Perpetual Progress

2014: In my glorious woodshed we still have no water. It was a wonderful surprise to find out we are down to one toilet. Then someone (about 4’3, blonde, 60 pounds…) had the brilliant idea to give the kitten a catnip-filled mouse. She freaked out, hopping like a lunatic and darting at breakneck speed from one end of the house to the other until it all caught up with her and she began wretching. Oh, but not in one place. Vomiting scared her, so she ran away from herself every time, resulting in trails of green bile the entire length of the carpeted hallway. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she slept it off in a shoebox. I’m pretty sure she had a hangover the next day.

Sometimes life gets overwhelming for me because I take on too much (like the kitten eating a week’s worth of catnip in a few minutes). Other times it’s because of circumstances outside my control (like being a kitten and trusting human children). This time it’s both. You would think that knowing I have a lot to do would spur me to action. You’d think I would be proactive; instead I am like a deer in headlights.

Case in point, my van named Betty White almost died on me last night. It was a close call that could have possibly been avoided with a simple trip to a mechanic. I left her idling while I talked to a friend and when I got back in she was dinging frantically, telling me she was overheating. I made it to a gas station and bought coolant, opened the hood and dumped it in. The magic serum worked and we evaded disaster. As a bonus, the heat began to work again. Who knew? Ayden, after taking this all in, said, “Mom, Antifreeze fixes everything. Maybe it could fix our cat problem.” That’s my boy. Here, kitty kitty…

Update: I didn’t feed the cat antifreeze that day. Living next to Route 9 fixed the cat problem, sadly. Now we have puppies who take it upon themselves to try and get run over by chasing cars, you know, just for kicks. My car is fully functional and so are my toilets. Life is much more comfortable in so many ways. It’s nice to look back and realize the work I’ve done has paid dividends. 

“Make tomorrow better than today” was once a fortune in my cookie. It makes sense. We have to keep moving forward. This current state of affairs feels like trudging through knee-deep mud on some days. I have my eye on the prize, but I still occasionally get sidetracked. My shoe gets stuck in the muck and comes off, causing me to purposefully pause and get my act together before I take another step. And guess what? That’s ok. It’s ok to stumble as long as we recover and then keep moving forward.  Unfortunately not everyone chooses to move forward. Some people make their life in the muck. To each his or her own, of course, but I can promise you that if you keep moving forward eventually the mud dries, becomes solid ground and then gets covered with gorgeous green grass. 

I choose to keep walking forward, making every day better than the last. Hand in hand (because I don’t have to social distance in my illustrations), we walk through the yuck, holding one another up, until we reach firmer ground. It is my privilege and also my responsibility to use the God-given talents I have to encourage others. I encourage my children and those entrusted to my care to find their talents and use them for the betterment of others. It is in this selfless act that we find our true purpose. Loving and serving others creates for them and for us the solid ground we all desire even when the world is still messy. I want to be the reason someone keeps moving forward, and I am infinitely grateful for the people to call me out when I am anything other than excellent. Seek out those people who love you enough to tell you to knock it off, who hold out their hand to help you out of the hole, self-inflicted or otherwise. Be that person for others, and guide the children in your life to discover their gifts and passions. Feed the cycle of goodness, because it’s starving, and hang in there…better days are just around the corner.

Irrational Juxtaposition

Within the past few weeks I have superglued my hand to my steering wheel, locked my keys in my car and got stuck in a car wash resulting in a nasty dent on the passenger side of my beautiful car. I’ve also experienced some spiraling into dark places in my mind as the enemy whispers lies. To say this past month has been bad for my self-esteem would be an understatement. 

Today I spoke with a friend who said she had just felt “off” these past few weeks. It helped to know someone else was experiencing the fatigue and frustration that this pandemic has created. I haven’t felt like myself in about a month. But instead of really doing the work of introspection and problem solving, I fell into the familiar coping strategy of demanding others give me what I lack. Blaming, being insecure, trying to cover up the real issue by garnering things I’m not yet equipped to have, and all of that has twisted my sense of self-worth and rendered me seemingly powerless. I first used the word “forgotten”, but I think I really mean powerless. 

