Monday, November 30, 2015

The Pool of Mom Guilt

I clearly remember the conversation with my friend.  I was sort of bragging about my kids, talking about how good they were, and how lucky I was and how proud I was of them.  And I was doing it in comparison.  I wasn't flat out stating it, but in the same conversation I was talking about the choices of other kids I knew, other kids who weren't "walking the walk" and who were not making good choices.  My friend was kind, and wise.  Most of all she was prophetic.  She said quietly, "Be careful, you never know when things might change."

And change they did, not long after that conversation at all, might have been a matter of days.  Everything blew up in my face because the secret sins of one of my kids all came to light.  And it was bad - really stupid bad, and it had been going on for a while, and I had completely missed it. Sadly it was not when my friend imparted her wisdom that I woke up, it was rather when her wisdom proved true that I really got it.  And my whole perception of parenting and people changed after that happened.

That explosive incident led to a lot of change.  It was hard change-- like rooting up my family from a place my kids had been established their whole lives.  And we had to deal with a lot of gossip, innuendo, judgment and more.  When we moved to a new church we came in as open books, we needed help and most of all our kid needed help.  He didn't get it all there, it was not like that place became our saving grace, but it played an important role. And eventually just being in that new place turned out to be a really important thing for our son.  And it's something that may never have happened without the issue that moved us there in the first place - like a fork in the back.

I wish I could tell you that the "all things together for good" aspect made it all feel worth it, but along the way it didn't.  And it wasn't like we moved on and everything got better.  That's the thing about ongoing sin, secret sin, it takes the devil of a foothold and it doesn't go away easily.  Sometimes it felt like two steps forward and three steps back.  Some of the contention of those days still resides in our home and relationships, and there is still a fear that the battle isn't over. And really it isn't.  Even as that kid walks in victory over that one struggle, there is still two other kids and a myriad of other battles to be fought - some similar and some completely different, and all really really hard.

In the midst of it, as a mom, I feel responsible.  I look at my kids when they battle and I think, "Where is my responsibility? What did I do wrong?"  I go through the long list of possibilities of what I didn't teach them, what I mistakenly did.  What did I miss? What wrong example did I set? What should I have done differently?  The pool of mom guilt is deep.  I can't help but think that maybe we all must have to have it.  Because what I realize now is all of our kids are fighting some sort of battles.  And all will lose some, and along the way as a mom one cannot help but try to figure out what could have, should have or would have been done differently, if only....

And honestly, we probably do all have some level of culpability in our children's failures.  I don't know exactly at what age that finally shifts off us, but the spoiled three-year-old, the bad mannered eight-year-old and the disrespectful fifteen-year-old, we raised them.  Did we teach them everything we needed to? About not being selfish? About not being rude? About not being a general pain in the rump ass.

Recently someone close to me (in anger) accused me of being a bad mom.  They said I didn't care about my kids, that I didn't care about anyone but myself.  They even said I wanted my child to fail.  I have to tell you, it really rattled me.  And it really made me wonder if it was true.  It was this simultaneous response of "HELL NO!" and "Is this true?" Because like I said, mom guilt is a deep deep pool.

It sucks when someone decides to play in that pool and stir up your mom guilt waters.  Theoretical parents are good at that.  You know, the people who have no actual children, but whose imaginary children "would never do that!" That usually being something you have either allowed your child to do, or more often, something your child has managed to pull off despite your best efforts.  I used to have theoretical children myself, so I totally get how perfect they are - and how easy to parent they are. Unfortunately all theoretical parents should heed the warning that when the actual little exhausting sinful creatures show up to fill the roles of your theoretical kiddos, they rarely stay on script.

Young parents too are inclined to wade into the pool and stir the waters.  Parenting infants and toddlers is exhausting physically, and I get that, but I have to tell you I long for the days that my sleepless nights had to do with poor sleeping habits and stuffy noses and were not because I was overwhelmed with anxiety about the life changing decisions my kids were in position to make.  The shift of power does not wait until their eighteenth birthdays, it's rather a slow painful process with a lot of fumbles, failures and the opportunity for some long term life impacting poor decisions.  And they're made by young dumb, inexperienced kids who really don't get it.  "Too much power, not nearly enough wisdom," that's what I always say.  And there is nothing about turning 18 that turns off the mom heart or the risk factors for stupidity, in fact sometimes in those college age years it just intensifies. And those middle school and high school years can be just as brutal.

The people who like to wade into the pool of mom guilt and stir the waters most though are our kids.  They don't actually understand that's what they are doing, but it does not stop them from doing it.  Every pain, every consequence, every poor decision causes the surface of the water to stir and it pulls at the parent heart.  Like the ripples around the movement created, they push out and on touching in so many places you couldn't even anticipate.  But they are not gentle or beautiful like ripples in real water, they hurt and they are hard and they can wear a woman down.

I look at my kids and they are "good kids" but at the same time the battle is strong, and sometimes their failures are cataclysmic.  Sometimes God seems to sweep in and in great grace He rescues them from themselves, and other times they fall.  Sometimes they fall in the exact same way over and over and over again.  That is when I find myself fully submerged in the pool of guilt.  Because it's when I know I have tried to teach them, love them, instruct and guide them and they still keep making the same bad choices over and over again that I become hopeless and distraught.  Angry.

And it never fails as I look around I feel surrounded by perfect parents and their perfect kids.  I become convinced I am the only mom in the pool.  And other moms, they have the ability to stir the water then without even trying.  Just the perception of their success makes me feel like I'm the only one.  Sometimes it's moms acting the way I was when I was bragging on my kids that day before I understood.  They don't have to be criticizing my kid to make me feel badly about how I parent, they can just be feeling great about how they parent theirs.  I cannot help but wonder how many moms I talked to like I did that day that didn't call me out like my girlfriend did.  Probably too many to count.

Back then I was the worst kind of mom.  I was the kind of mom who thought I knew everything and had it all figured out.  My first born compliant/ epically sneaky first child helped strengthen that illusion until he didn't anymore.  And so I thought I not only knew the right way to raise a kid, but I thought my way was the only right way.  Boy have my children straightened me out on that one.  There isn't even one right way to raise the three kids in my one home.  And even with each individual way there is always change - age, stage, need, and more.  And all of those factors, stones to throw and unsettle the surface of the pool of mom guilt in my world.

The longer I parent, the less I realize I know.  I always say, "doctors don't know everything, that's why they call it practicing medicine."  And it's usually to rebuke a bad prognosis.  Well let me tell you, the diagnosis is what is settled in parenting, and it's called sin.  And unfortunately it is chronic, incurable and constant - and worse, it isn't just the patient who suffers, but the mom who is practicing parenting as well. And yet as a mom, I am continually demanding of myself to figure it all out.  I won't, but I will likely die trying.

My heart hurts for how hard it is to parent today. It is harder than it was when I was growing up - though that's not to say it was ever easier - but it is harder.  The world is relentless in its enticement to draw our kids out into sin and darkness - which by the way seems like a pleasurable pool for a while when they waddle into it.  And truth be told the enemy behind the lure has really amped up his game in the past few decades.  It's really hard to keep him out.  And for me, I know he has slipped past me a lot because I am just not as good at being as relentless as he is.  (Enter more mom guilt here.)

I just don't think it's ever going to get any easier.  And I think I am likely to always feel guilty about that.  I will always wonder what I could have, should have and would have done differently, if only... maybe you feel that way too?

I don't write this blog actually offering any answers.  And please, if you think you have them, please don't here with them and stir my pool.  Because, even if you have answers, you don't have them all.  And I would warn you like my friend did that day, "Be careful, you never know when things might change."

But if you get this, and you can relate to the things I am saying here, all of them or just some - let me encourage you, you are not alone.  Maybe no mom will ever say so, but this mom thing, it's hard - and crazy guilt inducing, and filled with hard things.  What do people say? "The toughest job you will ever love"?  I'm gonna be real here and say, some days, you won't love it at all, and that's ok.  Because we love our kids.  And all we can do is the best we can do, but we have to do that knowing our best alone is never ever going to be good enough to keep the pool of mom guilt dry.  But don't give up, keep pressing on.  And if you believe in God, be sure not to exclude Him from your parenting, because in all honesty, I know I couldn't do it without Him, even when I feel like I am.  He's faithful when I am faithless.  Press on.

Some days the only solace I have is that my kids might be parents too someday...

