Parenting

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Being a parent is such a challenging thing.

That was the understatement of the year, right? I mean, sure, it has big rewards, but not without significant cost and I, personally, was not prepared for the cost.

For those who may not be aware, nearly 20 years ago, I prayed that God would bring me a husband and children….but I wasn’t specific enough and God, having the sense of humor that He does, blessed me with both at once.

Ok. Maybe that was just my making a choice and not really listening all that well, but regardless I married a man with 3 boys who all lived with us full time for the entirety of our marriage (in hindsight, there are times I truly wonder how much of a blessing the marriage itself was, but that’s a topic for another day) and while I truly do love these boys as much as I possibly can, there are times that wonder how in heavens name they turned out the way they did and I somehow managed not to just beat them upside the head with a 2×4 to knock some sense into them.

I’m kidding, of course. I would never hurt any of them, but I can honestly state that only children have the unique ability to cause such exquisite pain that I find myself wondering if it would be less painful to inflict myself with a million paper cuts and pour fresh salt and lemon juice in them for an hour.

What makes me think about such lovely thoughts on such a pretty summer day? Well as I sit here I am reflecting on the struggles my youngest is experiencing and creating.

He is a wonderful, tender-hearted kid who suffers from pretty severe ADHD and depression. These two things have been a tremendous challenge for him as he tries both positive and negative means to control the impulses and depression that drive him, make him feel like he’s crawling out of his own skin and keep him longing for some unknown source of happiness and peace e has yet to find.

And therein lays the root of the struggle he is currently experiencing.

At this time, he is choosing to act on some things that have the potential to have lasting effects on his personal relationships and lifestyle. Despite how much he tries, he typically sets himself up to fail and cannot force him to make better choices, act more responsibly, or choose not to have instant gratification in a given situation.

I love him dearly and want to be able to do whatever I can for him, but as I look at the life he is leading at the ripe old age of 26, my heart breaks for these choices because it feels to me that they continue to distance him from the life I had believe God wants him to live.

And then I remember that God is God, not me.

Only God knows what His plan is for the son that is currently struggling or the other two, for that matter.

Only God knows what His plan is for any of us and I can virtually guarantee that His plan doesn’t match the one we have in our heads.

We all want our kids all to be happy, healthy, successful, and overall the very best people they can possibly be. But God’s plan is bigger than our mortal minds can comprehend and because of that, not all of our children (let alone each of us) will have the opportunity to live the lives we desperately long for them to lead. As a matter of fact, some of us and some of our kids are going to end up doing some pretty awful things and make some really terrible decisions and there isn’t a thing we can do about it.

And each of these actions fit perfectly into God’s plan.

gods-timing-not-mine-gods-will-not-mine-gods-plan-15628015And that feels more than a little unfair.

Why is it that God places these tiny beings in our live, grow, love and develop into unique, amazing people only to have send this wonderful little human in a direction so far from what we had envisioned and thought He had promised?

Weren’t we the ones that spent sleepless nights nursing them through illnesses or laboring for endless hours at the kitchen table on one homework project after another? Weren’t we the ones championing them on through sports activities, relationship woes, and decisions that either were or at least felt life altering? Of course we were…

…and so was God.

As painful as it has been for me to realize, I have come to understand that for every moment I have spent worrying about my kids – this one perhaps a little more than the others – God has watched him go through it twice; once when He created Him and saw the life He created laid out before Him and the second time, as He witnessed this child actually make the expected errors.

And here’s the particularly difficult part.

The fact is that because God created this boy just the way he is and knew exactly what choices he would make as he walked through this life means that God blessed this life as it was. Not some better version of it or some idealistic view of what my sons’ life could be, but just as it is, warts and all.

And, as the Bible said, it was good.

Ok. You’re right.

The Bible didn’t say that about my child specifically, but in my view, that is in fact what God said about all of our children because God is a perfect God. He is all knowing and all loving and because he is God, He doesn’t make mistakes nor change His mind.  So following this logic, the decisions my son is making are working together for God’s plan for him and those he will influence and it will turn out just the way God intended. My job, as his stepmother and as a faithful believer in God, is to trust His will is perfect, even if it’s not what I want.

New parenting quotes for hard times 10 Inspirational Quotes The Day 479
New parenting quotes for hard times 10 Inspirational Quotes The Day 479

God is not nor will He ever be a vending machine for our wishes. And much as we want to think otherwise, this world and all that is in it doesn’t really revolve around each of us individually. In all honestly, this little tidbit has really been eating at me these past few months as I listen to people talk about how God has done x,y, and z for them because He loves them. Why does that bother me? Because those statements make our faith in God about us not about Him. And these little sentences are the gateways to failures in faith because when things go awry, we can’t believe that the same God who has done all of these things for us individually would think to do something that doesn’t make us happy.

From my little corner of the world, this is one of the reasons Christians fall away from their faith and those we want to lead to the faith do not follow. What they see is when we pray for something specific and it doesn’t come true, it must mean that God is not all loving or that there is something inherently unloving about me.