Being without power is an illusion, though. I found a great article in bustle.com about regaining your power and this quote stood out:

“Complaining suggests that you can’t feel the way you want to until someone or something changes…it breeds self-victimization, and there’s no position of lesser power…than that. When you interrupt the impulse to complain, you recenter your agency in the situation – and empower yourself to actually do something about what’s bothering you.”

I have found the worst thing I can possibly do to myself is make comparisons. That holds true for all of us. It’s hard not to, though. Someone always has a better job, more well-behaved children, a bigger house, more education, fewer pounds or wrinkles…it never ends until WE end the comparison. Maybe that means taking a break from social media, or simply choosing the quiet of prayer and letting God tell us what we are truly worth. All I know is that I am no good to anyone while living in the shadow of self-doubt. In fact, I do damage. I place demands on people they were never meant to satisfy. “Fix this thing only I can fix but don’t want to deal with” is a surefire way to send people screaming in the opposite direction. And so unbecoming of who we are called to be in Christ.

I’m struggling. I don’t like the world we live in right now. It feels foreign, divided, contentious, disingenuous and oppressive. But what is NOT going to fix that is a new house, a new car, or any type of major life change. What IS going to fix that feeling is watering the grass we are standing on, working through the emotional landmines and embracing the life we have RIGHT NOW as training ground so we can look forward to even better times in our future.

It’s all about choice. I can only speak for myself and hope my fellow brothers and sisters can relate to the emotional train wreck we cause when we dare to compare. Adam and Eve wanted more than they had and look where that got them (and us). My personal choices don’t impact all of human kind, but they certainly impact the humans I need to be kindest to, so I will choose more wisely in my future about whom I aspire to be and limit that simply to Summer, daughter of the King, and live my life accordingly. 

Sister Sister

            I’ve posted this one before but it bears repeating. So many times I find myself being led to slaughter by the enemy as he reminds me of my shortcomings. I trudge toward my doom carrying baggage from the past, believing I am unworthy of love. Then I stop and remember who my Father is. I put down the baggage I was never meant to carry, turn around and head home. As I grow in Christ, the length of time I believe the lie has gone from years to months to days to minutes. We need to be tuned in to Him so we can hear His voice telling us to come home. Satan will never stop trying, but God will never stop giving us a way back to Him…

Once upon a time there was a darling little girl whose daddy bought her a pony and whose mama read her stories; she was blissfully singular. Then along came Alyssa, a precious little usurper. When the firstborn realized this tiny, bald, wrinkled person was for keeps, she made it her life’s mission to form a unique, unbreakable bond with her and live happily ever after in sibling harmony. But first she had to be hazed.

            I really wasn’t that bad of a big sister. I may have occasionally broken something and blamed it on her. There could have been times I spit on her head from the top bunk, or told her she was impregnated with a watermelon after she ate a seed. There is a slight possibility I gave her a haircut that made her look like she was attacked by tiny lawnmowers. If she admits to an irrational fear of the Easter Bunny, it is definitely NOT because I hid outside the bathroom window and told her the Easter Bunny was actually an evil jackrabbit. (It made her cry and I got spanked – justice was served.) I’m sure I could go on with more heartwarming examples of sisterly love but suffice it to say it was a hit-and-miss relationship in its formative years.

            It was during those years that I attended Vacation Bible School and learned about Jesus. I decided to ask Him to be the Lord of my life (see John 3:16). From that time until this I sometimes feel like Jesus is hazing me. He wasn’t/isn’t. At least not with the “Let’s do this and see what happens” kind of attitude I had when I put my little brother in the dryer or locked him in the toy box. 

