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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

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marriage

worth more than glue

When I was sixteen, my father beat with the shoes I took off my feet upon coming home from work after taking my boss’s mother to her house. She did not drive and I was later than normal, home later than expected, but I was honest with my accounts however my honesty did not help. I was still beaten for being late because I supposedly was lying about where I’d been.

I ran out the door that night in my barefoot, in the pouring down rain, desperate. I ran across town to my boyfriend’s house and his family welcomed me and my tears into their home. They called my parents and told them I would be at their house for the night and I knew it would be a very long night for it was the first time I ever told anyone that my father beat me.

The next morning I went home to silence and for weeks that silence continued. I had shared our families secret and heard the message loud and clear.

“You are to be like glue and keep our family together. You do not come undone and share our secrets.”

Fast forward years later and it’s weeks before my wedding day. Same thing: sudden rage and a beating. This time I am standing outside my parents farmhouse holding a laundry basket of clothes my mother had just folded for me, my two-year old daughter nearby.

I go home afterwards and cry for hours nursing a headache that won’t go away.

But I am glue. I keep our family together and I don’t give myself any consideration. My father walks me down the aisle despite my knowing deep within myself I don’t want him to but since appearances are everything, I take his left arm in mine and smile.

I’ve hated myself everyday since and it has nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with a little girl who gave up her voice at the expense of squeezing herself into a mold she was not made for.

Now, many years later, I find myself sitting nauseated in a lawyer’s office. I realize that despite whatever the outcome, being there was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done in my life. In my entire life.

I was standing up for me. AS me.

All my life I have found my worth and value in other people and in things, in doings and the like and when those things are good and pretty, when all is going well, I am enough.

And when things aren’t…well. You can imagine.

I have tethered myself to the whipping pole because it’s what I’ve deserved. Surely it must be what I’ve deserved becuase I’ve done wrong and I’ve done right and the results are forever the same: I am not valuable.

Because who beats their grown daughter in front of her own?

I’ve felt like a dog.

Oh to go back to that day and say, “Enough.”

But I can’t go back. All I can do is make peace with my enemy and forgive myself for doing the best that I can, even if the best that I can was not right for me.

“You are the glue that holds are family together.” My husband said these words to me a couple of months ago and I bore the weight. I felt the heaviness of “Suck it up and carry on.” I should want to be glue. Glue sounds capable and strong, almost noble. Like something I could robe myself in as a woman, especially as a mother. But I don’t want to be glue. I don’t want to keep on keeping on, my right arm interlocked in the cusp of everyone else’s for the sake of what?

For the sake of WHO? Jesus?

Is that what it means in real-time with my every-day-life to take up my cross and follow Him? Is that what “laying down my life for my friends” looks like?

Please someone tell me because all I know is that I have this voice inside of me telling me to listen. That it is o.k. to listen. To listen to what I’ve always known deep within myself but been too afraid to stand in.

Because it’s easier to tie myself back to the whipping pole than it is to stand firm in my own truths, which at the end of the day are rooted in His.

I am worth more than glue.

HE says so.

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My Fakest Life

“I feel like I’m living my fakest life.”

These are the words I spoke out loud seven days ago to my husband and now here today, I have a 1:00 PM appointment with a lawyer.

“It’s just an appointment,” I say but I know it is more than. It’s the start of me even though some would say it’s the end.

I say it’s the start. Some say the end. Who am I going to believe?

I choose me.

I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. All of it. Every single day I wake up and for the most part, I aim to please. My decisions are largely based off of what you would think and if you’ve given me your opinion, I most likely pay heed. Can I keep peace? Can I make you happy and maintain status quo and do all the needed and expected things?

Seriously, I can’t. Not one single day more.

Twenty-three years ago I found myself as a single mother with a wedding dress. I discovered I was pregnant in October, was to be married in June after I graduated from college but by Thanksgiving, my fiancé was gone and I was living in the spare bedroom of my parents farmhouse dejected and confused.

And without realizing it, my guild-ridden self began looking for a father for my daughter. A good man.

And I found one.