And this is entirely incorrect,

The plan God has created is better than the one we have in our heads and this plan means we will not have everything we want nor will our lives be what we think they be or maybe what we think we (or other people) deserve. Our lives will only be perfect in the perspective of the truly perfect, loving God.

So as parents, aunts, uncles, and all other family members and friends, we are called to sit back and watch as those we love make stupid mistakes and love them anyway. We cry out in pain as those we love are unjustly treated or even killed and we must trust that our loving, omnipotent God is still in control and despite how much it hurts or angers us, He is still perfect.

48410-billy-graham-quote-3.1200w.tnAnd if, by chance, you are in a similar situation as I am and you are angrily reading this thinking clearly I don’t understand the pain you are currently enduring and could not possibly know what you have and are going to have to deal with, you are right.  I am not for the most infinitesimal moments suggesting that I do…

…but God does.

Just look at the cross.

 

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Loving at a Distance

wills20picI guess I should have seen it coming.

Actually, I guess I did but it still was a bit of a shock.

I was written out of the will.

Yep, It was official. I was being cut out of someone’s life in one of the most official ways possible.

What had I done to warrant such an action?

In plain and simple terms, I had stood up for myself. I decided I could no longer pretend everything was ok and that I could continue to have or work toward the relationship this person, my stepfather, desired.

I know that makes me sound particularly cold particularly since my mother died a few years ago and he is now alone. It was that very thing that encouraged me to maintain a relationship with him for the past 4 years.

It was easier before when having a relationship at a distance. The occasional call to Illinois to offer support and an ear wasn’t a huge sacrifice and I could feel like despite our history, that I was honoring my mother in some way by making sure he was being taken care of.. Sure, the calls had their challenges as well – the demands became bigger over time, the push for visits more frequent – but the distance kept things manageable. In October that all changed.

3150376-quotes-about-feeling-hurt-insideNow this man returned to my (and his) home state after a 30 year absence, my buffer zone evaporated and so did my ability to offer support at a distance.

At a distance, I didn’t have to see this man who had abused me, belittled me, and nearly killed me face to face. I could see him as a sad, lonely and struggling elderly person who just wanted to be a part of my life. But having him just a few miles away brought back memories and feelings I thought I had long since cut away from my heart and mind.

I found myself fearing to be in the same room with him for any length of time; becoming anxious every time the phone rang in fear that it may be him and then it was, being gripped with fear because of what he may say or want from me.

And I hated these feelings.

I hated the sense of weakness and powerlessness I felt and was angered by how these feelings not only made me feel like less of a person, but less of a Christian.

How could I as a Christian turn my back on someone in need – someone who was otherwise almost completely alone in this world because of the choices he had made when he was an active alcoholic? How could I purposefully choose to walk away from someone who was trying to show people he was no longer the person they remembered?

Over the past several weeks, I came to realize that even though he was not actively drinking, the person he had been in my memory was still very much a part of who he still is. While he offered an apology, he never actually took responsibility for actions he either remembered or were told to him. And much as I desired to be that amazing person that could be there for my “enemy” on a daily basis,  I understood I had to take a stand and choose my emotional and spiritual health over that of my stepfathers.2100300694-feeling-powerless-and-not-acting-is-like-being-hungry-and-choosing-not-to-eat-naoshad-pochkhanawala

But to say this was a difficult choice is akin to saying that climbing a 14-er here in Colorado is an afternoon stroll.

I wanted to believe that having forgiven my stepfather and mother for the things they had done to me in the past created a new starting place in my heart where I could see them as new beings, free from the pain of my past. For months, I heard the echoes of sermons from my past telling me that Jesus forgives more than we ever could and I am to be like Jesus. Sermons which reminded me that we are called to turn the other cheek when wronged and to go further than even our enemies require of us. If I am going to be a true Christian, am I not called to welcome this person back into my life and allow Jesus to tend to the hurt that comes as a result?

In a word, no.

Jesus doesn’t call us to martyr ourselves in His name any more than He calls us to go lay down on the nearest train tracks to test whether or not He’ll stop the speeding train from running us over. Neither of these things are acts of a loving God.

What Jesus and God do call us to do is to love others. Not just love the people we want to love or that are easy to love, but to love. Period. That in and of itself is the sacrifice God calls each of us to make and it is enough. It’s our humanity that makes us feel the need to do something other than love. We are action oriented. We feel like we have to make grand gestures to prove we have forgiven and moved on but God knows our hearts. If we forgive and choose to love, we are doing God’s will every single time.

I will admit that this piece is unbelievably hard. I want God to allow me to seek revenge for the ways in which I was wronged. I want to others to be able to punish those who wronged them and to feel awesome after we’ve achieved our revenge. But the thing is, as humans, we want to more. We aren’t capable of extending only the perfect amount of retribution for a wrongdoing because our emotions get in the way. We escalate and then the next guy escalates and soon we’re cutting off legs for trespassing. That’s exactly why in Exodus God tells the people we may only seek an eye for an eye. God knows that we are incapable of providing exact judgment that when Jesus came, He removed us from the equation entirely.