            It has been through these trials, many that are senseless, self-made disasters and some that are not, that God has attempted to raise me up. I have a desire to cooperate, but I fall short every day. I, too, have skeletons just like everyone else. But instead of hiding them, I am using them to build a ladder – every day I reach higher ground until building-sized pieces of the past look like ants as I survey life from the clouds.  It’s amazing up here, and nothing short of Jesus Himself will make me step down the ladder, and since He Himself placed me here, I only go up from this point. 

            It’s no coincidence that Alyssa and I are sisters. God’s been knocking on the door of our hearts for years, urging us to tell our story. We have messed up, but that isn’t the end of the story; it’s the part that invites you in to experience the grace and forgiveness that’s waiting for you. Let’s all be siblings together. I promise I won’t come to your junior high school and demand you take off the shoes you stole from me. Hypothetically. (Sorry, Alyssa)

Outside the Lines with Sailor Skulls

* Another flashback worth repeating, as I go through “Round Two” with teenage girls…

This evening I shopped for a homecoming dress as “the mom” for the first time ever. I was under the misguided impression that I was cool and could help in this milestone event.  What I discovered was quite the opposite. I am but a medium for transportation and money. My opinions are less than important and furthermore I have no right to have them. 

Me: “Look, Addison! This (short, fluffy, glittery ADORABLE) dress is cute!”

Addison: “Yea, if I was in 5th grade.”

Me: “Okay, what about this (perfectly pretty, age-appropriate) dress?”

Addison: Gives me an Elvis lip and says in a very disgusted tone of voice, “I don’t think so.”

Many moms would now give up. Not I. This is my first child. So I persisted in pointing out awesome dresses and she continued to shoot them down, as if anything I liked could not possibly be the right dress because I have social leprosy. (A fact long ago established but still hard to accept.) 

Speaking of leprosy, Hot Topic is loud, dark and full of strange clothing resembling Halloween costumes. I say this because I’m irrelevant. (And if being irrelevant means I’m not into 7/18” gauges in my CHEEK then so be it.) Hanging on the wall of this bizarre store from another planet was a dress that caught the eye of my blue-haired daughter. It looked like a sailor dress but had skulls on the pockets. If she was animated her eyeballs would have become giant red hearts. 

Me: “Are you serious? You can’t wear Halloween costumes to Homecoming.”

Cute 20-year-old sales girl ignoring me completely: “Do you know some girl came in and wanted that dress and said they weren’t allowed to wear skulls at her school?” Then she exhaled and shook her head, as if she was completely flabbergasted by the audacity of it all.

I wanted to say they could probably wear skulls with SKIN ON THEIR BONES AND EYEBALLS IN THEIR SOCKETS but I refrained and remained an invisible observer as Addison contemplated what shoes she would wear with this dress that was still on the wall of weirdness.

Being the persistent woman I am, I insisted we go look at Macy’s, “just in case.” What a waste of precious time. 

Me: “Look!!! This is so YOU!” I said as I pointed out a funky yellow and black dress with a zipper. “Or THIS!” as I shoved a black lacy dress that looked like something regurgitated from the 80’s in her face.

Addison, sighing: “Nothing is as good as the sailor dress.”

Whatever. Guess what dress she’s wearing to homecoming? She was bouncing around like a little kid, so I got over my disappointment of being no help pretty quickly. In yet another failed attempt to engage and be relatable I asked if she was going to “take a selfie and post it online.” 

“Mom,” she answered, completely exasperated. “I don’t want everyone to see it!” 

Duh.

As soon as I get this thing figured out a little more I’m writing a book called “Parents of Teens: Shut Up and Drive”. But seriously, I am glad she is her own person. I really am proud of the young lady she is becoming. God made each of us as individuals for a reason. If we were all the same, life would be unbearably boring. We absolutely need beige in the crayon box, but we also need electric blue. God must think so too, and teenagers are the proof. 

Side note: Let the record state that one day, teenagers, you too will have children who will see you as utilitarian at best. God also has a sense of humor. Enjoy your youth while you’re still cool. 