But here we are, almost twenty-one years later and are at an impasse. I can and will no longer beg or plead for communication and since it has been recommended that I do not publicly share these very private parts of my life that involve other people, I will speak for me, OF me.

Because NOT speaking about this very large part of my life is deafening, almost drowning and it does me no good to pretend this is not happening. I will not live a fake life.

I know WHO I am and one of my nonnegotiable’s is communication. I need it in order to work through anything and if I cannot talk about the things I need to work through, I don’t see movement and I am no longer willing to remain at cross roads wondering which way to go.

So despite not feeling great about it, I will take a step. I will continue to remain open but I am not willing to sacrifice my non-negotiable. I’ve secretly battled within myself for months and openly hoped things would change and go in another direction but they haven’t. I’ve battled if it’s wrong or if it’s right because as one who loves Jesus, taking these steps are incredibly complicated and conflicting. I have seen what NOT communicating has done over time and I refuse to repeat the negative and unhealthy patterns for the safe of maintaining a nice home and the semblance of a family.

My children deserve a better example.

I’d like to say I do but there’s a large part of me that says, “No. Lay your life down for your friends. Sacrifice” but friends, if you only knew where we’ve been and where we’ve dangerously been heading…

I just can’t.

So I won’t just write about the happy things. I won’t just share the good times. That has never been me and trying to people please in order to maintain status quo, even the incredibly watchful yet silent people in my life…no thanks.

No thanks at all.

Line in the Sand

I’m all for the gray areas of life because I believe that they exist. I also like to color outside the lines. I’m all for accommodations, adjustments, alterations and such but I’m not for compromising my heart and settling for less than I know I deserve. Less than what I know that I can give.

And I have.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

Because, what if I don’t and someone gets pissed and then doesn’t want anything to do with me at all? The loss of their approval, even their disapproval of the me they thought they knew, the me I thought they wanted me to give…would be heart breaking.

These are real thoughts.

But guess what?

I want something to do with me.

I want something to do with me a whole bunch. I actually DO believe I am worthy of simple things like:

Faithfulness.

Having someone’s whole heart.

And the problem has been I haven’t seen myself accordingly. I’ve been misaligned, like looking at myself in a mirror that has been distorted and cracked. I’ve compromised but not in a way where I’ve sat down and negotiated my value. I just kind of took what I got.

Even if it was crap.

I asked for more. And I’ve been told I’m unreasonable.

Demanding.

Like communication and having the ability to work all the way through to the other side is some sort of abnormality reserved for super humans.

The further side was a luxury I could not afford.

And now here we are and I wonder how we got here, how I did. The writing on the wall is as clear as the line that I’m finally drawing and I know.

I will no longer negotiate my identity.

I will no longer settle for anything other than faithfulness. Wholehearted and true.

I won’t take the back seat in someone’s heart when I know I belong in the front row.

I. Just. Won’t.

 

 

Maybe

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” 

“No.”

And with that I go to bed.

OK.”

My daily communication attempts trying to delve past talk of kids and business fail. It is glaringly obvious, it is our only common ground. I long for deep and healing here in this place, this vast ocean that looks consuming and my continued asking feels like nagging and drudgery.

Maybe he is right. Maybe there is nothing more to talk about. Maybe this is as good as it gets. And with that, I walk up the stairs and step into the bath, delving below the surface of my life.

The water has become a drug to me. The heat is calming and soothing and numbs out my raw and achy parts.

I’m basing the whole of who I am and my happiness on this marriage. I forgave quickly. I thought I’d never mention our latest snag again. I immediately became a busy little bee who opened up her heart wide. I thought I’d work and he’d work and we would meet somewhere in the middle and this could potentially be THAT happy ending. The ending we all hope for and dream is possible and maybe for some it is, but it takes more than one to dream, maybe more than that to hope.

A mustard seed…and I had it.

But there needs to be communication and not just for a day. Not just for two. We need to cultivate intimacy and by default, I’ve been crowned conversation initiator and my initiator is tired and worn out.

I no longer volunteer as tribute.

