It’s Been A Good Year

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I had the best conversation today.

It was with a young girl, 19 years old.  Beautiful as can be with one of the most radiant smiles I’ve ever seen.

As we chatted and shared stories, I knew I was going to love this girl. We talked about family, faith and friends.  We laughed about how we are both the only “normal” ones in our own families.  Her eyes looked sad when I talked about divorce and then mine returned that sadness as she shared about her own broken background.

It was a great reminder to me that we are all broken people.  I would have never guessed in a million years the things that this pretty little thing has been through in her short lifetime.  I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes I get so caught up in my own circumstances that I forget that other people are hurting too.

Although we shared a lot of crazy, sad and terrible stories, it wasn’t like a pity party at all.  It was more like a celebration.  It was an “oh my gosh, your life sucks sometimes too!” party. It was fun and refreshing and I am thankful for this new friendship since I’ll be spending lots of time with her during her internship at Kensington.

During our talk, she made a comment about what a rough year this has been for me.  And without even thinking about it, I replied that this has been one of the best years of my life.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE THOSE WORDS CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH.

But in the silent seconds that followed, I realized that I meant it.  I mean it now.

This has been a year of struggle and discipline for me.  I have, at times, felt like I would drown.  But instead, I learned to be a better swimmer.  I’ve felt desperate and afraid.  But each time, God has revealed himself to me through things that are nothing short of miraculous.  Things that I may have missed if I’d have been able to do things on my own.  I’ve felt alone and abandoned, but God sent people to me.  Over and over again, phone calls, texts, offers of help, words of encouragement.  New friends and rekindled friendships.  I’ve been literally surrounded by people this year who have shown my family love and grace that could only have come from God.  The kids and I might have missed these things had it not been for our struggles…so they were worth it.  I mean that.

It has been worth every single struggle this year to see God at work in our lives.

Last year in July, I wrote this in my journal (disclaimer: yes, I tend to be a bit dramatic in my journal…but hey, it wasn’t intended to be shared, so give me a break:)

I don’t ever remember being so scared.  I’ve never been a worrier.  Now I can’t make myself stop. I feel constantly sick with worry and fear.  I dread what is to come.  I worry about money, my job, my kids, my sister, my nephew.  How will I ever be able to take care of things on my own?  How can I help my sister when my own life is falling apart?  I’m afraid that I am going to fail my kids and that I am going to lose everything. I have no control over anything.  God.  Where are you in this?  The Bible says that “The righteous cry out and the Lord delivers them from all their troubles.”  I am crying out. Am I not righteous enough?  Why am I not being delivered?

I have clung to that scripture all year. Psalm 34:17.  And then today, that very same verse was the scripture of the day in my Bible app.  Only this time, I read the entire thing:

17″The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”

It’s taken me some time to see it. A year to be exact.  But he has been true to his word.  He has heard me.  He has been close to me while my heart was breaking.  He saved me when my spirit was crushed.  And yeah, I have had many troubles, but I believe that He is delivering me from them all.

 

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You’re Quiet…What’s Wrong?

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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve written lots in the down time, but nothing post worthy.  Mostly pretty down, depressing, not-upward-at-all kind of stuff.

I continue to be shocked at how many people read my blog.  And humbled.  Really, really humbled actually.  And I am encouraged by how many of you contact me to let me know that you’re reading and that you miss it when I’m not writing. That baffles my mind.  But hey, whatever, I’m glad for it even if you are a little crazy.

So, everybody’s asking me why I’m quiet lately.  No joke, not a single day goes by that I don’t hear something like “You’re so quiet, what’s wrong? It’s not like you.”  Which makes me laugh because it’s confirmation that I do indeed have a big mouth.  Turns out that every teacher I’ve ever had was right and I don’t know how to shut up.  Oh well.

This blog was started for a few reasons.  First, I love to write.  I have a dozen or so journals going at any given time and I thought it would be cool to have a new kind of space.  I wanted to document the last year of my 30’s in a really fun, lighthearted way.  Partly because I’m a little nervous about turning 40, partly because I think it’s hilarious that I’m going to be 40 (I seriously feel like I just finished high school yesterday), and mostly because I had just come through kind of a crappy time and had determined that this year was going to be amazing and I wanted to share it with some of my favorite people (I didn’t realize that people I’ve never met would be even remotely interested in my rambling).  I was hoping that it would be an encouragement to others and that it would even, on occasion, give folks a little laugh.

So, what happened?  That crappy time that I thought I’d come through…turns out it wasn’t really over. Yep. I jumped the gun and made the mistake of thinking “Well, at least it can’t get any worse.”  Yeah, that’s the wrong attitude to have…because it can.

