A Mother's Day Tale :)

I was born in a little "Indian" clinic in Cuba, New Mexico--a little town about 80 miles northwest of Albuquerque. We didn't actually live in Cuba. In fact, we didn't live in any town at all. We lived in the (literal) middle of nowhere...they hadn't even run electric or telephone lines and we didn't have indoor plumbing. My parents moved there to do mission work.

My favorite picture of my mom (which has mysteriously disappeared) is one of her standing over a washboard scrubbing clothes...because in 1982 they didn't have electricity and thus no washing machine. They had put the washboard on the tailgate of a pick up truck so she wouldn't have to bend over her swollen belly. The best part of the picture? The enormous smile on her face.

You would have thought that a pregnant woman, living in the middle of nowhere, who didn't have the most basic luxuries (like using an indoor bathroom instead of an outhouse) that all of her friends had  would not have many reasons to smile. But she did. Because what we have and where we live does not determine who we are or our level of contentment. It's a heart issue.

What I do with what I have won't change when I have more. The widow didn't say, "well, I WOULD give more if I HAD more".It's a heart issue. If I can't be happy living in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity and no indoor plumbing then I won't be happy with a mansion on a hill and a flushing toilet. It's a heart issue.

Sometimes I moan and bellyache because life isn't easy or because other people's lives seem easier than mine. But you know what? It's the hard moments, the crunch times, the days where I just don't understand how I'm gonna make it through that change me the most. Those are the days I'm the most happy and thankful for in the end.

I can say yes to God with what I already have and then approach the situation with a sense of adventure and watch as God blesses me with creativity and a learning experience...setting me up to be better prepared in the future...OR I can dig my heels in and resist every inch of the way and be just as overwhelmed the next time.

Tough decision?! It shouldn't be, but it is for me. Because it really is a heart issue. One that I'm praying for and submitting to God to change.

God is good!!

Answered Prayers

So, I get a lot of questions and comments from young moms about how overwhelmed they are with whatever number of kids they have and how they don't know how I handle 5. I typically say something like I don't handle it well and that having 5 isn't much different than having 2.

But that isn't true. I've believed it when I've said it, but it really isn't true. When even ONE of my kids goes elsewhere it feels like a mini vacation. Regardless of how well behaved the kid is or how well they get along with their siblings. I really do love being with my kids. Please don't take this to mean that I don't.

I love my kids. I'm so glad they're mine. But I can't help thinking that I wish they had a better mom.

I have not been a good mom. Someone really should have called CPS on me. For real.

I was not emotionally or psychologically healthy during my childbearing years. On top of that, after Lilla was born I developed my thyroid issues and was barely functional...and I was so unhealthy in the first place that I didn't even realize I was sick. My thyroid was overworking so much that my muscles began to break down...the body was not made to function in constant 'fight or flight' mode and bad things happen when it does, If I was sitting on the floor it was EXTREMELY difficult to stand up. Walking or any activity for any length of time made me nauseated and sick...I literally threw up from doing normal every day activities...the way I would from a difficult workout.  The massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through my body constantly (from the over producing thyroid) made it extremely difficult to sleep, which presented problems of it's own. I went to the doctor once and my resting heart rate was 200. I was laying down and my heart rate was 200.

I was literally a mess. I needed help. But I was too unhealthy to ask for it and nobody knew to give it...so I didn't get it.

I eventually got the medical help that I needed but it was years before I was 'normal' again. Things gradually got better and better. Through many different avenues God has done so much work on me. It's really amazing and mind boggling to think about what my life looked like 10 years ago versus how it looks now. It's DEFINITELY not perfect, there is a lot of room for improvement, but it's better.

Recently, God has brought a lot of the darkness in my life out into the light. I've come to realize that there really isn't something wrong with me like I've always thought there was. I'm not inherently evil. And everything bad that happens in my life isn't, and never has been, my fault. I've come to recognize a lot of unhealthy behavior that I had always thought was healthy, both in myself and in others. And I've come to understand the root causes of my particular sins, addictions and unhealthy behaviors.

And sadly, I've come to understand that some relationships just can't ever be what I want and need them to be. Other people face their own problems and issues and sometimes, for whatever reason, the damage done to them renders them incapable of giving me what I want from them. And I need to stop expecting the relationship to be different or keep thinking that if I could ever just be a good enough person that things will change.

I've said all of this to say that the culmination of all of this is a lot of prayer. I pray on a daily basis for my kids and my husband. And lately, I've been asking Him to teach me how to love my husband and children and how to be kind and pure and self controlled and a manager of my home. And to give me relationships with older women who can teach me these things.

And you know what? He's done just that.  Over the years and through many different people. This past Saturday I attended a training seminar at my church for a women's ministry that will begin in the fall. It's based on Titus 2 and it's designed to be a structured environment where the older women and the younger women can get to know one another, the older women can teach the younger women the things they need to know and offer them the support they need.

BOOM! Exactly what I've been praying for!!! God is sooooooooooooooo good. Isn't he?!

It is stinking amazing how God works. He is so good. I am so thankful for His grace and the work He's done in my life to take the utter mess that I am and change me into something better...all for His glory!

