I am addicted to Jen Hatmaker- and I think you are too.

I feel like it is time I come clean.

I have been hiding this too long and personally it is getting too heaving to carry around anymore.

My name is Sheli Massie and I am addicted to all things Jen Hatmaker.

There I said it. I will consume everything Jen Hatmaker throws at me like a ravenous hyena in the savannahs of Africa. I devour it. I am not lying. I stayed up all night to finish her last book. I should not be staying up all night unless a child is puking or I am on a Netflix binge of House of Cards with my husband. I ate only seven foods for month a couple of years ago because I thought it would somehow make me more like Jen and forgot about what the purpose of the exercise was in the first place. If there was a Hatmaker sticker for my car you know I would have it on there. I know I have an issue. My children know I have an issue. They took me last Mother’s Day over and hour away for a normal Sunday morning service in a car full of screaming children so I could see her speak. I may have ugly cried my way through the service and wondered where she got her gorgeous skirt and sassy belt. I had a Jen perma smile on the whole way home. My children clearly knew the way to my heart.

My eight year old is one who likes to “keep it real” If you want to know the blatant truth she is your girl. What she lacks in social filters she makes up for with empathy abounding.

But she is also the one who reminds me of who I am.

Last night she asked for school lunch and I eagerly said yes. Of course you can have fish sticks, canned peaches and chocolate milk. If it means that I only have to make five lunches in the morning I will ignore the “running to the bathroom” it gives you.

She quickly added though.

But can you still write me a love note, so I can put it in my pocket? I like to read them in the afternoon to remind me what you said.

You see sweet one. We all need to be reminded of who we are. Of what really matters. I forget daily that I am not who social media deems as important. I am not close to who the writing world thinks is imperative. And I am not even close to who the world thinks is essential.

But I am important to six other people living under this roof. Even when they are rolling their eyes at me or slamming doors, I am still someone.

When I measure the worth of who I am next to the fame of someone else I will always come up a thousand miles short.

I would never compare my fifteen year old daughter on the basketball court with an NBA player. I wouldn’t tell her after the game, where she left it all out on the court, that she was ok but not even close to being good enough.

I would never dream of telling my son that he played a horrible game and should have scored that goal.

Somebody kick me in the teeth if I compare the education feats of one child to another. The comparison of one sibling to the next is such a confining place to live and if we are confined we never have space to grow into who we are called to be.

Yet this is what I do to myself every day.

I confine myself with comparison.

I measure the worth of the words I write and hold them next to award winning authors. I compare myself to the crunchy mom whose child has never consumed a preservative and shame myself for my lack of child raising skills.

I believe that I am not enough so why even try. Why try when I will never be Jen Hatmaker.

DUH.

God never called me to be Jen Hatmaker. He never called me to be Kristen Howerton. He never called me to Glennon Doyle Melton. He never called me to be Sarah Bessey. He never called me to be Beth Moore (although that would be fun to be so cute).

I hold these women to the highest respect and may have a writer crush on them. ( It’s a thing.) Although we can read and consume their beautiful work we cannot let it paralyze us into a creative coma.

Creative consuming coma’s do not create.

It happens all the time. A new book will come out. And then there is the blog reading. And the tweeting. Oh the tweeting. It will consume me. I will set myself up and think that if this is the measurement of success, then I will be over in the corner crying in my yoga pants.

It’s as if we are telling God. What you are breathing in me to create is not enough.

And here I am paralyzed like I imagine others are too. Jesus did not call you to be Jen. He called you to be brave enough to be you.

We need you in the world. We need your words. We need your stories. We need your triumphs and your pain. We need it all.

Because I promise you this. When you begin to speak your truth there is another sweet one who realizes that she is not alone. She is not the only one. Her voice through you can be heard.

And this is so much better than any tweet could accomplish.

 

*Know I have a nothing but the highest respect for these authors and speakers. They are the brave ones who go before and are a voice for so many.

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

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.

A voice from a girl- the voice you forget in all of this

I think we give too many people voices.Too many things that do not deserve another ounce of energy a voice. I am not saying that people should not be heard. I am saying we need to be careful who we are giving voice to. And who we are leaving behind.