Monday, November 16, 2015


You make me feel like a child again
But never in a good way
You make me feel hopeless and powerless
I have no will, no voice, no say

The words that you have spoken 
Can never be unsaid
Even if you took them back
They're still playing in my head

Mother's guilt is a shallow grave
Where thoughts of failure never die
They never really lay to rest
No matter how hard I try

And you have given then new life
As they are screaming in my head
But you just continue moving along
As if they were never said

Of the many mistakes I have made in my life
The greatest was to stay
Maybe if I had walked differently
Things wouldn't be this way

But here I'm trapped because they are
And I don't know how to leave
As I think of what should have been
I'm left alone to grieve

I'm left with your angry words
And you with your justification
All I know is this mental video loop
Keeps playing without cessation

I don't see myself as a victim
Though that's one lie you spread
I see myself as a fool
Who failed to use her head

And the poison pervades my spirit
Because I continue to drink it in
But it's when I pour it back out
That it then becomes my sin

Through such angry words
I know something has died
But something has also been birthed
And won't be forever denied

My prayers have changed profoundly
And I'm willing to fight and scrape
I'm keeping my eyes looking up
Looking for the door of escape

by Diana DePriest
©November 16, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pissed off rant

It's really hard not to be angry lately.

There is a heck of a lot wrong in the world.  What's worse, a lot of what's wrong is being declared as right.  And to make matters worse, if you don't agree, then that means there's something wrong with you.

Where do I start?  OK, let's talk about abortion.  I have always tried my best to walk a respectful line on the topic of abortion.  Because although I know what it is, and I know how wrong it is, and I know how much God absolutely despises it, I have always found myself able to find grace for those who didn't get it.  I would even go so far as to say I could understand someone being "Christian and pro-choice" when it was rooted in their "love" for a woman in crisis and not wanting to impose their own opinions and beliefs on others.  I didn't AGREE with them, but I was able to understand it.  And then this series of exposé videos about Planned Parenthood came out, and it really kind of clarified everything about what abortion is.  It cleared up the misconception about "lumps of cells" and "fetal tissue."  When they started talking about selling body parts and dissecting little baby brains, the lies about lack of humanity expressed in the past was pretty well uncloaked.

So the truth is outrageous enough.  But what really pushes me over the edge is the fact that nobody seems to care.  Social media is wrought with "Stand with PP" propaganda.  People buy into the lie that abortion has anything to do with "women's health."  No mammograms, no cancer screenings, just billions of tax dollars thrown at the business of abortion.  The media barely even covers the subject, and when they do, it's all about protecting women again. We've got Whoopi Goldberg telling the world to stay the hell away from her vagina, and the people in the audience applaud.  Babies keep on dying, Planned Parenthood continues their questionable business practices, and we keep bankrolling it with our tax dollars.  Doesn't even matter that the brutal truth is not out there for all to see, Ignorance is no longer an option, but it's still the preference.  I don't hear much about it from the church either, no pastor or priest, not from the pulpit.  "God forbid" we might offend.

I heard yesterday that Caitlyn Jenner is getting woman of the year.  I'd like to question if she qualifies since she wasn't actually a woman for the whole year.  (Tongue firmly in cheek.)  Don't call that sin.  Today it is perfectly fine to define your own gender, your own race, your own anything as long as you choose to "identify."  Bathrooms and locker rooms in high schools need to be gender neutral?  Because we can't ask the one transgender student to change in a restroom, it's better to let the 100 girls in the girls' locker room be uncomfortable and suffer the choice.  And, now I'm a bigot for saying so.

I'm not alone though, there are a whole lot of us bigots out there these days.  In fact every single white police officer who has a heated interaction with a person of color is doing so because they are a bigot.  They are racial profiling, or they are singling the person out all based on their race -- it has ZERO to do with the fact that they are in violation of a law, or acting in some suspicious manner, and has nothing to do with the fact that they have no respect for the authority invested in the police officer who has been SWORN to protect.  Nope, it's all on the cop, he has to be the bigot. Oh by the way, if you want to talk about a black man or an illegal alien (oops, I think I just committed hate speech) who commits a crime against a white woman-- well now you're a bigot all over again.

Did I mention illegal aliens?  Oh darn, hate speech again... I can't remember the newest politically correct term.  Sorry.  But how dare you think your nation should be allowed to protect its borders and manage immigration.  You're supposed to let anyone and everyone in, no questions asked.  Because that's how you keep a nation safe.... right?  Right?

Well laws, you know, they're just sort of useless.  We should all really be allowed to pick and choose which ones we follow, sort of like a supermarket of human responsibility.  "Drug use is a victimleess" crime... OK, tell that to the family who is burying their loved one who died from an overdose. Or let's talk about the draw on society that comes from someone who is too stoned to contribute, C*O*N*T*R*I*B*U*T*E.... Back in the olden days, we called that working.  And everyone was expected to do it.  Now we're destroyong job opportunities right and left (when was the last time you walked through the self-check out?  Did you hear about that huge U.S. construction project where all the workers were brought in from China?) But by all means, let's require the evil big business to pay the one worker who stand twiddling his thumbs while everyone else checks themselves out $15 an hour, and provide him health insurance to boot.

When I was 16 I got paid minimum wage - $3.35/ hour. I worked my butt off for it, hostessing, waitressing. But you know what? My minimum wage job was never meant to be the career I had to have a life and a family.  Flipping burgers is a teenager's job, not for someone claiming "head of household" on their income taxes. So why do we want to pay them $15 an hour? Cost of living? Nobody was ever supposed to live off flipping burgers.

Burgers by the way? They're going to kill you, and a bacon burger? Well, that should flat out be made illegal, so says the WHO. Who? The World Health Organization says your bacon causes cancer, and maybe they shouldn't let you eat it anymore.  That's a serious danger, and like Michelle Obama and school lunches, they don't think you're smart enough to make good choices for yourself.  And you know what? Maybe you're not, but I say, if you want to eat yourself into a heart attack, more power to you. I mean after all, if we shouldn't stop you from doing drugs.... Are we beginning to see the inconsistency here?

So let's get rid of the bacon burgers, but terrorist threats? Well, that's not actually acceptable for you to assume.  Don't even talk about it.  We need a new term for that as well.  Shame on you if you take issue with any of the tenets of the Muslim faith.  Sharia law really should have a place here, but Constitutional law? Well, that's kinda questionable.

Like that little pesky 2nd amendment.  That's old and outdated and really needs to be repealed. You don't need to have the right to bear arms to potentially protect yourself from a government that may try to usurp your individual rights, because seriously, that's NEVER going to happen.... Ahem...


I'm a horrible terrible awful Christian, I know.  In fact, if I am a Christian at all is seriously in question because I don't think I am actually showing all the necessary tell-tale signs.  "Peace, joy and love," aren't my go to when I see innocent babies being killed, and sin being praised, and an oppressive government on the rise.  I lack faith if I stand up and say my peace against it... surely.

But then again, we were told in the Bible to be "wise as serpents" in our efforts to be "innocent as doves."  And I don't think wisdom denies what's happening in the world around us.  And I don't think wisdom turns a blind eye.  I don't think wisdom refuses to call sin sin at all.  I don't think wisdom stays silent and refuses to shout out the warning.

Being the light means bringing LIGHT to DARK places.  It means exposure to things hidden in darkness. And sometimes that means the loving this to do is speak Truth even when it costs you.

So the end of my pissed off rant says, what is happening in our world is NOT ok.  And we need to stand against the darkness a call it out.

End rant.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Selfie Generation

Ahhh, the selfie.  Grab your phone (or perhaps an actual camera) and turn the lens upon yourself.  Hold it in the right spot, at the right angle and capture your best you on... film?  Well, you know what I mean.  Capture the perfect shot for Instagram, or your new Facebook profile pic or PicTwit (TwitPic?) yourself to your little heart's content. 

Since I have lost a little weight and feel a little bit better about myself I have come to appreciate the value of a good selfie.  From the fat mom who hid behind the camera through most of my kids' childhoods, it's kinda nice to not hate every photo taken of me.  And hey, sometimes the most fun selfie is the one you pull a a friend or family member into with you.  Heck, they made a whole stick to attach to your phone just so you could widen the scope of your photo... that and so you could do something about that giant arm in the photo that's reaching up to the camera (oh the calamity of a tank top!) but I digress. 

As the mom of two teens I would say that there is a whole generation of "selfie pic" people rising up.  For some the selfie has become another art form of expression.  The pouty lip, the tongue hanging out, a "gang" sign or two thrown in for good measure, the mirror pics of favored outfits, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, the selfie definitely does NOT fall into a single category of expression.  Sometimes fun, sometimes deep, occasionally inappropriate (hello? we do not need to see all that cleavage and your new bikini all over the net!) the selfie has the power to communicate many things: isolating, inclusive, exclusionary and more, the gamete is run. 

