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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

More Than

I feel myself hardening like melted chocolate that was one time all warm and gooey but has been left out on the counter top, unprotected too long from the air. I want to be all soft and melted again. I want to be fluid not rigid and tasteless so I grab more tissues boxes from the cabinet and walk downstairs.

“Jesus. Make me soft again.”

And I know that He is trying.

I get a text and am asked if I have time to talk. I want to give the asshole response I’ve been given several times when I’ve asked the same question, “About what?” but I don’t. I say nothing.

I sit at the desk and realize that this is exactly where I have wanted to be for a long time though I did not want it to be this to bring me to this crossroad. I know I am for reasons that far surpass my current situation. This is more than a marriage issue. This is an issue within each of us, not only together but individually.

Maybe it’s a place in me I have always wanted to go but just haven’t had the guts to and this is my opportunity.

This thought takes the edge off a bit and my heart feels heavier and not as light. Maybe heavy isn’t a bad thing, I can feel heavy. I can’t always feel light so perhaps the lightness my heart has been feeling is because it’s been left out on the countertop too long unprotected and its beginning to dry up.

He walks in and sees me sitting at the desk and says nothing. I think he’s hiding his heart behind a text. Maybe texting makes him feel courageous and safe when all I want is his flesh, for him to approach me himself but he doesn’t and he walks back out. I try to see him for who he is; the father of my children and a man whose heart is big and I know is full of good intentions. I try to see the Lord in him but all I see at the moment is a man hiding behind a text, trying to take a short cut.

I am wrong. He is courageous and brave and eventually walks back through the door and faces me heart first. The conversation throughout the day goes from bad to doable to worse and I eventually go to bed resolving that this will never work. There’s too much hurt, too much blame and too many justifications and I don’t even know how or where to begin sorting things out.

I tell myself it may be easier to just start again, like a new life, but I don’t even know what starting again would look like. Try again hasn’t worked. So I start another day by saying, “Jesus make me soft again.”

Maybe I’ll start there. Longing to be softer.

 

Waves

I woke up this morning and am angry all over again. Perhaps my anger never left like I had hoped. Maybe it just comes in waves and is as natural and as normal as the sea. I think this is so. I’m in the angry phase and in this particular case, I’d have to say it’s allowed and legit.

I’m angry because I’ve ordered 160 Christmas cards with our family pictured perfectly. I’m angry I just bought stamps and then extra stamps because the envelopes are square and you need extra stamps for square envelopes and now I have to do something with them. I have to mail pictures of my people taken on the day than none of us really knew that we were falling apart

In my opinion, emotional affairs or misguided friendships (as is our current situation) is worse than sexual ones. They don’t happen haphazardly over night and don’t take place in the backseat of someones car. They happen in someone’s heart and in the daily sharing and presence. What starts out as innocently sharing ends up being incredibly ravenous and eventually, if left unchecked, destroys trust and breaks hearts.

Our marriage had fractured long before this moment, his doing, my doing, our doing and lots of miscommunication, but we chose to keep stepping forward on a film of thin ice and now we’ve all fallen through. It’s obvious now that weekend get aways could not save us. Victoria Secrets lingerie could not either nor could freshly painted bedrooms and new beds. But our hearts could have. Our hearts could have if we could have both agreed to continuously and intentionally meet in the middle. It’s all just too sad that we didn’t.

This is bullshit.

Sadness floods me for my family.

I come downstairs and silence reigns in our home. He slept again on the couch and the kids aren’t yet awake and we sidestep around each other at the coffee pot. It almost seems like our normal routine but then I remember my anger and I know that it’s not.

Anger has filled the places where longing for more or accepting what is used to be. I wonder if it will ever change. I am sure that it will.

This is what I tell myself.

I grab my Bible and head to the couch. I need Jesus and since my anger is making it hard for Him to come and sit in my space, I’ll go to Him and sit in His. I hold it in my hands and plead.

Please.”

My reading plan has me in Matthew and I’m at 1:23. Its ends with “God became one of us” which also translates to “God with us” or “God amongst us” and it is enough for me to know that Jesus sits with me in my anger. He is riding along side me on my wave. He is dwelling in every moment, in every thought and feeling along the way.