Mr. T Saves the Day!

So my favorite employee at my local Walmart happens to look like Mr. T. He just...really looks like Mr. T. Like, really.

Sometimes he's a checker. And if he is, I ALWAYS go to his line. Even if it's the longest one and all the people in front of me have shopped like their lives depend on getting their carts as packed full and over flowing as possible. Because, I just like Mr. T. He makes me happy. It's like Holly Golightly's deal with Tiffany's...nothing really bad could happen to me if Mr. T's around. :)

I've been feeling...grumpy and emotional. I won't go into why...I just neeeeed you to understand the power of my favorite Walmart employee and how much one Walmart employee can change the world. Because believe me, he DID change my families world. Did I mention I've been grumpy and emotional? :)

So tonight I went to Walmart to pick up my favorite healthy snack. I picked up my items and headed for the checkout. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the person at the register...my family was waiting for me in the car so I just looked for the line that gave the most promise for getting me to the front the quickest.

 So I'm standing in the line in all my grumpy and emotional glory and I look up to see...Mr. T at the register. Okay, that's not his name, I think his name is something like Reggie but for my purposes...Mr. T.

I've never actually spoken to this man other than him telling me my total and saying thank you when he's done. I've wanted to start a conversation and somehow work in a vehement "I PITY the fool!" but I never work up the nerve.

Anyway, when I saw him the next logical thing was to think of this...

And my mood was (and is every time) lifted. :)

I walked into Walmart with a long face...I walked out laughing.

Thank you Mr. T...um...I mean Reggie!

Blessed are the Codependent People?

I don't ever remember a time when I wasn't afraid of people.

As a result, I learned at a young age to be acutely aware of other people and their words, facial expression, moods and body language. I am especially sensitive to the slightest changes in all of them.

I probably would have made a good spy.

It is uncanny how unconsciously observant I am.

This ability comes in handy sometimes, but it also presents a problem for me, because I allow the information I gather to hold me hostage. I put too much weight on the feelings of other people and allow them to affect my actions and feelings to an unhealthy degree. In the name of peacekeeping I have let things go that should have been addressed. I'm afraid of how others will respond I have allowed the elephant in the room that's suffocating us all to just keep depriving the relationship of oxygen.

God has been working on me though.  Because this life isn't about pleasing people or making them like me. It's about dying to myself (and my codependent, people pleasing ways) and laying my life down as a living sacrifice. And that might involve people judging me and thinking negatively about me even when I am in the center of God's will.

My friend Carrie recently pointed out to me that Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers" not blessed are the codependent people or the passive people. Peace very often comes as the result of some sort of confrontation. This doesn't mean that I should confront everyone I know about everything I disagree with them over. It means the relational issues, the things that damage the relationship. Not everything I disagree with someone over should damage the relationship.

I'm definitely not cured. I haven't yet been able to confront anyone other than my husband, but there's progress. I'm finding myself less affected by others opinions of me. Twice recently I've overheard someone talking about me in a  not so nice way and it barely even registered on my radar. Previously I would have been angry and retaliated in some way. But I didn't!!! Praise God!

I am so thankful for a kind and loving God who fills me with His Spriit, covers me with the blood of His Son and loves me inspite of my flaws!

Truth and Lies

Since working through my Celebrate Recovery step study I've come to realize that all of my character defects are based on lies I've believed. Some lies are things people have told me with their actions or words, and some are lies I've "learned" from my life experiences. It doesn't matter where or who they come from...lies are lies. They all have the same father.

Lies are sometimes difficult to discern. Especially when there seems inerrant proof. And even more when I am the teller of them.

I'm not likable.
I'm not good enough.
I can't.
I'm garbage.
I'm unloved.
I'm ugly.
I have horrific faults, so I am unusable by God.

The thing is, belief is a choice. It's the context into which I receive information. I could find "proof" of just about anything. People have been convicted of crimes based on a lot of evidence and then proven innocent on one piece of evidence alone that completely changes the context of all the other evidence.

Evidence matters. But the context matters as much.

My belief that God exists, that He is good and that I and others matter to Him should be the frame of context of any evidence I receive or give about myself and about others.

I also believe that God is Truth. He tells the truth. Always. So anything I think or tell myself about myself or about others should be measured against what HE says and accepted or rejected on that basis.

So how do I know the above things are indeed lies? Because I've measured them against what God says is true.

I'm not likable/I'm unloved. People not liking me does not mean I'm not likable. I'm seeking the approval of God, not men (Galatians 1:10). He loves me, whether or not anyone on this earth does (Psalm 103, Psalm 17).

I'm not good enough/I'm garbage/I have horrific faults, so I am unusable by God...I don't have to be "good enough"...because Jesus died for me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5-8). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And guess what?! I'm in Christ Jesus. So guess what?! No condemnation!!!!!! Wooohooooooo! And almost all of the people God used in the Old Testament were people who had major flaws. With God all things are possible.

I can't...I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I'm ugly...It doesn't matter whether I'm ugly or not. God doesn't look at the outward man. And favor is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord should be praised. (1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 31:30)

The truth really does set me free. But I need to continually fill up with truth so the lies are easily recognized and refuted and I don't respond in whatever character defect is triggered by them.

