It is safe to say that they way that I love people I need them to love me the same.

It was earlier in the year that I had the realization that I needed to realize how much I carried the disappointment card around. How many times I was hurt or frustrated that things did not turn out like I expected them to. I would find myself being a part of events or functions and left feeling drained and not filled up. Or I wasn’t invited to a party or event that I was sure everyone else was at and my feelings were hurt. It brought me right back to eighth grade and never being good enough or popular enough or skinny enough. Nothing like a little middle school drama trauma to be triggered. Next thing you know I will be back in braces with a plaid skirt and knee highs and taller than some of the teachers.

When my youngest started kindergarten this year it was a grieving process. For the first time in eighteen years I was home alone. I had no one to have lunch with. No one to take to playdates. No one to tuck in for a nap. I soon discovered that I had forgotten who I was without kids. Since I was a junior in college I have had a child. And here I was forty years old with no one to take care of. ( I know a lot of therapy sessions here)

The first month I filled my days with everything and anything. I threw myself into my work and soon found how much I loved working for a fair trade company. I also was pitching articles to places I had only dreamed about. While these are both good and healthy outlets I still felt unfulfilled.

I thought then that it was up to me to create what I needed. It was time to orchestrate what filled me as a person.

Being an extroverted introvert it was a very obvious thing I was missing. I was missing quiet conversations around my table. I was missing adult conversations that were real and hard. So I started opening my doors on Friday mornings to anyone and everyone who needed a place to be heard. A place to enjoy a cup of coffee, a local pastry and real conversation. A sacred space of truth.

It is not glamourous or fancy. I cannot even guarantee that the floors are not sticky or there is toilet paper in the bathroom. But it is real. And it is what I need.

I discovered quickly I was not the only one craving a place to exhale a place to be loved.

This past year has been a year of truths that are hard to write about much less talk about. We left our church of twelve years and it has been hard. Grieving and questions. Wrestling and crying. Loneliness and frustrations. I felt it all. It has been a year of parenting that I would wish on no one. Decisions and truths that we had to crawl our way through. There were days when I begged Jesus to show me how to even take the next step.

In all honesty there were days when I questioned if any decision we made had been the right one.

I expected things to be like what I thought I needed.

Yet I soon realized that I needed to push into what he had put before me. He brought us to the sweetest village of believers. A community that is passionate about the city we live in and not afraid to stumble through the mess of loving broken pieces. They are a community of healing and the arts. Two of my favorite things. Jesus brought us from a church that we had grown in, been broken in, raised children in, cried in, laughed in, found our people in and told us to go. He told us to move.

I thought when someone told you to obey that you would then be in the land of honey and unicorns or something biblical like that.

Instead we found ourselves in a place where the stability we once knew was gone and every fear was once again brought to the surface.  A place of healing.

New challenges had resurfaced in our personal lives and all of a sudden we had a choice to make. Do we run back to what we know? What we have always known. Or do we trust that where we are at is where he needs us to be.

We pushed in. We fell flat on our faces before our new community and begged for God’s mercy over us.

There is nothing more humbling then to be surrounded by an entirely new tribe of people and admit just how broken you are.

Jesus was showing me. Showing us. We needed to create what we needed. He was creating what we never knew we would need. We needed to stop grieving what we had left behind and realize what we needed was quietly gathering a place around us. They were pulling a chair up to the table and saying you are not alone.

So this morning when I was frustrated that I was l all by my lonesome self it was again an opportunity to realize that I had not created what I needed and expected others to do it for me.

As we start 2016 will we be brave enough to tell the truth? The truth about what we need? Will we be aware enough of those around us to see that they are creating what they need? Can we push into those feelings of discomfort enough to discover that this is just what he wanted for us?

Be brave in 2016. Gather people around your table and hear what heals them.

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 )

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.

Practice…..

There are things that start to happen to you when you are on the other side of healing. And by other side, I mean be brave enough to say you need healing. To acknowledge that you are a broken person who needs to slow down and that you have pieces to put back together. When things are clear in my head and I don’t feel like I need to be in therapy three times a week I find myself being able to complete thoughts and realize where they need to go and where they came from. For example why I repeat patterns when certain times of the year come around or something someone does triggers a reaction that is let’s just say is “not sane healthy “. Well to someone who has lived in trauma for so long I am met face to face with the crap I have kept in there. Like for instance. I can improve on relationships. ( I suck at it) Now before you go all “Pollyanna” on me, realize that I have learned coping strategies through the years and some are not all good. For instance.

You can find the rest of this post at the brilliant Bronwyn Lea’s site….see you over there.

Dear Kids, I love you too much….. A Valentines Day repost.

Dear kids,

I love you.

I love you with all my heart. I love to watch you sleep at night. (not like creepy crawl in your window to watch you) but more like I want to count the freckles on your sun kissed face. I love to hear the sound of your voices laughing with each other, whispering secrets while you are supposed to be sleeping. I love to watch you scream with all your might when your brother scores in soccer. I love to curl your hair when you want to be just like mommy. I love to take you out on dates all dressed up and sit across from you and wipe the whip cream off your lip. I love to find notes on my pillow from you. I love to watch you make new friends or even just try. I love to see you help each other up when one of you falls. I love to watch you smelling the neighbor’s flowers after you decided that all of ours needed to be picked. I love writing you notes to find in your lunchbox or on the mirror in the morning. I love to plan the perfect gift for your birthday that only I would know you loved. I love to hear about your day and who made you mad. I love to watch you explain just why being an apple farmer makes sense for your life. I love to listen to you sing 1D in the shower and then pretend that you don’t even like them. I love to watch you doodle while you are supposed to be doing Algebra again. I love to wake to the sound of the cartoons on Saturday morning and footy pj’s on the wood floors. I love to hear your secrets and who you wish you could be. I love to catch you writing songs on the piano when you think you are all alone. I love you this much and even more.
But you see sweet one I am sorry.

I am sorry I have loved you more than your dad. My husband. The one I promised to love forever. The one I made a covenant with. You see, I was reminded recently by ones that are pouring into us that I have really messed up. But you and I know that with messing up always comes second chances. And for me it’s more like a hundred chances. So here I am asking for you to forgive me.

I need to love your dad even more than I love you. I need to love him with all my heart. I need to watch him sleep at night. I need to love the sound of his voice laughing. I need to encourage him from the sidelines every day. All day. I need to go out on dates with your dad every week and remember that we need to work at love. I need to ask for notes from your dad. I need to write them too. I need to thank him for helping our neighbors all the time and not complain that things aren’t done around here. I need to pack his lunch in the morning and make sure he knows that I value him. I need to smile and kiss your dad when he brings me flowers. I need to ignore you when your dad walks in the door because it’s his turn to be heard. I need to respect and support your dad when he goes for another job and not worry about how far away we will be from family. I need to buy him gifts just because it’s not his birthday. I need hold your dads hand when we are together. I need to sleep in more with the door closed on Saturday mornings. I need to listen more talk less. I need to tell him my secrets that I’m afraid to live. I need to lean in and lead with grace. I need to love your dad this much and even more.

So sweet children, know this. I love you. I really do. This may send you all into therapy ( yet we all know you will probably already end up there anyways). I have done you such a disservice. I should have done a better job at being a wife. Because that is the commitment I made. I am the example that you will learn from. And I want nothing more for you than to learn from your dad and I that who we are as a couple is the best gift we can give you.

With love, mom
And if you can’t find me…..I will be kissing your dad.tim

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