September 29, 2011

When my oldest son was 4 years old he came to me with his heart in his hand. Literally. Oh, he also had a black crayon. He handed them both to me and said, "Write this, momma." So I did.

Even now, with three grown sons, (and one half-way there) I often wonder what I'm writing on their hearts......

September 28, 2011

Poor Bob

No, this is not the Bob I wrote about Monday, although if anyone deserves our compassion it would be that Bob.
The Bob I'm talking about today is a man who is attempting the seemingly impossible and doing it with seemingly endless patience.

He's my pottery instructor.

For three weeks Bob has spent his Tuesday evenings dealing with a full grown child who can't remember a thing he taught her last week, let alone 5 minutes ago. He deserves something. A medal? An award? It's a good thing this class is only 6 weeks long-otherwise poor Bob would end up with a vacation in a Swiss sanitarium. (Oh, but hey! That might not be a bad thing....Switzerland. I've always wanted to see Switzerland. The fantastic mountains, the world famous cows, their reliable watches. A pocket watch would be a really fun souvenir for Bob to bring back with him, provided they could restore his mental health after what I've put him through. Put him through....put him through...Oh yeah. I was talking about pottery.)

Moving along. Have you ever wanted to do something so badly you could taste it, but you just can't get it? That's how this pottery class is going. I love, love, love it, but it is really stretching me. I'm having to learn how to focus and put all of my attention into detail, and I am not a detail person.

When I was young my mom attempted to teach me things too. She could cook like Rachael Ray,
clean like a Merry Maid and get this: she invented a way to crochet a blanket, making it double thick as she went along. Every time she tried to teach me that pattern, or how to clean something, or cook Sunday dinner, we'd fight. I couldn't get it and I always blamed her. She's not patient. She just doesn't know how to teach. I honestly never thought it was me and now that crochet pattern is gone, lost forever. (I have figured out how to cook and clean, much to my family's relief.)

The problem is, I'm random. A big picture person. A very. big. picture. person. A person who sees a great movie and gets so caught up in the feelings the movie evoked that she can't remember the plot, who the protagonist was, or how it ended. But boy howdy, it was a great movie!

My pottery class is progressing along the same lines. There's poor Bob, patiently trying for the umpteenth time to show me how to cone the clay. I stand there, watching him, my ears listening, trying to absorb his words. My brain, however, is another story. It sits between my ears going wow, Bob has such big hands. I love how he can get the clay to do whatever he wants. It would be so fun to have a pottery wheel at home so I could do this whenever the mood strikes. I wonder how much a pottery wheel costs? And a kiln. I'll need a kiln...would the electric bill kill us? What color glaze should I use on this bowl I'm, no, bob is making. Bob is making. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be listening to Bob....

I used to be able to laugh at myself for being this way. I didn't mind being a floaty-in-the-head kind of person. But lately? Not so much. I'm getting extremely frustrated with myself. It's impossible for me to study the bible and figure things out with this kind of brain. It's impossible for me to learn how to make a simple pot out of clay with this kind of brain. And don't get me started on cell phones. I can't even figure out how to turn one on. Every single time someone attempts to teach me how to use one it's pottery class all over again. Wow. This tiny black box is sending signals through space. It can connect me to someone in Switzerland if I knew anyone there to talk to. That's incredible. I wonder how they figured these things out?....

Lately I've been feeling "just a tish" insecure about myself. It's an embarrassing way to be. However, I need to remind me that God made me this way. On purpose. (see my post from here.) I'm not here for comic relief and there's nothing "wrong" with me. However, I'm also thinking it's not a bad thing to be learn how to focus and put at least some of my attention into detail. It's exhausting, but if nothing else I need to do it for poor Bob.

September 26, 2011

life is a pain in the neck (or leg, or stomach, or heart, or....)

I think this has got to be, hands down, the most difficult post I've ever written. There is just too much to say, and too many people have done a way better job saying it than I ever could.

Pain. A friend wants to know how to live with chronic pain....I suddenly feel like a school girl facing a final test. "So Judy, what have you learned this semester??" My question is, have you learned it if you don't always do it? If you don't always live it, is it still a part of you? Because I don't, you know. I don't always do the things I'm going to tell her to do. I believe the things I've attempted to live out are truth-that's why I'm sharing them.

When my friend first put the question to me, I must admit, I bristled. My pain isn't chronic. This is temporary! It will go away. But it has been 15 months.....

Living with pain can be a lonely walk. All around you you see your family, friends, and strangers bouncing around, doing everything you wish you could do. And of course, you remember how it felt to do those things, before your body turned traitor.

However, I've had to remind myself I am not alone. To be alive is to experience pain. It can be physical or emotional, but even the bible promises it will be a part of our experience here on earth. Jesus tell us in the book of John, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

So, maybe the first thing I would say is, remember you are not alone; pay attention to the people in your life. What are they going through?

Everyone deals with pain. I have 2 friends who have lost husbands. Another family is losing their teenage son to brain cancer and a young mom, with 2 small children, is also dying of cancer. Another friend is having a not-so-fun marriage.

My brother has lived with terrible back pain for years, and for a very long time I watched my mom shrivel up with rheumatoid arthritis.

A few weeks ago I met a little girl who had been sexually molested for years before the government finally opened it's eyes and rescued her; she will have pain and scars in her being until the day she leaves the planet.

Last summer and fall I spent a lot of time in bed, laying on my right side because that was the only place I could be where I didn't hurt. It was sooooo easy to lay there and feel sorry for myself. But then I would hear about others in pain, and, because I hurt, I could empathize. So I started to pray for the people I heard about. For a very long time praying was all I could do. When I did that, when I prayed for others, I would experience joy. Yes, some of that was because I knew there were other people out there who hurt. (misery does love company) But the real joy came in knowing I was saying, "Lord, they hurt. Please be with them. Heal them. Comfort them...." It took the focus off me and centered it on others and their need.

Another thing that helps, maybe even more than praying for others? is looking for God in my circumstance. If you are a believer in Christ, He promises to never leave us or forsake us and He is not a liar. Count the ways you see His involvement in your life, every day. Search for things. You wouldn't have to look far, I know. You could make an actual, written list, or you could just list things in your heart. But don't stop there. Thank Him for each one. Praise Him for walking this road with you and the ways you see Him hugging you through it. Each moment is a gift from Him, even the ones filled with pain.

Here are a few examples for you. Last summer I had a herniated disc that smashed the daylights out of my left sciatic nerve. The pain...I still cry if I think about it. I wouldn't wish that kind of pain on a mass murderer. I had no idea a body could feel that kind of pain and live. It broke something inside me but it's also given me so much more compassion for other hurting people than I had before. There's #1.

#2. As I was going through that time, the only thing I could do was walk. Day and night for over 2 weeks I paced our house, back and forth, forth and back. As I walked, I cried. I shook, my body vibrating with pain. Yes, I know-this sounds terribly melodramatic. I'm trying to set the stage for showing you what may be one of the sweetest gifts the Lord has ever given me: amazing time with my husband and sons. Going through a deep, deep valley with them and seeing the incredible depth of their love for me. My husband's love and compassion during that time was bottomless. He lost so much sleep walking through the nights with me, praying for me. My second oldest son did the same thing. For two different nights, (as a newlywed!) stayed here and walked the house with me. We even managed to laugh and tease each other while I was walking and weeping. I saw what an incredible, compassionate, patient, tender heart he has and was blown away by it.