Interdependent Unity

I have a graduate degree in communication but there are days when I may as well revert to cave drawings, as those would likely be more effective. Anyone with a teenager can certainly relate, along with anyone in a relationship. I have a majority of days where I am on top of my game, and then I have days like yesterday.

One of the most important lessons I learned as a young person was that no one could hear me when I was mean. I may have been saying something that, at its core, had value, but the way I chose to say it canceled out any merit. Incidentally, I learned that lesson as a teenager – likely because that is when the need for it to be taught became apparent. There may have been a wooden spoon involved in the lesson…

Mom was good at object lessons (please refer to previous sentence). She taught me to evaluate my end game. If it truly is to cultivate understanding then how I communicate my feelings is just as important as the message I’m trying to convey. I still sometimes fall short, however. When my emotions are overwhelming I can be too aggressive in how I speak. My words become armor in an attempt to protect myself from rejection, but that is altogether counterproductive. The profound effect of feeling safe, though, is that when I fall short it is only for a brief moment in time and then I wake up and realize my old habits have no place in my current life.

It is only within the past year and a half that I have found my voice. There is no longer fear in my heart when I express an opinion; for the first time in my adult life I can say what I feel – be authentic – even if it isn’t met with agreement all the time. For many years I fell for the mirage of unity instead of the truth that embodies this beautiful concept. 

Our pastor said something that resonated with me; unity will not always mean agreement. We can live in unity and not agree on everything. Nowhere is this more important than in relationships. Two people who agree on everything are living a lie. To disagree is to acknowledge the uniqueness of one another. And to be met with grace and understanding during times of disagreement only serves to strengthen bonds, not undermine them, which is what our culture would have us believe. If you’ve ever doubted that God has a distinct purpose for healthy communication(and a sense of humor) take a moment to consider how differently men and women communicate. 

He said to Adam that it isn’t good for man to be alone so he created a helpmate for him. Isn’t that sweet? Until Eve decided to question the command of God and cause mankind to be kicked out of Eden. (Hey Eve, thanks, by the way. Childbirth is super great, thanks to you. Remind me to tell you how much I appreciate it when I get to Heaven.)

I feel like there are nuances of that story missing from the text. Allow me to fill in the blanks:

 God created Eve for Adam. Adam is happy about it! 

Adam: “Flesh of my flesh! How I love you!” (That’s Adam being happy about it.)

At first Eve is overcome with a deep sense of love for her man. And then she started thinking. She walked away to gather her thoughts. “Did God make him say that? He didn’t seem genuine when he spoke. His eye contact was off. What else was he thinking about?”

Eve (walking back while yelling): “Of course you love me. I’m your only option!”

Adam: “…buuuut…wait, what?” (Adam is now thinking it was easier to just name the animals. He is also wondering where the instruction booklet to his woman was located.)

Poor Adam. When Eve talked to the serpent he knew he shouldn’t have gone along with it but this chick was batsh*t crazy and he couldn’t risk another conversation where he ended up with scrambled brains. 

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. Men (and boys) compartmentalize. That’s why they can fight and then an hour later be playing basketball together. They speak (at least the genuine ones) from the heart with no strings attached. What they say is actually what they mean. I think that is SO WEIRD.

In the female world, everything is connected. Our day mood bleeds into our evening mood. Things that have happened, are happening and will happen in the future occupy our headspace. All at once. We notice what a man says, how he says it, interpret 10 different possible meanings, pick the worst case scenario and then get angry at him for daring to say such a thing. (The “thing” could be, “I can do that for you!”)

Us: “Why? Why can you do that for me? Because you think I’m incapable? Because you don’t need me anymore? I thought I mattered to you. Is this the end for us?”

Man: “…ummm…wait, what?”

Sorry, fellas. It’s all part of the authentic package of your woman. And rest assured, no matter how crazy we seem, the crux of the matter will always be that we want to live in unity with you, heading the same direction, changing the world for the better alongside the men we love. God created us this way, in my humble opinion, because there is no better petri dish for personal growth than that which requires a man and a woman to communicate effectively. Hang in there, guys. It’s worth it. God promises.

