Saturday, May 28, 2016

Love and Marriage

This is the latest picture of me & my husband.

Ain't he cute?! I still think he's the cutest guy I've ever met.

People ask me for marriage advice all the time. I'm not really sure why… Perhaps because I got married at 19 and I'm still married. So in our circle, we're the old married couple {AT 29 AND 33--SAY WHAT?!} So I guess when we're 90 and 94 we'll be the fossils of wedlock. The ancient wedded relics of a time before smartphones. Whatev. 

A quick disclaimer if you're expecting a perfect Disney fairy tale here: you won't get one. When I started this blog, I promised myself I would be nothing but real because I believe there is power in truth. So here's the truth: some days you'll be thankful to be married, and some days marriage is freakin' hard. Today my marriage was freakin' hard. 

I HATE being surprised. I hate surprise birthday parties. I hate surprise Christmas presents. I hate when someone jumps out behind a corner and yells "BOO!" I hate surprise visits. I like to emotionally prepare for something before it happens. There's a story attached to why, but I won't bore you with that today. It's something I'm trying to overcome, but I am definitely the Grinch that stole surprises. I buy my own birthday gifts so I won't be surprised. My husband and I have had multiple fights over the fact that he would like to surprise me with something, but I would just hate it. I know… It's weird and lot of women wish their husband would want to put thought into a gift. Sorry if that's you saying that you're jealous! I totally get it. It's stupid.

My 30th birthday is less than 3 weeks away, and all I wanted was tickets to see a comedian I have wanted to see for a while. I wanted a night of laughter with my husband. That's it. Simple, easy, piece of cake. I told my husband that was all I wanted, and the tickets weren't expensive, so he said "let's go!" I wanted to let him buy them because he's been wanting a chance to buy my gift, remember? I told him when they went on sale, I sent him the link, and explained they would sell out quickly. AND THEN HE FORGOT. AND THEY SOLD OUT. 

Now, this may seem like a stupid thing to get upset over, but for a control freak like me, to let go and trust someone--ANYONE--to handle ANYTHING for me is about the hardest thing imaginable. The only thing harder is to ask for a want or need. I was raised to feel guilty about wanting or needing anything. Asking for something I want, even something small, still makes me feel like a spoiled brat. 

I'll be honest here: I was very hurt by him forgetting to buy the tickets. I always make sure he gets exactly what he wants including an expensive pair of concert tickets for his favorite rock band later this summer. His tickets cost FIVE TIMES what my little dinky comedy tickets cost, and they were not even for a birthday or a special occasion. I just knew it was something he'd always wanted, and I made sure he got them. But I won't be getting the only thing I wanted for my birthday this year.

Anyway, let's just say he acted like forgetting getting the tickets wasn't a big deal and we'd figure out a backup plan. I was so sad to be missing out on the only thing I wanted, but now I was ANGRY that he treated it like it wasn't a big deal. He didn't apologize, and I was livid. Hot tears came down my face as I said shrieked "I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR "JUST BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" CONCERT TICKETS!" 

YOWZA. The Messy Mrs just turned into The Maddened Mrs, and it's not the first time or even the worst time. We've fought over things a lot dumber than this, too. But here's the thing, this is just an inside window into what Disney doesn't tell you. 

Disney tells you love & marriage works like this:
  1. Find THE ONLY ONE DESTINED FOR YOU. Your prince charming.
  2. Have all the lovey dovey feely feelz. 
  3. Accept the proposal.
  4. Have a perfect wedding. POOF! You finished the race, princess! You're a queen now! TADA! 
  5. All done. Happily ever after. Roll credits.