I see  you making jokes and posting comments about Josh Duggar or some sandwich guy and what they did.  Giving your opinion about the horrific illegal actions that they took. I know that in your mind it is  funny or really disgusting and you need to let everyone know how you feel. Or what your stance is. You want to make sure that those around you know exactly what your opinion is. I get that. I understand. When it is election year or there is a new season of Downton Abbey on I want my voice heard as well.  But this is not that. This is not light and funny.

This is painfully too close.

You see there is a voice you are not hearing.

There is a voice that you are mocking every time you are making jokes.

I am the voice of the girl you do not hear. I am the voice of the little girl who died on the inside at the age of eight.  I am the voice of the teenager who never knew she had a choice. I am the voice of the college girl who gives herself away to anyone that tells her she is something. I am the voice of the girl who vomits behind the car in the grocery store praying no one will see her. I am the voice of the woman who numbs herself with anything that will stop her from feeling. I am the voice of the girl who screams in terror when monsters invade her dreams at night. I am the voice of the mother who cries herself to sleep thinking she could have seen the signs. I am the voice of the girl who carves her skin to feel again. I am the voice of the child who sees a therapist more than the playground. I am the voice of the girl on the outside looking in wishing someone would notice. I am the voice of the woman who will never know what healthy sex looks like. I am the voice of the husband who is angry at the man who took away what was his. I am the voice of the pastor who sits and hears the cry of a broken story that was never told. I am the voice of the girl who just needed someone to believe.

So while I know that you on the outside are angry and want to share how you are feeling.

I just plead with you to think of those whose voices are not heard.

To think about all of the young women and girls whose lives were stolen.

Let’s do better.

Let’s be braver.

Let’s be their voice. And stop giving it to those that take it away.

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.

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 )

I choose you- what vows look like after 17 years

This week the husband and I renewed our vows. And by renew I mean wrote all new words. Because after seventeen years you need to say new words. The words you say when you are a young bride with no idea how to keep a promise to yourself, much less promises to another person for the rest of your life, well words need to be said again.

When you are walking down the aisle more concerned about the size of your waist and if your nursing bra is leaking more than the person at the end of the aisle it is perhaps not the picture of matrimonial bliss.

Writing vows again after seventeen years looks less like a Pinterest dream and more like a masterpiece of redemption.

It looks like late night arguing and late morning swollen eyes.

It looks like crayon drawings on the wall and Band-Aid covered knees.

It looks like pasta again for dinner with thirty dollars left in the checking account.

It looks like trips to the in-laws and silent anger the way home.

It looks like catching her passed out on the bathroom floor when she promised to stop.

It looks like spending the savings account again on a car they couldn’t afford in the first place.

It looks like soccer families meaning more than ones you left at home.

It looks like littles in pj’s crying behind closed doors as parents open the suitcases of resentment on each other.

It looks like buying your first house in a neighborhood friends never came to.

It looks like sleeping on the couch for nights turned into weeks.

It looks like a Bible opened for the first time.

It looks like you first before me.

It looks like midnight calls to ones you pour your secrets to.

It looks like college funds turned into therapy bills.

It looks like a home with a door revolving to those who need a place to stay.

It looks like forgiveness when she realizes she is the one she needs to forgive.

It looks like catching fireflies with smore’s still on their faces.

It looks like driving to the treatment center because this time has to be the last.

It looks like your knees bruised from pleading with God.

It looks like admitting the ugliness you’ve hid for years.

It looks like Saturday mornings on the porch before anyone else is awake.

It looks like telling the truth that no one wants to hear.

It looks like catching him praying over her before he goes to school.

It looks like finding friends who help you clean up the pieces.

It looks like falling on your face with the brokenness that you have become.

It looks like saying out loud that change needs to happen.

It looks like restoration.

And so we gathered our people.  Our marriage warriors. And we stood in our backyard, in the neighborhood we claimed as our home and put a stake in the ground for the legacy of our family.

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One of the most precious moment in the ceremony was when our good friend and pastor gathered us around our children and prayed the blood of Jesus over our family. That the chains of relationships would be broken and for the future spouses and callings of our sweet babes. I may have ugly cried my way through this.

 

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And instead of promises. We made choices.