I trust that this moment is bigger than just THIS small snag. I’d like to believe we can work through and will come out stronger on the other side but for now I resolve that I will.

 

unknowing 

Sometimes I think it may be better to not know, because once you know, you can’t unknow and if you don’t carefully guard your mind and your heart, you end up finding yourself wanting to know more than what is best. 

And knowing really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

My little checks in my gut about my husband turned out to be correct. I’ve been sucker punched and all day I have rode a roller coaster of emotions ranging from anger to sadness to confusion and denial and then back to anger all mixed together with a numbness I can’t control, smothered in my tears. I’ve tried to discover the extent of the communication that has been taking place but all my digging did was make my mind wander and me feel lost. 

I realized in the midst of doing so, trying to get mad at someone or trying to make sense of something, trying to gain a better understanding of why or what or when isn’t going to do me any good. It’s happened. Whatever has been done. All of my incessant questioning is doing is building in me continued anger and hurt. It makes me feel like it’s my fault, that maybe I could of done different, been different. 

I am not responsible for what has happened but I am responsible for me. I am responsible for how I respond and what I allow in and out of my heart. 

I have to keep moving forward and stay focused. I have to keep seeking the bigger picture and do my best to let the emotions come and the emotions go. I need to allow let this hurt and disappointment to burn as it needs to but I can’t stoke the fire trying gain understanding or make sense. There is no understanding what is incomprehensible. There is no beginning or end to it. It will never make sense and finding all the details out won’t make it. 

This too I must learn to embrace. 

I have to make this particular enemy my friend or rage, anger and sadness will destroy me. It’s now on the list of choices and decisions I have to make that wasn’t on my list a week ago. 

This is going to take time. I can’t rush. I can’t fix. 

So in the meantime, I’ll do the next thing. 

I’ll go to my meeting. I’ll smile and be polite. If someone asks me how I’m doing, I will give them nod that says “Perhaps I’ve been better but at least I showed up” and then I’ll go home and since there wasn’t much sleep last night, I’ll take a small little blue pill and tomorrow will be another day. 

The Sweater

I put a new sweater on and it helps temporarily but within minutes, the newness fades and I begin to feel the same again, same ole same ole and nothing in me has changed. I wonder why I continually put my hope in a sweater. 

All morning, forgiveness has been on my mind. Forgive and then forgive again. Wake up and forgive a thousand more times. I want to and I try but my sweater tells me my attempts are not working and I’m continually face to face with the harsh reality of my life. My marriage is dying and I believe my husband is having an affair of sorts; whatever “of sorts” is, it is evident that his heart is no longer in our home. 

We began to reach an all time low two years ago but we pushed through becuase of business, becuase of kids. We’ve gotten used to the facade and have perfected how to make things look and lateley, he has stopped putting on a show and has stopped showing up altogether. He doesn’t pretend anymore. But I do. Me in my sweater pretends I can hold it all together and I wear it to try to fill in the empty places and fix the problem pieces but my attempts are futile. I woke up this morning and my plan was to show up to church with a big smile and good answers but inside, I feel ratty and torn and fake in my new sweater. 

My fixes are no longer fixing. 

Writing all this makes me feel courageous and brave. That it is real instead of just one more thing in my marriage that gets swept under the rug and not talked about. I say it here becuase maybe Jesus will hear me becuase He’s not hearing me any other place so it seems. Maybe if it’s all written out in black and white, He’ll hear my heart and give strength to endure and try again when I want to quit. Maybe this is a cry for help, for another human being, even one I don’t know, to sit in my space with me so I don’t feel quite so alone. 

Writing may not help me just as new sweaters cannot fix me. I feel my skin itch underneath it and long for it to be soft and more tender. I want it to envelope me whole and hold me tight but it just scratchy and fake. 

Becuase that is how it feels. 

Life, like my sweater, feels much like that. 

All the flags are waving and I’d be remiss not to notice them. I resolve to talk to him whenever he comes home. 

“Prepare your heart.”

It is all that I hear.

