I Wasn’t Done Yet……..

In some ways I have not stopped struggling with the fact that all of my adult children are living their own lives. I never thought I would be this way. I never thought I would be the one to miss them constantly, to still be sad at not being the center of their universes.

I grew them up to grow them out. I intended to enjoy them and then enjoy time with my husband since we started our marriage off with a child each and then added two more. I grew them to be independent of me and to make their own decisions—and own them. My greatest hope was that they would not need me…..

When my second to last one entered her senior year I entered into a downward slide. All the usual stuff. After all I had been being a mom for 25 years by that time. Two years later when my youngest graduated I wanted to die. Not literally…..buy you know.

Initially I blamed it on empty nest. Mid life crisis. Life changes. A year after that my oldest daughter got married and then moved to another state. My youngest went to Germany and has never really returned. And never will, she is different now, an adult……Your babies never really come home again because they are not babies anymore. It’s what I wanted…..right?……

I have struggled to figure out why I can’t get over this phase. Maybe I just don’t want to be happy. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to be done yet.

I was a pretty bad parent in a lot of ways to my kids. My oldest of course bearing the brunt of my dysfunction. From the day I became pregnant with my oldest I determined I would work hard to be a better woman of God, a better mother. Every day I got up and determined to be better than yesterday and every night I went to bed feeling like I had missed it again, and again, and again.

I tried hard to change but it just seemed to happen so slowly. By the time I was a better parent my oldest two were out of the house. The youngest two benefited from me swinging a little to hard in the other direction and got away with far more than the oldest two. Now I needed to make up for the discrepancy with my oldest but they were already gone.

I wanted a chance to do it right. I wanted a second go round being wiser, more patient, less prone to raging and screaming. I wanted to go back and raise my kids without every cussing in front of them. I wanted the chance to prove I could be a good parent. I wanted to keep them a little longer and pray with them more.

I recently went to a graduation party for a young girl and the way this family spoke of how they raised their kids shamed me. I wish I could have been that good. This family will be the first to tell you that they are pretty far from perfect and it is true because none of us are perfect……I just wish I had been a little closer to perfect.

I want a do over. Before they all left I used to say that I do the best I can and the rest is up to God. That answer stopped satisfying me the minute the first one walked out the door. I trust that God will deal with my kids and take care of them and heal their hurts, I just didn’t want to be one of the hurts or dysfunctions that had to be healed.

It is not that I have never done anything right. I did plenty right. I did a ton right. I never stopped trying to change to give my kids more, better, healthier. I had fun with my kids and I absolutely LOVED them. They never doubted that. That kind of confidence is a beautiful thing. I played with them and laughed with them, and I cried with them and I tried to teach them.

But when I hold up my parent record to some of my friends……..it just never seems like enough.

And so I want a do over. I want another chance. I can’t quite shake that feeling that I did not finish my mission. I can’t help but feel I didn’t do enough of the good and I did too much of the bad.

I wonder how many other mothers feel the same way? How many of us feel like we haven’t had a chance to finish the test and we know there is no make up test. Our final has been graded and we hadn’t even finished it yet. I feel like there are so many boxes left unchecked.

But the reality of a do over is about as real as being able to put the toothpaste back in its tube. It can’t be done and it shouldn’t be done. How would I go about squeezing my kids back into childhood? and which part of childhood? And then doesn’t it become about me and not about them….or God for that matter?

Somehow I have to let go, not of them but of my need to redo it. But I am not sure how to do that. Funny but the closer I get to fifty the more I find myself saying things like that. I am not sure how to do that…..how to trust God that his grace is sufficient for me….sufficient for my children and that I do not need a do over?

His grace is sufficient. I obviously need that reminder in this. Can I say yes to no do overs and trust that God will take care of it all, including my heart?

I guess we’ll see. In the mean time I think I will lean into His grace for now.

My Life is None of My Business….

“I keep realizing how right C was when she used to tell me all the time, “Your life is none of your business.” Meaning, if I have handed it over to God, surrendered my will (read, my determination to get what I want), then I get to sit back and let God handle outcomes”. Heather Kopp — Soberboots.com

I read this last week on a blog I just found. I love finding new blogs, especially ones that either echo some cry of my heart or give me a new truth to look at. It is even better when a blog is both. This particular blog was both to me this day.

I had to chew on it for a little while. I’ve heard it all in one form or another my entire christian life. But there is something about the bluntness of this statement that peeled back some layers for me. Layers of my intense need to know. Layers of giving up the freedom to know. Layers of being afraid to let go of knowing if this is going to hurt or not.