My oldest son came and spent a day with me during that time. He walked with me, letting me squeeze his arm so tightly the circulation probably stopped. He cooked and baked and played with his little brother. He cleaned our kitchen and after I had surgery he brought a meal over that he had made himself. He still calls me several times a week to say hello and see how I'm progressing.

Our third son has had a more difficult road with this than his brothers have. He lives with me. He's had to be here, listening to me wonder, whine, cry, and rejoice. He's gone on countless walks with me, shared his heart with me and cheerfully helped me lift, move, cook, and clean. He's made me laugh so hard I couldn't catch my breath.

Finally, my little guy. He is constantly available, with a sweet, willing heart. He's helped me get dressed, cook, clean and do laundry-all the time without one word of complaint. During times when I've had anxiety attacks, felt fearful, or just deeply lonely he's been here, ready to hug or comfort me as only a little boy can.

Then of course, there are the little things to be thankful for. Last spring, every evening, I was able to lay in bed and watch crows by the dozens cawing and soaring right outside my bedroom window. They made me feel free and wild and whole. I sensed God loving and hugging me when I watched those crows, and I praised Him every day for sending them to our back yard.

I'm still thrilled that I can now tie my own shoes, and lift my you get the point. He is aware of our every waking moment and blessing us as we live them. Again, I want to say, count the ways you see Him.

Having a sense of humor also helps. Learn to laugh at yourself, or watch a funny movie. Listen to a comedian on Netflix. Laughter is good medicine.

We went to a cookout/bonfire at our oldest son's house last weekend. The weather was cool, the food good, and the bugs were at a minimum. We had a lot of fun laughing and pigging out with family and friends.

As the evening progressed it got a little more difficult for me to enjoy myself. I kept sitting, standing, kneeling, leaning. Finally my husband asked me if I was OK.

I said very quietly, "Oh, I just hurt a bit." We'd been talking together very quietly and I didn't think anyone was paying attention to us. I didn't want to put a damper on his evening so I added, "Do you remember what my mom said a few days before she died? 'Jude, there's always someone worse off than you are.' "

Without missing a beat my second oldest son said, "Can you imagine being the guy on the end of that?? The guy with so many things wrong with him no one can find another thing to add? 'Here lies Bob. He died of blah blah, doo doh, tee dee, froo frah......' " We laughed so hard we couldn't breath. Poor old Bob. Sorry-our family has a warped sense of humor, but you get the point. Laughing helps ease the stress.

I know this is really, really long, but I do have one more thing to share. Spend time in the word. Read the Psalms, read the old testament. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Those are two of the most amazing chapters in the bible to me and have comforted me over and over and over again as I've gone through this time. He is near, He loves you, He is with you. Eternity is coming. We won't always hurt. Cling to that. Eternity is coming. This is just a passing through place and we will soon be gone...

September 22, 2011

never in a hurry

About a year ago I was able to let it go. I pushed in the little knobs that lock the sides in place, folded the sides in, picked up the helpful little contraption and carried it to the garage. My husband was out there so I handed the walker to him and said, "Here. I don't want this in the house anymore and I hope I die before I need to use one again."

Now, a year later, I almost regret that moment. Almost. I almost regret becoming whole again.
For a very tiny bit of time I stopped running and it was sweet. My whole life was narrowed down to living one minute at a time and each one of those minutes ticked by slowly. I needed help with every single thing I did; getting out of bed, drying off after a shower, getting dressed, tying my shoes...even my bible was too heavy to lift. Every movement had to be analyzed and prioritized. Is it necessary to do this? Does it really have to be done now or can it wait a month or two?

I did struggle with the whole "life boat" thing. I'm no longer a productive member of society, nor even of this family-just throw me overboard. Why am I here if I can't function? But then I remembered we're not hear to function. We're not here to rush around performing and doing. Like Ann Voskamp says in her book, 1000 Gifts, life is not an emergency to be sped wildly through. I listened to the trailer from her book and here are a few quotes:

moments are all we have

time is blurring by and everyone is slipping past

the voice we need to hear is the Voice that is saying each moment is for you

although time moves on, it's moments are holy

this is how you spend your one life well-receiving each moment for what it really is: holy, ordinary, amazing grace...a gift

My doctor told me walking was the best thing I could do to heal so that's what I did. Barrett and I walked for hours each day, but it was a slow, toddily walk, highlighted by my son's incredibly sweet observations. It wasn't the walk of a mom in a hurry to exercise and get home so she can check things off her to-do list. It was just a walk.

I learned so much from my little guy. He was never in a hurry. He noticed the way an ant carried a crumb across the sidewalk and the iridescent colors on a dragonfly's wing. He pointed out minuscule flowers hidden in the grass and the way the wind blew the smell of early autumn across a field. Every single second with him was a gift and he taught me that every single second of our lives is a gift as well if we would only slow down and pay attention to them.

My son was in awe of God-His creativity, His wisdom, His ability to make no two things alike. Barrett felt that each thing he saw was a hug from God....God's way of saying, I love you. I'm here. I care. I am here, and here, and here, and here.....

September 21, 2011

be it ever so humble....

From the photos I've posted here, you'd never know I wanted to be a photographer when I was in high school. Either that or you'd think, hmmmm, no wonder she's not a photographer.
Well, I must warn you, the quality of the photos I'm posting today are of the same caliber. Lousy. They were taken by a person (who shall remain nameless) that has never used a digital camera before using a camera she borrowed from her nine year old son.

I've poured out my heart on this blog and let you see the good, the bad and some of my uglies. Now you can see where those pieces of me dwell. Just remember what I said in my poem from a few days ago:

I'm from a house filled with inexpensive objects; things found at garage sales, Goodwill, handmade, or handed down. Almost everything here touches my heart, tells a story, or simply brings joy.

This is the desk my husband built for me. Sitting is still an issue so he built it 39" high-that way I can stand and plan school, stand and scrapbook, stand and do bible study...I like to stand and work on projects regardless of what my body's doing so even if I'm "normal" again someday this will still be the perfect desk for me.

Winters here in the middle of America are long and grey. The sky is grey, the trees are grey, the grass is grey, the roads are grey. I had to do something to bring a little joy into those lonely grey days: twinkle lights seem to help. You saw them around my desk, and here are some in the livingroom. We're still tweaking that contraption. There's still too much wood showing. But, the twinkle lights are there, reminding me of the stars on a crisp winter evening and funky little restaurants hidden in cozy little nooks of the world.

Don't ask me why I'm showing you a bookshelf. I guess I wanted to post it because it's made from an old ladder that had been leaning against the side of the house for years. Rather than throw the ladder away, we re-purposed it. It's a bookshelf here, a piece of it is in the boys' bathroom as a towel rack, and another bit is hanging on the wall with a few nick-nacky things thrown onto it. Oh, and the monkey? Sock monkeys hold a very, very special place in my heart and that's all I'm going to say about that today.