God knows exactly how much each of us have been wronged and how much we have wronged others. He alone knows the path we each must walk to rectify our wrongdoings. He will never and has never stopped loving us when we were wronged nor when we were wronging others and He calls us to love in that same selfless way.

And believe it or not, it was this selfless love that allowed me to make the chofind-your-wayice that I did in regards to my stepfather.

What I have come to understand is that proximity does not equal love. I have the right to protect myself emotionally, physically and spiritually. God wants us all to be safe and to make wise decisions in regards to our life. Doing so doesn’t make me less of a person or less of a Christian. To be the Christian woman God calls me to be means loving despite the pain but when necessary loving at a distance; to offer forgiveness, let go of the anger that tethers us to our pain, choose love as the proper replacement of that anger and then walk away…in love.

 

A Different Type of Independence

635954034872811688592040105_heart-rate-monitorI was 10 years old the first time someone saved my life.

My parents had recently divorced, my brother was no longer living with my mom and I and when he visited, the encounters were filled with anger and drunkenness from my mother’s side and anger and fear from my brother and my side (at least, I assume he was at least a little bit scared, but maybe I have projected that onto him all these years since).

My mom and I had moved to a new house where I was the new kid in school. I was awkward and shy, didn’t know anyone and had no idea how to fit in.

I needed an escape.

The small round tablets tasted sweet on my tongue as I swallowed handful after handful, waiting for the ache in my heart to disappear.

Like many young people who attempt suicide, death wasn’t really a concept I fully grasped and therefore not really what I wanted. I just wanted the soul-sucking ache in my heart to stop for just a little while.

I awoke under huge, glaring lights with what appeared to be dozens of people surrounding me, but it was likely only 3 or 4. I had overdosed and had fallen into a coma. I was in the hospital having undergone stomach pumping and a spinal tap. I was pelted with questions from every direction.

Why did I take the pills?

Had my brother made me take them?

What were they?

Where did I get them?

I did my best to answer all of the questions but trying to put my brokenness into words at the ripe old age of 10 was more than I knew how to do. I yearned for someone to see past the action itself and try to understand the aching of my heart; to see me and try to help.

Two people did.

Or maybe it was just one but he dragged his partner along.

I wish I remembered their names, but it, along with many other tidbits of my life has fallen away. But I do know that they were the drivers of the ambulance that carried me from one hospital to another (and suffered a kick to the groin in thanks for giving me a spinal tap). lifebuzz-8f27ab3a564f399b93978d77f25fef10-limit_2000

They came to visit me several times while I recovered in the hospital and somehow with their presence in my room, I felt they understood and my heart broke when they came to say their last goodbye.

I was 15 when I was saved once again.

I had been at rehearsal for a play – my first.

We had worked endlessly to perfect a dance number for the opening of Carnival and I was finally dropped off at home around midnight.

I recall clearly that the person who dropped me off told me she didn’t want to leave me at my house; that something was wrong. It was no secret that things at my house were often sketchy, but this was different. The entire look of the house was dark, foreboding.

I got out of the car telling my friend she could leave. Whatever was going to happen needed to happen.

Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure that my answer would have been the same.

The normal drunkenness which typically met me when I returned brought with it more violence this night than it ever had before. Had the chair I sat in not broken, I likely would not have survived the events that transpired.

Two days later, after telling my high school boyfriend of the terrible events, he and a dozen or so of his closest friends piled into 6 cars to drive me to my mother’s house and move me out.

To say I was terrified would be an understatement of tremendous proportion. I knew the potential violence that awaited me and warned every person that offered to help. I gave them strict orders to run if I said to and to not look back.

They got me out.

The move and the days that followed were so tremendously traumatic, I honestly do not know if I ever thanked the people who I believe helped to save my life that night.

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I was 39 the last time I was saved.

My marriage had ended and, as I’ve said before, I had nothing. A very loving and generous couple from the church with which I sang offered me their pool house to live in while I got my feet on the ground. Their kindness was a salve to my wounded heart and mind. I know that I was likely not the best tenant they had ever had and I am certain that I have never fully expressed my thanks in way that would let them know how truly grateful I am for their assistance.

All of these people – those that I knew and those I didn’t – sacrificially gave me something that nobody else could offer.

They gave me independence.

Independence from fear, from abuse, from homelessness and starvation.

Each and every one of them has a piece of my heart that will never be replaced by another. They were all physical representations of God’s love for me at those specific times and there is no way I can ever possibly repay them, so instead I choose to take this moment to express my gratitude.

Thank you for your sacrifices – monetary and otherwis – which you freely gave with no expectation of return.

For those known and unknown,thank you for believing I was worth saving and for working so hard to do so. Because you believed in me, I was able to believe a little bit as well.

Most of all, thank you for hearing that voice of God inside your hearts and heeding it so I could grow to become the person I am today. I realize I am far from “finished”, but your gifts were and continue to be blessings I carry forward with every opportunity.

I pray that as we enter into this celebration of the liberty of our country each of you know that I would gladly light up the sky with fireworks if it would give you a glimpse into my overflowing heart. Since I cannot do that, please think of me when you see those beautiful sparks fly and know that each and every one of them represents just a piece of the gratitude that I have for each of you.

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