My brain tells me all sorts of good and needed truths and I know I am full and overflowing with knowledge of WHO I am but my heart tells me another story. My heart tells me I don’t feel valued or loved, that I’m sitting around waiting for scraps and someone else’s left overs. My heart tells me if I was more important things would change and go another direction. My heart tells me a lot of things…

And if I stay here, stuck in a place that continually perpetuates these lies, that is exactly where I’ll stay.

An orphan.

Actions or lack thereof speak pretty loudly.

I’ve got to get myself healthy, for indeed I am sick. I hear the voice of my counselor in my head, “Your heart is broken. You need to heal,” and I know he is right. It is broken and I need to give it time and trying to help someone else mend who perhaps isn’t quite ready is not helping…me. I am pouring way more into this then he is and I’m beginning to feel the strain of my expenditures. I just don’t have it in me to ask one more time, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Because essentially my tired refusal comes from a deep and hidden heart cry, “Would someone please pour into me first. I am empty. I no longer want to fix.”

And under the covering of the hot water that fills the tub, it becomes obvious.

The last time I turned someone over to the Lord with such resolve, my oldest son was six years old and was about to be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center for a skid loader accident. I remember standing over him as he was screaming, a mother whose heart was torn between what she could and couldn’t do, realizing, “There is nothing here I can. My very best works won’t help. But Jesus, if you exist, if you are alive and real, I believe you can help. He is yours.”

So I say it again, just the same.

“He is yours.”

I refuse to settle for anything less than what I know is possible.

fester 

I can feel it flowing through my veins. Toxins are trying to poison my soul. There are things that have not been talked about recently and I take the lack of initiation on any part, other than mine, poorly. 

The long and the short is this: I want to stop reaching becuase I want to be reached INTO and my “ I wont if you wont” attitude is seemingly costing me a great deal. Anger is festering. Communication has been waining and open to interpretation, which becomes a free-for-all for assumptions, which I know better than to make. 

I appears we are not on the same page and that feeling adds extra weight to my gut. I don’t know how we’ll ever move forward because at the end of the day, weeks later, here we are. Same ole. Same ole. Time and space have crept in and the hot water has slowly turned to not so hot at all. Nothing has really changed. Nothing has really been talked about and as much as I sit, telling myself, “Just focus on yourself. YOU keep moving forward,” there is this undeniable reality that I’m not the only one here.

We both are. 

So I go back to “Who am I?” 

I AM a communicator.

“If that is WHO you are, march yourself downstairs and communicate.”

Sometimes I really loathe the voice of reason and wisdom within myself.

And I do. I bound down the steps and plop myself in my chair and as much as I don’t think it is my turn or duty (which often feels like an obligatory noose) to continue to reach forward, I do. I initiate. I communicate.

“I think we need to talk.”

And there is agreement from both sides in this statement.

Not much is solved but we both walk away and doors are left opened.

I have a picture in my head of taking the doors of my heart off its hinges. I see myself throwing them into the flames along with our very dead Christmas tree that lays on the ground outside our house…watching it disintegrate into nothingness.

I don’t think my heart was created to find refuge in doors.

 

 

 

the places I cannot afford to visit 

In my prior life, I was a sales representative  for a company that awarded its performance team with luxurious trips. I could sit here and name all the different countries I’ve traveled to and all the five-star resorts I’ve stayed at but I won’t. I will say this, they all have something in common:

On my own, they are not places I could afford to visit.

Fast forward to this life, not a lot has changed. I still travel but lately it’s been to military bases to see my kids and I rarely frequent airports and seldom hail cabs but one thing transfers from one life to the next and remains consistent and true: I still can’t afford to visit certain places.

Location is just about everything, ask any realtor. Location location location. Is it high traffic, high population…what is it’s draw that determines its value and worth? To each person, that answer may be different. What I am looking for may be different from what grabs your attention, that’s why it’s so important to ask yourself what’s important to you. If you don’t, you’ll end up somewhere that’s important to someone else and you’ll find yourself in a location that is miserable at best.

Ever been to the beach with someone who hates the sun and the sand? Miserable.