Love & marriage ACTUALLY works like this:
  1. Meet someone flawed, but special.
  2. Have all the lovey dovey feely feelz.
  3. Accept the proposal.
  4. Have a wedding… Freak out over stupid details of a one-day event. It wasn't perfect, but you made it to the START OF THE RACE. 
  5. ISH. GETS. REAL. Budgeting & house hunting & shared closet space & cranky kids & differing parenting styles & in-law drama & IKEA furniture assembly happens. Find inner demons you never knew you even had. Get buttons pushed you didn't even know were there. Find out that your spouse wasn't who you thought they were. Find out you aren't the spouse you hoped you'd be. Sometimes all hell breaks loose, and rather than breaking up/going to a bar with friends {like you did with old boyfriends}, you'll end up wandering the aisles of Costco alone. 
  6. Hurt each other. A LOT. Hurt each other deeply. Bring out the worst in each other. Wonder where all the lovey dovey feely feelz went--maybe you fell out of love?
  7. Hang tight because you don't want your kids to grow up in a broken home and divorce attorneys cost A WHOLE FREAKING LOT. 
  8. Wait it out. Watch him sled down the big hill with your kid and feel the lovey dovey feely feelz again.
  9. Be grateful that you couldn't afford divorce a few years ago.
  10. Realize that you didn't fall out of love, you found unconditional love. Love isn't the happy, easy feely feelz. It's a decision. Realize that what you had before the wedding wasn't love, it was infatuation. This is love. Love is morning breath. It's the bills stacking up with a negative bank balance. It's the ruined birthdays. It's the pukey children. It's the diaper blowouts. It's untangling the bleepin' Christmas lights. It's the broken garage doors. It's him leaving his crusty socks all over the floor. It's you scattering your thousands of bobby pins as far the eye can see. It's the backed up toilets. It's the buttered noodles you eat because you're so dang broke. It's the burned dinners you try to choke down because they worked so hard to make it. It's the up-all-night sleep deprivation of having a newborn. It's the illness. It's the weight gain. It's the gray hairs. It's the pain. It's the hurt feelings. It's the forgiveness. 
  11. More than all this, love is TRANSFORMATIVE. It's refining. It makes you a better person. It makes him a better person. 
  12. Realize that transformation is HARD. Love is HARD. It's the hardest work you've ever done. BUT, as Tom Hanks said in "A League of Their Own", it's the hard that makes it great. 
  14. Think about how much it must suck to deal with you at your worst. Be grateful he didn't leave you. Feel respect for what he's doing working alongside you. Watch him sweat and commit to you even though you mess up too. Look for all the ways you see him working for you, even though you know he doesn't feel like it. Say thank you. Say thank you a lot. Hug him a lot.
  15. Discover that this love is BETTER than the feely feelz. It's something that's unwavering. It's not conditional. Learn that love isn't about the right one or the right dress or the right venue or the right conditions… It's not something that just happens. Hard work and action yield feely feelz, not the other way around. It's something that takes time and effort and energy to grow, but it produces a better crop than the early feely feelz ever did. 
  16. Wedding vows mean more to you now than they ever did when you took them. Show up every day to live them. Fight to overcome every obstacle, even each other, together. Lather rinse repeat every single day. Think to yourself that there is no better person to work this hard for. Wedding vows aren't something ceremonial you recited a really long time ago, they're something that must be earned. Fought for. Feel lucky that it's HIM by your side to fight for this with you, for better or for worse. 

EDIT: Funniest/best part of all of this? A few hours after this was published, more comedy tickets became available and we both bought them. I love this man! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Church's Big Pink Elephant

I went public with my C-PTSD diagnosis almost eight months ago--you can read that post here. In that time, I've learned a whole lot about the Christian perspective of mental illness. Some people have been incredibly supportive, and some… well… not so much. I've had discussions with people who think I can get past this by praying it {or even just willing it} away. Rick Warren's son recently took his life by suicide, and most of the church is just now waking up to the reality that faith and mental illness can {and often do} coexist. I am so sad that it took something so horrible to revive the conversation, but I'm glad it's starting to happen. 

One person dies by their own hands every 40 seconds around the world. One American dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. Reading a bible, praying, or attending church is not a vaccine to prevent it. For all those people who commit suicide, someone is left trying to make sense of it. The pain doesn't stop at suicide, it just gets transferred onto someone else who is left behind.

Mental illness is the big pink elephant in the room in churches. People don't want to talk about it. They'd rather just throw a tarp over the elephant and call it a day. These diseases stay invisible because people are discouraged from talking about it in church circles. And yet, they're just as rampant within church congregations as they are outside them. If you have not personally struggled with some form of clinical mental illness you know someone who does. If you can't think of anyone, I can almost guarantee that you do know someone who is suffering, they are just suffering alone because of the stigma. THIS. IS. WRONG! Not only are these people suffering, but the isolation only magnifies the suffering. I don't know who said that mental illness is a conscious decision for Christians, but it HAS. GOT. TO. STOP! Mental illness is not a choice, and not everyone who suffers from mental illness is in a white hospital gown tucked away in some facility for crazy, scary people. 

Due to my C-PTSD, I deal with overwhelming depression and self-hatred that is so intense it often makes me wish for death. So it can look like this:

But it can also look like this:

It can look like this:

But it can also look like this:

Just because you don't see someone with a limp or a physical struggle doesn't mean they aren't mentally limping through life. Also, just like people who pray for healing for physical ailments can find themselves not healed, the same goes for people who struggle with mental illness. They can hope, pray, cry, beg and wish for healing, but sometimes the healing just won't come. So saying things like they "aren't praying hard enough" is just adding shame to a situation that already feels like insurmountable shame. It makes them feel excluded and "less than" a "better" class of Christian that doesn't struggle this way. Maybe the church doesn't shame people on purpose, but WE ARE shaming hurting people. This has to end. No more. Not on my watch. 