My Gift

We all have our first memories and I’ve spent most of my life wondering why I’ve had mine. My memory makes me feel broken, jealous, lost and confused. My memory ultimately makes me feel sad; I should have a better first memory. Who do I talk to about this? There should be sunlight and puppies. There should be laughter and cupcakes. My first memory should include these things. Yes. But it doesn’t. It involves running and hiding and tears.

My sister and I are almost four years a part, technically three years and so many days. The very moment my mother walked through the door with my sister in her arms, I knew life was going to be different. That I would be. This is probably typical for all siblings welcoming another into the home. It’s hard on everyone and there is an awkward adjustment phase. Birth order is introduced. Everyone likely jockeys for position in some form or another. For me, I just remember running and hiding behind a little white rocking chair in my bedroom and my grandmother getting down on all fours and coaxing me out.

“Take her back.” 

It’s all I remember hearing myself say and with the end of those words comes the end of that memory.

The only thing I feel when I think of that memory is sadness. Sad that I felt that way about a sister I love and sad that as little as four years old, I was operating out of such a place as lack.

Take her back. There is not enough room here as it is.

Years later I would discover that my parents married because my mother was pregnant with me. I grew up believing they had to, not really wanting to and the next few years would continually reinforce that theory. Times were stressful and tight and I believe I had felt my families struggle even then.

I obviously could not fix their marriage nor could the birth of my sister and I knew it.

I’d like to believe they were doing their best as any of us would given the circumstance and I was abundantly aware I was the circumstance. If I was going to know abundance, I wish now I had known the abundance of real love, love that fills in every nook and cranny. But I didn’t.

But I do now.

So I sit and ask Jesus where He was on that day, in that house filled with angst and voids because I want my heart to be healed and He laughs.

“I was in your sister August. She was my gift to you so you would not be alone.”

I smile. I exhale and then I sigh. I had never thought of her a gift. But she was.

She is.

I lay in bed and am filled instantaneously with hope. Maybe this is how it is done. Maybe this is how I make friends with my enemies. I don’t know. I am now tired and emotionally exhausted but I sleep and I sleep well for the very first time in months.

Where the Mean Kids Are

It is amazing what your kids tell you when they have you to themselves. When they have you and your undivided attention and they know you are not distracted by your phone or some other conversation you are trying to keep up with and you allow the silence to settle, they open themselves up all wide and reveal to you their truths. “Mom, there were mean kids there.”

“Mean kids? What kind of mean kids?” As if there are different kinds.

“Some boys made fun of me tonight while we were playing dodge ball. They said I couldn’t hit them if they stood directly in front of me. They told me I suck.”

I pulled into our driveway real slow and he opened his door to get out and I was not too far behind.

“I’m sorry. There will always be mean kids. Don’t let them stop you from showing up.”

As a mom, as his, I want to protect him from this hurt. Especially from being hurt THERE. Our kids have not been a part of a youth group for several years. We’ve given them space, we have all needed it just a bit but it is time to regroup and build some connections and get involved. But where? All of our kids are different. Some don’t mind showing up in a group without really knowing anybody and others feel completely out of their element in doing so. My last two teens need a strong connection FIRST and THEN they step into something so last night, my son went to a new church and a new youth group with a friend he is very comfortable with. It was a HUGE step for him.

And now this. The mean kids.

I’ve been reading Brene’ Browns new book called “Braving the Wilderness.” I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is timely and needed. Please, if you are looking for a good read that is mind and heart provking and empowering, put this book in your Amazon cart. You will have it Saturday and can read it this wekeend. It’s about belonging and fitting in…with ourselves. She says, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who were are; it requires us to BE who we are.”

Everywhere and anywhere.

My son walked ahead of me as I spoke those words and had already walked into the house by the time I reached our side gate. As I walked through the front door, I heard him go up the steps to his room. He needed some time. Later he emerged and was hurriedly getting his homework out of his backpack and was heading to the table to do his work. I grabbed his arm. “Hey. I love you.”

“I love you too.” That was all he could muster and it was enough. I thought of the things I could say, all the truths I could speak but sometimes you just need to practice being present. Presence says a lot you know, just being WITH someone and letting them know you are there. That they are loved. That you are not going anywhere.