But today I find myself thinking about some of the dangers and downsides of being a part of a selfie generation, and I don't just mean my teens.  Really it's not about the age of the generation taking selfies (and let's be honest, there's a wide gamete of ages there as well) but it's about the downfall of making anything all about self. 

I grew up in a generation where people were actually allowed to "agree to disagree."  There has always been a wide spectrum of beliefs, attitudes, values and convictions.  Sometimes it meant allowing people to be ignorant, even hateful, in another man's opinion even WRONG, but it was all a part of the FREEDOM of thought, speech and belief.  But I see that disappearing these days. 

Today if your opinion differed from the prevailing approved politically correct perception you are not just wrong but you are hateful, bigoted, even vilified. I am a middle class, white American conservative pro-life Christian... in some circles, some more growing and popular circles, that makes me a domestic terrorist for heaven's sake.  

I looked up the word bigoted, and it is defined as "having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one's own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others." I find this definition interesting.  Because it occurs to me, aren't MOST people obstinate in their beliefs?  And don't MOST people hold to their beliefs because they believe they are somehow superior?  Or right?  I mean, why would anyone hold to a belief if they didn't believe in its merit.  Even if someone passionately believed you should not hold to tightly to one's personal beliefs, didn't they just do what they said the believed against?  Just a thought (and for the record I think a good one.)  

The biggest problem with this selfie generation mentality is that too many people have begun to buy into the lie that everyone needs to look the same.  Everyone needs to believe the same, hold to the same ideals and have the same exact convictions.  

I think we need to stop working so hard to get all the beliefs to line up and instead learn to accept the differences.  It's ok that you think your beliefs are the best, it really is.  But it's not ok to make someone else a bad person just because they don't agree with you.  Disagreeing is ok.  It's fascinating to me how so many who have claimed to feel oppressed and bullied by, say, the right wing "extremists" (tongue firmly inserted in cheek here) like myself are now trying to oppress and bully people who hold to conservative Christian values.  I'm not saying either attitude is ok, but I am saying don't judge in someone else what you are unwilling to acknowledge in yourself.  Like I have said to my children so many times, "If it's not ok for them, then it's not ok for you."  

Another warning about the selfie attitude - not everything is about YOU.  Just because I think abortion is wrong doesn't mean I am attacking YOU because YOU had an abortion.  Just because I don't want to teach my five-year-old about homosexual sex doesn't mean I hate you (for the record, I didn't want to teach my five-year-old about sex at all, but protecting a child's innocence just keeps getting harder and harder.  

Now I acknowledge that what I am expressing here is MY perception, but I am willing to acknowledge it is not necessarily the same as yours.  BUT rather than getting heated and overwrought because you don't see things my way, and you aren't perceiving ME the way I want you to, maybe it's time to turn that "lens" off of self and look out into the world around us.  I'm not even talking about having to find common ground, but I AM talking about offering mutual respect, kindness and finding the ability to accept that all the world is not going to agree with me.  Or you.   And that's ok. 

And it's OK if you think I'm wrong, or you think I am ignorant.  It's ok even if you think I am a domestic terrorist, but as long as my opinion is just that, then perhaps we should lighten up on the dogma and hostility.  We don't have to be made into enemies because we hold to different ideals.  We have that right.  We even have the right to be wrong.  I have news for you, everybody is. 

A last little note to my Christian friends, the ones who see my point, the ones who might be a little concerned about what they are reading here, and even the ones who think I have abandoned my principles altogether: We are called to LOVE.  I'm not going to get into a giant discussion about what that means or looks like, but I am going to say that we are called to love ALL people.  And PEOPLE are not supposed to be our enemies.  We do have an enemy, and he is having a FIELD DAY with all the hate and divisiveness that is going on in our world today.  Nothing makes him happier than when we smear the reputation of our God with hateful words, hurtful attitudes and unloving demeanor. There is a lot in the world that isn't the way we would like it to be, but God called us to be His vessels, not his clanging bells.  He called us to be the light and that WILL take care of darkness. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

His Silence

Sometimes the Lord is so quiet
I'm unable to decipher a sound
Based on what I can see
I could wonder if He's even around

I long for the days He spoke clearly
Directing each step I should take
When I felt so clearly connected
In every decision I'd make

I once thought His voice an anomaly
Not something I even knew could be
But in my heart I then heard a whisper
My God clearly speaking to me

I was His sheep and He my Shepherd
His Word promised I'd know His voice
And every time I would hear it so clearly
My heart would greatly rejoice

He whispered such precious Words
Loved, forgiven, redeemed
He whispered His tender directions
He'd speak forever or so it seemed

But then sometimes He'd grow quiet
I'd be uncertain of where I should go
So desperately I would look back
On the things I already know

Every word of His whispers
Had to be taken back to His Word
Because if they didn't line up
Then I knew they hadn't been heard

In the early days He spoke often
Directing each step of the way
But the longer we walked together
Sometimes He'd have less to say

Where He once led step stone by stone
Later it would be a path He's lead me to
He'd say Go that direction
Then stand back to see what I'd do

Would I let the climb deter me?
Would obstacles hold me back?
Would I let my fear or dismay
Push me completely off track?

Sometimes the climb is exhausting
And darkness the path will obscure
And I'll long for His clear direction
A word to just reassure

But sometimes the Lord just stays silent
Offering no new words along the way
He just leaves me with the decision
On this path will I or won't I stay?

If I ponder my feet it overwhelms me
Looking at the path I long to turn back
Trying to peer through the darkness
I'm so aware of the wisdom I lack

So many lessons in His silence
About my want and my need and my know
But when I'm too focused on such things
I might wonder Where did He go? 

But Truth, it's a fool thing to wonder
About where The omnipresent God might be
Because even in long seasons of silence
He's not once for a moment ever forsaken me

Obedience is not just a moment
But rather a path we must take
And to expect it to always be simple
Is to make the gravest mistake

Even more grave is to believe the lie
That obedience always makes sense
For it will often be quite a struggle
And we'll find it a battle intense

For strength is built with resistance
And it's with exercise that faith will grow
So when I don't know what's up ahead
Remember Who said to me Go

Though His silence sometimes overwhelming
Not forever will it ever remain
And when again I hear His sweet whisper
It will echo like the sweetest refrain

For sometimes the still in His silence
Is like a pause in the midst of a song
For when the music resumes
The message is pow'rful and strong

Loved, Forgiven, Redeemed
He has a plan for you up ahead
So retreat not back from His path
Settling for any less in its stead

No, the road won't be easy
At times it'll seem to quiet to bear
But I promise even in silence
Jesus is always right there

So press on, pursue, relent not
Listen, focus, expect Him to speak
Continue on despite His silence
For you're on a path that's unique

When you're found in the midst of His silence
Revisit Who and whatever you know
But never turn back from the path
Of obedience where He said to go

Little sheep, press on and relent not
Wait with hope for the Shepherd's voice
For He will not remain ever silent
When He speaks then we shall rejoice.

©Diana DePriest
September 22, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dear Lord

I feel so... stretched.  There is so much going on, so much change, just a lot of "new" and challenge and we both know I am not a big fan.

There are things I know you have asked of me (commanded?) that I am having such a miserable time with, but I submit because I know it's not about how I feel, but rather about whether or not I will obey in spite of how I feel.  I'll be honest (which is sort of funny to say because You actually know better than I do what I am thinking, feeling and intending, but I digress...) I keep waiting for a reprieve.  I know Lord you have asked me to do ________ for the sake of ___________ , but I'm not feeling any better about doing what You've asked, I am actually feeling worse.  And I know You have asked me to make it about worshiping You, and and loving You, and loving specific "others" but my heart isn't in it.

I really don't believe there is any reprieve on the horizon, but I am watching for it anyway.

You asked me almost a year ago to focus on two things-- living open-handed and to remember that Your grace is sufficient.  You asked me THIS right after You directed me to go back to school after a 22 year hiatus.  You asked me to go back without any plan, but I knew you were asking me.  And now people say, "What are you going back for?" and I can only answer, "I don't know, I'm just doing it because the Lord asked it of me."  And let's be real, to a large percentage of people, even in my world, that sounds a little nuts.  But when you gave me the addendum of open-handedness and Your grace's sufficiency, I thought you meant regarding school specifically.

That hasn't turned out to be the case at all.  In fact, the whole open-handed thing has had a LOT more to do with life beyond school.  And my impression that it meant holding loosely because things would be removed was accurate, though it stretched much further than I could anticipate.  But it also meant to keep my hand open for things you wanted to place there even when I didn't want you to (refer to paragraph 2 above.)  Sometimes it feels like holding something heavy in my open hand.  I'm tired, I don't want to, but the choice isn't to just hold it or put it down, it is to obey or disobey, and the truth is, I know there is only one right answer when I look at it that way.