OK. I know. A boot? Really? For a plant?? This boot was probably once worn by a cowboy out in Idaho. It then became a vase full of flowers at my nephew's wedding reception. I brought it home as a reminder of that special day. Rather than throw it in the closet to collect dust, I threw a plant in it and hung it from the ceiling. Now I can picture the mountains, blue skies, a beautiful wedding and a vacation out west every time I look at it.

This is a picture of some of my babies. These are the babies that will never grow up and leave home. I have 37 of them scattered around the house.

I couldn't leave this little bookshelf out of this post. My dad built it about a year before he died. We made a deal: he would make a bookshelf for me and I crocheted a pair of slippers for him. I think I got the better end of the deal. Oh, the rooster. Normally I am not a chickeny type person but that too is from my dad. He bought it for someone else who didn't want it and dad wanted it to have a good home. Guess who got it?

And of course a piece of the kitchen. This is where I spend a LOT of time. See? Twinkle lights in here too. :-)

And finally this. It's an old window my daughter-in-law gave me. We put pictures of the boys in it, hooks along the bottom of it and voila! A one-of-a-kind, sweet reminder-of-days-gone-by coat rack. It didn't looked finished even when it was finished so I just stuck some dead branches around it to frame it in. That helped, but like the livingroom thingy, I may do some tweaking here.
So, that's it. A few of my favorite places in this place I call home.

September 19, 2011

a reality check

If you stopped by here yesterday, and read the poem I wrote, you are probably thinking, well, aren't they the perfect family with the perfect little life?

I'm sorry if I lead you to think that. I'd like to be completely real about life when I write, but if I were, I'd either lose your friendship because you'd see what a nasty little person I can be, or I'd embarrass certain other people in the family, which I don't want to do.

So, here's what I can tell you. We've been married 27 years. The first 17 were hard. I'm not going to list everything now, but trust me, we've had our share of struggles. Through it all our friendship was good. We knew how to stick together and nothing really came between us. Things came at us, but not between us.

On the other hand, the last 10 years have been more difficult than I care to think about. It seems like nearly everything we've gone through, (and it's been more than the first 17 years combined) has come between us, and we've had to work at being friends, work at loving each other, work at forgiving, work at trust.

Two years ago we went through a fun year. Something so big came between us we barely spoke to each other unless it was necessary. For a year. We weren't even out of that tunnel when we hit Last Year. The Year to Beat All Years. I hope. Mike turned 50, #3 graduated, not one, but two sons got married within 6 weeks of each other and my back and left leg turned traitors and abandoned me. But, God is faithful. He promises in Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.

He used those outside circumstances and my weak, wobbly body to show us how much we actually need each other. We are close and friends again, which is always nice when you have to sleep in the same bed with someone.

As for parenting? Hmm.....what can/should I say? Like all parents, we've had our share of sibling rivalry, messes, giving emotionally or spiritually when it felt like there was nothing inside to draw from, and bad attitudes. In many ways it's been on the job training for both of us and we've had to take it one day at a time.

There have been times when we've wondered what we did wrong. How did we lose his respect? His friendship? Will his heart ever come home again?

There have been times when all we could do was go to God and dump a boy in His lap. "God, he's your problem. You deal with him. You teach him. Please do whatever it takes to make this boy what You want him to be. We can't do it, Lord. You have to. Please?"

We've had to surrender and let go and God has proven Himself capable and faithful.

So, now you know. We are not the perfect family with the perfect little life. We are a weak, stumbling along, bumbling along little family with a perfect God holding our hands and I'm sorry if I gave you any other impression.

Sometimes life reminds me of a roller coaster. You strap yourself in and off you go. Up, over, down, around, each phase a surprise. The "up" side of the ride is your chance to catch your breath, rest, get ready for the next curve, the next surprise. Yesterday's poem was written during an "up" phase in our lives. The last ten years have been rough and I think right now God is giving us a chance to rest and catch our breath, to rejuvenate before the wild ride begins again....

Where I'm From (a new version)

I am from a tiny house in the middle of America-woods, corn fields, county roads, a feeling of safety and quiet nights

from 4 sons: Benjamin, James, Alec and Barrett. They love Jesus, a good challenge, laughter, hard work; they are compassionate, funny, 2 are great husbands, one a good daddy; they love each other and they love their dad and mom

I'm from a house filled with inexpensive objects; things found at garage sales, Goodwill, handmade, or handed down. Almost everything here touches my heart, tells a story, or simply brings joy

I'm from hiking on holidays, playing games as a family, merciless teasing, long talks late into the night, lots of laughter and frequently confounding the 5 men in my life

I'm from "wash your hands", "business before pleasure", "here's a chore if you're bored", "go outside if you're going to do that!"

I'm from the bible is absolute truth, God is real and very present in our lives, He will complete what He's started in you

from a tender-hearted husband-he's patient, self-sacrificing, and spoils me rotten

I'm from biscochitos, my mom's takes-all-day-to-make spaghetti sauce, homemade apple butter and a to-die-for apple pie

I'm from long grey lonely winters, renewing spring, hot humid summers, and soul filling fall

from playing with houseplants, blue jeans, wandering the woods, writing, good books, laughter and caring for my family

I'm from being a wife, a momma, a teacher and a friend to our sons; becoming a mother-in-law, a grandma and an emptying nester

from a house full of noise to wondering what's next

I am from a tiny house in the middle of America

September 18, 2011

Lending An Ear

Sometimes I wish I could tell you everything. I wish we could go sit on the porch of a mountain
cabin, put our feet up on the rail and just be real. Pour our hearts out...wouldn't that feel good?
To know I was there for the sole purpose of listening to you and you to me? It would be even better if we were able to actually focus on what the other was saying without getting distracted.

The other day my son and I were discussing what we'd be like if we were able to use 100% of our
brains. He said, "Well Mom, we'd be a whole lot smarter than we are now."

I'm wondering what we'd be like, what life would be like, if we could take that power, all 100% of
it, and put it toward just listening to another person. Imagine the insight you'd have...
the'd be able to hear their soul crying out for oh so much...

I had a glimpse of what that would feel like a few years ago. We were at a friend's house for lunch;
(actually it was my sister-in-law's brother's house, but that's splitting hairs) there were a lot of
people in the room and a lot of noise. Everyone was talking and laughing, cooking and munching.

I was relaxed and comfortable, enjoying the moment, when suddenly my sister-in-law's other brother
stopped talking, munching and laughing. He looked me right in the eye and said, "Judy, how are

Normally when you're asked that question you say, "I'm fine. How are you?" But when I looked up
to answer him I was taken completely off guard. He meant it. The room grew quiet as
every person there looked first at him, then me. They all knew he meant it. He really and truly
wanted to know how I was and he wasn't going to look away, take a bite, start talking, or scratch
his head until he'd heard my answer, no matter how long it took or how much I said.

I was taken so off guard I couldn't at first reply. I didn't know what to say. My heart was so full
of the need to have someone actually listen I didn't know where to begin. How vulnerable
do I want to be? Do you have days and days to sit here because I really think I could talk that long.
Good grief, where do I begin? No one has EVER put me on the spot like this. Are you for real?

To top off the moment, I knew this man had just given his daughter away in marriage less than
24 hours ago. I also knew he was a very busy man with a stressful job, and was leaving in a
day or two on a business trip and he's wondering how I am??