Our daughter called today from the Navy’s boot camp and it’s been over a month since I’ve seen her. As we all stood in the kitchen, gathered around my phone, I felt sadness taking up space within the room. I not only felt it within me, but I heard it in her voice. It’s Christmas. Her brother, who is a Marine, is Home for a short leave, and it’s her first Holiday Season away from us. The phone call was a happy one despite the underlying sadness but when the call was over, I turned to my husband and cried.

I felt sad for several hours afterwards and I realized my location wasn’t really the best. I was slipping, and my mood was beginning to match the weather…cold and dreary.

As a feeler, I often hole myself up in some shack, dodging bullets and trying to stay out of the enemy’s line of fire in the worst parts of town. I truly pick some of the worst locations to camp out in, within myself. These shacks have given me the illusion of safety even though the foundation was crumbly and I knew it. If safety’s my goal, I most certainly have found myself hiding out in some of the most unsafe locations.

My mind or my feelings left unchecked tend to wander and create scenarios that aren’t even accurate and I end up assuming the worst. I do not recommend this. AT ALL. It’s really not fair to you because it creates such heartache and agony and it most certainly is not fair to the other person. Want to talk judgement? Assume something, anything, about another and there you have it.

I’m recognizing the feeling I have are normal…it is more than ok to be sad. I AM allowed to miss my daughter. I AM allowed to be angry over situations. I AM allowed to not agree.

It’s when I choose to stay sad and angry. It’s when I choose to care more about being right than being in relationship that gets me into trouble.

Can I really afford to visit these locations?

No. The answer is vehemently no. I cannot afford to. Visiting leads to wanting to stay. There is comfort in old friends and sometimes, hanging around old friends leads to holding onto old habits…I have to choose the higher thought.

So yesterday, as much as I missed our daughter and as much as I FELT sad because she is not home, I chose to think of how proud I am of her. She recently passed all her physical fitness tests. She is strong in both mind and body. I focused on all the friends she’s making and how lucky they are becuase she is packed full of maturity and wisdom and loves havng new expereinces through people. I chose to think of any other thought except the sad ones and slowly but surely, my mood shifted.

I’ve been practicing this in every area of my life, not just with my children. I’ve been packing up my bags and (sometimes begrudgingly) putting my feet on another path even though my thoughts and feelings tell me it’s ok to stay in my shack because it’s justified. I recognize there are places within myself I want to go, but they are places…memories or thoughts, that elicit negative feelings and pretty much put me in a bad mood. I want to bring healing there. Why? Because I know Jesus does.

I absolutely believe He chooses the higher…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I’ve often said that perspective is a superpower and it is. One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. What the hell? Did you know you are THAT powerful? In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind. Just because I think it doesn’t mean it is true. This was a life-changing revelation for me because as Proverbs 23:7 says, As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he. SeriouslyWhere the mind goes, the man follows.

Friends, there ARE places you and I both cannot afford to visit. Quick jaunts here and there can be exciting and they can feel good and right but be careful about dwelling there too long, especially without proper perspective.

Merry Christmas! Choose to think the very best this Holiday Season of the people in your life. Choose to forgive and forget.

Choose to love…

You may not always want to but I think you’ll find if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a place you ideally don’t want to be.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things… (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

 

 Upside Down

Rejection.

I think I’ve battled it since the womb and I’ve wondered if it’s the first thing people see when they looked at me. Has it been something I’ve hidden behind or has it been a shiny little pin I’ve worn on my lapel and I’ve used it as an excuse for the things I’ve done?

Probably both.

My parents dated in high school and my mother was a year older than my father which made him a Senior when she announced she was pregnant with me. He was honorable and gave her a little ring, which I store in a little wooden box in a chest in my room since their divorce, and I choose to believe they went in, full of hope, that a baby would save them.

But rejection was rooted deep in my family and everyone had their own baggage long before I was born. Unfortunately, as much as I love them both, their baggage became mine and sooner or later I had my own and before I knew it, everything was jumbled and it became very difficult to sort what was theirs, what was mine and what was ours.