I remember being asked not to volunteer my time because someone read my blog and said I was not "mentally stable" enough to do it. What do you think that felt like? At first, because I already assume everyone hates me, it made me turn that hate inward on myself. I felt accused. Accosted. Broken. Damaged. Worthless. I almost threw up in the parking lot from the self loathing that followed. Later, after I had processed the fact that I was probably not the only person who has been told things like this, it made me feel the need to keep speaking out. Most people that struggle with mental illness look just like someone who doesn't. They are also capable of doing great things. They can be funny, encouraging, smart, and surprisingly NORMAL. God has done his best work through people with broken hearts, so they can be the greatest and most gifted healers.

It's high time we stopped treating the mentally ill like they are outsiders or like they pose a threat. We have to show up and help these people fight what they are facing. We need to keep the discussion going. I will only stop speaking about mental illness when society stops asking me why I need to. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To the One Confused By People

Hey you,

I'm personally walking out of a season that shattered every last little bit of my heart. People from all corners have deeply, deeply, hurt me. It's been 2+ years of stuff so ugly… so devastating… I can't even begin to put words to it. Let's just say I ended up very dazed and confused. Life tackled me, and as hard as I've tried to get up, I got my bell rung so hard that I just couldn't function. I have felt absolutely hopeless, empty, humiliated, lonely, betrayed, and even violated. I have felt deceived and foolish. Why didn't I see this coming sooner? At least then I could've put on my armor and fought against it. 

I have had days of seething rage. I have had days of crawling in my bed, pulling the covers over my head, and CRYING OUT for some kind of answer. Any answer! "Why did this happen to me, God? Why can't I just get past it? Why am I still struggling? Why do the hits keep on coming? I just don't understand! Give me something, anything… Any wisdom or lesson here would be wonderful! I just want some semblance of understanding." All I heard was radio silence. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. I've never been more lost or confused.

Relate? If so, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and let's have a chat. 

I don't know why you find yourself confused by people right now. Maybe the one who made vows to love you until death decided to renege on their end of the deal. Maybe a coworker threw you under the bus and you ended up unemployed & worried about how your bills will get paid. Maybe people you thought were your friends turned out to be your enemies. Maybe you were victimized by an attacker. Maybe someone stole your dream. I don't know who hurt you, but I do know that not having answers about this can feel like the most defeating thing in the world. 

It's been in this tumultuous season of my life that I have felt God come lay down beside me. It's not something I can readily explain, but though I haven't gotten answers from him, I just FEEL Him there with me. 

"Be gracious to me, O God!
Though man has crushed me, 
fighting all day he oppresses me, 
My foes trample me all day. 
For many are fighting me arrogantly.
In a day when I am afraid, 
I will put my trust in you.
In God--I will keep praising His word--
in God I trust, I will not fear.
What can mere flesh do to me?
All day they twist my words.
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife; they lie hidden.
You have recorded my wanderings,
You put my tears in Your bottle." 
Psalm 56: 1-8

Did you get that? God stores your tears in jars. When your heart breaks, His also breaks for you. And though people may fail you, your God never, ever will. He is not only willing, but eager to hold you and catch your tears. That is how much you matter to Him, sweet one. 

You may be saying "OK, yeah yeah yeah I get it. God loves me, BLAH BLAH BLAH… and he "cares" about my pain, then why isn't He giving me answers about it? Why is He making me wrestle with this confusion? If I could just understand it, maybe it wouldn't hurt so much."

"Trust in the LORD your God with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." 
Proverbs 3:5

Maybe, just maybe, understanding would make it hurt less, but it wouldn't draw you close to Him. Maybe He wants so badly to just HOLD YOU. Maybe He wants to protect you from your "understanding". Your "understanding" of people failing you leads to bitterness, grudges, hatred, a heart full of malice, and ultimately--self destruction. 

Darlin', I want to challenge you. I want you to lay down your need for understanding at His feet and open your broken heart to Him. Let Him wrap His arms around you and give you a hug so big that it not only comforts you, but it heals you. Embrace Him and trust Him when he doesn't give you the answers you want, and allow His peace {that surpasses all understanding} to wash over you. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

I Can Give You

I can't change the world for you. I can't bubble wrap you. I can't prevent you from getting hurt. I can't shelter you from a world that is sometimes horrific. I can't keep you innocent. I can't always keep you happy. I can't cure maliciousness or meanness that can cross your path. I can't always cure your broken heart. I can't fix your fear. I can't control everything for you. Sometimes I acknowledge and accept these realities willfully, and sometimes knowing that I can't always protect you breaks my heart.

