Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The road to wisdom

"I just love your wisdom..."

"You are so wise, you should hold a discussion group..."

"I see wisdom growing in you..."

It seems lately that almost anyone I spend a significant amount of time in conversation with eventually says something about my wisdom or how wise I am.  I kind of thank them for their kind words but beyond that it just kind of frustrates me.  I don't feel wise.  I don't think that I have a ton of wisdom.  In fact, I just don't see in myself what they apparently see in me.  It's not that I don't think it's there... I mean obviously after multiple people have said it to me I can admit that they are all seeing something in me that I am missing.

Two weeks ago, my friend Shannon contacted me.  It had been a few months since we had done more than the quick Facebook catch up on each other's lives, so I settled in for a long chat.  I congratulated her on having 3 young children placed with her for Foster care and she updated me that she was almost ready to adopt them.  I was very excited for her.  I know how strongly she felt she would have more kids and God found a way to fulfill that in her life.  When we got around to talking about jobs she shared with me that she is almost finished writing the business plan for an orphanage/ group home and in January she plans to start applying for grants to fund it.  She is really feeling this is where God is calling her.  I was flooded with this indescribable mixture of joy, pride and excitement for her.

She then told me something that has stuck with me and that has really been weighing on my heart.  She said that when she thinks about this, the only person she know for sure she wants working with her is me.  Me?  Seriously?  Yep- Me.  She loves my wisdom, my heart for children and the compassionate way I offer counseling.  Wow.  She said she just keeps coming back to me and that at first I would be working with the kids in a sort of counseling/care-giver role but since it would be the early days it would also involve doing a bit of whatever needed to get done.

At first I was really excited.  I mean, it came completely out of nowhere but it seems like the perfect melding of my work counseling troubled teens and basically raising kids for the last (nearly)7 years.  When I think of the genuine needs of these kids she would be reaching, I am filled with awe that I would get to bring them healing & love.  The thought of less pay (because I am fairly certain this would be less pay) barely gave me pause.  What I have instead been hung up on is self-doubt.  I can recognize my limitations, I know that I only have my BA.  I know that I am snappy when over tired.  I know how deeply I am wounded by injustices done to kids.  I know all the nights I sat up crying in outrage for the teens I used to counsel.  I know the nightmares I used to have for weeks (and occasionally still do) after reading the case files of how they were beaten, molested, sold for drugs or whatever their personal histories were.

So now, I sit here feeling like she has more faith in me than I have in myself, and yet...

I know that if she gets the funding and this becomes a reality I will go.  I know that while the Robbs may think they need me, these kids actually need me.  I know that I would pour everything I had to give into them and be blessed beyond measure by simply having had the opportunity to do so.  I know that I have a heart for kids and it will break me in beautiful yet painful ways.  I know the power of a loving adult in an orphan's life because my Mom's parents were both killed when she was one.  I know that while I am aware of my limitations, it is within those limitations that God can work his greatest miracles.  I know I will go and somehow the less money, the self doubts, the whatever elses really don't matter.  Bringing healing, giving love, sharing joy, offering security.... that's what matters.

When the time comes, I will go.

And maybe, at the end of the day, that is it's own kind of wisdom...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unexpected blessings



"Oh yeah, our system is down, we can't process debit purchases, you have to do it as credit."



The manager comes over and tries to run a system over-ride.



So, they suspend the transaction and move it up to customer service.  I am on my phone texting Carley to let her know that the card is being declined.  She is in a case, so she can't really help me out.  She does tell me it is a new card and they just activated it yesterday but there should be plenty of money available.  I tell the manager I was fairly certain I had plenty of money in the account but I could see if Jeremy would transfer more.

"It's not declining you for lack of funds.  The system is not able to recognize that the card is a debit/credit card.  It would be like trying to buy your groceries with an iTunes card."

OH.  Crap.  Now what?  How much cash do I have on me?  I just ordered a bunch of stuff because I get paid on Friday, how much money do I have in my account?  Can I pay for it and have them pay me back?

After dropping Hailey off at school Monkey and I ran to the grocery for Carley.  He happily pushed his mini cart around and helped find the groceries in the store.  We didn't have much to get.  He happy waved at everyone else in the store and chattered with the workers.