 

I choose to fight for you. To fight for us. I choose to daily lay your life before Jesus and ask that he guard your heart and mind to only His will. I choose to be present. To focus on what makes us a family not what makes others happy. I choose to put you first before our children. Because I know that is what is best for them. I choose to break the cycle of relationships gone before us by choosing healthy over happy. I choose to let you be the spiritual leader in our home and believing that God will equip you to do so. I choose to love you even when I am so unlovable.

But most of all. I choose this. I choose to pursue Jesus with all of my heart and passion. Because if we have learned anything these past 17 years it is this….He is our healer and redeemer.

And only He can restore.

#TELLHISSTORY

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( The gorgeous photo’s were taken by Sabrina Nohling and the yard was transformed by Mary Kay from the Homestead in Plano.)

Paper gowns and other realities of post-adoption depression

This is where it had all landed me. The months of torture I had endured all boiled over me that Sunday morning. And by Sunday evening I was being watched by a police officer. Not even a police officer. I think he was a security guard who had just graduated. So here I was all of my womanhood on display for someone still going through puberty who was probably more interested in twitter than keeping me safe. I was being monitored one on one so that I wouldn’t harm myself. My purse was taken away. My clothes gone.  I was left laying with a paper gown trying to plead with the doctor to not lock me up. I hadn’t shaved my legs or worn pretty underwear. My mother always told me to do these things. Although I am sure my mother never thought her daughter would be laid out on a gurney being evaluated by a psychiatrist that December morning. These are things that you think about and cry over when you realize that this may be the beginning to the end. My biggest fear was coming true. I was entering into a world I thought I would never return from.

I had had a “breakdown” years before when my car caught on fire with two of my kids in it. I was in a Starbucks drive thru and my toddler at the time started yelling “ MOMMY FIRE!” I turned around to the back seat to see flames coming up the side of the door at his feet. While the fire department came and put the fire out I sat and watched while holding my little ones. I had been alone for days as my husband was trying to piece his family back together in Ohio after his baby brother died suddenly. Nothing had made sense and I was losing it. After almost losing my children to dealing with the stress of a loss we could not comprehend I lost it. For two days I lie in bed heavily medicated and watched. My mother came to stay with me to make sure I remembered how to take care of myself and others. She made lists of things for me to follow. Brush your teeth. Make the bed. Pick up kids. The smallest things accomplished made me feel useful and needed.

But this is what grief and postpartum depression do. They take hold of your neck like a stranglehold and they continuously pull you down. They try to convince you that you will stay there forever. That your truth is the disease and not the overcomer. And here I was seven years later.

 I wanted to drown into the bed. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Please” I am pleading with him just don’t lock me up. This doctor who looks like someone I know. Someone I would be friends with if I were not naked and covered in paper. In my head I am going over the possible scenarios.

I know what it’s like.

I do.

I know how they over medicate. I know that they will put me in a room and give me pills that make me forget who I am. I know they will feed me with sporks and my children will never look me in the eyes again. I know that people at church will find out. I know they say that church is a place for the broken. But only broken enough that a conversation will fix. Messy is not even the beginning to describe what is going on. They say that they will look past this and forgive me. But they won’t. I know.  I know when they find out the truth or the truth they want to believe and start gossip prayer chains. It will be so far removed from what happened that I will never know whose knife I have in my back. I  know that  I  will be looked at as the “crazy mom who had to be locked up”  “ The mom who couldn’t handle it” “ The one who fell off the deep end”  I  know how I  will never be the same. I will never be who I was meant to be. This is how you think when you haven’t slept in days and are naked on a gurney.

I lie staring at the blue wall pleading to God to show up. Of any moment in my life this would be the time for him to reveal himself. I was willing to take a vision. In middle school some of my classmates said they saw the virgin Mary at a sleepover I was at. They swore they saw her on the living room wall. Although we also believed we could turn potato chips into communion during lunch hour and serve each other as a priest who talked with a lisp.

But in this moment. I needed God himself to be real. I didn’t need the truth of a disillusioned catholic school girl I needed the faith of a girl who literally was at her rock bottom. I lie there crying, shaking.  Begging Him to be real. In this moment of all moments in my life I needed to feel Him. To hear His voice. To feel His arms wrap around me. I pictured myself at His feet barely able to lift my head clinging to His ankles. Begging for mercy to be tangible. For this one moment all I ached for was hope.