School, by the way, isn't as exciting or new as it was when You asked me to go back.  So now as I hear you say "stay" and "press on" I feel the tilt of the hill increasing, and yet-- I STILL don't know the why or where of the journey you have called me to.  Perhaps that's why Your Word says "the STEPS of the righteous are ordered by the Lord" rather than the journey or the destination.  I feel like a soldier instructed on a "need to know" basis, and You have so far determined, I do not need to know.

I guess that's why I keep thinking back to things you have spoken before.  Like, that I am to trust Who you are rather than what you are doing.  When all I can think is "I just don't get it," You don't try to make any explanation of yourself at all, you just want to know, "Do I know Who You are?" (And in context remember who I am not.)  And "do I believe that You are good?"  These are the only questions I really need to concern myself with.   And they are questions I really need to have answered in advance.

(Deep sigh.)  I know Who You are.  And I know that You are good.

That's what I have to turn back to when things are hard - not just my things, but much bigger things in the lives of those around me.  Loss, sickness, death, loneliness, hardship.  You are still God and You are still good even in the midst of them.

That means I know that being in places I don't want to be, and doing things I don't want to do or at least don't understand, and even going through hard times, and hard things-- if you have asked it of me, it must be ok.  You have a purpose.  You are God, so you always have purpose.  And You are good, so if that's true, there must be some good you will bring out of it.  Not that that eases the process, but it offers the glimmer of hope in the darkness.

I love you Father.  You are better to me than I could ever deserve.  I know in my heart that this life will always be full of challenges and difficulties because I am not where I belong... and I am not yet who I am meant to be.  It's not about skills or opportunities, but it is about your chisel in my life, chipping away the things (the big giant chunks of me) that don't please You, don't bless others.  Sometimes it hurts like hell, but it really isn't anything like the hell you rescued me from.

Help me get my focus on Who and What I know.  Help me get it off my circumstances, especially those that displease me, and help me get it back on on pleasing You.  Not because it gains me favor, but because I love You-- for Who You are, and because You are good.  That's what I know on this "need to know" basis.

I press on,  in Jesus' name.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Labor and Delivery

I woke up alone early on the morning of February 10th, 1994, and something felt strange; the mattress was damp.  I called Neal on the phone immediately.  "Honey," I said, "I think my water might have broke."

Neal rushed home and we headed to the hospital.  I felt no pain, no contractions, but our Natural Child Birth teacher had really emphasized the importance of not messing around with leaking amniotic fluid.  She'd shared horror stories and all.

The road was dark; Neal seemed excited.  I felt terrified.  I remember telling him I didn't think I could do it. All that was on my mind was the birth videos I'd watched.  I'm actually pretty confident if you showed them in freshman health class in high schools you could probably cut the teen pregnancy rate by at least half. I just could not imagine that my body had the capacity to push the little baby inside me out.  The thought of it terrified me. Neal assured me I could do it, moreover he pretty much guaranteed me that I really had no choice-- so here we were on our due date on the way to the hospital ready to meet our son.

They almost sent me home that morning.  I wasn't in active labor and at first they didn't think I'd actually sprung an amniotic leak.  But eventually signs indicated that my water was on the road to breaking, and since I had been on bed rest for several weeks due to high blood pressure they kept me and decided to help the labor process along.  Besides, he was due.  It was time, his due date had arrived.

Tomorrow a different kind of due date has arrived.  I feel about it a lot like I did the first one.  I don't really know how I'm gonna do it.  I can't imagine how it's going to be possible to 21 1/2 years later "deliver my son" out into the world.  The night before the first due date I broke all the rules of my bed rest and some serious nesting occurred.  I cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floor and did the dishes.  It helped me feel like I was getting ready, even though I had no idea if he would come for sure the next day.

Tonight there isn't any "nesting" to do.  In fact the last few days I have sat back quietly while my son has pulled all the sticks and twigs that are his from this nest of mine.  The "boys' room"  has been vacated, and by tomorrow night it will only belong to Ethan.  There are a few pieces of memorabilia from Ducks stuff that have migrated to his little sister's room, but most everything else has been boxed and stored or shipped ahead to his dorm room in Virginia.  21 1/2 years ago, just Neal and I home, I sat with my hand on my belly imagining how my life would change when this new little person came home to live. Tonight sitting here, just Neal and I home, I find myself imagining what it will be like when the young man I carried so long ago moves on and leaves, and doesn't live here anymore.

Labor the first time hurt like hell.  Being forced into labor loses the easing in process of the first contraction and then progression.  When they induce you the labor comes on hard and fast, and when they did that with me it wasn't very effective.  From 6 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon I had a lot of pain, tried a lot of meds and made very little progress.  Then a lovely nurse came along and suggested we break all the rules I had learned, and offered me an epidural even though I was only at 2 cm. I heart epidurals, and when the pain subsided  I was tired and Neal was hungry, so he left me alone and I took a long nap.  It was a phone call to my room from my friend 2 hours later that woke me up.

The doctor came in to check my progress while I chatted with my friend.  While completely unconscious I had managed to progress beautifully, and in two hours with no pain I had gone from 2 cm to 8 1/2.  My friend congratulated me on the news and then I hung up to throw up.  And because there were no such things as cellphones in 1994, I just sat alone excited and waited for Neal to come back.  It was getting close, the baby was coming soon.

There's no medication for the pain I'm feeling this time.  There's no taking a nap and waking up feeling better about this delivery. The last few weeks and months whenever I've woken up I have immediately felt the sadness and anxiety of the impending departure of my boy. It's very bittersweet.  My heart aches.  I am really going to miss my son.  But, just like Neal told me on the drive to the hospital, this delivery is unavoidable, it has to come.  It's still hard. As much as I was excited for his arrival, I am just as sad to see him leave.

At the hospital it was just a little while longer before the doctor told me it was time to push.  Neal was back and fed. Things were chaotic at the hospital. My body was doing strange things, I was shaking and I didn't have enough feeling in all the places I needed to.  Nurses were growing frustrated by family members who kept sneaking down the hall listening for our baby's first cry.  And when it came time to push not all was as it should be and there was a lot of flipping and rolling trying to get the baby in the right position to be born.  It took me an hour and a half to push him out.

This time as I prepare to "push him out" everything is running smoothly, in fact it's required no actual labor on my part at all.  And unlike the infant who seemed to hesitant to come into this world 21 1/2 years ago, the man he has become hardly seems able to contain his excitement about now moving on.  Pride and sadness are a strange mix of emotions, and they greatly contrast the mix of pride and joy I felt the night we first met.

"It's a boy!" Neal confirmed what I'd known in my heart from the moment I found out I was carrying the little life inside.  Baby Jacob was so quiet it frightened me.  I demanded to know why he wasn't crying, panic rising up in my heart, it started to infect Neal as well.  "Relax," the doctor told us, "he's completely pink. He's fine." And then I think the doctor pinched him just to allay my fears. He let out a beautiful cry.  In hindsight I now realize that his subtle easygoing entrance was just foreshadowing on the laid back and unobtrusive man he has become. He has always been a gentleman.

Within minutes of Jacob's birth, my delivery room was filled with all our family and closest friends, more than 20 people came into the room, and they literally lifted him out of my arms and passed him around.  Grandparents, uncles, cousins, friends-- he passed through them all.  I found myself feeling a little left out as he said all his tiny little helloes.  I've felt a lot like that this week as well, as he's been gone an awful lot to make his farewell stops and say all his big goodbyes.

I finally asked if I could have my baby back, and Neal got him and brought him to me.  I pulled back his little blanket and took in the wonder of this tiny little person who now firmly held my heart. It was only a matter of minutes before the nurse came in and told me she had to take him away. I wistfully watched, a little sad, but knowing he'd be back before too long.

Less than 24 hours from now Jacob will be on a flight to Phoenix, his first of two stops before he finally arrives in Virginia early Saturday morning.  Having let him be "passed around" the past few days since his Guatemala return Sunday last, I am awaiting the short bit of time I can hold on to him before that big airplane whisks him away.  Just like those brief moments felt too few in the delivery room, tomorrow's brief time together doesn't feel like long enough to say goodbye. And even though I know it's right on time on his and that his "due date" is here, it still kinda feels too soon.

Let me clarify that despite the possibly dark and somewhat melancholy tone that may be in this blog post, underneath the hard stuff, I am excited for my son.  I am proud of the man he has become.  And I do look forward to hearing about the things that God is going to do in His life, and the things God will use him to do.  But, it's still hard.  Chalk this up to another of life's experiences that you cannot truly anticipate your response to until you get there.  I thought that I would be the mom who would have no trouble letting go.  I was wrong.