But I can teach you to be kind to others, and I can teach you to love them when the world has been cruel to them.

I can teach you to always look for the lesson in pain you feel.

I can create an environment where you know that no matter how harsh life is, you are fiercely loved and respected.

I can give you a new perspective when life feels hopeless. I can teach you to find the silver lining. 

I can hold you & hurt with you when you just can't find any silver lining.

I can equip you with knowledge & faith to help you navigate your own way.

I can model that I am human, and not perfect. Neither are you. I can show you that I love you, even when you're busted & land yourself in big trouble. There's nothing you can do that will break my love for you.

I can show you that even when I fail you {and believe me, I will} I will always, always, ALWAYS try again.

I can teach you the value of contentment with what you have. The pressure of wanting will never compare to the peace that comes with gratitude.

I can give you discipline & responsibilities that will shape you into the great man I know you will one day be. 

I can show you what marriage is by modeling it with your father. Marital love is more than an emotion. It is a decision. We may have days of conflict, but we will always choose to overcome every obstacle, even each other, together.

I can give you a life with laughter & joy. I can create silly memories of spraying you with water as we do dishes or trash talking one another when we play air hockey. I hope you can wrap yourself in these memories when the darkness comes. And it will, baby. The darkness always comes. 

I pray that I've given you enough so that you acknowledge the darkness, but you are not overwhelmed by it. 

I pray that though I haven't been perfect, I have been {and will continue to be} a mother that makes you feel secure, yet humble.

I only hope I will give you as much as you've given me. You've made me better.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Thank You, Doctor

I had a doctor's appointment this morning. It was a physical, a followup to some bloodwork and a discussion about my depression. I fought taking medication for depression for a long time until I realized I would eventually die without them. I started taking them a few months back, and I didn't feel as good as I'd hoped. I still have a lot of days in yesterday's pajamas holed up in my house, so I wanted to talk to her about maybe changing the dosage to see if that would help.

I was describing what I feel to my doctor, and the she said "Okay. Let's do your physical exam so I can get a comprehensive view of your physical health and how that feeds into the depression. Sound good?"

"Yep", I responded.

DR: "Let me test your reflexes. (She taps my knee and it jerks out a lot further than usual) Well that's the most drastic response I've seen in a while! Lay back."

ME: "K."

DR: "(as she examines my abdomen) What's that scratch on your collar bone?"

ME: "Oh, I scratch in my sleep. I wake up with scratch marks all over my body. It's really weird."

DR: "How long have you been doing that?"

ME: "As long as I can remember."

DR: "And how much sleep are you getting?"

ME: "Not a lot. Sometimes I don't sleep at all. On a good night I get about 6 hours."

DR: "Have you always struggled to sleep?"

ME: "All my life I struggled to fall asleep."

DR: "Do you get headaches?"

ME: "All the time."

DR: "Where?"

ME "On the back of my head, usually."

DR: "That's a tension headache."

ME: "Oh?"

DR: "Yes (as she feels my shoulders) MY these are tight!"

ME: "Yeah I know."

DR: "Sara, I don't think your primary issue is depression. I think you suffer greatly from anxiety."

ME: "What? No I don't. I don't worry about the future, I don't worry about finances, I have friends with anxiety and what they worry about is nothing like me. I'm a 'let it flow' kind of person."

DR: "I think you are anxious about yourself. I don't think you worry about exterior circumstances, I think you really hate yourself and you have a high level anxiety about that. From everything you told me, you were able to conceal this depression quite well for some time, fake being happy, and you do not present as a typical depressed patient. You have extraordinarily high expectations of yourself and panic that you will not live up to them."

And just like that… Everything clicked. That's why I don't let people in, in person anyway. That's why I'm always there for people when they need me, regardless of what my needs are. That's why I continue to neglect myself. That's why I fear myself. That's why I fear my voice. That's why I don't express my needs. This is why I sometimes read my bible or pray and still feel like crap, because I think His promises apply to other people, BETTER people, but not to me. That's why I assume everyone else hates me, despite evidence to the contrary. This is why I can sometimes assume the worst in my husband, because I feel like one day he'll see what I see in myself and leave me. That's why I give myself pep talks to just get up and embrace life but can't, because I feel life won't embrace me back.

That doctor is crazy smart. I plan to send her a very long thank you card.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Hallmark Panic Attack

UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY: I am not in contact with my mother.