Class of 2020 – Covid Chasm

Avery was 4 when he informed me of his plans to move out when he grew up. He said, “Mama, when I’m big I’m going to have a house that’s just mine, but you will have a room.”

“Oh? Ok. What will my room look like?” I asked, playing along.

“It will have rainbows and butterflies,” Avery responded.

“What will your room look like?” I asked.

“Duh, mama. Skulls,” he answered.

It was precious at the time but I couldn’t help but be surprised at his forethought. His older siblings had declared they wanted to live with mommy “forever”. Yet Avery already had a life plan independent of being cared for by me. 

As he grew I imagine he hated every moment of being forced to try fruits and vegetables, take naps, brush his teeth, wear appropriate footwear, clean his room…but now he stands before me as a man who is fiercely independent, making his own way. I find myself searching for ways to care for him without undermining his independence. Now the ceremony of all ceremonies up until this point in a person’s life has been put on hold or cancelled – I get stuck, as a mom, in this place of self-pity and wishing things were different. I was looking at his cap and gown we ordered months ago with full certainty that this week would be the week we celebrated his achievement of high school graduation. I would have been shuttling family from airports and planning a party to honor my son. Instead we have been allotted a time for him to walk alone across a stage. Don’t get me wrong, I understand, but the gap still exists between expectation and reality. 

As we, and especially our class of 2020, mourn the loss of normalcy, it’s ok to be disappointed. Today was supposed to be different than it turned out to be. Today our BSHS Class of 2020 should have been gathering together for one last time as seniors in high school before moving their tassels, tossing their hats and stepping off the stage as high school graduates, ready to move to the next chapter in life. But God has chosen this class to endure and overcome, as they will. He will fill in the gaps between expectation and reality, and if we let Him, He will pick up each of us and gently place us where we are meant to be. 

Class of 2020, you don’t have to have it all figured out, because your Creator already does. As each of you moves forward in your journey, allow Him to lead you in every decision. And my precious Avery, I simply could not be more proud of the young man you are. My heart is full as I watch you fulfill your dreams of independence. It seems like yesterday when we had that conversation, your sweet chubby little face excited to tell me all about your future, yet here we are, on the doorstep of that very dream and I struggle to let you go. I will miss you, sweetheart. No matter how old you are, wherever I am is your home. You will never be alone, and you will always be loved. Congratulations, Avery and congratulations Class of 2020!

Wait…

The first day of kindergarten I got off the bus to my mom waiting for me with Alyssa, a preschooler, and Jon, a toddler. My siblings had clearly missed me all day as evidenced by their excited chatter, running toward me asking questions about my disappearance. My mom tried to hug me but I froze, my body stiff and my eyes shooting daggers. We walked home in tense silence as everyone wondered what was wrong with me. When we got to the house I went to my room and slammed my door – that was the last straw for my mother.

“That is ENOUGH, young lady! What is the problem?” 

My eyes welled up and tears spilled down my little cheeks. My voice quivered as I began to unload my unbearable burden… “I didn’t learn to READ!”

I can distinctly remember the way mom’s eyes changed from angry to relieved to amused. She spoke more softly this time, “Honey, it’s only the first day of school. You have to be patient.”

Everything. All at once. Right now. Not only is it our culture, it is also our human nature. And then, as if out of a science fiction movie, it all changed. Now we wait, forced to comply with regulations and wait out a virus whose identity is veiled at best, challenging the world’s tops minds as it morphs, mutates and changes the rules at its whim. Even Amazon has been affected. (What do you MEAN my Pink Lemonade lip gloss is not essential and I have to wait 5 days even though I pay for Prime membership?) 

I’m not scared. I’m genuinely not. I’m being cautious and respectful of the rules and I trust those in power because that’s what I’m called to do, but I am not afraid. It’s not because I’m arrogant or irreverent, but it took a cumulative 15 miles of hiking over a few days to realize the reason for my confidence – God is bigger than this. He knew it would happen and He knows when it will be over. And it WILL be over. 