The whole time I was dealing with the inability of the card to process, he was playing quietly beside me.  Which was a blessing.  Murphy's law would have you believe this is when he would be acting up and adding to the stress of the situation.  So, I was very thankful for this huge blessing.

Little did I know an even bigger blessing was about to occur, and isn't that the best kind of blessing?  The kind of blessing you don't expect or even see coming.  Those blessings that take you completely by surprise and have you walking away with a smile.  What I didn't know was that the woman in the check out lane behind me was about to buy the groceries for me.  I never could have anticipated the feeling of wonder that washed over me as she handed the cashier her card and told me she wanted to buy my groceries.

She explained that last week she had the same thing happen with her card while she was at a gas station and a gentleman came over swiped his card and told her to fill her tank.  I asked her if I could get her address and send her a check because we had plenty of money in the account, but she declined and asked for a hug instead.

Her parting words were, "We're all in this together and have to look out for each other.  Next time you see someone in need help them instead of thanking me."

Pay it forward.

Every once in a while God surprises me and I walk away feeling like I just received a giant hug.  That was what happened to me today.  There was no reason for Carley's card not to work but the blessing wouldn't have been possible any other way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm not Superwoman

but sometimes I feel like I have to be.

And it sucks.

I have basically lived on my own since just before my 18th birthday.  My parents have always been supportive, but while still 17 I moved to Germany and I haven't lived at home since.  In fact at most times I have been at least a six hour drive if not a 14 hour flight away so while my parents can give me advice on what to do they can not physically help me with anything.  Like most things, this has it's pros and cons.

I can change my car's headlights on my own.  I can assemble my own furniture.  I have developed a great relationship with  my car's mechanic.  I have learned how to take care of most basic repairs or at least have someone I trust I can call.  I have moved myself more times than I want to think about.  I even attached my headboard to my bed frame all on my own.

There is a great feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with doing these things on my own.  I love knowing that under most circumstances I've got it.  I look at friends whose parents do almost everything for them and I wonder what will happen to them when their parents are no longer around.  What will happen when they have to figure it out on their own?

I know we are never truly alone if we have God in our hearts and our lives.

It's just there are times I wish I didn't have to do it all on my own.  I don't want my guy friends to yell at me for never letting them help.  I don't enjoy having to figure out how I am going to make it all happen or get everything taken care of.  I really didn't appreciate being broken up with because he wanted a girl he could save.

Because it's not that I don't ask... I do ask.  It may not be often anymore, but I do.  And usually when I reach out needing help, I find that there is no one available to give it.

  • I spent an entire Saturday from 7 am - 6pm pulling up Bermuda grass, planting plants and mulching my "yard".  It was hot and exhausting work, but I did it all on my own.  Neighbors walked past, friends knew what I was doing and not one of them was available to help.  For the next few weeks, I received compliments and heard, "I would have helped..." but they weren't available on the day I was doing it.

  • I found a gas grill for my friend M on and promised the lady I would pick it up by noon Saturday.  I sent our mutual friend BB a text message about helping and his response was "When and Where" yet a few hours later he kept trying to switch the day to Sunday.  I ended up calling M and the two of us took care of it.  BB was all upset because he said he would help us and then we didn't let him, but he kept wanting to argue about when to go get it and that was one of the few points that I couldn't alter.  

  • This past week on Thursday I found a lady who was getting rid of 2 TVs, a 200 CD changer, a receiver and the speakers.  I tried contacting anyone I knew who had an SUV to help me because I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to take the car seats out of my car.  Of all the text messages, voice mails and emails I sent out I didn't receive any help.  I ended up taking the car seats out and clearing out my trunk.  When I got to the house I carried it all to my car and got it loaded in.  I did receive one text message back hours later that night after it was all over.  

It's not that I resent having to do it on my own, I just hate the accusation that I don't ever ask for or accept help.  I ask.  I would accept if it was offered.  The problem I have found over the years is that the guys I know like to say they would help but rarely are they actually around to offer until I have taken care of it on my own.  I try really hard not to paint all guys with that brush, but I have also quit asking them for help in most situations because it sucks when it's offered but without any follow through.