EVEN MORE UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY (Judge me yet?) : She wishes to have contact with me.

THE MOST UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY ABOUT THIS : I will continue to not have contact with her at this point. I may never have contact with her again, barring an act of God and a complete change in behavior.

Go ahead. Judge away. I get it. I've judged people for far less. 

Our society rewards parents. Birthing a child seems to automatically earn you status and respect. It's not considered acceptable to question a mother's choices, no matter how bad because it is always assumed that "she meant well". We should always be grateful to them, no matter what. 

I don't know if my mother did her best. I go back and forth on this thought. To be honest, I don't know which hurts more: that she didn't try, or that her "best" was someone who was publicly one way, but privately another. It hurts that she could successfully be a loving and charitable person to everyone in public, but not to me. The fact that she could turn it on and turn it off leads me to believe that she had at least some level of control on her behavior.

A court ordered counselor asked me to write a list of 10 things I liked about myself when I was a kid, and it took me almost a year to come up with only 2. I was ridiculed a lot. I was told that I once had a brother before I was born named Peter who was no longer alive because he wouldn't stop tapping on a table like I was cheerfully doing one night at the dinner table. That story was retold by her for years and laughed about. I went to bed every night terrified that what happened to Peter would one day happen to me, so I was a very good girl. I prayed to God to never let it happen, and I grieved a fake brother I never got to know. My extended family still talks about my good behavior, and that it was odd for any child to be that compliant and quiet. They just thought I was shy, and I let them think that.

I tried to have contact with her as an adult. God knows I tried. I tried to make things work as best as I could. I dealt with pulling the car over to have full blown panic attacks on my way to see her. I dealt with muscles so tense after a visit that I could hardly move. I tried to laugh through things that made me cringe inside. I controlled what I talked about with her and gave her less & less personal details of my life to criticize, until I had nothing left to tell her at all. I forgave so many unforgivable things I have lost track. I acclimated to hearing friends of mine tell me things they had heard about me: like that my marriage was in trouble, or that my husband was controlling, or that I couldn't pay my bills, or that I was angry that someone in our family was pregnant because I was infertile, or that I was completely crazy {ALL FALSE, by the way}. I've sat back and watched as she has attempted {and succeeded, in some cases} at destroying relationships with me and people I love with her lies. I could go on with all the lies and bombs I've had to diffuse, but I honestly can't even remember all of them because this is my normal. 

When I have confronted my mother about this behavior, she denies doing any of it at all. When she points out problems she has with me, I apologize and make amends, whether I feel like what I did was wrong or not. You can't fix a broken relationship if only one person is apologizing. Well, sometimes she apologizes but it's usually something like "if I said something you took too personally then I'm sorry." Usually, it's just denial from her. Often times her state of denial includes her thinking {and telling everyone she knows} that someone has poisoned me against her. There are many people she has accused of doing this. I turn 30 this year, so she must think I'm really dumb to have to be told what to think or feel. Or she tells me I have a "very active imagination" when I bring up a bad memory that we would have to work through in order to move on. There will never be resolution for our problems when there is denial that they even exist. 

I believed that she would want to do better by my son, and for the most part she did. She sent him gifts, she was attentive to what he was interested in, she wanted to spend time with him, and she was generally a doting grandma. I am always grateful when my son has love in his life, and I thought she had grown and matured with him, so I was better than fine with them having a relationship. I will never come between him and anyone who wants to love him. THEN that whole idea shattered when she tried to turn him against me. 


Nope, no ma'am. I will not sit back and let her drive a wedge between us or hurt him with her lies.

A few years ago, I was still in contact with her, and I was in the greeting card section at Target before Mother's Day. I was trying to find a perfect card to mail. The perfect one {in my mind} would 1) make her happy and 2) not be a lie. I couldn't find one, and I had to leave the store because having a panic attack in a public place is kind of frowned upon. 98% of the cards I found said "thank you for always being there". The other 2% were cards that were intended to be funny that would have just made her mad. I kept opening up card after card that said "thanks for always being there, Mom." 

Always being there?  I guess you were, Mom… Always. Always there.

Always consuming me with your anxieties. Always training me to live in fear. Always reinforcing that if something bad happened to you, it would one day happen to me. Always singing "Jesus loves me" but always teaching me to be leery of everyone in church. Always expecting perfect treatment, but never caring how you treated people.

You were always there to try to teach me that people couldn't be trusted. You were always there to try to sabotage my friendships by making me believe that you heard them say something bad about me, or that they would steal my boyfriend, or that they just weren't someone I should be friends with. I'm still friends with those people today, and they are like sisters to me.