I’ve got to say, I hate it when people are cryptic about their problems.  And I hate it when people share their woes for attention.  So, I’m kinda stuck in that I don’t really know how to share this without doing either. Forgive me if you’re like me and hate this kind of thing.

So just as I was settling in to being divorced and raising my kids on my own…and then taking in my two year old nephew…my dad got sick.  Like, really sick. Stage 4 cancer kind of sick.  And he doesn’t really have anybody since he and my mom got divorced a few years ago.  So, he has moved up from Columbus, OH to stay with me during the next couple of months while he goes through radiation/chemotherapy treatments.

Yuck.  I hate putting that out there.  But lots of you are asking, and so there…that’s what’s wrong.  That’s why I’ve been quiet.  I just don’t have much to say at this point.  At least not much positive which is really all that I’d love to share.  Because one thing I know is that we all have our own junk to deal with, and you don’t need mine too!  I’m also learning that no matter how bad I think I have it, it could always be worse.

This past week, my dad was in the hospital and while he slept most of the time, his roommate was always awake and willing to chat.  So I got to know Rob pretty well.  What a cool guy and a great story teller.  He just turned 53 and has a very aggressive bone cancer.  He was diagnosed in January, two weeks after his wife had returned home from the hospital after having a brain aneurysm.  But he had the best attitude and the most amazing outlook on life.  Here’s this guy that has no idea if he’ll survive this, and he’s in the hospital for four days to go through a brutal chemo regimen…and he spent his time encouraging me to stay positive?

Last year, the first time I had to go to the court house for my divorce, as I walked away from the metal detector area, an attorney that was walking in behind me stopped me, handed me a business card and said “Here sweetie, in case you need anything.” It had a Bible verse on the back of it.  I was surprised by the sentiment because it was the same verse I had just written out THAT DAY on a white board at my desk at work.  And then, before he was released on Sunday, Rob wrote this down on a napkin for me “Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. The same verse. I don’t know why I’m always surprised by God’s reminders to me, but I am.

So, I’m going to try a little harder to continue to be positive. How could I not, when I get such clear reminders that I’m not alone in this. And honestly, aside from being quiet, I’m doing alright most of the time.  The kids and I are adjusting…again.  And I have no doubt that we’ll get through this.  We always do.

 

 

The Measure of a Mom

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I wonder if there is any greater pressure in life than to be a good mother.  As a mom, it can feel like pretty much everything you do is measured by how good, or bad, you are at this job.  And the standard of how good or bad you are…well that changes constantly and there are a million variables that go in to figuring that out.  But the measure seems to be mostly dependent on who is administering the test (aka judging you).  When you think about how many interactions you have in a single day, week, month…that’s a whole lotta judging going on.  And that means a whole lotta pressure to be good at, well, everything.

If that’s not enough,  you’re also judged on the behavior of your kids and how good they are at everything.  If your child has a tantrum at the grocery store, that’s a forgivable offense for them, but you’re docked double points in the mom category, because first of all why is your child such a little monster? And second, why can’t you control them when they decide to have a melt down in aisle five?

As a pretty imperfect mom myself, I’d love to say that I’m not guilty of this unfair judging.  But that would be a lie.  When I see a child misbehaving, I have perfected “the look” that I give to my own kids as we walk past the uncontrollable brat.  And after many years of this look, I don’t even need to say a word, the kids say it for  me. “I know, you would kill us if we ever did that.” Yep.  I sure would.  Because I have enough trouble earning good mom points on my own, I don’t need you lowering my score.

I don’t really want to measured by whether or not I attend every baseball game or PTO meeting.  I don’t want to be scored by how well behaved my children are, how smart they are or how old they are when they started walking/talking/potty training…etc.  What level they read at when they’re 6 years old shouldn’t be a factor and it shouldn’t matter how many activities or sports they participate in.

I can’t imagine any other area in life where we are judged almost solely based on someone else’s performance.  Besides, I know some really great moms whose kids just aren’t there yet and may never be. What I’ve realized as my kids have grown into adulthood is that I can only do what I can do,  but ultimately their choices are up to them. And truly,  their behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of how well I’ve done as a mom.

So what is the measure of a mom? How do I know if I’ve done my job and done it well?  I’ve decided on these few things as a measuring stick for myself.  This list might change or be added to over the years, and it might not be a standard for anyone else, but this is how I’ll be measuring myself.