I wish I had someone who could help me.  Someone who would be strong when I wasn't.  Someone I could trust to handle things for a while so I could just let go.  I make a million decisions a day for the kids I work with from what to feed them to how to explain God to them.  It would be really nice to come home and lean on someone else's strength for a bit.  When I didn't have to have all the answers, let alone one answer.  There are days I will go from 7:30 (when my bosses leave for work) until 5:30 (when they get home) without talking to anyone over the age of 4.  Then I come home and maybe talk with some friends on the phone or read a book, but I long to just sit on the sofa and have a discussion with an adult.

I really hate the notion of a guy saving a girl because I think it sets up an unhealthy dynamic where resentment will grow.  I don't feel I need a guy to save me from my life because I think my life is pretty great.  I just wish I had someone to share it with.  And as much as I long to have someone I can lean on, I want to be able to support and nurture their spirit as well.  I want to encourage them and cheer them on when they have a bad day or are feeling worn out.  I'm not looking for Superman and I'm not looking to be Superwoman, I just want a man of faith and character who I can partner with on this journey.

And who can help me pick up a bunch of electronic equipment and set it up so I don't have to be frustrated by it ;)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Critical care

"Have you blogged about that?"

"Um, no, why?"

"Because it's important and people need to hear it."

...or something very close to that was the conversation I had with Morgan on Saturday after coffee.

We had been talking about relationships and I was talking about something I feel is very critical to the health of a relationship.  The work that you put into it and the care you take of it and what for me is one of the most critical ways a person can do that.  Where I get hung up in telling others about what I feel is so critical for the health of a relationship, is that I feel I'm not worthy to speak to it.  I feel I have less credibility because I haven't been married and the only relationship where I thought I might be, I was told by the guy's 7 year old that he was marrying someone else (someone he could save). 

I can't speak from experience and say, this has worked for me.  I have no concrete examples.  These are just my opinions and what I feel is critical to my future marital happiness.  Considering I am not now, and haven't been dating anyone in the last 6 months (aside from my dating God project), my future marital happiness is probably a distant reality/concern.

Now, I have been inside many marriages as a nanny and a counselor, so I have seen some really good and some really bad relationships up close and personal.  I also have a few years of study in Psychology, Anthropology & Sociology (a.k.a. Behavioral Sciences) and my B.A. that started these thoughts rolling.  Which, I guess, is all to say that I haven't just pulled them out of thin air... yet I still doubt my ability to offer this advice to anyone other than myself and whomever I end up marrying as something I want to do.  That this is something I feel is necessary to make a part of our relationship for it's health and sustainability.

It's one word that some people find very off putting.


Honestly, I think everyone should be in counseling to some degree, but especially before you get married and then while you are married.

I think there is a great benefit to premarital counseling but I think that there is just as much (if not more) value to counseling post-"I do."  It is just my opinion, but in the first few years I think you should be meeting with your counselor about quarterly just to have someone there to help clear the air and guide the hard conversations.  Merging two lives isn't easy and a lot of times I have seen people brush little stuff aside which isn't all bad, but can also cause all that little stuff to build up until it does become a big problem.  Having a trusted person there to help guide the conversation and help the two people work through things can only make the relationship stronger as far as I am concerned.  After a few years you could probably go in twice a year instead of quarterly because by then your communication skills should be stronger and eventually I think you just go in once a year as a yearly check up type thing to make sure the relationship stays healthy.

If a problem arises anywhere along the life of the relationship you can go in more often as needed but because you have been going all along this increase would feel more natural and would hopefully not be as intimidating as if you had never been and suddenly decided to go as a last ditch effort.  You would have years of built up trust in your counselor and hopefully the tools to help you work through things when they were still relatively minor issues instead of huge overwhelming messes that no one wanted to acknowledge.

I don't understand why so many people view counseling as a bad thing.  To me, and okay I am a little biased considering my background, it is just like going in for your yearly physical.  When you have a baby, you go in lots for "well baby" visits.  The baby grows so much in the first few weeks, months & years that you have to go in often to keep an eye on the development and try to catch possible problems or complications before they are major health complications.  As the child grows, the space between appointments does too until it is just a yearly check up.  To me, a marriage is much like a new life... why wouldn't you do everything possible to protect it and make sure it develops in a healthy way?