You were always there to go through my trash and make sure I never threw anything away. I had to sneak my trash in my backpack to throw it away at school so I wouldn't have to live like a hoarder.

You were always there with a tape recorder in your pocket to tape things people said and twist them into something they weren't.

You were always there to reinforce the idea "blood is thicker than water", and trash everyone in our family every chance you got over the silliest little things. You were always there saying you wished your family didn't shun you for "no reason", when you were always extraordinarily difficult to get along with.

You were always there talking about karma and "what goes around comes around", and you made sure to act with spite and personally deliver your version of karma to people you felt wronged you. You were proud of your plots of revenge. If revenge were a crown, you'd wear it proudly.

You were always there to try to get me to hate my dad because your bad marriage didn't last, and then you stood back and watched in horror when I didn't. You had a magnet on the fridge from the time I was a toddler that said "I still miss my ex, but my aim is improving." I was always confused why I should hate him because he was good to me. You were always there to make me feel guilt for any love I had for him or time I spent with him. You were always there to make sure each handoff was exactly as the custody agreement said, without budging. You were always there at the house waiting for him to pick me up, never meeting him halfway on a six hour round trip journey. You wanted to make it more difficult on him, but he continued to show up and spent 12+ hours in the car every other weekend. I could feel you getting more & more angry that he didn't give up. You were there to tell me that I shouldn't miss a school dance I wasn't interested in going to, because I chose to spend the weekend with him. You were there to write an 8 page letter I recently found in an old box writing all about how you "weren't sure how you were going to make it "while I spent time with him. You were there to make false allegations that he was molesting me, and you subjected me to a pelvic exam at when I was a tween that was deeply traumatic. You were there to be disappointed that you were wrong because that meant that he still had parental rights. He has since said that he hopes you & I are able to work things out one day. He has kept praying for peace for us.

You were always there standing over me to make sure I cleaned the things you didn't want to, which was all of them.

You were always there in the teen years to buy me new clothes on credit, then guilt me for it because yours were old and falling apart. I'd love to say that you bought me new things out of love, but you did it to punish my stepdad after a fight with him. When I heard screaming, I'd put my shoes on because I knew you were dragging me to a clothing store to max out another credit card to punish him with it. Passing on these retail outings was not an option.

You were always there when I spoke, and you'd slap my mouth when you didn't like what came out of it.

You were always there to remind me of your single mom years and what you gave up for me. You were always there to remind me to thank you for those years. I sometimes secretly wished you had given me to someone else so I could stop thanking you all the time.

You were always there with an enormous and ever-changing list of expectations, and I was crushed underneath them. I was always chasing them trying to figure them out. I was trying to figure out how to make you happy, but that was like chasing the wind.

You were always there for school events of mine, but never stopped complaining about the time or money it took. You always signed up for tasks like painting a prop for the halftime show when I was in colorguard, only to hold it over my head and constantly need credit and appreciation. I stopped telling you when they needed someone to sign up to work on things. It just wasn't worth it.

You were always there in public, smiling and playing the role of a doting mom quite well, and I was always there to sell the lie.

You were always there convincing people you were a great person so they'd never believe me when I spoke the truth, that you weren't great to me.

You were always there to take me out of the house when you had a marital dispute and you were thinking of leaving him, and I was always there to carry burdens far too heavy for my age. I remember sitting out by the lake in an empty parking lot drying your tears more times than I can ever count. I never understood the negative things you told me about him, either. He is not only like another Dad to me, he one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known. You have made him believe that I don't want to see him. This is a lie. I have mourned the loss of my relationship with him. I simply know that you would punish us both if we tried to pursue a relationship without you in it.

I didn't know what kind of day I was having until I knew what kind of day you were having. If you were sad, I was sad. If you were happy, I was allowed to be happy. You were always there to silently dictate my emotions.

You were always there at home sleeping, so I took care of a lot of cooking, cleaning, and laundry on my own. Cooking still calms me to this day. It was one of the only things I had control over, so it always gave me peace.

You were always there, telling lies to people. Some big, some small. And I always had to be there to keep track of them. It was exhausting not knowing who could know what information and what story you had told to who.

You were always there promoting conflict in our family, yet expecting everyone to respect your authority. I still cringe when I remember the time you called and told me you were going to try to cut my step-siblings out of your shared will with their father because they didn't stop by the house enough to visit. I wouldn't go along with it and I told you this. You never liked hearing that someone wouldn't go along with one of your schemes. I'm sure you've had similar conversations with them now and I'm the one cut out of the will. I really don't care because your money doesn't matter to me. Honor does. Truth does. Love does.