“I also got to thinking about the irony of how when I wrote my book I worried that it would lead to all kinds of painful opportunities (to me, painful) where I would have to stretch and be afraid and be willing to let my life change. I knew the only answer was Yes. I wanted him to bless the book and use me, so I said Yes to God, and promised to say yes to whatever came my way, fearing what I realize now only comes with big success. So without knowing it, I was saying yes to success not realizing that God might be also asking me to say Yes to way less. To say yes to poor sales or a weak a launch. In other words, I was terrified of invitations that never arrived and of success that were never in the pike. It wasn’t until I was lying in the sun, with drips of pool water running down my shoulders that it hit me that God was asking me to say yes to smallness and obscurity and to disappointment when it comes to sales. So what I’m saying to God is yes and he’s saying, welcome to the human race.” Heather Kopp Soberboots.com

I want to know the how and the what of my life. I have pain and fatigue every.single.day.of.my.life. For no apparent reason. I want to know why, because if I know why maybe I can fix it. I want to know how long it will last because if I know how long maybe I can trust God because there is an end date. I want to know how, how in the world do I accomplish “doing” the will of God feeling like this every day?” IT’S NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

My life belongs to Christ, I gave it to Him, all of it, not just part of it. God is in the business of making my life work. It’s His business. Not mine. But that is scary. That means that I have to trust. I have to let go of needing to know, needing to plan so that I can avoid pain.

Heather points out in her blog that when she said yes to Christ she said yes to joy AND suffering. I like the joy part just fine, not so much the suffering part. I admit when suffering does come that in the back of my mind and sometimes shouting from the front of my mind comes the words “THIS IS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR!”

UMMMMM actually yeah I did sign up for that part, that is what it is all about. What I said yes to was that Jesus, God, The Holy Spirit, they are all wiser than me, and smarter, and they see the whole picture. What I said yes to was experiencing life, the good and the bad,in and through Christ.

Tomorrow is my daughters baby shower and some of the people I love and count on the most cannot be there. Normally not a big deal….well not huge…but this shower is different. She is not married and the support of our friends and family have been what got us through the hardest parts. It breaks my heart for her and for me.

And then I remembered those little words as I was talking to my husband. My life is not my business. I realized I had to trust that the people God needed to be at that shower for my daughter were His business not mine. He would take care of ministering to my daughter. Her life, my life is not my business. At least not in the way that I have to know and fix and control things for her or for me.

And while I was chewing on that Jadon Lavik began singing “I surrender all”. It is a beautiful song and between Heathers blog and Jadon singing I began crying as the impact of things not being my business and surrendering all began to pierce my heart. Because my life is not my business I am put in the position of either choosing continual chafing and strife as I try to make my life my business, or I can surrender all of it to Jesus and trust that He will take care of the business of my life.

Truthfully I am more afraid of the trusting and surrendering than I am of the chafing and strife. I am more comfortable fighting something than I am surrendering. It is far easier to cause my own pain than to have to trust God in a pain that I have no control over. I would probably chop off my own leg before I would let someone reset a broken bone in it. wow, i have issues.

But for today I got the message and I am choosing to say yes, to surrendering and not making my life my business. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow but for now there is more peace than there was yesterday.

Faithless…….

I have been questioned about my faith and about my doubt. I have been confronted about it. I have been told that doubt is a sin, that without faith God can’t bless me……I have hammered myself over this and I have been hammered by others in regards to this issue. So this is my answer….

I don’t understand everything about God’s character and how He does things. By that I mean I can’t understand why He doesn’t do things that I think are the just or the right thing. I don’t understand and sometimes that scares me. I have doubt. Because you know what? I might fall off the roller coaster or get hit by a car. I might lose my kids or my husband or be unjustly imprisoned. I don’t believe my faith or belief erects some sort of force field around me that keeps me from being touched by the world around me like Susan from the Fantastic Four. By the way-that was the super hero thing I would have chosen. That should tell you the most important thing about me, I fear pain.

Faith, it moves mountains…..doubt, it is sin….just don’t do it. If you doubt not only will all the bad things happen to you BUT you will be a sinner going to hell and never get healed…..jus sayin….

I wonder though, what if I have doubts and fears but I do it anyway? What if I don’t understand why a Godly woman or man or an innocent child gets their innocence ripped away from them while God stands by? I don’t understand that. I don’t understand so many things and the only answer given is that all things work together for them who love him. That is not always the answer I want.

So am I a horrible sinner who can’t break the bondage of fear and sin and unbelief? I don’t believe so.