 

 

Come to the table- an honest confession about my homosexual sister

A few days ago I sat across from the table with one of my most enduring friends. We have only been friends for a few years but the way we communicate you would have thought it’s been forever. She is the type of person your soul is drawn to expose itself to. A safe place where grace covers the door. Our two youngest are the best of friends. So while they were busy building a fortress for the ants they had found outside and disturbing anyone there to get any work done at the outdoor coffee shop, we sat across from each other and let the conversation take us to hearing/

We talked about the upcoming summer schedule and what that brought for both of us. We talked about Jesus and church and how we both understand they are not the same. We sat and we laughed and we talked and we heard each other. I crave these moments. Both being introverts we both felt like this time we had was sacred and protected. I began to talk to her about my frustrations with the church. How I am feeling the organic part of it never was and never will be. That I am programed to believe that we worship follows a program. That raising my hands can only be ok if everyone else in the room doesn’t feel uncomfortable. How I feel that if others could see behind my eyes and what I am raising my arms to they may see King Jesus on the throne with angels all around. That they could see the King of Glory with my face at his feet. That they could see my raising my hands has nothing to do with them and everything to do with how their own insecurities beckon them to believe that it does. I then opened my mouth and began to cry about how I have been feeling so lonely in a room of so many. Many who have walked our adoption journey. Our marriage roller coaster. And without a doubt these are my people. But how I don’t know how I fit into anymore. I don’t know how I got to the place where I am questioning things. Things that I had never thought about before when I was a new Christian and just eager to be around others who I thought had the same passions as I did. As I grew and learned and listened and asked questions I began to hear. Hear the same unsettled questions in those that were pulling away. And here we sat the two of us with coffee getting colder hearing what I needed to be heard.

I then started talking about my sister and I . A subject I don’t, I haven’t talked about with many.

My sister and I grew up in a home where eight years apart creates memories the other never got to experience. As we grew older though she and I were two peas in a pod. I adored my sister. She was brave and beautiful and said things that I was never brave enough to utter. She stood in the gap for the underdog and was more interested in becoming who she was then like I ,who was running from who I  didn’t want to be. In high school she “came out” and I fully supported her. I rallied around her and was her biggest cheerleader. I was still a baby myself having just left college with a new baby and no degree. I had no idea what I believed or didn’t believe. I just knew that I loved my sister more than anything and wanted her to be set free. As the years went by and I grew in my faith and then became engrossed in the church I started to develop a sense of pride about my faith and thus grew an ignorance wall. A wall around myself where nothing could shake what I believed. Not even love. So my self-righteousness was more important than maintaining my relationship with my sister. Painful years ensued. Things said and not said. Words thrown to keep the walls secure without noticing who they were tearing down.

I sat across from my friend with tears running down my face. I hadn’t realized how raw this memory still was. I asked her if we could still be friends. If I had ruined our relationship because I had just shown her a really ugly part of my heart.

She then said,

“No, you came to the table. You came to the table and brought who you are.”

That is what this is going to take. For all of us. To come to the table with truth. To admit what we believe and don’t believe. And to listen. Not to sit on our self-righteousness and call out the sin of others without looking in the mirror at ourselves. I am admitting that my anger and pride are sins that festered and grew into years of words unsaid. I wasn’t willing to come to the table. I wasn’t willing to hear only to be heard. That is such a lonely place to be. I needed to come to the table.

At the table there is love.

At the table there is grace.

At the table there is listening.

At the table there is peace.

At the table there is healing.

At the table there is forgiveness.

At the table, there I am.

I am at the table with my sister now. I am trying to hear her. I am asking forgiveness for years I should have drawn closer. I am at the table with a heart that is broken with shame. I am wading through the process of truth and hope. I am soaking in the laughter and memories in the moments we are given.

My sister. She is leaving next week. Moving thousands of miles away with her wife. My heart is so sad and tender about the goodbyes to people I love. I keep thinking if I wish it away the moving truck will never show up.

Yet again I know. She and I. We are still at the table. We are figuring it all out. How to rebuild what we fearfully tore apart.

The table is just needs to stretch to Colorado now.