I sighed and finally settled on one topic. Our sons. I poured out just a bit of what was going on
in my heart as the mother of an emptying nest. The sadness, the concerns, the confusion I felt with
some of their choices, the joy I felt at how they were turning out...I gave him just a bit of me but it
was enough. He listened with both ears and gave me complete and total eye contact. Not for a
second did I sense he was bored or thinking about anything except what I was saying. It was a gift I will never, ever forget.

To make the moment even sweeter, it turned out I wasn't the only one with those mixed emotions.
Every person there was feeling the same way. We all laughed, vented, sighed, and teared up.
Because one man took the time to listen, many were encouraged and when the afternoon was ending, we all left, feeling less like islands and more like life boats.

September 17, 2011

A Bit of Blue Yarn

Have you ever heard the question: Why is it old people remember all kinds of stories but they can never remember how many times they've told them?

That's one reason I blog. My family has heard the same stories spilled out of my heart so often they can finish telling them before I do. Whereas here? I could write the same tale every day and no one could do a thing about it. (Well, you could walk away from your computer, but I wouldn't know that, would I?)

So now I have what could be the grandmommy (as opposed to granddaddy) of all sob stories and you get to hear it for (what I think) will be the first time.

When I was very small I had a toy box. It was filled with typical little girl belongings: baby dolls, baby doll paraphernalia, a little iron that actually plugged in and warmed up... I loved the toys inside, but the box was a treasure as well. It was white and big and had a padded lid so you could sit on it without getting an achy bum. Not only that, but Cinderella and her pumpkinny coach decorated the front of the box; I could tell by looking at her face that Prince Charming wasn't too far away.

As you probably know by now, when I was 7 or 8 my parents divorced and sold our home. Mom decided she and I would move to Colorado to be near my oldest brother. She sent me ahead so I could start school out there while she stayed behind to pack up the house.

It was months and months later when we finally found a little place to call home. When we did unpack our belongings I discovered most of my toys and books were gone. I had 2 books and 1 baby doll left to call my own. Okay...I don't remember asking my mom about the toy box or the toys. They just weren't there.

About a year later we went back to Illinois to visit my aunt. While she and my mom were chatting over coffee I explored her home. I walked into the door of her guest room and there, in all her glittery beauty, sat Cinderella, smiling at me from the front of my toy box. Not only that, but all my toys and books were still inside.
I stormed into the kitchen feeling quite hurt and angry. Why are my toys here?! I want them back! They are mine and they are coming back to Colorado with me!

For some strange reason, mom remained silent. It was my aunt who did the talking. She told me mom had given her the toy box and toys so my cousins would have something to play with whenever they came to visit her. Auntie said the toys belonged to her now and I couldn't have them. I looked at her face and knew she meant business. But oh how I wanted my toys. They represented so much more than mere entertainment to me. They were from a time when life was happy and safe and my family was whole. I wanted them back as a reminder of those times.

For the next two days a battle of wills ensued. Aunt Birdie and I went round and round, back and forth and up and down over those toys. I finally realized she had years of experience in being mule headed-I was a novice by comparison. At last I settled on one doll. A light blue yarn doll with a sweet face and yellow suspenders. I spent nearly every waking moment begging, pleading and trying to manipulate my aunt into letting me have her. She had originally been mine after all. This. Was. Not. Fair.

Just as we were loading up the car to head west, my aunt relented. She had a strange gleam in her eye, but she finally gave in. She let me take that doll. I knew in my heart I had won a battle, but she'd won the war. I didn't care. I had a tiny piece of home to carry with me; I still have that doll and I still treasure her.

When I look at her I see so very many things. I see my aunt and her childish desire for victory over a little girl she was supposed to love. I often wonder what hurts hardened her heart and closed it off to compassion and affection...I wish now I could hug her and let her know it's ok to be soft. We aren't wounded every time we're vulnerable.

I see my childhood and all those sweet, happy little girl dreams and memories; that's all they are now-sweet memories. God has taught me that it's only in my friendship with Him that my heart will truly be filled. I don't need things to feel whole.

I see a mom, broken, hurt, filled with despair. I know why she gave away so much. I've been there too.

Finally I see triumph. I duked it out with an adult and won a skirmish. Maybe that's why I'm tenacious to this day? I tasted victory and it was sweet.

September 14, 2011

roots and wings

This is a picture of our oldest son, taken in the fall of his senior year. Standing next to him is the baby of the family, taken before he even knew what school was.

The quality of this picture leaves much to be desired, but it's still one of my favorite photos. I can't look at it without my heart doing a strange, bittersweet flip flop...
one son looking out, away from the family, so ready to test his wings and fly; the other son just a baby, still so dependent on me, looking around to make sure I was nearby.

I've said it before, but one of my favorite poems about parenting is this:

love them
listen to them
give them deep roots
give them wings

bits of paper

(*I just wanted to warn you, this post was written while under the influence of TWO sleeping pills that have not yet worn off and no sleep despite the fact that the two pills were consumed.)

Other than my teenage son, I am the most random person I know. Actually, now that I think about it, I am a conundrum.

The "things" in my life are very organized-I try to live by the rule, a place for everything and everything in its place.

(I'm going to interrupt myself and tell you it's raining outside. The window is open a tish and there's a soft, gentle rain sounds so cozy and peaceful, especially since the temperature has dropped. An early fall day-my favorite time of year!)

Anyway-I just proved my point. Random. Back to my stuff. I don't have a junk drawer and except for one map which falls out of the closet every time we take out the vacuum, our closets are quite organized. I even have my scrapbook stuff all sorted by color!

On the other hand, you know how frustrating it is when your life is unorganized? When you need something you know you own but you just can't find it? Is it in that drawer, that box, on that shelf, or in that basket?? You get so frustrated looking for "X" that your blood pressure rises?

Well, it's my brain that's like that. If I weren't convinced God made me this way, on purpose, (I'm sure I was made for comic relief or to teach people patience) I'd be very insecure. Half the time I can't even finish a sentence without interrupting myself to tell a story within the story I was already telling, then I forget where I was and have lost my listener in the process. Where was I?

Oh! I remember now....yes, like you, I write everything down. I jot down ideas for blog posts, library books that are due and when, bible verses I want to remember, questions I'm pondering, passwords I can't afford to forget, things I need to do, goals I have, wishes I long for, ideas for a story I'm writing, directions for finding places, and books I want to buy.

The problem is, each and every one of those things is assigned its own little place in the world. I have bits of paper stuffed into my jewelry box and my sock drawer. I have a whole section of my purse set aside for them and I carry little slivers of paper in my pockets. My bible is stuffed with scraps of paper and my desk cluttered with them. (and no, I'm not exaggerating)

I have 3 notebooks set aside for all this. Three. Are they organized? No. I simply open the nearest notebook to a blank page, write down whatever was in my head, feel relieved that the thought is now on paper so I won't forget it, and walk away. It really is frustrating when I then want to find a specific thought and can't.

I'm not sure what to do about this problem. I've tried to categorize my thoughts, but nope, they won't cooperate. It just can't be done. Is there such a thing as a professional thought organizer?

September 13, 2011

Are You Bored in the Bedroom?

