A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.

Why you need to send out fat Christmas cards.

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were not alone and neither are you.

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

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

Be a village of truth and healing.

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

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

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

 

Christmas did not come on a stage.

I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. Tragedy is like that, it weaves itself around you like a tangled mess of fear. Body covered with a paper gown that could hide nothing but the clean underwear my mother always told me to wear. I wasn’t in an accident. My mind was leaving me. I was becoming who I feared I always would be. The girl who walked towards the darkness. One exhausted from running anymore so she let it swallow her. Here I was naked in powder blue room with my dignity being written down on the clipboard the nurse held.

That Christmas we had Doritos on the table for dinner. It explained where we were. Where life held us.

When sadness comes and presses down its weighted blanket over you, Christmas expectations leave you paralyzed.

Yet when we realize that we are expectant of misconstrued things,

we realize our souls ache for the stable and not the stage,

it is there we hear the babies cry.

On days like today.

Weeks like we’ve had.

We pray to feel the straw on our knees. To be waiting for the King to arrive.

On nights where the pillow holds our prayers from the wrestling of his sovereignty all we can do is

wake and whisper honest truths to the one whose breath we breathe.

That Christmas from years ago still haunts me and draws me closer.

Closer to the stable. Closer to the cry in the night. Closer to the waiting. Closer to the peace that came. Closer to the pain that needed to come first.

Dear one, if you are in the pain. If you are crawling with the agony that pushes you forward and pulls you back in. If you feel like you are the only one looking for a place to rest. If you can’t catch your footing on the cobbled road.

Walk forward. Keep expecting the inn.

The stable is there.

Look around dear one.  You are not alone. The others are waiting there quietly crying with you. Bended. With knees bloodied from the pain that brought them there. Pushing through the straw to see that Peace has come.

Hold yourself there.

Quiet your mind and hear the voice this year you’ve been aching to hear.

Your KING has come dear one. He has come.

Draw closer to the stable not to the stage.

With stages all around us. The productions. The crowds. The money. The more. He is not there.

 

Christmas came through the pain and suffering of a mother.

With miles traveled in fear.

Christmas came through a doubtful father.

Dirt on their faces.

Christmas came with doors closed and strangers gathered closer.

Christmas came seeking a foreign place of safety when the world was sleeping.

 

Christmas came in the anguished screams on a silent night.

 

So sweet one. If you find yourself searching and alone. If you find yourself with doors closed and being turned away. If you find yourself foreign in a land that does not welcome you in. If you find yourself traveling thinking this is your forever. If you find yourself crying in anguish or doubtful that things will never change.

You have found Christmas.

Hold close. The angels will be singing soon.

To the weary mother in the waiting room,

 

I see you.

Staring at the wall.

Aching for the other moms across the room to make eye contact. Yet afraid of being noticed. Or drawing any attention to yourself.

Holding in each breath, waiting for someone to whisper,

 you are not alone.

I see you struggling to keep fear inside as it wears itself as anger across your face.

Sweet one, we both know why we are here.

I know that what brought you into this room is hard. It is not a quick twenty minute visit. It is not a prescription that needs to be refilled once.  This is something that a Band-Aid cannot fix.

I know the reasons you are here, and you cannot utter them out loud. No one is making a t-shirt or tying a ribbon for what you are living with. You wish you could speak of why you are here. You wish that you could tell those in your life the truth of what is going on behind closes doors.

But the thing is.

You can’t.

This truth is too much.

You can’t talk about why you are here. Or who is here. It is not your story to tell. It is just your story to carry on our shoulders every moment of the day.

I know you are exhausted.

I know you just want this to be over and it crushes your spirit that it is only beginning.

This is what grief does. It tires your bones. It wraps itself around you and pushes hope away.

I see you sitting there and for a moment when you are finally alone,

you close your eyes.

You need these moments to just be.

To not be in charge. To not make decisions.

You need this moment to search for a place of rest. To make sense of all of these thoughts and fears taking control of your mind.

To search for the lost part of your soul. The part where you knew what to do. You knew what answers to give.

I see you with papers laid before you.

Saying yes to questions you never thought you’d have to answer.

Filling in lines of history that shame tells you, you carried here.

Sweet one. I see you.

I see how tired and worn you are.

You long for just one night of peaceful sleep.

You ache for just one hour to feel “normal” again.