The Practicalness of Humility

I used to have a sort of phobia of being wrong...of anyone (including myself) seeing my faults.  Even when I was wrong I would defend the behavior or belief...to myself and everyone else...as if I were completely right.  I was in complete and utter denial.

Looking back, I did some really stupid things based on my pride and desire to be right and feel superior.

Hiding was the name of my game. My faults were the herd of stampeding elephants in the room.

I can't say exactly WHEN God began working on this character flaw. I think it may have started when I realized, in my marriage, that if things were going to change, if we were going to get off the merri-go-round of unhappiness and unhealthy behavior and actually have a good marriage--or at least a bearable one-- someone was going to have to break the cycle...and it might as well be me.

I realized and slowly came to believe more and more that being the first to admit fault...and generally having an "I could be totally wrong" attitude... had zero negative repercussions and a million positive ones.

Here are a few...

1.) If I maintain a posture of humility, actually being wrong is not as big of a deal.  Falling from a height of 12 inches is way less painful than falling from 12 feet. And way less damage is done.

2.)  Pride basically holds me hostage to ignorance and stunted growth. If I already assume I know the answer and am right, it's virtually impossible to learn. And if I can't learn, I can't grow.

If a child insisted that baby jibberish was correct and refused to learn to speak and communicate properly...can you imagine all they would miss out on?  They could only communicate with the few people who take the time to learn their baby jibberish. They could never read the Bible or go to school or tell a joke or get a job. It would be utterly ridiculous. Baby jibberish is beautiful...from a baby. From a 30 year old? Not so much if that 30 year old is capable of learning to communicate properly.

3.) Even if I'm sure I'm right, it's still wise to operate from the standpoint that *I* could be the fool who thinks they're right...because I could be. THEN if it becomes clear that I'm right, it's easier for the other person to admit it. But if it becomes clear that I'm wrong, it will be easier to learn the lesson and move on with a smile.

4.) It's WAY more fun to be completely open to being wrong and to learning than having the anxiety of feeling the need to prove I'm right all the time. To walk into a situation willing to put myself "out there" to be corrected and taught is so freeing because no matter what, I come out better off.

5.) It also makes me much more approachable. It's like the idea that people are more comfortable in a home that isn't spotless because they aren't afraid they're going to mess it up. It's easier to approach someone that you know isn't judging you and won't talk down to you for having a different opinion or for not knowing something.

6.) Humility and approachableness is an act of service to others. Being willing to be taught and being open to being wrong allows others to see and learn with you even if they are afraid to put themselves "out there". And being approachable is important because we need each other...because iron sharpens iron...it doesn't sharpen itself...we need another piece of iron for that. We need community.

None of this means that I take every piece of advice or always do what other people think I should. We're about pleasing God, not men. I pray constantly for wisdom and discernment and God is faithful. Does that mean I ALWAYS make good and right decisions or always heed this advice? Absolutely not. I fall back into this behavior sometimes. It does mean that it's easier to get back up when I fall because I know that falling is always a possibility...so it's easier to recognize and admit...and rely on God's grace instead of my own ability to make right decisions all day every day.

God is good.

Broken Together

So, two people meet.  They "fall in love".  Then they encounter some type of obstacle and they almost don't make it...but they do and they live happily ever after.

So, I used to think that the Hollywood version of love couldn't be farther from the truth, but these days I think it's actually fairly accurate. Sort of.

In real life we meet, we're attracted to one another, we spend time together and decide to get married.  Then we encounter some type of obstacle and we wonder if we're going to make it. We either do or we don't but if we do, we're deeper in love.  And then it all starts again.

It's like an onion. (Donkey was onto something!) Onions are stinky. But to get to and deal with the stinky part that's actually offending my eyes and nose, I have to peel the layers off. Start with the skin.  It doesn't make a ton of difference but it's progress.  Progress is great and feels amazing but I get through one layer and revel in the awesomeness just as I realize there's another layer.

And sometimes it takes lots of peeling and lots of work to actually get to the core...to the source of the stink. And with every layer that gets peeled off the eyes burn more and the stink gets worse.

Yes, we could have been happy just leaving the onion whole or with any level along the way. But that would mean being okay with our individual sin...rejecting Jesus and His work in our lives.

And yes, this is hard. I have wondered so many times if we were going to make it.  There were times when I honestly thought I was going to break. Somehow I always find the strength to keep holding on and we eventually get to the other side...another layer peeled off. It feels great and we revel in it and praise God for it.

And then we realize there's another layer. Thanks to God and the people and help He's brought into our lives I think we may have actually reached the core. Our sin and the roots of it.

So that's where we are. Layers peeled off down to the core and God is working to neutralize the stink so He can build us back up sans the offensive odor that had colored and completely devoured every layer of our lives.

So, it isn't the easy slippers-and-pipe life that I always thought it was.  I always thought that if you loved each other...there wouldn't ever be problems.

But we're broken people. So our marriage is broken too. We can love each other through the brokenness because God loved us through it first. We're broken together.