I took it all.

Fast forward to my own marriage and here we are, all jumbled. Maybe we are normal. Maybe jumbling takes place in every marriage. Maybe every couple has their share of heart aches and breaks. Maybe it’s part of being human and being in human relationships. I am not really sure but one thing I am sure of is this:

I have continually allowed myself to feel rejected based off other people’s responses TO me. If it’s not what I had hoped for or what I had envisioned it would be…if their words did not match their actions and I found myself in the presence of a good talker rather than a good walker, I’d allow the perceived lack **of whatever** to pretty much obliterate my identity. I become worthless and not enough. Not valued. Not really liked or loved. I essentially allowed man to take the place of God and I’d worship the opinion and the approval of flesh and blood rather than The One who already says I am…

And I tell myself it’s easy. Too easy. “Anybody who has been through what I’ve been through within the span of my short life would be looking through the same clouded and muddled lens.” As soon as I have that thought, I realize I’m double-minded and rejection IS the shiny pin I wear on my lapel. I use it as an excuse. Rejection has been an old friend and as much as I loathe it, I don’t know how to live without it.

So over the last two weeks, I’ve been waking up each day choosing to intentionally posture myself to see how God sees.

How God sees me.

“Who am I?”

I need reminded because I’ve obviously forgotten.

I think of Jesus and I think of one of my favorite verses in scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This is WHO HE is. This is ME.

I read further and know I’ve been thinking like a child. I looked up the scripture “Do unto others and they do unto you,” and all I find is this: 

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Damn.

I think again of Jesus. My thoughts always go back to Him and I realize that deep within me, what I’m really longing for is to become Love. Not just a little bit here or there. Not just in pieces and parts or to have characteristics of but to BE…

So I give up my childish ways and I show up and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.  It makes me feel naked and exposed. It feels all upside down. It sears my flesh and feels like salt on an open wound and it is not always reciprocated and as much as I want to adjust myself and alter WHO I AM based off of how someone responds to me, I do not. I choose to believe I’m worth someone’s time and attention because I know that I am and that knowing allows me to give freely without strings.

Until I stop reacting to my circumstances and start responding to the love of Jesus, my circumstances will not change.

And I know it.

Don’t stop showing up and being you based off of how people respond to you. How you love anything is how you love everything for love is a quality of relationship more than a statement about the worthiness or deservedness of the object loved. -Richard Rohr

All In or All Out 

In the moment when things feel BIG, I realize I play sides. I draw an imaginary line down the middle and choose. I’m either all in or all out, you cannot make me straddle.

My heart is one-hundred percent on board, all hands on deck and prepared to go down with the ship if necessary.

Or.

My heart’s not even going to wait around for a life boat because it has already bailed, as in already jumped overboard having believed it’s chances of survival are better left in unknown waters with man eating sharks than on aboard in dangerous territory.

Two extremes I know, but through a series of unfortunate events, I’ve come to this brutal and beautiful realization:

I feel safe or I don’t.

I feel hopeful or I don’t.

I tend to feel a lot of things. Which is great right? Not always.

I recently felt so unsafe in a recent situation that I unfriended my own husband on social media. Facebook friend, not having it. I feel very much like a child even typing these words but I will own it because I did it and there isn’t any sense in pretending I didn’t. If you want real life, here you go.

All in” means my heart feels safe with you and “all out” means my heart doesn’t and if it doesn’t, I don’t want you to have any access to me. None. Zero. Zip.

It’s very much like living in high school and re-enacting the drama that unfolds on a daily basis in the locker room or during third period math class. I can’t even believe I did it but in the heat of the moment, I felt I had every right and justification to bail. I jumped ship as a means to protect myself from my enemy. I have since apologized and friended him again, which he accepted, THANK GOD, and hopefully someday we will have a good laugh but in the meantime, it really showed me my heart.

Ouch. My hurting heart.

It showed me how majorly unprotected I felt and really, it’s no one else’s job to protect my heart but mine. After all, my life verse is: “Above all else, guard YOUR heart, for all of life flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

I’ve got work to do.