Breathing in that this is your new normal.

Hold close sweet one,

and exhale mercy painting a picture of grace.

I know today was hard. It was heart wrenching,

even many tomorrows this may not be restored.

But here in this room. In this room filled with magazines of lives we will never have, this is a safe place.

It is a silent space, where your pain is heard.

It is a place where no advice is given. No looks of pity or judgement.

We will not tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

We will not lay shame on your shoulders only grace.

We have all carried in years of pain and we are laying it here.

We are leaving it all here.

We are laying all late nights

All the answers that we have and those we are afraid to hear.

You are not the only one sweet one. I know you feel like you are.

I know you feel like this is the loneliest room you will ever be in.

But sweet one look around. You are not alone.

I am you. And you are me.

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.

Sorry Richard Marx I am so over you…..

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear parents, stop being your child’s redeemer.

When we were younger we were thrown into the lake and told to paddle. It was more of a “sink or swim” literally type of parenting. With waves hitting us in the face and bathing suits filled with sand this is how we were brought up. Either you learned how to swim or you sat on the beach and made sandcastles with your grandma. Both things were great, but how many times can you trickle sand on top of a pile before you want to eat the sand or take your chances at drowning? My youngest sister was thrown into a pool off the diving board and we watched her struggle to the top. Yes, I understand this is dangerous and not recommended by anyone. But we grew up in West Michigan where not knowing how to swim was as taboo as not having your hunting license. Here we were blonde haired sun kissed kids who knew we had to learn to do things on our own if we didn’t want to be left at shore.

I am not saying that my dad wouldn’t have dove into the water to save us and called in the coast guard in a moment’s notice. I am saying that my parents taught us to swim but they also let us fail.

They did not do our homework. They did not call the coach or teacher when we didn’t make the team. They didn’t call the director or gossip to other mom’s when we didn’t make the play. They didn’t run to the store in the middle of night to get a poster board because we forgot to do our project. They did not bring our work to school if we left it at home. They did not run a taxi service for us and our friends. They lived their lives and we were a part of it. Not all of it.

When my oldest was in elementary school I did her homework. I admit it. I did it all the time. Of course I let her write it, but essentially I redid grade school. (And I don’t want to brag but I totally rocked it the second time around.) This past weekend we were looking at pictures of some of those years. My eldest was pointing out to me how amazing “her” story boards and science displays were. How precise and clean. I was so determined that she would be a good student and admired by her teachers that I “helped” her on more than one occasion. If I am honest I was there was a direct correlation between my pride and others perception of me as a parent than her actual academic achievements. Somehow her succeeding was more important to my ego than letting her swim.

If you look at pictures of my second child’s projects you can see that I had obviously learned my lesson. I had discovered that I didn’t want to be “that mom”. I didn’t want to redo elementary school again. I didn’t have time to make sure things were perfect. I had learned that I needed to teach her how to make decisions and choices and not make them for her. I could not go with her to college and if I did then we had major issues to deal with besides homework.

By the time the fifth child came around we were just lucky to remember to bathe him once a week much less fill out any homework on time. Sorry Michelle Duggar I totally fail at big family parenting 101.

When one of the kids got into a lot of trouble with technology I wanted to fix it. Yes I was angry. I was angry at myself for not catching it earlier. I was angry at the people involved. I was angry at the child for not telling us what was going on. I was embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening under my roof and I didn’t know. I was upset that I had just spent hours at a seminar on parenting and now I was actually going to have to apply it. I was just angry I could not control it. I wanted to save her. And the truth was I was angry that I couldn’t.

I met with a friend later that morning. I cried over coffee and some sweet pastry I shouldn’t have been eating. She reminded me of something I had forgotten.

You are not her Redeemer.

She will never know who her Redeemer is if you keep saving her.

If we keep saving our kids. If we keep doing their homework. If we keep waiting on them hand and foot. If we keeping rescuing them they will never need the Rescuer.

I needed to. I need to let all of my kids fail. I need to let them learn to swim on their own.

This past week I watched her win another track meet. I watched her strong muscular legs strike the pavement and cross the finish line. She did this. On her own. She learned to run on her own. She learned to win on her own. By the scars on her legs and arms she has fallen many times. I didn’t make her stop running or run the race for her. I let her run. I let her fail.

But in the end she will know I am not her redeemer.

There is only ONE who can save her.

 

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.