Ha! That got your attention, didn't it? Wait!! Don't run off. I just couldn't resist being a bit ornery. I've been feeling mischievous for several days now and didn't want to stop here. This post is actually about strengthening your marriage. Bet you didn't think that from the title, did you?

OK. I'll get serious now.

I'm wondering if you've ever crawled into bed and thought about the person lying next to you, wondering, how on earth did I get stuck with him/her? We have nothing in common.

I did that the other night. I started out feeling pretty annoyed and just a bit trapped. Of course, thought I, we do have some things in common. We share the same house, the same children, the same TV and the same neighborhood. But after that? Hmmmm.

He likes fishing... I do too, IF it's not too sunny nor too cloudy, there are no bugs within a hundred miles of the water, it's not too hot nor too cold, not too windy but not too still, and, I actually. catch. fish. He'll sit out there no matter what and bake, freeze, soak and/or swat just for the fun of it.

His music? I was going to say it's for the birds, but I'm sure they hate it just as much as I do.

His food? Meat and grease. No thank you.

He likes strange reptiles for pets...I won't go there...

Anyway, you get the idea. I couldn't think of even 10 things we do have in common.

So, after a few minutes of this I had a brain storm.

"Mike? Let's play a game!"

"What?! Now??"

"Yes. You don't have to move or anything. Let's just take turns listing things we have in common until we can't think of anymore. It won't take but a minute or two, I'm sure."

Silence from the other side of the bed....

Then I hear: "We both love the mountains."

My turn: "Road trips."



"Camping." (That one was iffy, but I let him have it. The conditions have to be similar to those of fishing.)

"Going to the symphony."

"Old movies."

"Playing cards."

On and on we went. We listed so many things we actually do have in common we fell asleep before we'd finished. The next day it didn't feel like I was stuck, married to a stranger. It felt like I was stuck, married to my friend.

September 11, 2011

The Bear

Almost ten years ago this:
lead to this:

which lead to this:

which lead to this:

then this:

then this:

and this:

then this:

what is this?!

and finally this:

See? There's always hope.

Who Cares if He's "Wrong"?

Have you ever stopped and thought, "What if I'm mistaken? What if the convictions I hold to are just plain wrong?" Or, worse yet, you look at someone who's not doing it the way you are and you know they're wrong?

Have you ever taken Christians and really looked at them? There's an umbrella of truth we all stand under:
-Jesus is the Son of God
-We are all sinners
-A price had to paid for those sins
-God loves us and provided a ransome
-Jesus died and conquered death to pay the price
-Believing in Jesus and who He is and what He did and placing your life in His hands is what saves you (gives eternal life)

But, outside that umbrella? There's a dance going on that's so intricate it'll make your head spin. People all over the planet, with the same bible as a guide, have an incredibly varied faith:

-women should only wear dresses
-it's ok for women to wear pants

-you should be in "full time" ministry
-whatever you do you are in "full time" ministry

-birth control is a sin
-birth control is a gift

-we are all called to home-school
-children need to be in the public school system to be salt and light

-you can lose your salvation
-once saved, always saved

-secular music is sinful
-secular music is ok

-you should only read christian books
-it's ok and even good to read a variety of books by a variety of authors

-women should never cut their hair
-God doesn't care what length a woman's hair is

-speaking in tongues proves you've been saved
-speaking in tongues is a thing of the past

-Christians can be possessed by demons
-Christians can't be possessed by demons

-God is sovereign over our every move
-God plopped us here and the rest is up to us

-we need to go to college in order to provide for our families
-God will provide

-it's ok to have fun
-life is hard and we need to take it seriously

The confusing thing is, in most of those cases, you can find a bible verse to back up what you believe. There are some grey areas in the Christian faith.

Churches split over those things. Families divide. Friends part ways because of them.

Why did God do it this way? Why did He make room for so much confusion? So much potential for hurt? We waste so much time and energy focusing on our beliefs and waggling our finger at people who aren't doing it our way.

We really need to put all that on the back burner. We are people, right? We all have baggage. We were all given life and we will all someday die. We are all just bumbling along, taking it one day at a time. I think it's fun, and even good to discuss those things. To banter over them and examine them. But when we forget to love people over them? Then I think we've lost track of our purpose or our reason for being here.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Ps 86 pretty much sums it up:
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;

no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.

Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.

September 10, 2011

Having Fun & Cutting Loose

I've never, except in the privacy of our living room, enjoyed dancing. Moving in time with the music just isn't my thing. When we clap our way through a song at church I make a choice: sing or clap; I can't do both at the same time. Either my hands are apart when they should be together or I'm clapping when no one else is. So, you can imagine what my entire body does when it's dancing and it ain't pretty.

Along with my lack of rhythm is my fondness for corners. I love to hide in them and remain unnoticed. the past I just wasn't sure dancing was something "acceptable" to do. Oh I know the bible says it's ok to dance, and even King David danced before the Lord with all his might; but, that's what I wondered about. Is it ok to dance when you're not dancing to the Lord? When you just want to cut loose and have fun?

Well, a few years ago we attended a wedding and reception I will never forget. I knew most of the people there-they all went to our church. At first I hid in my little corner, not wanting to make a spectacle of myself. But then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a very handsome young man appeared, asking me to dance. Me. How on earth could I turn my son down? I knew in my heart that I would never have that opportunity again. He was an adult with his own life to live, busy, moving on...but for that one moment in time he wanted to dance with his mother.

Needless to say, I practically jumped out of my corner and onto the dance floor. We danced and laughed and I didn't care what people thought. I was going to soak up that moment whether it was "ok" or not.

When that song was over and another began I was once again shocked out of my corner. Another very handsome young man (better known as another son) asked me to dance. Words cannot begin to tell you how I felt when at last all 4 of our sons had asked me to dance and had pulled me out onto the floor, right there in front of all their friends. They weren't embarrassed to be seen dancing with their mom, and they didn't seem to notice my lack of timing. It was just plain fun and they wanted to have fun with me.

The whole evening turned into something magical. I know that's a corny phrase, but for now I can't think of a better word to use. It was an eye opening experience. For a few brief hours I cut loose, had fun, and forgot to be afraid of what others were thinking or whether God was watching and approving or not. I knew He was. For a few brief hours I wasn't narcissistic. I just was.

This will sound corny too, but I wonder if that night was a tiny taste of what our first few hours in heaven will be like? We won't be focused on us anymore. The weight of all that we carry here will be gone. We won't be worried about our bills, our health issues, world events, or the things on our to-do list. We will be focused on Him and freedom, being thankful, having fun and cutting loose.

September 9, 2011


If I had it my way our house would be huge and our family much, much bigger than it is. It seems like every time I turn around I find someone else I want to adopt.

For instance, there's a tiny, weathered grandma I see each week at church; all through the service she appears to be smacking her gums silently while she listens to the sermon. She has a feisty look in her eye that defies her aged body. She looks sweet and tough and ornery- like someone who would keep you in line but laughing while you stood there.