21 1/2 years ago I was enamored with this tiny little person I did not know.  He rode on my tailbone so long while I pushed that he came in as a literal pain in my butt.  But the pain was worth it, even though it stayed with me for the next six months.  The labor of 11 1/2 hours was hard on my body, but in the end it was all worth it.

I had no idea back then that the end of that first delivery was actually the beginning of a different kind of labor, one in our case that would last 21 years, six months and 11 days.  Over the course of those years there have been lots of times that Jacob has been a figurative pain in my butt, but I'm pretty sure that this time the feeling was pretty mutual.  This long labor was full of push and pull, pain and progress. At the end of the first labor I became a mom and had a hand to hold.  At the end of this second labor, I'm still a mom, but I'm a mom who instead of holding on is finally letting go.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kudos to all the moms

Kudos to all the moms out there who feel like they've got a great handle on this role in life.

I am not one of you.

Just this week I lost my cool with one of my kids in a big way... big way... righteous anger ignition lighting a fire of less than righteous expression of it.  Sigh... it is a lifelong struggle.  Well, it's a mom-lifelong struggle.  I don't think I ever knew how much of a temper I had until I had kids.  Now I am constantly aware of the shortness of my fuse.  This week the fuse was lit, and it wasn't pretty.

Also along the way this week I find myself swimming through the puddle of mess that I randomly become as I prepare to send another of my children off into the world "on his own..." It's a good thing, it's the right thing, it's even a necessary thing, it's even time for it to happen, but it 21 years I still never managed to prepare myself for it.  So I dwell far more on the lack and mistakes of the 21 years and waver between despair of regret, and wanting to pull the trigger and get it over with quickly.  Sometimes in between I just try to find a numb place of denial, which is a little more comfortable.

Kudos to the moms who feel fulfilled in their role as a mother.

I am not one of you.

Most of the time being a mom makes me feel frustrated and inept.  I mean, I have had moments of feeling fulfilled as a mother. I think back to seasons filled with crazy sleepless nights (mind you, I had two babies in the same calendar year) where I managed to get all three children to bed and asleep all for the same few hours and I felt quite accomplished.  But in all honesty, the longer I am a mother, the more I feel like I don't have a clue, and I am not doing it right and I'm aware of just how much I have managed to screw up.  I waver between wishing that the "success" of motherhood were measurable, and being really, really, really glad that it's not. Sometimes in between I just try to find the numb place of denial, which is a little more comfortable.

Kudos to the moms who feel like they have a solid plan that works when it comes to things like direction and discipline for their kids.

I am not one of you.

I think God has a little bit of a sick sense of humor.  There, I said it, I do.  He gave me the first child who was sweet-natured, passive and compliant... and tricked me into thinking that had something to do with my parenting.  Then the limit ran out on that infant/ toddler nature in the first kid (though it sort of swayed in and out and still does to this day), but to make sure I knew how little it had to do with me, seven years later he gave me this complicated, fiercely independent, challenging child... and then less than ten months later He gave me another one, and that one had a really bad attitude to boot.

It didn't take me long to figure out that three very different kids required three very different kinds of parenting all from this same mom.  I not only lacked one solid plan, I lacked three very needed plans.  And I figured out, for me at least, this whole parenting thing was one long science experiment of trial and error... and error... and error.  It is really quite a trial. I waver between commitment to figuring it out and wanting to throw my hands up in hopelessness. Sometimes in between I just try to find the numb place of denial, which is a little more comfortable.

Kudos to all the cuddly, comforting, patient and nurturing moms.

I am not one of you.

Sometimes my kids are talking, talking and talking, and I just can't even force myself to focus, and I keep trying in my head to say, "LISTEN!!" Sometimes I do, sometimes I fake it well enough to get by, and sometimes they look back it me and exasperation and ask, "Are you even listening to me???"  And I have to shake my head "no."  On a good day I ask them to try to tell me the story again, on not so good days I just shrug, apologize and slip away.

Sometimes my kids struggle with big challenges, especially middle school bullsh... ivek... (just really got hit lately with how much I need to work on my language... courtesy of one of my kids... anyway...) bulshivek problems, and I just want to scream, "SUCK IT UP!! GET OVER IT!!!!"  And sometimes I don't just want to, I actually do.

Sometimes one of my kids wants to (yes, still) crawl in my lap, or lay on my chest, or rub on my arm, and I just want to be left alone.  If I had a dollar in 21 years for every time I told one of them "GET OFF ME!" I could probably take a pretty nice cruise with the hubby.  But I waver between (yes, still) wanting to hide in the bathroom (or now that they're older, my car) and ignore them and knowing these days are fleeting and wanting to get over my no touchy-feely self and soak in every fleeting moment.  Sometimes in between I just try to find the not numb enough place of denial, which is a little more comfortable.

Kudos to the moms who love their children with all their hearts and more than their own lives.




I AM one of you.

Even though I don't always love this role - mom - the one people like to call "the toughest job you'll ever love," I love my children more than life itself.  I don't always love the painful, difficult, humbling, challenging, heartbreaking job of being their one and only mom though.  It's hard, at times hurtful, often stressful. It's not a job I have found to get easier or more manageable, if anything I find it gets harder and harder as they grow up and get older.  It's not a job that you can be trained for (have yet to find a single book that taught me everything I needed to know to love and rear my three very different kids). It's not a job where success or failure is easily measured.  I don't even know at what point you get to decide the job is "complete" enough to be "graded."  Even as my 21-year-old prepares to move out and far away, I still feel the pain of responsibility, and accountability... did I prepare him?  Will he succeed? Does he know I love him? Believe in him? But even when he gets through college, even if he gets through well, when he becomes a husband and father, I know I will look at his strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures and tie them back to the job I did as his mom.  So even though the role of mom changes, it never really ends. There's no report card to look forward to.

The longer I have this job, in all its increase of challenge and difficulty, the more I realize how much less it had to do with what I could teach and impart to my children, and it's so much more about the work God is doing--- in my kids, and even more, in me.  It's messy work.

The longer I do this job, the less opinionated I become about the "right vs. wrong way" of raising my children.  More importantly I am much less opinionated about how other people raise their children.  I finally recognize that not one of us can understand the specific process, challenge and struggle of being who you are, raising the kids you are, parenting the way you are.  I really think that the whole "train up a child in the way he should go," is less about finding the ONE RIGHT WAY, and more about trying to just keep, as best you can, trying to just keep them directed the right general direction.  Realizing that in the midst of my own fumbly, failure-filled, uphill trek as a mom, God has a handle on all the roads that are there... mine, my hubby's, and the three different paths for each of my kids.

At the end of the day, I am just really grateful that I was never called to be the perfect parent, but that Christ has promised to work in my many, many, many imperfections.  Beautifully, not just for my own good, but for the good of those three precious kids he entrusted to me, knowing full well my innumerable shortcomings.

Being a mom makes me tired-- physically, emotionally and spiritually tired. It also makes me desperately needy, and that is a good thing.  That is a God thing.

Kudos to all the moms like me, who despite all the struggle, never give up-- even when they really want to.  Kudos to the moms who love their kids in their own failing, fumbling, falling short kind of way, who just do their best because their best is all they can do-- even on the days when their best doesn't seem like much at all.  Kudos to you.  Kudos to us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Being Jacob's Mom

I was twenty-two years old when I truly decided I was ready to be a mom.  That's the point in my life that I was married and settled, and I really chose to make an effort to get pregnant, have a baby and become a mom. Now, twenty-three years later, I don't actually remember my process or my reasons specifically, but I know I had them.

I was an only child who wasn't really around little kids much.  A couple of my girlfriends had started their families and had a couple babies under their belts, but my involvement extended to shower gifts, well wishes and an occasional "hold and coo" session. I had babysat a little as a teenager, but really - I was clueless.

I guess becoming a mom was part of the "natural next step."  I was married, now you had babies - and babies, including my friends babies were cute. They were soft and cuddly to hold, and when they dozed and cooed they were absolutely precious.

For me there was fertility treatment involved in my pregnancy efforts, so I know I was fully committed to the idea.  The idea.

The idea.

That was the thing about becoming a mom, it started out as an idea.  I imagined how in doing things completely different from my own mom my relationship with my own children would be better... perfect, even.  Now mind you it wasn't like my mom had done a bad job, I mean, after all, she had raised me.  But still, I knew how differently I would do... everything.  And I was so confident about how my kids would react, respond.  I remember a lot "I'll never's" and "My kids won't ever's..."  (Giggle) Because the thing about being a mom, is when it's theoretical, and you're parenting theoretical kids, well... everything goes perfectly.