My son is going to have to learn, like me, like all and any of us how to stand in WHO we are. We have to learn that we won’t always fit in and we won’t always throw the ball hard and hit our target squarely. People won’t like how we look or what we have to say and sometimes, most times, people wear their insecurities discretely and they project their hurts aimlessly and without thought and their comments and actions have NOTHING TO DO WITH US. Mean kids are everywhere, even in Church. I’ve had a mean kid. I’ve been one. We ALL say and DO ridiculously stupid things. We drop our comments like bombs and walk away thinking that we did not leave destruction in our wake but we do.

Words and actions matter.

We have to learn that despite whatever is going on with others, INSIDE others, we have to keep showing up US. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE. We have to make this one of our golden rules, that we will not compromise ourselves for another human being. We will not.

I hope my son goes back. I hope he tries again. I hope he does not let two boys who are probably one of your kids, who could be one of mine, stop him from playing dodgeball and inserting himself in uncomfortable places, like a new youth group.

That’s my hope. But the decision is his. He will have to decide, just like me, just like all and any of us that he is worth being seen. He is worth being heard. He is worth being present.

You are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong everyplace – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.  – Maya Angelou

 

The Fray

I woke up this morning and came down the stairs. Same ole, same ole. Get the coffee brewing, load the dishwasher and get the kitchen in order for the morning. It’s my morning routine for almost ever. I made my way to the living room and opened the front door to take the dogs out and that’s when I saw it. Carpet shreds were all over the floor. I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee yet here I was, standing in my living room needing SOMETHING to make sense out of all that I saw. A lump formed quickly in the pit of my stomach and I no longer needed to make sense, I knew. The dog had dug a small little hole in the carpet right at the edge of where the hard wood from the dining room connects with the carpet from the living at some point in the middle of the night. I looked at her as she looked at me.

This was not how I wanted to start my day.

This has happened before. Same dog. Same carpet, different tiny edge and that time I blamed it on the kids for their lack of caring for her while we were away but here I was, caring for her and still.

I could not cover this up with a rug. I tried. Believe me I tried. “Maybe no one will notice.” This is my thinking because if my husband sees yet another small area of our carpet missing, our new carpet, our installed-less-than-a-year-ago carpet, he will dislike dogs even more so than he does now. Then I think to myself that maybe no one will notice, maybe I am the only one that walks with their head down in their home looking for dirt or socks and shoes or pieces of frayed and dug up carpet. Maybe.

Then the idea hits me. I will try hot gluing my carpet back together. Yes, that may work. I will plug in the hot glue gun and lay on my stomach just so and piece by piece I will put my carpet back together again. I resolve that this is what I’ll do and I say not a word. My family wakes up and one by one they come downstairs and I was right, no one but me looks down. No one cares quite like I do.

This is what I tell myself.

And so I begin. Piece by piece my carpet is put back together, made whole, and I wonder how long this will last. Maybe if we step delicately around it, it will stick. I realize this is what I do. I fix. I mend and I patch. I step delicately. I get scared that someone is going to see the empty places, that even having empty and barren patches is bad. It’s not right. No one else around me seems to be secretly struggling yet here I am, on my stomach fixing wondering why Jesus hasn’t yet fixed me.

I am still broken and I feel it.

“Jesus take this hot glue gun and make my frays stick so my edges are straight again.”

I realize that most if not all the struggle is within myself. There are large parts of my life that have been boxed up and put away in some room of my house. Boxed up out of shame. Boxed up out of guilt. Boxed up because unboxing would most likely make others feel bad or would implicate them negatively in some way. But that is me, always thinking  about how me being me would make others feel and how can I protect them from my truth and all of sudden, that thought makes me feel so sad and I feel as naked as the carpet patch I am trying so hard to repair.

I realize that it’s just not certain areas of my life that are boxed up but that I am. I wrote about abuse last week on my FB wall and encouraged men and woman to SCREAM, to speak up if they are being abused in any way and it was the first time I’ve given myself permission to speak publicly because I’ve denied it for so long except to a small circle of family and friends. I had no idea what suffering through 23 years of abuse and another 21 years of silence would do and how it would erode away my very identity and cloak me in layers of lies that are not so easily dispelled but here I am, still afraid but no longer silent.