They say that courage is not the lack of fear but doing something in the face of fear. And while we as a society may give lip service to that idea, the people we love and admire the most are the fearless and the doubtless. We don’t praise those who have fears that don’t make sense. The man jumping at the sight of a spider, the woman having a nervous breakdown at the thought of any kind of medical procedure (me) those people are laughed at and teased. It doesn’t matter that we might do it screaming and crying. What matters is the screaming and crying.

But I have to ask you one thing. What makes you braver or more faithful and trusting than those who have fears? There are so many stupid things that I am afraid of and it seems the older I get the longer my list gets. It frustrates me and the people who love me because it hinders me and it hinders what I would do with my loved ones. But every day I get up and try to face a new fear and do it anyway. So again I have to ask, what makes you the brave one? Or the more faithful one?

Because it takes more faith for me to scream and cry in fear and lay down on a surgeons table than it does for the person who isn’t afraid of medical procedures. I am not afraid of heights, never have been, I used to dream of jumping out of planes, I still dream of real rock climbing. However close to the edge of a cliff I could get that’s where I was. It is not a great feat of faith for me to climb a tree. It is not great faith to sit on the edge of a cliff. I am not afraid of water, dogs, cats, snakes and I am not particularly claustrophobic. I don’t have to put my hand in God’s hand and hold tight to do any of those things. I have even watched a tarantula crawl up my arm. It is not courage and it is not bravery for me and it I do not need a sustaining faith in God in order to do any of those things.

But it does take a sustaining faith in Christ to face my many fears. I hate them and sometimes I hate myself for having them. I would like to be fearless. I would like to be ballsy. I would like to look something like driving on the freeway right in the eye and not break out in a cold sweat. I would love to not panic at the thought of getting a filling fixed.

My reality however is that whenever there is a possibility for physical pain in the picture I am terrified. There it is. And yet I do it. I get the shots, have the surgeries ( before I am actually dieing ) try to get on the freeway….I try my best to trust God an do it in the face of fear.

It takes more faith for me to jump on the freeway than to jump off a cliff. So is doubt and fear ALWAYS the sin that is going to send me to hell or at the very least keep God from working in my life? I don’t think so. I think it is sin when I DON’T do something because of fear. I think it is a lack of faith that God doesn’t want me functioning when I refuse to do something out of fear. But when I am afraid and I do it anyway I think God honors that. Not because I am so great but because He is.

I am in a place of doubt right now. I am not sure how to trust God circumstantially at this point in my life. I am not in doubt the fact that God is good, loves me and can do what He says He will do. Where the doubt and faithlessness rear their big, ugly heads is in between the circumstance and the outcome. Ultimately I know that God will get me through everything and if things aren’t fixed here they will be fixed in heaven. One way or the other God wins and I benefit. No doubt there.

My pastor spoke about the disciples not having faith in the boat during the storm. Didn’t they believe Christ would get them too the other side. I KNOW God will get me to the other side, I just don’t know if I can endure the pain between here and there. The in between. That is where my biggest fear is and my biggest faith. Because I absolutely must trust that God will get me through even when everything in me is screaming “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!! THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE IS HERE AND THEY WILL EAT ALL OF US!” No really I don’t believe in zombies but you get my point.

So maybe before we go around pointing out peoples fear and faithlessness we should get an idea of what they are doing with both of those. Are we cowering in a corner? Do we need someone to help us out of our corner or are we courageously fighting the fear and trying to do it anyway? Ultimately I believe God’s purpose is to bring all of us to a point where fear does not affect our lives. I believe that God wants us to trust Him the same way we desire our children and the other people we love to trust us. It is an honor for someone to put complete faith in us and trust us with their very soul. I know that that kind of trust is honoring to God. But I also know that God is good and He understands me. He knows. He does hold my hand and my heart. He does gently smile at me when I am freaking out, the same way I was patient and loving with my kids when I was teaching them to swim. We just did it until they had it.

I am afraid, doubtful and sometimes mistrusting. But I am also faithful. I am not going to hell because of my doubts and fears and I am not going to lose my healing because I don’t have enough faith. It may take me longer than you to get where we all need to be, but I have faith that God will get us all there when He needs to. nuff said.

Bathtub Gratitude

I grew up poor. Like welfare and food stamps poor. Some times there was no gas, sometimes no electricity, sometimes both were gone at the same time. Which of course meant that there would be no hot water for a bath. Oh yes!, lukewarm sponge baths and cold showers yep life was …… life.