Then there's Bill. He's another old person I'd like to keep. My son and I see Bill almost every day when we walk. At first Bill would just nod, and smile as we passed each other on the road. Then one day he stopped us and asked our names. The next day he wanted to chat for a moment. Now he actually comes wobbling down his driveway to greet us if we don't see him on the road, in a hurry to say hello and visit. Bill's body is falling apart, and he's practically deaf, but his spirit is strong. He's cheerful and sweet and optimistic. He doesn't need adopting-his daughter lives just two doors down and watches out for him-I just appreciate his positive attitude and thankful heart.

Old people aren't the only people I want to bring home. Everywhere I go I see teenage boys that look like they desperately need a mom. I would love to bring them all home, bake cookies for them and tell them they are loved no matter what they may have heard to the contrary. Some people are afraid of teenage boys and avoid them at all costs. I used to feel that way, but having had 3 of them pass through our lives has changed my attitude. Teenage boys are so funny, interesting, creative, refreshing and unpredictable. They don't frighten me at all. And the lost, angry, sad looking boys? I want to clobber their parents. They were given the gift of caring for a sweet little life and they ignored the miracle.

On the other hand you have teenage girls. They intimidate me-I haven't seen too many adolescent girls I'd like to invite into our home. Why do some teenage boys look sad and lost while the girls look a lot like predators?

I must say however, that there are about 6 teenage girls I would actually steal and bring home if given the chance. I'd love to snatch the entire Chinese girls gymnastic team and hide them away somewhere. Talk about sad and lost looking. And after they taught me Chinese or I taught them English, I'd tell them about Jesus and that He loves them even if they never, ever, ever bring home a medal. I'd hug them and love them and just. let. them. be. Don't they look like that's what they need? To just be? Someone needs to tell them that it's possible to be loved even if you don't perform....

Finally, if I had it my way, there would be several bedroom suites way up at the top of the house for some of the single moms I see. I'd give each of them a light, airy room with a comfy rocking chair near a window and a soft, warm crib waiting in an adjoining bedroom. I'd let them rest their weary hearts and reassure them that life can be better; it's always changing and there's always hope. I'd give them nights of uninterrupted sleep by holding their babies, rocking and loving them so their mommas could rest.

Just imagine it....our home full to overflowing-noisy, and busy. Grandparents toddling around, teenage boys making them laugh so hard they'd need their walkers. Small, muscled girls joyfully tumbling and cartwheeling through the house with babies crawling under their flying feet. Weary young mothers sitting and pondering their next step but feeling safe and cared for while they think.

I wonder how much I'd need to build a house like that?

September 8, 2011


It goes without saying that my parents were very instrumental in my life-they were my parents after all. They had an enormous impact on me simply because they existed. I learned so much just by listening to them and observing how they lived.

I've recently finished tweaking their scrapbooks-every picture I own of each of them is now carefully protected, organized, and sort-of labeled, never again to be jumbled up in ratty old shoe boxes.

I had a lump in my throat the whole time I was working on those scrapbooks-especially my dad's. There were times when I had to stop, cry, wait a few days, begin again. So many memories, and wishes for memories that will never be....

As I worked on their scrapbooks I naturally thought about their lives. They both lived into their 70's but I know so little about them. Just tiny snatches of their stories have been handed down. One thing I've never told you is that I have royal blood flowing through my veins. Yep, it's true. My grandmother was the illegitimate daughter of a German Baron. (Is that something to be proud of? I must admit I am.)

Anyway-there are a few other things I know about my parents. They were strong and determined people. (That couldn't be helped. Dad was 100% Italian, Mom 100% German.) They were generous and funny, creative and practical.

One time I called my dad, feeling "just slightly" out of sorts. "Dad, the place where I'm living has been labeled a cult! What should I do? Should I leave?!"
"Jude, are they hurting you?"
"Are they jeopardizing your faith?"
"How long before you're scheduled to leave?"
"Three months Dad!"
"Oh just stick it out. You could stand on your head and spit nickles for that long."

See what I mean? Practical.

When I think about mom and dad, I don't recall noticing any deliberate parenting. They just were and their kids could take it or leave it. As far as I could tell, they didn't have a parenting game plan. I never discovered a spread sheet with step by step goals for each kid carefully charted out.

On the other hand, Mike and I have worked very hard at being "deliberate" parents. Each year we sat down and wrote out the goals we had for each of the boys and then we'd discuss the steps necessary to accomplish those goals.

A few years ago, knowing our sons would soon be old enough to date and marry, I read a book on courtship. That book was impractical, and had some crazy ideas in it that no one I know would ever consider trying. Take this one example for example: When your son finds a girl he wishes to marry he needs to switch homes with her for one year. Meaning, your son moves in with his future in-laws for a year, and that girl moves in with you for the same length of time. They listed many reasons for this, one being to observe the new family.

My point in telling you that is this: can you imagine having a stranger move into your home for the sole purpose of observing you? Of watching how you live and what you do with your time and how you react to things? Being there through all the stresses of a year to see what you'll do with them? Would you change your behavior? Could you fake it for that long? Would you need to or want to?

That's sort of what parenting is like. God puts a tiny stranger in your home to raise, not just for a year, but for 18 years, or more. That baby lives with you, observing you, watching how you live and what you do with your time. Soaking up, like a sponge, who you are. That little person learns how to deal with life and stress and everything by your example. Having goals is a good thing, but not the only thing. It's a scary thought, isn't it?

September 6, 2011

"Spinning." My State of Being Speech (sort of like the state of the union speech the president gives every once in awhile)

I "fell asleep" about 15 months ago and have only just recently begun to wake up. For about 14 months I was so focused on pain and healing that there was no room left in my brain for other thoughts. But now? Watch out. I know I'm driving my family nuts; something tells me they would almost prefer my semi-comatose state to the one I'm in now.

I can't stop my brain from going into overdrive. (don't ask me what that means technically. I've heard that phrase often enough that I think it means working really hard.) Whatever- when my brain is busy, so is my tongue. Hence, my nutty family.

Anyway, no matter what you call it, I can't get my thoughts to settle, to relax, to focus. It feels so good to think again that my brain is bouncing around like a lamb in a spring field. "I'm free! What shall I do today?? Oh look over there! No, wait! Look at that! I wonder if I can jump over that bale of hay?! Maybe I can butt heads with Fred!....."

Memories, desires, goals and my lack of goals, the character of God, predestination, regrets, mothering and spousing, theology, my purpose now that mothering and teaching are coming to an end, who am I, now that what I thought my purpose was, is coming to an end? Trying to figure people out, books I want to read, projects I want to tackle, on and on and on......

As if that weren't enough my body is screaming at me too. "I feel better! Do something! Climb somewhere. Go hiking! Spring clean, travel the world, go bungee jumping, sky diving, have fun!" I have to keep reminding my body that we're not there yet. Close. So close to being can taste it and it's driving me crazy! Stopping is not something I do easily and this forced halt has been so not fun. I feel like an arrow neatly tucked into the bow string, quivering, impatiently waiting....(haven't I said that before? If so, that proves my next point)

Then we have the other side of my body. The side that is saying, I'm old. Time to shut down. Nah. Not Yet. Yes. No. Yes. No.....Emotions zingy, thoughts going haywire, body doing strange, annoying things. I'm so thankful for "my" homeopathy guy. He and his concoctions are making this time much easier to bear. I can function like a fairly normal person saving those crazy moments for my oh-so-patient husband.