It showed me how majorly untrusting of the Lord I was in that moment. It showed me how I was looking at my husband as my enemy first and foremost instead of seeing him for who he is created to be in Jesus. It also showed me how much I tend to go by my feelings.

As a empath, I have the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference which is wonderful. I have a lot of very deep and meaningful relationships and connections  because I am such a deep-hearted feeler but because my heart feels so deeply, I also find I only have two switches:

On and Off.

I know I need to sit and process this further but for now, IS there an in between? Is there a place for one’s heart to reside in the middle of some scale? Yes. I know there is because I have met a lot of lukewarm people but I am not one of them. I am an extremist. It seems really right when my heart is all the way on and open…

It feels like Jesus.

So word to the wise, let your feelings come and let your feelings go as you can. Allow the storm to settle before you quickly make rash and unwise plans to jump ship head first into waters that most likely will drown you based off of how you feel. Seriosuly, whoever wants to have a dinner conversation that starts of with, “Hey. How was your day? By the way, please pass the corn, when I was really mad at you the other day, I blocked you. We are still married but no longer “friends. Do we have bread?” Doing things like that may feel good and may seem right in the moment because protection can’t be wrong. Right?

The question should be; WHO are you protecting yourself from?

It might not be from who you think.

The Shortcut to Forgiveness 

I sat at the table and I wanted to…a lot of things. I wanted to continue to cry. I wanted to get up and walk out the door. I wanted to numb out and drown my sorrows in a cup of coffee mixed with rum.

I felt my mind roll all these possibilities around in my head like dice. What would it be when all was said and done? What exactly would I do?

Would I continuing crying? Would I get up and walk out the door? Would I drown my sorrow in my coffee mixed with rum?

I stared at the grain of wood that made up the table. As I ran my fingers nervously crossed it, it felt smooth. It felt effortless. I wanted my next step to feel the same but I felt stubborn and rough, and I could feel the splinter, pointy and ragged, bury deep within me.

I was angry and hurt and I didn’t know how to make it stop.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

They were just words at first and I knew it and they left a taste in my mouth that said I was fake.

My attemp felt awkward as I sat at my friends table and it felt forced and I did not feel free but I said those words again, this time not out loud but within me.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

I knew if I waited till I felt like it, I would be waiting a very long time. Maybe forever. No one was expecting me to or even hinted or eluded that it would be a positive step but I knew.

I knew if I didn’t I would continue crying while thinking about walking out the door and numbing myself out with a cup of coffee mixed with rum.

As I sat and stared them all in the face, everyone was hurting and I wanted to hope that things could be different. Better. Their eyes told me they hoped for the same. We all wanted this to go any other way than my continued crying led us all to believe and my soul wanted nothing more than to get relief. To be made well again, whole, even if only temporarily by speaking magic words.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

And I softened just a bit. I softened enough to stare him in the face. I softened enough to hug everyone goodbye and thank them for their time. I softened enough to get into the Jeep and be hungry for lunch.

I realized it wasn’t so much saying magic words or doing what I knew was probably noble or right as it was me wanting to crawl out of a heartache that had been holding me captive before despair swallowed me whole. I was trapped inside my own heart trying hard to stay angry and hurt and I had every justiufucation for it but all I really wanted was to live and love and laugh.

To be happy again.

To care and to hope and to dream.

I could not do anything of those things hanging onto bitterness and anger. Choosing to not forgive was suffocating me and I needed to breathe.

For me.

Did I use forgiveness as a fix? Was I tired of hurting and wanted to stop the pain? I don’t know. I just know there is no short cut. Magic words won’t satisfy the hearts longing to love and be free but a open heart can. I just know the power of a hearts that open….

And I know it takes way more effort to hurt, to be hurt then to forgive. As I ran my finger across their table, I remembered my heart IS smooth, that I am. I am not rough around the edges and all jaggy, leaving splinters in my wake.

Forgiving was just as much about remembering WHO I am as it was about anything or anyone else.

It was a very good place to begin again.

 

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