There are things we mourn during this unprecedented time in human history. I have personally mourned the loss of Avery’s senior year to the point of tears and losing actual sleep. He will never get the chance to try for state champion again. I had him pegged for Prom King, like his older brother. But then today happened. 

This morning I remembered with such stinging clarity the feeling of saying goodbye to my 30-hour-old baby, kissing his tiny head before they loaded him into the ambulance, unsure of whether or not I would ever get to hold my son again. 

I recalled the feeling of panic, a mere 16 months later, of finding him in a pool, floating, eyes open, his little boots soles up…screaming as I fished him out and sobbing with relief as he took a breath. I can close my eyes and still feel the weight of his body, the texture of his soaked jeans, diaper and flannel shirt and how he felt in my arms as I held him to me on my knees thanking God from the deepest depths of a mother’s heart that he was ok. 

Either one of those memories could have been my last of him. Right now instead of grieving what would have been his senior year, I get the privilege of lamenting a much less solemn reality. That is a privilege I will not take for granted. So while we mourn of the absence of normalcy, it took today to put it into perspective, as some would give everything they had to live through this uncertain time with their loved one. 

We don’t know when our last day on earth may be, but He does, so we are called to live this life like every day could be our last. As inconvenient and disquieting as this situation seems, it may be just what we needed to refocus and pour into the lives of those closest to us, given to us not by accident, but by Providence. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27: 13-14

Aubrey Elizabeth

Aubrey Elizabeth June came into the world screaming, her tiny red face clearly unhappy about her current circumstances. Her unhappiness was still evident 4 hours later. Nothing I did could make her stop crying. I contemplated sending her back, but it was not allowed, so I rocked her and prayed for hearing loss. It wasn’t until her siblings came in, all adorable in their “I’m a big sister/brother” t-shirts, and crowded around her bassinet that she stopped crying. They poked her like she was a science experiment and talked simultaneously but it was just what she needed. And so life with 4 children began.

I’ve had people ask me, “After you have three, what’s one more?” Well, it’s one more whole entire person. She’s not a hamster, or I’d agree with that sentiment. Luckily, she was a very agreeable little human, and integrated into our established routine with ease. Ayden used to carry her (as an infant) tucked up under his arm like a football. Alyssa saw him doing that and looked at me and spoke sternly these words: “Like an egg in a jar, Summer”. She was referring to Aubrey’s developing brain. I was in a sleep-deprived stupor and thought to myself, “I’ll take my chances.” 

She survived infancy and moved into toddlerhood, where her true personality began to shine. She became deathly afraid of any doll with hair and called all of the boys’ dinosaurs “monsters”, which she also did not like. Nanny always had gum (it’s a grandmother requirement), and Aubrey named the spicy gum “mean gum”. She only liked “nice gum”. Aubrey was a small person with a big personality. At that age she planted kisses on any baby she saw. It almost seemed like she didn’t believe she, too, was a baby. She became our tiny little dictator, and we catered to her every whim because it was cute. We were a bunch of fools.

Toddlerhood gave way to the age of the preschooler. This was the time of massive meltdowns because I refused to let her wear her bikini in January – she locked on to certain outfits and wore them constantly, like she was a cartoon character. Her preschool teachers loved to see what outfit she would put together for the day. Aubrey was a delightful source of entertainment in that respect. She simply knew what she liked, but with no concept of time…(After being told to clean her room as a 4-year-old: Tiny fists balled up at her sides -“I will clean my room YESTERDAY, mama!”)

School days brought an end to some of her strange wardrobe choices, but opened her up to the magical world of education. She is like a sponge, and it’s exciting to see her continue to blossom into such a wonderful student. I loved to hear all about elementary school drama and how she tried to fix it even when it had nothing to do with her personally (“Matthew told Justice he was smarter than her and she cried so I yelled at him and I got into trouble!”). I bet that was fun to deal with for the teachers. 