  • Do my kids know that I love them? Now, I’ve learned that just loving a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a good mom, even really bad moms often love their kids.  I want my kids to know that I love them with the kind of unconditional,  selfless, I’d do anything for you…but your “happiness” is not my main concern…kind of love.
  • Do my kids know that God loves them even more than I do?  For me this is a big one.  Because I will fail my kids.  Often.  And I want them to know and to understand that I am not their ultimate authority.  Only by understanding the depth of God’s love, will they be able to extend the same kind of love to others.  And for me, that’ll be a big win.
  • Do my kids know that there are consequences to their actions?  As a mom, our natural response to our kids getting in trouble is to bail them out.  This often means that when our kids do something really stupid that deserves to be punished, we rush to their defense and don’t let them face the consequences that they’ve got coming to them.  If my kids realize that good choices equal good consequences and bad choices equal bad consequences, and that sometimes those bad consequences really hurt, I’ll be doing alright.
  • Do my kids understand the value of working hard?  My kids don’t own their own computer or ipad, they were never given a car and I’ve never paid for a spring break trip.  Why?  Because that stuff is expensive and they can’t afford it.  I supply my kids with their basic necessities.  If they want the extras, they have to work for it.  Giving them a handout now does not teach them the importance of hard work, which they will eventually have to learn. ( Unless of course, you plan to allow them to live in your basement and play video games their whole life, in which case, better you than me.)  I want my kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize that dollars don’t grow on trees.  I also want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with working for something and then obtaining it.  They will never get the same sense of satisfaction from a handout.  

And maybe most importantly,

  • Do my kids know the importance of character?  I’m a huge fan of good old honest Abe, who once said “Reputation is the shadow, character is the tree”.  I want my kids to know that their character will reflect who they are.  And that who they are, especially when nobody’s looking, is really important.  And I want them to know that things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always admirable traits to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Parts

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Several years ago I took up running for the first time.  I’ve given it up and taken it up again three times since then.  But my first attempt at running was thwarted by a pretty serious injury, a stress fracture of my knee.  And even though I’ve had surgery to repair it, it still gives me trouble to this day.

The other day, (that one day of spring that we had here in Michigan), when the sun came out,  I was so anxious to get outside and run.  I can’t even believe I’m saying that because most days I hate running.  But anyhow, I couldn’t wait to get out and so off I went.  Now, mind you, I haven’t really ran much at all since my marathon last October.   Six full months ago.  But being that the last time I ran I finished 26.2 miles, I was feeling pretty ambitious. So I got out my earbuds, put on my (now too tight) running clothes and took off.  I was feeling pretty good for a mile and even the second mile wasn’t awful.  But my knee started bugging me and I was smart enough to turn around then.  Mile three was tolerable but that fourth mile, well that one was no fun at all.  My knee was killing me.  That injury from almost twelve stupid years ago showed up to haunt me, and I hate it.

As I hobbled my way homeward, cursing my knee and the stupid reminder of something broken so long ago, I had this weird thought.  (Ok, it’s a stretch but just track with me for a minute, I think this might make sense in the end.)

I was wondering how an injury from practically ages ago, that I thought had been dealt with, could still show up in my life now and then.  Unwelcome, uninvited…but it shows up nonetheless.  And that led me to wonder if the same thing isn’t true about broken relationships.  Are all of the things that hurt me, all the broken parts, going to show up for my whole life?  Following me around and haunting me at inopportune moments?  Am I gonna be constantly limping my way through every relationship in my future?  Because I can’t even imagine how terrible that would be.

I sometimes use my old injury as an excuse to not run.  “Hey do you wanna meet up and do three miles?” “Oh, I’d love to, but ya know…my knee.  I just can’t.” And I can totally see myself using old injuries in my relationships to keep people away if I’m not careful. I’ve never really been one to be guarded. I’ve always been open about pretty much everything with just about everyone. But I’ve noticed changes in myself recently that I don’t like, I’ve been a little more reserved with people.  Giving short answers and not sharing things that I normally would.  I have not isolated myself at all, but I’ve certainly disengaged a little bit with some people that I love.  I don’t want to live my life like that. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that broken part.

One thing that I really hate is when people excuse away their own bad behavior.  “I can’t help it that I’m always accusing you of doing things…but you know I have trust issues from my last boyfriend.” Or “You know I get defensive easily, I can’t help it. My ex-husband was always pointing out my flaws.” Whatever.  If I become like that, somebody please punch me.  I don’t EVER want to use my past hurts to excuse my future bad behavior.  I’ll have to figure out how to fix that broken part too.

It’s frustrating to think that a bad relationship can have such an effect on future relationships.  How can I expect to ever have a healthy relationship if I have all of these broken parts that are likely to start hurting if they get triggered by the slightest thing?

My hope is that this early self-diagnosis is going to be healthy for me.  My doctor gave me a bunch of exercises and stretches to do to help out with my knee.  He told me that it would never be 100% but that if I really work on it, it could be close.  I’m hoping that a knee and a heart aren’t really all that different.