It took more than a year of trying after a bad miscarriage to find out I was finally pregnant.  In fact the heartbreaking longing for motherhood had bruised my heart pretty badly between my miscarriage and seemingly fruitless fertility treatments.  A year is a really long time when you are surrounded by girlfriends who say "I think we might like to try (BOOM pregnant) have another baby...." Baby showers were, once upon a time, THE most painful event to weather through.

Then one night in June 1993 I was home by myself, well, just me and the dog. I had my bible out and worship music blaring and I poured my heart out like Hannah in the Bible before the Lord.  I prayed for a child, and then I prayed for God's will.  And I told the Lord if it was NOT His will for me to be a mom, then I didn't want to be one.  And I had peace.  And I meant my prayer. And then I remembered there was one last pregnancy test under the sink in my bathroom.  And as an act of faith, I decided I would just get rid of it.... but I wouldn't waste it.  So, I peed on the stick.

I took the stick back out into the living room and I went back to the Word and worship.  After a while I glanced over at the stick, and much to my surprise where there had always been a (-) there was a (+).  I looked at the stick, I looked up to heaven.  I looked at the stick. I looked at the dog, resting at my feet.  I looked up to heaven.  I picked up the stick in disbelief.  I looked up to heaven.  Then I jumped up, and down, and up and down and up again.  And I told the dog I was pregnant.  He jumped up and down with me.

Ironically (if you know my oldest) my husband Neal was at a Stanley Cup Hockey game that night.  These were the days before cell phones.  So as hard as I tried to keep this exciting news between me and the dog, I called my mom and three or four of my closest girlfriends and shared the news.  My mom came over, she stopped and picked up five more pregnancy tests on her way.  When she got there, I took three more.  All the results were the same.

But it was as I sat out on the porch in the dark waiting for my mom to get there that as I was quietly thanking and praising God that something stirred in my spirit and I knew I was carrying a son.  That's a point of interest really because a couple years before during a deep emotional healing process as I first came to Christ over an abortion in my teens, the Lord had promised me very clearly that I would have a daughter. But I knew, practically from the moment I found out he was coming, that Jacob was a boy.

I loved being pregnant.  Even in utero he was this mellow, calm quiet kid. He never kicked me, he would stretch and roll, and get the hiccups, but he was unobtrusive. Once he tapped to a beat while his dad was practicing on a drum pad, but most of the time he was just really chill.  The same was true when he came into the world.  He took his time (literally) getting out, and he came in quietly.

Everyone has seen enough TV shows and movies to know babies are supposed to cry when they are born, but Jacob didn't. I actually panicked, I asked why he wasn't crying and my fear lit fear in Neal.  "Cry, cry, cry," I said.  The doctor told me "Relax, he's completely pink!" And then I think maybe he pinched him just to calm my fears.  That loud cry he let out was the sweetest sound. He was a beautiful baby, perfect. And in all honesty, he kinda stayed that way for a long time.  Careful, obedient, cautious, sweet - these words would describe the baby who slept about 16 hours a day (that may explain how big he grew.)

I remember when Jake was 11 months old and he cruised over to me from kitchen chair to kitchen chair and put his hand on my cheek and tapped it lightly, he said his first word, "Mama." The boy never crawled.  We worried a little, Neal and I would sit him at one end of the hall and we would sit at the other and try to coax him to come to us.  He just laughed at us and rolled over on his side. He didn't care much about being mobile, then one day when he was not quite a year old we had a picnic in the house.  I walked over and bent down and let him have a sip of my Foster's Freeze chocolate shake.  Then I turned and walked across the room and sat down.  Out of nowhere the boy stood straight up and walked over to me for more.

As a toddler he was smart, funny, vivacious-- he used to like to perform little skits, and would pop out of an empty cupboard in an entertainment center and perform "The Jacob Show!!!" He loved to watch Disney - Mickey Mouse's "The Prince and the Pauper" over and over and over and over again... "More Mee Mow, Mommy, more Mee Mow."  He spoke well, looked and acted older than he was and was never stubborn about anything until potty training and giving up his pacifier (and potty training was harder than the pacifier.) But once he decided he was ready he did it in a week, never even had a single accident.

Jacob's first tantrum wasn't until he was four.  I can still play the video of it in my head.  I remember as I watched him kick and scream in the middle of the aisle at Payless Show Source wondering what alien life force had taken over my kid.  It was the beginning of a pattern, my typically easy kid started to give me trouble about every four years - at 8 (when the two new siblings had shown up in the same year; 12 (when puberty kicked in): 16 (because I think that's in the teenager handbook); and 20 (because being a grown adult and living under your mom's roof, especially this mom's roof-- is hard.)

It's funny, I started this blog wanting to talk about what it's like to be a mom, and somehow it became all about the kid.  And really, that is what you don't know when you're twenty-two years old and you decide you want to have a baby.  You don't think, or at least I didn't think, much past what the cute and cuddly part is like.  I didn't even actually have a fully accurate picture of that (it wasn't until the siblings came along that I understood what having an uncooperative baby was like-- Jacob really suckered me in thinking I had a handle on things those first few years.)

I'm gonna be honest, I am not the "give the kid the last cookie" mom.  In fact, I know in a lot of ways I have been a pretty selfish parent at times.  I know I have been tough, strict, and hard.  That especially manifests itself in the first child - the practice kid, like Jake.  It requires too many years of experience to really know and accept you don't know what you're doing as a parent, but really, neither does anyone else. Being a perfectionist didn't help.  In hindsight there are a lot of things I would have tried to make bother me less (the phrase "don't cry scream over spilled milk" comes to mind.) But you can't go back.

The Bible gives some rather vague instruction on parenting, "train up a child in the way he should go..."  where I would like an instruction manual to proceed, God wants my dependence to follow. The Bible also talks about "iron sharpening iron," and you never really understand that metaphor the same way until you are a parent.  I am the chisel, sometimes painfully pounding on the block that is my kid.  I am so focused on what I can participate in forming on the block, and all along God is working on reshaping the chisel - it's a horrible irony, really.

I never really remembered until I started writing this blog that I had poured out a "Hannah Prayer" for my first born son.  In Hannah's day, she kept her Samuel only long enough to wean him before she delivered him to the temple.  It's hard to imagine giving away a toddler. What I didn't know 22 years ago when I prayed that prayer was that it's not a whole lot easier to deliver a "child" to the temple when he's 21 either. Oh, it's necessary, mind you, but it's not easy.

I will always be Jacob's mom, perhaps to his dismay at times, but a big huge part of my job (which has been dwindling for years) is actually coming to an end as we prepare to send him off... to the temple... to "bible college"... to Ignite in just over two weeks.  (yeah, I am totally swallowing back tears right now, and if you know me, you know how much that pisses me off!)  Some might think we're late - he's 21, why is he still here?  Some days I have honestly asked that question myself, but I can tell you wholeheartedly, it has NOT been too long.  In fact in many ways it just doesn't feel long enough.

My son drives me crazy sometimes (part of the practice kid syndrome, partly because we are too much alike and partly because we are way too different-- yes it can be both.) Right now, as I look at him, as he prepares to leave, I am far more aware of the hard things, my failures, our challenges in relationship-- it was good to reminisce about happier days in this post.  But I love my son, and more importantly (even though he may not know it) I really like him.  I respect him. I'm proud of the person he has become. He's still smart, funny and vivacious.  He's also kind, compassionate, caring, he's found passion, he loves God, he loves others.

I hope that in the midst of my awareness of the ways I have blown it, failed him as his mom, made mistakes as a parent, that part of my influence has also helped him become the good person that he is-- the godly person that he is.

Being a mom turns out to be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life.  Maybe not all moms feel that way, but that has been my experience. Stretch marks, sleepless nights, toddler temper tantrums, homework, carpools, puberty, teen years, heartbreaks, disappointments, failures-- yours and theirs, all hard-- so, so hard.  But none of it compares to this, to letting go.

I thought 11 1/2 hours of labor and an hour of pushing him into the world was hard, but it does not compare to the culmination of the 21 1/2 years of labor that followed pushing him out on his own.  There's no epidural for this part.

I've failed a lot as a mom... a LOT a lot (I have two more, let's be real, I am STILL failing a LOT)... But my God, I love my kids-- if you're a mom, you'll understand when I say, "more than they will ever know."  But this is it.  It's time to leave the nest, soar or fall, fail or fly, it's time to stretch those wings and go.  Part of my heart is leaving, and going out into the world in a way I never understood at 22 years old.  I didn't know.  And I have spent a while now trying to stay in denial, but it's here, no more clipping the wings.