We were never truly homeless to my knowledge although we did live in a condemned appt building in San Francisco. Everyone who lived there was really nice and all on rent strike. Meaning no one paid their rent because the conditions were so bad. Strangely enough I don’t remember being particularly unhappy. Probably because I didn’t care if I were dirty.

Most of my memories center around being hungry and feeling dirty. I don’t want to give the idea that we were a bunch of slum babies. We NEVER went out with snotty noses or filthy faces. When tubs of water were not available we did sponge baths. But as you can imagine, a sponge bath only goes so far and it is difficult to wash long blonde hair in a bowl. Hand washing clothes in a sink is pretty much a bummer also. Or drying your clothes over a wood stove after cooking on it. BLech. I still to this day do not appreciate camping for just these reasons. I lived it why on earth would I think of it as a vacation?

Which brings me to my subject, bathtub gratitude. Almost every night I take a bath. I turn my lights down low, put my epsom salts and my nuetrogena rainbath in, then I sink into the beautiful huge tub and begin to relax. In that moment when the hot water envelopes me I feel pure gratitude. It is one of the few things that I never forget to meditate on the goodness of God over.

I get irritated and impatient over a lot of things. I walk in entitlement and arrogance. I struggle with anger and unforgiveness all day long……until I step into my bathtub. Then I am reminded of just how much I have been given. I remember just how much I have. I remember that in other countries the things I have can never even be dreamed of much less attained.

Bathtub gratitude. It is the kind of gratitude that looks at something relatively small and positively ordinary and sees the greatness and the bigness of a God who loves me. Hundreds of thousands of people take baths every day. The hop in, they hop out and they are clean. It is not extraordinary. Except for a little girl who grew up poor and cold and hungry and always felt a little dirtier than other kids.

For that little girl a hot bath is like heaven, it is proof of the promise of God’s love in her life.

We all look for the big miracles, after all we serve a big God. But what if we took more time to look for the ordinary miracles? Hot baths, full bellies, bowls that match. A warm hello from a loved one or the fact that three of the irises a friend gave you all bloomed at the same time in different colors?

I know to many this will seem like a trivial post, but for me? I’m grateful to have a place to put my thoughts and I am grateful that what may seem trivial is really the bigness of God showing Himself in ordinary ways.

Because He First Loved Me

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

I have heard this verse so many times in my life. I have heard it quipped and expounded on, whole sermons spoken on one little verse. But I am not sure I ever really understood how that exactly worked. I could explain so many of the ways it was explained to me and yet there is no life in those explanations.

We have a somewhat checkered past with our church history. Some larger hurts, some smaller ones. Nothing so huge that we required counseling and a soul clean out afterwards. Well maybe with one church but for the most part nothing horrific. But there has been enough that I have drawn back from church, church people and church ladies especially. Vowing to never be involved in an in house ministry ever again. For a while we had almost stopped attending church.

Then we started going to a new church. It is very small and don’t even ask why I ever consented to walk through the doors of a church that was so small that there was no hiding that we were “the new people”. I can’t tell you why I did that. It went against my very nature to walk in somewhere I will be noticed. Possibly because I thought it was just for that one Sunday. It was Easter Sunday we had to go somewhere because you know it is blasphemous to not go to church on Easter Sunday. Even unbelievers go on that day.

That was over a year ago and we are still there. My husband and my daughter are very happy our church. Oh Yeah, I am too! But I still hold back. I still tread cautiously, I still hang out on the fringe. Being a part just enough but never too much. I am often not sure that I will ever get to the point of throwing myself wholeheartedly into a body of people again in this lifetime. But these people at this church increasingly make me want to throw caution to the wind and dive off a cliff into the ocean.

Yesterday our pastor called and left us a message. He said he loved us and appreciated us and wanted us to know that and that he was praying for us. I cannot adequately explain my feelings as I listened to the message. The closest I can come is that I felt a loyalty that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I was skyping with my daughter and I played it for her, then I played if for my husband when he came home, and then I played it again for our daughter who lives with us. Each time I played it that indefinable feeling …..

This church loves us. I don’t know why or how it happened, I just know that love is a fact despite my best efforts to the contrary. They loved us before we ever offered anything to them and they would keep on loving us if we did nothing ever again for them.

And I begin to understand the concept of loving because we were first loved by something or someone else. When you understand that you are the recipient of a love that is wholly un-earned and undeserved it automatically engenders an appreciation and a love that previously had not been experienced, at least not by me.