You were always there to tell me to dream big, but not too big, and you were also there to be disappointed if my dreams weren't exactly what you thought they should be. I had to make sure you were OK with my dreams before I would allow myself to dream them. Those dreams had to be big enough to support you, but not big enough to leave you.

You were always there after school, but I never once remember you helping me with my homework or even asking if I had any. You were never there before school to get me ready. I woke myself up and got myself to school as far back as I can remember.

You were always there to make fun of me for the same things over & over. You had 5 or 6 stories you'd retell about something embarrassing I had done and use it for dinner party conversation to belittle me for decades.

You were there when I had a minor squabble with my husband one day, and once he was out of earshot you told me to "take his credit card and teach him a lesson" by maxing it out. You wanted me to hurt the man I love most. You wanted conflict in my marriage because you had it in yours. I think that you want me to fail in life so I'll need you and come back to you in some way. My counselor agrees.

You were always there to ask me to get things for you. To change the channel when the remote died, to bring you a snack, to bring your many, many medications. I could pronounce Carbamazepine and open a childproof cap before I was 10. You just called it your C pill. "Bring me my C pill", you'd always say. And then of course there were your "mac daddy pills". I still don't know what those were, but I brought them to you a lot. I took my duties seriously making sure you were OK. When you were sick, I took your temperature. When you were sad, I tried to cheer you up. When you were fighting with your husband, I tried to neutralize it. When I did something that hurt you, I apologized until I cried. I cried a lot. 

Whenever you try to reunify you always say "but we were so close before". And we were. Living another state away from you and not taking your calls hasn't stopped me from feeling you there…. needing something else from me. We were close, Mom. And it took me many years and way too many panic attacks to see it wasn't normal. 

Hallmark doesn't make a Mother's Day card for people like us, Mom.

Happy Mother's Day. 

I was always there for you.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Think Before You Christian Cliché

We Christians have our own super "special" lingo, don't we? Catch phrases. Robotic messages. Automated responses, if you will. 

We JUST LOVE our clever & catchy phrases. Don't we, though? We print them on bumper stickers and plaster them on our minivans. We see 99 of them on greeting cards, so we take one down and pass it around, 98 cheesy greeting cards on the wall. We tattoo them on ourselves and immediately Instagram them {well, the Christians that are OK with tattoos do; I'm sure the other Christians have some clever phrase referring to the tattooed heathens}. 

I'm not that best at thinking before I speak. I say things, often, that sounded so much better in my head than how it sounded out loud in front of EVERYONE. Bless it. I'm accustomed to placing my foot in my mouth. I'm not completely trained, but I'm workin' on it. 

Sometimes it takes going through tough times to realize how dumb some of these phrases are. 

When I was told "God must have a reason" for not giving me more children, I sat back and considered it. Maybe He was keeping me less busy to continue my education? Love other people's kids? Maybe He wanted to keep more money in our house to give away to people who needed it? Maybe there was something to what she said.

AND THEN SHE SAID "maybe you have some sin in your life that He's wanting you to resolve. He'll do whatever it takes to get your attention."

Um. Say what?!

Honestly, I am not speechless often, but I was completely speechless in that moment. I am GRATEFUL I was at a loss for words and completely frozen, or I may have just ended up in jail for any number of charges. Kidding. Kinda. There are babies born every day to women addicted to drugs, women who violently abuse them, women who don't even want them… and I do not believe for a second that God chooses infertility to correct sin. If that were the case, why are so many babies born to unfit mothers? Biology. Illnesses. That's why. There are intravenous heroin addicts that don't have stage 4 endometriosis or Hashimoto's thyroiditis or any of the other diagnoses that I do. Plain & simple. 

I've seen a grieving mother who had a stillborn baby be told that "God needed another flower in His beautiful garden." 


I do not worship a God who rips a sweet child from a loving mother's arms to add to His beautiful garden of dead babies. Sorry for being so angry, but clueless Christians spouting off crap like this really gets my blood boiling. I used to get angry because statements like that make me & other Christians look bad, but I now realize I get so mad because it ultimately makes God look bad. Not only does it make Him look BAD, it makes Him look like someone He is NOT.

This poor mother was grieving. This poor Christian mother was probably asking herself "why God, WHY?!" The explanation offered to her was not only offensive to that poor woman, it was an outright crazy character assassination on God. God does not shrug his shoulders at this woman's tear-stained face and say "Sorry, I needed another one for my garden. It's all for the greater good. Come and look at my garden. Your baby was better off here in my garden than with you." 

No ma'am. Nope. Negative ghost rider. And… bye Felicia!