On her 9th birthday she invited 3 of her friends for a birthday sleepover. The party began with Aubrey giving them “the rules” and ended with my hissing in my scary mama voice for her to be nice to her friends after I witnessed less-than-ideal friendship behavior from the tired little dictator. Not much has changed 5 years later; she still believes she in charge and we clash on a whole new level much of the time.

But sometimes as a mom I need to say “I hear you”. I hear your heart, I respect your ideas and I pray one day you will fully understand why you can’t be in charge yet. (You know, after you’ve survived being a teenager specifically BECAUSE you are not in charge.) This is a tough season of life as you continue your childhood without your siblings with you every day. Know this, sweet girl – we WILL get through this. You will come out on the other end just fine. I can’t always give you the answer you want but being your mom is my greatest privilege and I promise to do my very best. Unfortunately sometimes that means we won’t agree.

There is truly nothing about you I would change. Your heart is tender and full of love for your family, friends and Jesus. I could fill a book with the most adorable prayers you have prayed since you could talk. When you were 3 you prayed, “We do not eat our friends”. The day after your birthday sleepover was a simple “Dear God, please help me get better at sleepovers”. As you get older the stakes get higher emotionally; I wish I could protect you from every heartache, but we know the One who can, so never stop praying, honey. I can look at you and not only see the baby you were, but also the woman you are quickly becoming, and I am honored to be a part of your journey. No matter what, I am your biggest fan. 

Such a Time As This

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” Women of Faith, 2011…a stadium full of broken women yet somehow we became more than the sum of our parts. We became whole, woven together by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are meant to live in community. I got a powerful reminder of that truth this week.

“My parents make bad decisions.”

“My daddy touches my pee pee.”

“Is it bad if my dad lets my baby brother drink beer?”

“Daddy takes pictures of my privates.”

“If I tell he says I’m going to the devil.”

“Tell the court I don’t want to be his mother/father anymore.”

“Don’t leave me alone with him.”

“I’m scared.”

“Help me.”

There is unfathomable pain in this world. All the aforementioned quotes are only a fraction of the words I have personally heard over the years from tiny faces of innocent children and hopeless mothers and fathers. My reaction to these realities is such a dizzying feeling of complete helplessness. Emotionally I imagine myself trudging through a blizzard, frozen shards of snow whipping past my face, cutting my cheeks as I attempt to walk in snow up to my thighs, the wind pressing against me, impeding my progress and tempting me to sit down, give in and succumb to the counterfeit warmth of hypothermia. 

When I think back to the amount of time and energy wasted on worrying it makes me sick. And crazy. Lately I have let my foolish need for control unravel me like a string inside a ball of yarn until all that is left of me is a haphazard pile of Summer Strands…frazzled, tangled and emotionally unstable. Information about things I wish I didn’t know bombards my heart almost daily and for some reason I take off the armor of God and attempt to handle the enormity of the brokenness alone in a pompous display of stupidity until I break and the people who love me are left to pick up the pieces, shaking their heads wondering why I tried to handle this alone when I’m a child of God surrounded by people who love me.

His hands are big enough to hold all of us – all the children whose lives are being negatively affected because of the decisions of the adults in their lives, all the adults who are hurting and making bad choices as a result, all the helpers, all the perpetrators, all of everyone. He is enough. So why do I fall for the lie that my strength is sufficient when it CLEARLY is not? In my need to protect the people I love I sometimes inadvertently cause more harm. It’s not up to me to fix the problems outside; it’s up to me to fix the problems from within, but I even need help with that. I was reminded today that needing help is not a weakness. In fact, knowing when to reach out is a sign of strength and maturity. We begin life dependent on others for everything. We do not then transition to independence, even though that makes sense logically. Instead we progress to interdependence. Who knew my brain science research for work would provide the exact light bulb moment I needed.