I need to make friends with my enemy and I know it. If I do not, my enemy is going to drown me and I feel it. The water is far past the point of lapping around my feet.

 

To Church or Not to Church

Last Sunday I woke up early and came down stairs. I made a pot of coffee, took the dogs out and found myself standing before the jelly cupboard, reaching for the candle. I wanted to light it but anymore, lighting candles in our home usually means company is coming or the house is occupied for more than just a few hours.

And we did not have company coming.

I felt it in my soul, the need to stay home and it burned in me with an intense longing for a friend you haven’t seen in a very long time. I wanted to stay in my pajamas, to make breakfast and to stroll around in my home all day long at my leisure. I quickly opened the calendar on my phone and looked at the week ahead. This would be the only day where I could be here and every ounce of me needed it because life has grown big and I’m finding if I don’t take care of myself and purposefully slow it all down, I suffer. WE all do.

“Is it ok if we don’t go to Church today?” 

I didn’t think he’d argue and he didn’t so with that, I made my husband and my son breakfast and proceeded to enjoy my day at home to the fullest.

I cooked.

I cleaned.

I watched a movie.

I wrote.

I cooked.

I cleaned.

And I ended it all with a bath.

Glorious.

Years ago, I would have never intentionally skipped Church. If we wern’t there, it’s because one of us was home with the flu and I was afraid if we came, someone would throw up in the middle of the message. I remember having babies and going to Church with a bundle in my arm just days old. Church, to me, was everything. I had to show up and be present; to minister or preach or teach or smile. There was praying to do and love to give. I was always present. Always up front. Always. And now here I am, many years later and far from most of how these things all looked and I see Church in a whole different way.

It’s no longer a place I go to. It’s WHO I am.

With that all being said, the question really isn’t “To Church or not to Church?” The question is, “To Jesus or not to Jesus?”

Am I going to listen to Him? Plain and simple.

When Church is not a place that you go TO, but is WHO you are, you find yourself thinking out of the box about everything. I realize now, Church used to represent a checklist and if I showed up and attended, check. Over the years it’s became more and more relational with the people inside of the building till soon, relationships began to bloom inside AND outside those four walls. Now days if I know my connection level with others is good and Jesus is my focus, I don’t feel the pressure to check Church off my list.

You can’t check something off that is ongoing.

Jesus knows my heart and what I ultimately need most. He knows when I’m taking a short cut or calling it quits or hiding. He knows when I’m physically tired and when I’m mentally exhausted and when I just miss the comforts of my own four walls and need a break from the rat race of life. Seriously friends, especially those of you IN the Church…if getting up on a Sunday morning and going is just something that you DO because it is part of your regular routine…

WHY?

I can’t answer that question for you but I do encourage you to ask yourself, WHY am I doing what I am doing? Going to Church is good. IT IS NEEDED. Anytime we all come together, it is a beautiful necessity but you must take the time to regroup and take care of yourself and sometimes, for me (Mark 6:31), that day only falls on a Sunday. When does it fall for you? It is a holy experience when you intentionally reconnect not only with what you need most but with the One who provides ultimate rest.

Know what YOU need.

Jesus is your ultimate audience.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” -Matthew 11:29

 

What You Are Looking For?

For those of you who are friends with me, you then know that our two oldest kids recently enlisted and our serving in our country’s military. And for those of you who don’t, you may have been spared because I am THAT Mom. I never thought I would be but I am and it is my mother’s fault. Her endless championing and cheering me on is in my DNA. She always showed up to everything and was proud…REGARDLESS. I hope I can be even half of who she is.

When our son went to bot camp for the Marines, he was lucky enough to leave on the same day as three other boys from our town…all the same age and all from the same school. And because he was lucky, as his mother that made me lucky too because I instantly had three new friends. MoM’s, or now known as Mother of Marines. The day they all left for Parris Island, we exchanged phone numbers and instantly began a text group where we cried together and asked questions and shared what we knew. The first month, maybe two of boot campy was the worst for me. I remember crying all the time and praying more than that. I knew what the Drill Instructors were most likely having to do to make a Marine out of my son and thought of it made my heart sink on a regular basis. My but MoM’s…they were my lifeline.