Another phrase we spread around like peanut butter is blessed. Any little good thing suddenly becomes cosmic & vast and turns into something that is "blessed". And if it's something BIG, Lordamercy you're MEGABLESSED. Blessity blessed blessed blessed. #TooBlessedToBeStessed. Bless you. Bless all of you. Bless the sweet little children. Bless us. Bless everyone. 

Well, wait. Not everyone. Bless everyone that isn't stricken by disease. Bless everyone that isn't infertile. Bless everyone that hasn't been laid off. Bless everyone that wasn't abused. Bless everyone that isn't financially stable. Bless everyone that isn't grieving. Bless everyone who isn't single. Bless everyone that isn't struggling.

I guess if you're widowed, abandoned, abused, poor, sick, or if you're in some other way afflicted, you aren't… blessed? Or maybe you're LESS blessed? Blessless? I don't know what you'd call it, but I also know that there's no bumper sticker for that.

When we say that we are "blessed", what do we base that on? It's always tangible things. A job that's totally secure. Food in the pantry. A roof over our heads. A healthy family. Money in the bank. BLAH BLAH BLAH. {Insert whatever worldly tangible object that makes you feel secure here}.

But what if I don't? Or what if I did, and then it all fell apart? What then? 

No longer do I feel blessed, and my foundation of faith is wobbly at best. When my outlook of God's love/blessings come from worldly things & tangible security, then I'm looking at God completely out of context. And because I'm expecting God to be something He's not, it's only natural to become overwhelmed with doubt or consumed with depression when those things are threatened or taken away.

I'm not saying I'm not blessed. I'm just saying I'm not blessed for the reasons the world leads me to believe. 

--I am blessed because I am a wreck. I am nowhere near perfect. My heart is hardened to things it shouldn't be. I say offensive things like what I just wrote about. I am foolish and proud and lean hard on my own understanding. I am stubborn and I can hold a grudge longer than I'd care to admit. And yet, I was offered redemption. For nothing. No questions asked.

--I am blessed because when I am overcome by fear or sorrow, I have comfort that is beyond what this world can provide. Though the world may fail me, He will not. On the darkest nights when I had the heaviest of hearts and couldn't even find words to pray, I have breathlessly cried out into the void and He has given me peace that surpasses all understanding.

--I am blessed because though the world may reject me, I belong. I am the daughter of the highest King.

--I am blessed because I am given hope in a hopelessly broken world.

--I am blessed because I have been given life after death. I was promised that the end of my life on Earth isn't the end for me.

--I am blessed because though I feel like a hopeless hot mess that would make Jesus recoil in horror, he instead looks into the ugliest, messiest darkest parts of me and says "I can help you clean that up if you want to".

--I am blessed because though I may have been chained to the bondage of brokenness, God cuts those chains and sets me free.

I have a healthy {and friggin' cute} family. I have a roof over my head. I am kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer. My pantry is overflowing. I have a car that runs reliably. I have money in the bank. I have a closet overflowing with clothes I don't need because I couldn't pass up the cuteness. And for these things, God, I am grateful. But I am no more deserving than someone who doesn't have these things. I am just LUCKY for material comforts.

But I am blessed for other reasons. I have been claimed. Redeemed. Restored. And rescued from this world, and from myself. 

This Gospel… this good news, it is mine, and I do not deserve it. So therefore, I am blessed by it. The Gospel is also yours, dearest one. The Gospel isn't contingent on material wealth, physical health, or any other factor. The rich & the poor both have access to it. The healthy & the dying can both claim it. It has claimed us. Called us by name. Given us a new identity. We are all equally able to be restored by it. 

That is our constant. Our solid ground. Our north star. It is the only thing that can provide peace in times of turmoil. It is the only thing that strengthens those that have been broken and weakened. It's the only thing that endures all things & all seasons. 

So use the word blessed. Spread it around like Nutella. Put on on your bumper stickers & your coffee cups. Tattoo it on yourself. Just make sure you know what you're saying. It doesn't mean that God "blessed" you with a promotion, a championship win, an open floor plan, or other worldly ideas of success. 

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

~Matthew 5:1-10

Jesus didn't say blessed are the rich. He didn't say blessed are the healthy. He didn't say blessed are the trendy. He didn't say blessed are the popular. He didn't say blessed are the comfortable. 

You are blessed because no matter how far you've fallen, no matter how far you've strayed, you are so fiercely and deeply loved that every last drop of your brokenness was redeemed. THAT is a blessing. A new house or a clean bill of health or any comfort the world can offer can never even be on the same playing field. I'm not saying I haven't also misused the word, I'm just challenging {all of us} Christians to think through our lingo & clichés before we give people the wrong idea of what our God is about.