It’s not scary that I can’t fix everything. In fact, it would be scary if I could. It isn’t up to me. It never has been. It has always been up to Him. Every now and then I need a reminder. Eventually my brain will develop to the point where I can avoid a mental breakdown. But this is who I am, and God meets us where we are. I’m so glad that I don’t have to worry, and even better is the truth that when I find myself tangled up in a giant ball of my own absurdity He is right there to pluck me out, dry my tears and wind up my string.

I want nothing more than to be exactly where I am…this is where I belong. I was created for such a time as this. 

Fa La La La La

Deck the halls with empty wrappers…fa la la la la la la la la! Tis the season to be slobs, fa la la la la la la la la. Don we now our fresh, clean laundry, fa la la la la la la la la. Because our mother is an enabler, fa la la la la la la la la…

Aaaahhhh, Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year indeed. I should have been born in the North Pole. Buddy the Elf must be my brother, Clark Griswold has to be my dad and I’m pretty sure I’m somehow related to Cindy Lou Who. My visions of Christmas grandeur begin well before Thanksgiving as I plot and plan exactly what the house will look like as well as what I will wear on which day from my extensive collection of Christmas-related clothing; I begin listening to and watching intently the people whom I love to see what would delight them most to receive and consult the all powerful Amazon Prime to make dreams come true. I plan elaborate get-togethers to gather all our friends and family to partake of the joy that is Christmas, painstakingly planning everything down to the tiniest detail. My expectations are high. The pressure I put on myself is slightly sadistic, but totally worth it when I pull it off and I can sit back and relax. And that’s when it happens. The Post-Christmas Depression.

Christmas evening a swift and merciless flood of sadness enveloped me like a fog as I sat alone amidst the chaotic remnants of the fleeting excitement of the morning, the sounds of giggling and tearing wrapping paper echoing in my ears and nothing to look forward to but cleaning, undecorating and the hollowness of my house, depleted of children. The dog offered little in the way of comfort as she wrestled with her Christmas Llama and then whined to go outside. Christmas evening has taken this form for many years, as my children would leave in the afternoon to spend the remainder of the break with their dad. I would take solace in visiting with, and then after she moved, talking with my mom Christmas evening and telling her about all the things the kids got. She would always tell me how great of a shopper I was, how lucky my kids were to have me as their mom and warn me that I better spend the money she gave me for Christmas on myself, although she knew I never would. This Christmas marked the first I was unable to continue that tradition. I found a tiny Santa hat and placed it on her urn. I’m sure she would appreciate my irreverence. 

Sadness never lasts long in my heart these days, however, as I have much to be thankful for and many amazing adventures to look forward to in this new chapter. I bought Addison, newly 21, a Sangria last night, for instance; as I ordered it the earth was spinning like the time Buddy the Elf found out he was human, the realization that my first born is legally old enough to drink competing with the image of her as a toddler asking for juice indelibly etched in my soul. But there I sat with this young woman whom I raised, who has not only survived having me as her mom, but somehow is thriving and of whom I could not be more proud. We came home to a pot of soup made by Ayden so his sister and I could have dinner – the same kid who, when I would ask for one of his Doritos, would break me off a 1cm triangle. Avery’s last year at home is swiftly coming to a close, and it has been such a privilege to watch him grow into the young man who insists on being financially independent (except when he needs a new tire) and who washes and dries his own clothes (folding will happen soon, I can feel it). And then there’s Aubrey, who at age 14 is a model of compassion and obedience, respectful behavior and self-sufficiency. Her room is always clean, she never complains and her tone of voice brings about my full cooperation.

I almost got struck by lightning…

2020 is going to be fabulous, despite the hiccups of adolescence. If the first 3 are any indication, this too shall pass and one day the memories of a house full of children won’t trigger sadness, but instead thankfulness and joy for the privilege of getting to be a mama. 

I love this new chapter. I hope this book never ends, even if some of the chapters involve pain and suffering, because the ink with which it is now written is consecrated in divine purpose. Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”