When my pastor and the church he leads extended their hearts and hands of love to us…….I wanted to love them back. I wanted to not miss out on a potentially fabulous relationship. That’s how it has been with God. When I understand that God loves me just because, I feel safe, I feel safe to love back. And I desire to give love in return for the love that was graciously given me.

So here first is my shameless plug for my God. He is absolutely amazing. He is absolutely safe to love and be loved by. Nothing I have written would be possible without God having first love an undeserving people.

and here is my shameless plug for my church. We go to The Springs East in Colorado Springs. The Pastor is Timothy Tuttle and the assistant Pastor is Aaron Guthrie. This little church displays in bigger ways the love of Christ ten times more than a church ten times their size. Their “motto” if you will is Belong, Become, Believe and they put everything into making that a reality for everyone in the church and bringing to life scriptures such as the above and ALWAYS pointing everything they are and have to God.

One mans yes is another mans no—God is good in both

I have spent my entire life fantasizing about one thing. Family. I grew up alone and lonely. My tiny little family was at best fractured, at worst….well it was worst. I Met both of my grandmothers face to face for the first time when I was 18. I saw them both again when I was 20. I think I may have met my fathers sister at the same time. I have never met my uncle or his family face to face and I am almost fifty.

We were kept away from my fathers family. I am not sure why. He had never been married to my mother so I imagined he was pretty ashamed to take us home to meet them. I think now it was a mixture of shame and pain. My fathers family was so close and loving that my grandfather instructed me to not send him the body of his son when my father was killed. His words to me were “So I hear your dads dead” and then the instruction. Not exactly warm fuzzies.

I craved family like a pregnant woman craves ice cream. I can remember in my early 20’s praying and crying for my family to be healed. To have all of us in one room together happy, smiling, joyful. I imagined a family that could get in an argument and still talk to each other the next day. I fantasized about having a father or a brother that I could go to when my husband was breaking my heart. And I prayed….and I prayed….and prayed some more.

Eventually I realized it would never happen, that the hurts in our hearts were insurmountable. They could not and they would not be healed on this earth. ONE of us thought we had buried the past and therefore we were healed of it. But they still couldn’t handle us as a family and quickly embraced their in-laws and cut off the rest of us. One of us knew we didn’t deal with it and we were not going too. They very quickly embraced friends as family and had little to do with the rest of us. One of us didn’t have either and didn’t want either, just family and they struck out in anger and frustration sometimes when the family didn’t get with their program. Really all of us did that. From angry words to cold silences.

So I turned my focus wholly to my husband and kids and worked hard at my family.. I thought if I worked hard enough, prayed hard enough, changed hard enough I could accomplish building a family that would never leave me. Now my prayers and daydreams were about my girls getting married and my son finding a wife and all of them living in the near vicinity living their lives close to mine. My daydreams filled with visions of the kids coming over for the holidays and working with all the in-laws to make sure we didn’t cause division for our respective children. Sometimes even spending time with in-laws and enjoying it. And I was working and praying to that end……

My reality however is not what I imagined it would be. After a lifetime of praying and crying out to God for this one desire — I finally have my answer and it is no. My heart broke for a minute as I realized that what I had been working and praying for all this time was not going to happen the way I had prayed it.

My oldest daughter grew up, got married and moved to another state. And she is doing well there, she is happy being a wife and a mother and she is awesome at it. I would never want to take that away from her, I just wish that God had made all of that happen closer. My youngest daughter answered Gods call on her life and she went to another country. And she is awesome in Gods plan, I just wish His call had been here. My stepson does not speak to me any longer. My middle daughter is at home with me but she won’t stay forever either.

I am grieving the loss of that dream I had for so long. God’s yes to my children’s prayers are a resounding no to mine. I am not sure how to reconcile that in my heart except that I KNOW God is good. No. matter. what. I know God’s character, I know His heart, I know His word, I know Him and He is good.

So I trust that even in an answer that feels heartbreaking God loves me. Because I have to. If I believe that God is good only when good things happen to me, or bad things don’t or the things I pray for come out the way I want them then my God is just a performing monkey. If GOd is a monkey my troubles are much worse than letting go of a dream.

I thought when I kicked the health and prosperity gospel to the curb that I was somehow more righteous because I didn’t pray to Jehovah Genie. Which of course meant that I would be praying for the right things now, SOOO God would answer my good prayers with a yes. But I still prayed as if the gospel were about me and my needs and desires. I still prayed with a self focus and not a God focus. I had to learn that everything, the Gospel and everything in it points to God and not to me. It points to God because He is good. God answers prayers yes and no. Sometimes His answer no to me is someone else’s yes and God is the same in both of those answers, He is good.