Gotta let go.

Gotta let him fly.

Nobody told me.

But it's time.

I hope he soars.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A very dark place

There are certain things in life that are very difficult, dare I say impossible, to comprehend unless you have experienced them for yourself. There are those things I have not experienced that I can still say that about with confidence, and there are those things I can say that about with certainty because of my experience. I would only dare to speak though, to those things I have experienced.
I'm writing this blog laying in bed, in the middle of the night on my cell phone because I am too restless to sleep. It's been a long, difficult and challenging day, even though from the outside looking in that might not seem at all obvious. When I woke up this morning I could almost SEE the cloud of depression as it blew in from origins unknown. It's as though it was waiting for me to wake.
I would venture to say it came in with a dessert wind as these last few weeks have felt very much like a spiritual desert-- dry, difficult-- the Lord has seemed mostly silent, despite my persistent efforts to be faithfully in the Word and prayer every morning. It's like I've lost my spiritual signal in the desert, and no communication is coming through.
Both the desert and depression are difficult, together they can be completely overwhelming, but if you've never experienced them, apart or together, they can be almost impossible to comprehend.
My worst experience with the depression and desert pairing happened about five years ago, and to a certain degree they lasted for nearly three years. It was probably the most gut wrenching experience of my life, and it was primarily misunderstood or even completely unnoticed by the people around me. That's the thing about deserts and depression, they can be well masked-- smiling on the outside while falling apart on the inside, functioning in life while feeling like your spirit might die.
I remember a lot of nights during that two year stretch, slipping away to be alone and just trying so hard to pour my heart out before God, begging Him even at times to just take me home into his presence, begging not to wake up the next day. But the sun kept rising, and I kept having to get up with it, to be the wife, the mom, the daughter, the employee... I functioned in my life because I had to. For me I was never suicidal, but I could picture myself cutting myself to release the strain. I never did it, but I could see it in my mind's eye.
I did hurt myself with food, however. I'm not a drinker or a drug user, but I can absolutely understand the compulsion, and I ate with the same fervent compulsion as the alcoholic drinks or the drug addict uses. But nobody ever calls out the fat girl for gaining back weight.
It's really hard to reach out and talk to other people about deserts and depression, because if they don't understand it, their well-intentioned advice usually only makes matters worse. "You shouldn't feel that way," they'll say, or "you just need to think positive," they'll admonish. And suddenly you start to wonder if the desert and depression is really your own fault. Even people who have had the desert or depression experience can be limited in how helpful they can be because there is no simple solution-- and the temptation to assume what helped them will automatically be successful for others can be problematic.  This scenario makes me think of Job and his overly confident friends.
Depression and desert seasons are like dirty little secrets in the church. Christians aren't "supposed" to have these kinds of struggles. The joy of the Lord is supposed to be or strength, and it's impossible to fathom the existence of a desert or depression in its presence... and yet.
I'm not writing this blog because I feel like I have answers, I guess rather my intention is to just be real and say, "I love Jesus with all my heart, and yet sometimes I find myself in a very painful dark place."  Battling depression or feeling distant from God does not negate my love for Him, nor does it even diminish my faith. I guess really in some ways it proves my faith when I'm able to hold on, if only by a strand, even in the midst of being completely overwhelmed.
I do feel so unsettled, and like I'm in a battle against the dark cloud that wants to consume me. It's not to the degree it was five years ago, but it's enough that I remember the pain from before. So I try to push back, first and foremost with prayer-- my own as well as the prayers of faithful friends. That may be the biggest difference between this time and five years ago-- then I felt far more alone. The cloud before succeeded in isolating me, even though it's trying this time I have learned to recognize the danger of withdrawal. So I reach out, I talk about it, I try to stay as open and honest as I can, though carefully so. Even people who know me and love me, maybe even BECAUSE they know me and love me, can be tempted to say things like "don't feel that way." Or they might try to assign fault to my temperament instead of being able to understand that this is really as much an outward battle as an inward one.
The cloud is thick, it tries to rush in and cover me, isolating, but also it makes me very raw, that makes reaching out to others harder because on top of being challenged and tired it makes me highly sensitive and prone to hurt. That's just a hard place to be.
I guess my hope is for a fresh wind, a refreshing wind from the Holy Spirit, to blow coolly in and push back the cloud of depression and whisper away the dry desert season. It's really the only answer that brings hope... not that the depression and desert won't happen, but that they can be battled back, not even so much by me, but for me by the living, loving God, who even when He seems distant and silent is still there, still for me, still letting nothing separate me from The reality of His love, even when I am lost to the sense if it.
I know this blog will probably be lost on most people, but if it's read by just one person who needs to hear it, then the self-exposure is worth it. Just know, it's not just you, you are NOT the only one... Hang on to whatever strands you can fit as long as you can... You may not see it now, but God is still there, still working, and He will break through and draw you out of the cloud. Don't give up. God is still good.

Apologies for what I am certain is innumerable typos and grammatical errors, typing on my phone is convenient, not necessarily conducive to great writing. I hope the message got through here anyway.


Monday, June 29, 2015


I went for one of my regular walks this morning, and a few streets down in my neighborhood I passed the home of a neighbor I never took much notice to before and I really know nothing about. Then today I noticed something in their yard that was never there before, a giant rainbow colored flag.  At the of their walk to their driveway hung a banner with all the rainbow colors that hung so far down it almost resembled a door. 

There was a check in my spirit, a moment of annoyance mixed with sadness, much like the sense I've had on Facebook the last few days as I've looked at all the "rainbow-ized" profile pictures of many of my Facebook friends and acquaintances.  And then it occurred to me, I still don't know anything about this neighbor with the rainbow flag.  I could be tempted to think I do, but the truth is I do not. 

There is a list of obvious possibilities-- it could be the home of a homosexual, or a homosexual couple who is excited about the court decision that they see as a victory, a blessing even.  Or it could be the proverbial "screw you" from someone of the same persuasion.  It could be someone who is not gay themselves but is simply celebrating in solidarity, or someone who wants to piss off a neighbor they have perhaps debated on the issue.  I don't know, I can't know, and because I have no intention of walking up and knocking on the door to ask, I won't know.  At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter because they are still my neighbor.  

I have another house in my neighborhood that I know is the home of a lesbian couple raising a teenage son.  I've only had one actual interaction with them in the many, many years that they've lived five houses down my block, and it was in the midst of a neighborhood crisis many years ago that I no longer recall the details to. We used to wave as they drove past my house to theirs, but then a few years back we brought a "Say yes to Proposition 8" sign home from our old church and put it in our yard. I noticed within the week they placed a "Say no," sign in their own yard. And in all honesty, I was angry at the time, and I'm not sure who stopped first, but the waving stopped and angry scowls came from the front seat of their car instead.  Looking back later, I just regretted putting up my sign in the first place, all it accomplished was making an enemy out of my neighbor. 

As I walked past their house this morning, I looked to see if there was any outward sign of celebration, any rainbows to be seen, and I noted that there was none.  But I honestly don't know why.  Just as I can presume they were unhappy when Prop 8 passed, they were probably happy with the Supreme Court decision, but I cannot be sure by just walking past their door. And can I tell you a secret? I get it.  I get why they would be happy. I get why they would be celebrating. I get that in their minds this is a likely HUGE victory, and a very good thing.  And I can't even be angry with them for it.  Why should they feel any other way? 

OK, now everybody stop for a second and take a deep breath because I realize I may have pissed off a lot of my readers by now-- no matter where they stand on the issue.  But right here, just now, I am positive that my most passionate Christian friends on the issue are probably ticked and completely questioning me, my sanity and most of all my Christianity. Can I tell you something? I get that too.  There is a person who is not my personal friend, who I see through mutual friends on Facebook who turned her profile pic into rainbow colors, and from a distance I saw her make a deeper commitment to God this weekend, and the two things do not gel together in my mind.  And it stirs doubts and concerns.  But THIS is that place where the Bible tells me not to judge (condemn) another Christian.  Standing over here gathering clues from the distance, I am no expert on her heart.  

What a mess it is. The division is what I find so sad. In the church, outside of the church, from the church-- so many mixed messages. We have the adamant and angry who see the celebration of sin and it enrages them... I get it.  You have those who want to debate scripture and rewrite what it says in the name of tolerance and peace, and although I don't agree with it, I can understand.  And then you have all the people outside the church and the response is just as varied-- we Christians seem to have no better handle on the situation than anyone else. I get why they think so poorly of us all. 