During this time, I also joined a Facebook group specifically for family and friends of young men and women at Parris Island all graduating on the same date and in the same Company. It was such a helpful group, the administrators were all MoM’s or Marine Veterans themselves and they shared so much helpful information. Another lifeline.

BUT.

There was this one MoM. I just couldn’t even…

Friends, it was painful.

Every time her face came through my feed, my brain hurt. I’m just being honest. I did not want to think ill thoughts of her but I did. AND I LOVE MOST ALL PEOPLE.

Most.

She talked about her life. She made videos about what she learned at Church. She shared the most ridiculous Meme’s and talked incessantly about nothing to do with The Marines. It drove me crazy because this was a support group/information page to help families through boot camp and here she was using this page as her own personal platform.

Long story short, it ended sort of badly for a bit. I posted and asked publicly for clarification on the group’s purpose and I became to some the party pooper of the group. Militant? Yes, I can be obviously but she was majorly breaking the rules!!!! So in the end, TO SURVIVE, I blocked her after she made fun of our boys going through the gas chamber. She thought it was hilarious that they would get sick and wig out and was CONVINCED they would ALL laugh one day.

Can I just tell you how much I prayed THAT day?

The whole thing has never really sat well with me till recently. First off, I do not enjoy blocking people and making them nonexistent to me. It actually bothers me quite a bit and I am not quite sure why but it does. Second, I needed to better understand, besides being ANNOYED, why this woman rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously folks, the other 900 members of this group all kept it professional. It was about our recruits, our questions, needing help, wanting prayer or having a bad day because we missed our kids. It was not about US and about OUR HAIR or about the WEEKEND TRIP WITH OUR HUSBANDS. 

One day last week I was washing dishes. My hands were in the sink and all of a sudden THIS dropped into my consciousness, “She wanted friendship. You had friendship and wanted information but she wanted friendship.”

I have stared with a blank look before, many a time, but never have I felt I stared so blankly. Like a street pigeon at the sink blinking a way, that was me.

It was true. I had my MoM’s. I had my family and my friends who were amazing. I literally got on that page to get as much information as I could since I was new to this whole thing and I was terrified and excited and I was like a sponge absorbing it all. I did not NEED anything more than what I wanted, at least not from that page and the people in it. However, her need was different.

Sometimes our prayers don’t really get answered right away. Sometimes the revelation we seek comes to us at the most random times, like at the sink when your hand are immersed in hot, soapy water. But they always do and that day I prayed when my son was experiencing the gas chamber, I prayed to see her heart because I was so frustrated at the sight of it. I had stopped long ago seeing her for WHO she was because she became a thorn in my flesh that I could not quite get out. I didn’t really want to see her heart, but I knew with my head it was the right thing to pray and obviously now looking back, this was a me thing and had nothing to do with poor !^%&#)!  *(**%@

(Names have been change to protect the innocent or maybe characters have replaced letters to mask my swear words. Take your pick).

I am convinced Jesus showed me heart, that she longed for friendship and a family and lo and behold, the Marine Corps is just that. Did she go a little too far? Yes. Unquestionably. But her heart longed, it craved to be seen and to be heard. When I saw all of this last week, I became softer around the edges where I had been a little rough.

 

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  – 1 Samuel 16:7

 

It is easy to get caught up in what people say or do, sometimes I even get tripped up over words never spoken…things I THINK should be said but aren’t. I know not to focus on what I see and hear but my flesh often burns if I don’t so I give in to make myself temporarily feel better. But is a temporary band-aid because heart knows better.

I know what I was looking for by joining that group in that particular season of my life and here I am, walking along without any other military Mom’s to cry with or text or ask questions as our daughter is at boot camp for the Navy. She left all alone almost two weeks ago so Navy support groups ARE my lifeline for connection. I find myself being a bit more friendlier, a bit more personal and not so information focused. There is a purpose and a season for both. I know what I need and I hope in the future, I can remember to look at the heart of person I just don’t get, that I would seek to understand them better, even if we are both looking for different things.

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