All in all, I feel like those plates those guys in the circus twirl on sticks. Each part of me spinning in a different direction and barely balanced. Please don't take that wrong. Just because I feel a tish dizzy doesn't mean I'm not happy. I love being alive again and feeling like a person! I'm not just a blob on my bed anymore, waiting. I'm back in the saddle and it feels good.

September 5, 2011

our beautiful God

I'm reading bits and pieces of a book called The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason. Have you read it?
I just read one paragraph recently that really jumped out at me. It is so simple that it never occurred to me to think it. (I'll explain that after I show you the paragraph)

When the Devil is exposed he is shown up to be a cosmic bore, whereas when the Lord shows Himself He
becomes more mysterious than ever. Those who do not really know the Lord take exception to His riddles
and paradoxes. But to know Him is to know continual, exponential growth in one's capacity to live with
contradiction. Divine contradiction is like an exotic food or music:one must acquire a taste for it. Many people, even
the very religious, have no real stomach for mysterium tremendum. They are fine when gazing up into a starry sky,
but when they encounter the infinite abyss of Christ on the human level, it turns their stomachs. This was apparently
the case with one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Franz Kafka, who when asked his opinion of Christ
answered, "He is an abyss filled with light; one must close one's eyes if one is not to fall in." Often people perform the
most astounding mental gymnastics in order to keep from falling into the mysteries of God. Such paradoxes as
predestination and free will are endlessly debated, when if only we would submit our minds to the bright
unyielding enigmas of Scripture, we would see that the New Testament plainly teaches both. Often even mature
Christians have, in some areas a monaural theology; the richness of stereo sounds like noise to their ears.

There is so much there to think about...but let's just take one piece of that paragraph, that one tiny aspect of God, predestination vs. free will. It has been debated in our house over and over and over again. We've dug out different versions of the bible and our concordances and thrown verses at each other like we were ping pong players. All six of us have discussed it until we were blue in the face. Not once, ever, never, did it occur to me that both could be true and possible. What do you think? Could both be true? Or is that a dumb question? Something even a child knows?
I want God to fit into a mold-either He is sovereign over everything and "all things were predestined" or "everything we do and experience is a result of our free will". I would hate to have a God I understood, but I've never really thought about giving Him the freedom to be that not-understandable. Why do we shake our heads and sigh, disappointed in the mystery of His Godness when in reality that's what makes Him God?

In all honesty, I'm not sure I like looking at the possibility of both predestination and free will being true, but I do love the idea. It makes Him huge....

All my life, in order to either bend my head around this idea, (which I couldn't do) or totally ignore it, I have simply clung to Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

I know that's true and when I go through hard things, I remind God that that verse is in the bible. "You promised, God..."

So, what do you think? Or was that book written for 7 year olds and I'm right there with them?

September 4, 2011


As I was growing up there were many things I wanted to be when I reached adulthood. I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic Magazine. That way I could travel the world, see fascinating things, meet interesting people and then share those things and those people with others who were not with me "in the jungles". I also thought it would be fun to own a florist shop so I could play in the dirt all day and create lovely floral arrangements that would bring joy to people's hearts. Teaching, counseling, and writing were there on my list of possibilities too.

However, the thing I wanted to do more than anything else in the world was to be a homemaker-a wife and mom.

When I started writing today I was headed in a completely different direction than where this post is taking me. I was going to write about the simple life of being a wife and mother. About guilt, wondering if I've done enough for the world, and about dreams left behind because life isn't long enough to follow all of them.

But now, when I look back at my life and those left behind dreams, I see that God has actually allowed me to be all those things. I have had the blessing and privilege of living with a cave man and his four wild little natives. I've photographed and recorded their lives for years and shared those photos with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins who couldn't be with me "in this jungle".

My kitchen has been a florist shop for 22 years now. Tiny grubby fingers have brought countless flowers and weeds to the sink, and sweet little boy voices have asked me to arrange them in lovely ways. Those bouquets have brought deep joy to my heart.

I was never a teacher in a classroom, but I have been teaching for 25 years now. Hiking trails, the kitchen table, the couch, the woods and the lvingroom floor have been our classroom. Growing up and living and learning with those four little natives has been more fulfilling than teaching a room full of strangers could ever have been.

And we can't forget counseling. I've spent hours and hours with those wild little natives, calming their fears, comforting them, trying to give them direction. Trying to point them in the right direction; attempting to teach them how to forgive, turn the other cheek, love each other unconditionally...

And now I write. I have time to reflect on my life, my dreams and the struggles and joys of being a wife and a mom, pouring myself out on cyber-paper so others can know they're not alone.

I do still wonder about the time I've been given and what I've done with it. Have I done enough? Given enough? Shared enough? Been enough? Like my friend Rachel at I wonder if what I do, what I've done, is enough? Is a small, simple life ok? And I wonder what to do with the time I have left as well. What's next? I have no more dreams, no more goals. There's nothing out there beyond living and loving my last little native and then waiting for my cave man to come home from work each day.

It's a scary feeling but I do not believe God will leave me here, in free fall. So, now I wait....anxious to see what's next.

September 2, 2011


Every one in awhile I think, well, my whole life is here, laid out in this blog for everyone to see. I've shared it all and there's nothing left. What now? Shut it down?
I was thinking that during the middle of the night when suddenly, at 2:44 a.m. it hit me. Mom. I've never really wallowed through my relationship with her. Maybe it's time?

My mother was an interesting person, and that's putting it mildly. Complex, funny, simple, wise, foolish, intense, giving, needy, controlling, and whatever the opposite of "controlling" would be....those are all words that come to mind when I think about her. Having a child-mother raise me has complicated my own mothering; everything I say and do and think as a mother has to be sifted and sorted to weed out anything unhealthy that might stem from hurts or bad examples or whatever.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is that I don't miss her. I miss the idea of a mom, but not her. I was heartbroken when she died, but after a week or so I actually felt relieved that that relationship was over. Finished. It was such a confusing relationship-it felt good knowing that that chapter of my life was closed and there wouldn't be any more pages written. I closed the book and haven't looked at it since.

At first mom was a very normal mom. She cooked amazing meals and baked our bread, pies and cookies from scratch. She cleaned like the pope was coming over every day and when I was sick she would gently hold my head over the toilet as I threw up and read mountains of books to me as we cuddled on the couch.

Mom had some wonderful qualities and good advice:

-She always told me, "Say yes to your kids whenever you can. Life is long and hard and will be full of "no's". Give them yeses every chance you get."
-She was adventurous. Always willing to try something new, or go somewhere new or even discuss something she knew nothing about just so she could learn something new.
-She set me free to try my wings. She encouraged me to "go for it" and not be afraid of trying new things. She encouraged me to make life rich with experiences and memories.
-She didn't try to pit me against my dad or be bitter toward him after my parents' divorced.
-She never let go of her dreams. I think it took her 3 tries before she was able to pass the test that would give her a Real Estate License. She just kept plugging away at it until she did it.
-She taught me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the mountains, a sunset, a bug on a leaf, or the way trees grew twisted and curled by the constant mountain winds.
-She was spontaneous and always up for a walk, a ride, or a Hot-Fudge Sundae at McDonald's.
-She was willing to love and accept everyone she met, no matter what they believed or what their lifestyle was.
-She taught me to appreciate and love music.
-She could make anyplace feel like home.
-She was an optimist.
-She was willing to laugh at herself and not take life so seriously.
-She had a never ending sense of humor and laughed often.
-On my 16th birthday she took me to get my driver's license, then handed me her check book and a credit card. She showed me what they were for and how to use them and never looked back. She treated me like a responsible young adult and expected me to live up those expectations.