I do know this though, it is unrealistic for us as Christians to expect an unbelieving world to live according to a biblical standard.  They can't even understand it, much less apply it.  Yes, yes, I know (even if they try to rewrite history and deny it) AMERICA WAS BUILT ON JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES!!!  It doesn't matter.  That's not longer the case. But this I do know, it is our mistake to make those who stand against our beliefs the enemy.  People aren't the enemy, and to hate them for believing differently than we do completely undermines what we as Christians claim to believe. Like it or not, as hard as it may be, "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the #2 command. There's no out (excuse the pun) on the gay marriage issue, whether it's the celebrating gay or the sympathetic brother in Christ, we're called to love. 

Now relax, I'm not saying you have to abandon your principles or let go of your beliefs, you just can't let that aspect of religion supersede the importance of relationship.  I am not saying homosexuality isn't a sin, but ask yourself, are you as angry about the unmarried couple with two kids living down your block... attending your church... serving there even? Because if you're not, then that little issue of hypocrisy we all have to watch for is creeping in.  Yeah, I get that suddenly the nation has legalized and authorized this sin you take issue with, but don't forget, God takes issue with all sin.  That's why we are Christians in the first place, we at some point at least recognized we were sinners in need of a Savior-- and we still are. But sometimes we forget that after we've been doing the faith walk long enough to impress ourselves. 

There is a lot of debate, discord, anger and outrage stirring about.  It is coming from all sides, but in all honesty, the "side" that "won" seems pretty happy and content at this point, and the ugly seems to be pouring pretty powerfully out of the conservative Christian camp.  That's not a good thing.  I see lots of angry, hostile conversation, with hateful words spewed-- words of fear, words of judgment, words of attack.  Then suddenly when we realize we've perhaps crossed the line we take a step back and try to settle a little and declare, "well, I love the sinner, I hate the sin."  But hear my warning, when the sin is the identity of the person, they cannot separate your feelings for what they do from who they are. They are neither feeling nor receiving our love.  Instead of pointing our finger at the sin and declaring our disdain, we as Christians have to figure out a way to look past the sin and love the sinner first. It is the hardest thing to do, but it is what Christ did, and what He wants to do through us. 

As I walked past my neighbor's flag today, I realized part of my difficulty is that it's the rainbow that is the symbol that has been chosen to declare the celebration. "Gay PRIDE," they say.  And it occurred to me, the rainbow belongs to God-- He is the creator of it, and He invented it for a very specific purpose, and it wasn't about any kind of pride, but rather it's about submission, submission to One Greater than self.  It is first and foremost about a promise that God made to His people.  It's meant to be a reminder of our all-powerful God's love and His covenant with us. And I suddenly felt the encouragement in my spirit that when I see a rainbow of any kind, that should be my focus-- God's faithfulness, His goodness, His supreme power. 

I don't have to be afraid of things going on in the world around me; I don't have to be worried about what the world "is coming to," because I know that God is still sovereign, and He is still in control. Part of His promise is to work all things... ALL things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Nothing changes that, and nothing separates God's people from His love.  

Sometimes when things are difficult or challenging and I don't know what to do in a hard circumstance, I always go back to the last thing I was absolutely certain God spoke to me.  In this big picture challenge, let me encourage the brethren that one thing we know we can go back to that God said is "Love."  Love Him and love others. And I would encourage you when you find yourself backed up against the wall of outrage or frustration, remember Who you represent, and remember what He would do.  Think of the gentle Christ sitting along side the woman at the well.  He didn't deny her sin, but He loved her more and that was what drew her to Him. That was the pathway He built into her life. As Christians I encourage us all today, have our hearts and hands ready to reach out to the world, it needs Hope, and we're the ones who know Him. 

Friday, June 12, 2015


I am a born and bred, tried and true California girl, and I love a good earthquake.  Now mind you I am not talking about an 8 point anything, nor have I ever experienced much more destruction than a trinket falling off a shelf or a framed photo cascading down the wall, so let's be clear, my love is relative.  I like I nice 5.2 or so that's close enough to feel, maybe give me a few giggles and brings the panicked craze out on my Facebook feed with the great debate between the fellow earthquake lovers like myself and my less adventurous friends who prefer the earth not move... at least not in the literal sense.

I like to stand on the "I'll take an earthquake any day" argument over the folks who I know who live in hurricane or tornado country who think I am a little cray cray for not only living in California, but actually liking an earthquake here and there, and I definitely get bummed when we have one and I somehow manage to miss it (perhaps I should move to the La Habra area.)  I like the quakes and I like their surrounding "shocks" both after and fore.  Bring me a literal foundation shaker and I am a happy girl.

However, I find myself feeling the rattle and shake of a figurative foreshock, and I am having a much harder time with it.  It feels like the foundation of our little family is up for some serious movement, and I am a little taken aback by how much harder it is for me than I anticipated.

I remember the first literal earthquake we had with the little kids.  I was sitting in my living room under the front window-- a place I tend to be a lot when the earth starts to move.  The glass always rattles first, and because we live right near the train tracks it takes me a few seconds to discern whether the train is just passing by or if the whole earth is moving.  This particular quake came in the middle of the day, and the kids were each playing separately in their rooms.  It was an instant a-ha moment as I could tell it was no train and I realized neither of my littles had ever experienced a quake-- and this was a good one, and by "good" I mean a real rocker.

So, having seen a lot of earthquake damage photos in my day, I am not a big subscriber to the "stand in the doorway" mantra I was raised with. I mean, how many door ways have you seen remain standing in the rubble? So on this particular day I jumped up and ran into the hallway screaming, "Don't panic, come out to me now!" And two little faces with giant eyes came running out with their big brother the fellow quake lover following right behind.  I grabbed the younger kids hands (I'd say they were somewhere around 4 at the time) and we ran out into the street (you know, out where all the electrical wires are.)  As Jacob and I laughed and giggled out in the middle of the street, Ethan got caught up in the "fun" of it, and I hugged and comforted Tori who looked a little more concerned. Then I had to explain to them what an earthquake was, and warn them about aftershocks as they had finally been fully initiated into their California residency (it had been a quiet four years.)

Those hurricane and tornado folk always declare they are better equipped with the warnings that come with their storms in their necks of the woods.  My mindset has always been that warnings are overrated, the anxiety of anticipation was a bigger negative to me than the positive opportunity to plan and prepare.  I always said IF (or when) THE big quake comes that might break California off into the ocean (I mean, how bad could more beach front property be?), if it comes, I would rather just ride it out.

So now, I am looking ahead and I feel those figurative foreshocks. The big shift is coming, and I am still not a fan of the anticipation of imagining what the new topography might look like. My oldest son is moving to Virginia for the next four years (if all goes as planned) and my younger son is going to be going to high school, and without his little sister around for the first time since he was in the kindergarten.  Our exceptionally tight knit little family is spreading out and dividing up, and as I feel the shift and motion, it's the first time in my life I find myself NOT a fan of an earthquake.  I kinda get the fear of my less adventurous friends.

I'm a realist-- I know these changes could and likely will have a ripple effect.  I acknowledge that we are NOT talking tragedy here, but Jacob might never come back to California on a permanent basis.  His future bride, his future calling, his future life could be in Virginia, or he could be called back to Guatemala from there, or "topography" I can't even imagine might be up ahead.  Ethan said to me, "Jacob will be gone for my whole high school experience," and that's very likely - these current roommates may be like strangers at the end of four years, lots of changes happen in both their ages and stages.  Tori feels a little left behind by both her brothers, and I don't know how being separated most of the day for a year will affect the relationship of my younger two (though I am hoping for the best.)

I am having a harder time with Ethan moving on to high school, for a number of reasons, but mostly because having Jacob already journeyed well into adulthood, I am very mindful of how fast these next four years will go.  Last night I watched Ethan graduate middle school and I am very aware that if I blink too quickly, we will be at Toria's graduation next... and in four years we will have another high school graduation and likely a college one as well.

I still don't find myself wishing I lived in tornado or hurricane country, literally or figuratively, but I do find the idea of the stable and unchanging a bit winsome.  I no longer wish I could freeze time, but if I could rewind I would.  Someone told me a long time, much earlier on in my motherhood that "the days are long, but the years are short."  But just like the moms I find myself admonishing with that deep word of wise truth, I didn't really listen, and I didn't really believe them.  But now I do.

Change is inevitable (and I suppose it must be a good thing since God is such a big fan), and time is both a sprinter and a marathon runner, but today I just find myself wishing I didn't have to keep up.  I'm gonna close my eyes for a minute and swallow back the tears rising in my throat because before I know it I am going to be the mother of three amazing grown-ups who'll won't believe how quickly time will run away from them... it'll sneak up on them too, just like an earthquake.