However, after my parents' divorce she only partially seemed like a mom to me. She gave me no boundaries growing up. No bedtime. No rules about what I did with my time, watched on TV, or what I ate. She never asked me if I'd done my homework or checked my grades. Even when I was 9 or 10 I can remember feeling like I was my own parent. Then, to add to that pressure, my mom turned to me for comfort. It got so weird that she would send me Mother's Day cards thanking me for taking such good care of her. I was "asked" to be a mom to my mom just when I needed a mom the most. I know she didn't mean to put that kind of pressure on me, but the pressure was there, under the surface, giving me the feeling that I truly had no one to turn to.

I think my brother Jimmy's death was the straw that broke the camel's back for mom. For a long time she just checked out. I'd get home from school and start dinner or work on homework, expecting her to walk in the door around 6pm. More often than I care to remember the phone would ring around dinner time and mom would say she was going out to dinner with friends and to expect her when I see her. There were many nights when she wouldn't come home until 2 or 3 in the morning and she wouldn't be sober when she got there. I was only 11 or 12 and had a vivid imagination. Every strange noise I heard was a bad guy stalking around outside. I was very lonely, terrified, and the pain of losing first my dad, then Jimmy, then seemingly my mom was more than I could stand. I'd frequently wander around the apartment, pacing, and crying until mom got home. I'd help her get undressed and into bed then I'd finally get to go to bed myself.

In high school she compared me to other girls such as the cheerleaders bouncing around the football field and say things like, "Look. Look at those girls! Why can't you be like them? They're so full of life, so pretty. They know how to have fun!"
One time she looked at me and said, "Well. you're cute. You'll never be pretty, but you are cute." Um, thanks mom?

As a teen I managed to date a few old fashioned boys who would actually ask her what time she wanted me home. "Whenever you bring her home is fine with me. Just have a good time!" It was very scary to be that "on my own". When I was 16 she said, "Judy, you're going to be dating now and spending time with boys. Let's go to the doctor and get some birth control. It's OK to have fun, but you don't want to get pregnant yet."
I think that was the moment I lost respect for her.

She raised me with weird advice and what she proudly called Reverse Psychology.

Some of the advice she gave me:
-be careful how you pray, you might get what you ask for.
-don't trust men, Jude. They cannot be trusted.
-if your husband buys new underwear it means he's having an affair.

As for the reverse psychology? I'm not sure if I got that treatment because I'm such a headstrong person, or if she thought that was just the way you raise tell them to do the opposite thing you want them to do so they'll actually do what you want them to do in the first place. All that did was make me angry, hurt and confused...

So, there you have it. Or I should say, there I have it. Mom in living color and black and white. If you think about yesterday's post, this would most certainly fall under the line: past. The painful part. The part I still don't like to look at and wish I could change....

September 1, 2011

Your Lines

Tuesday night bible study was amazing this week. At first glance it appears to be basic stuff, but the more I think about it, the more hugged and convicted I feel. I really want to share it with you because I think we all need a hug and some conviction now and then, right? :-) I'm not even going to begin to try and put it like the teacher did. If I attempted that this post would be called: Bludgeoned Plagiarism. I think I'll just tell you what I heard. ( that's better than plagiarism, right?) This could be over-long, but please, please take some time and read it. Not because of what the Lord showed me, but because He might want to say something to you. (please remember, I didn't come up with any of this! It's what I heard. I'm not a teacher-I'm just sharing what was said.)

The lesson started out with the parable of the talents. In case you're not familiar with the story I'll share it with you:

"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matt. 25:14-29

The teacher of this study comes at life with the belief that God is sovereign over every tiny detail of our lives. That everything we experience comes from Him and makes us who we are. Whether you believe that or not, could you just pretend, for the few minutes you're here, that that's what you believe also? Thanks. :-)

OK-moving right along. After reading those verses you might be thinking, "Hm. A talent in bible terms was about 1000.00$. No one has ever handed me 5000.00$, or 2000.00$ or even 1000.00 bucks to see what I would do with it...." But you'd be wrong. According to the lesson, we've all been given talents. Every person on the planet. Our talents are our lives. Our experiences, our backgrounds, our gifts, etc. All the things that have flowed in, around and over you and make you who you are are your talents.

Can you go get a piece of scrap paper and draw a large rectangle on it? Then, write these on each of the 4 sides:
on the top side write:
Intimacy with God (really focus on the word "iintimacy" here. You know what that means.

On the left side:
Our Past
("past" in this instance means the painful things that have happened to you. Hurts, rejection, sexual abuse, emotional or physical abuse...things that make you cringe and that you wish weren't there. The things you want to forget and often ignore.)
God has allowed those things to happen to you for a reason. Each thing has been filtered through His fingers. Think about Job. Satan couldn't do a bloody thing to him without God's permission. God wanted those things to happen to Job for a reason and the things that have happened to us are for a purpose as well. God promises in Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposee.

On the bottom side:
Life Experiences
(this is stuff like where you were born, your ethnic background, your education, your work experience, the hard things you've gone through like infertility, singleness, being poor etc.)

On the right side:
Our spiritual gifts
(personally, I'm still trying to figure out what mine is/are)

These things are your boundary lines. They make up who you are. Look at your rectangle again. Do you pay attention to each side? Are you living in intimacy with God? Are you using the gifts He's given you? Do you ask Him to use your painful past and your life experiences to benefit others? Or are you ignoring any or all of those? If you are ignoring any one of them there's someone else around who isn't. Satan. The devil. Wormwood. He is just longing for you to ignore those boundary lines so he can stand there. If you're not living in intimacy with God you'll be like a kite without a tail, floating pell mell all over the place in confusion. He wants to take your past and your life experiences and tell you those things were not a part of God's plan. That God wasn't there, doesn't love you and He's clueless....

But, God gave you your past and your gifts and your life experiences. He wants to use those things in your life to benefit others, bring glory to Himself and good to you. One of the best things I ever did was write out the story of my early childhood to the place where I met Jesus. My past is not nearly as horrible as what other people have experienced, but it was painful. But, by writing it down I was able to see God's fingerprints all over it. I could see Him carrying me and loving me when I thought I was alone. And it's given me compassion for others, humility, and an understanding of how people feel who have been rejected and ignored.

When you claim your past and your life experiences and ask God to use them, Satan is defeated. He can no longer lie to you about God's love and His character. When you give to others out of your pain it gives glory to God. And in the end, if we love Him that's what we want, isn't it? His glory? We need to live like not one single thing we've gone through is in vain. Examine your life and look for Him. You'll see Him there if you look for Him. And then think about this. Think about your boundary lines and how God is using them in your life to bring Glory to Himself, to give to those around you, and to bring good to you.

Then think about Romans 8:28 again.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposee.

Then you'll be able to say with David in Psalm 16:6

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.