So many people wait until it is almost too late to get help.  They let things build up and build up until they are one step away from walking out before they decide to seek help.  At that point they have so little time to effect real change because it is almost too little too late to make a difference.  The last straw is likely to come before any real healing has begun and it is because they waited too long to seek help for what was ailing the relationship.

I don't want that for my future.  I don't want my relationship to die of a preventable problem simply because I refused to get help in time.  I want lost of date nights, plenty of alone time and yearly check ups with a counselor to grow a healthy relationship instead of the common belief that after "I do" it will all just magically happen and fall into place.  I don't want a relationship where I focus on growing the family while my husband focuses on providing the family and we never focus on each other because over time we would grow apart.  I feel that you should put as much effort and care into your relationship as you do into work.  It shouldn't be hard work or a chore, but it will take time and effort and hopefully whomever I am with will want (as much as I do) to put that effort in to growing a really great relationship.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Daddy daughter time

Almost a year ago, I found myself sitting on the patio at my parents’ house.  My dad and I were talking about guys & relationships… it wasn’t the talk I was expecting.  I am not sure what I thought we were going to talk about, but there we were enjoying the 78 degree Texas Christmas Eve as my Dad told me I expected too much of people and wasn’t forgiving enough. 


I wanted to argue that it’s not true.  I tried to point out that dating just isn’t the same in this era of text messages, booty calls and random hooking up (all of which I hate).  I think it’s disrespectful to send out a mass text message and see who responds, booty calls are demeaning and hook ups are emotionally damaging.  I went on to explain to my dad how I never expect more of others than I do of myself. 

He agreed.  (Yippee)

Then he went on to say that I am incredibly compassionate, generous, loving and devoted to those in my life.  BUT, few people get to know all that about me because I’m a lot of work.  He said I needed to be more forgiving in my relationships because people are not perfect.  I tried to convince him that I don’t expect perfection, just common curtsey and respect.  I also said I really hate feeling like the 3 year old I work with behaves better than the adult I am spending my time with after work; I am not into parenting the guy I am dating.  My dad snorted at me and said guys don’t want to feel parented by the women they are involved with but did suggest picking better guys if they were acting like toddlers. 

Gotta love Dad!  (If only it were so easy to find good guys…)

What he told me next took me completely by surprise.  My parents were supposed to get married in November, but two weeks before the wedding my dad went to my mom and asked to call it off.  To say I was shocked by this wouldn’t even do it justice.  I instantly imagined how hurt my mom would have been.  I cannot imagine what all her thoughts were but what came next was another shock.  My dad didn’t call it off because he didn’t want to marry her.  He did.  He just wasn’t sure they should be getting married so soon.  He was only 23 and she was 24, so Dad wasn’t sure they were ready for all the responsibilities of being married.  The most unusual part of all this is that Mom is generally the cautious one and Dad is the wild one.  She lives in the structured world of technology with her organization and spreadsheets while he lives in the creative world as a photographer and believes in the pile system of “organizing” his office.  She is the planner and he is the spur of the moment guy, so that he was the one who threw up the red flag says a lot about where he was at mentally.

I am not sure what happened between November and the beginning of May, but I know they got married and had 3 children.  Their marriage was strong enough to survive my younger brother's death.  Their marriage was strong enough to survive the everyday ups and downs of a relationship.  When I moved to Germany my parents apparently separated briefly (I don’t have many of the details, they didn’t tell me about it my brother did) but they were back together after a month.  It survived the move to Texas, both of my Grandfathers’ deaths and several job changes.  Now, 31 years later they have set a great example for my brother and me, but it might never have been.

I am not sure how I would have reacted if I was my mom.  Not having many of the details of the situation makes it hard to put myself fully in her shoes, but I can look at my past relationships.  I can see where guys I was with walked away and safely say I don’t believe there was much they could have said later that would have convinced me to take them back.  I can see where my Dad was coming from with his advice; looking at the life they have made together I see what a loss it would have been had she not been more forgiving.

Monday night I did something I felt urged to do.  I sent an ex an email thanking him for something he had said to me shortly after we first met and asking for his forgiveness because at the time I didn’t see the value of what he was trying to share with me.  The relationship is long over and I want to get nothing for myself from this email, but I did want to offer him something.  It wanted him to know he was right.  It was important for me to acknowledge that to him and then apologize for discounting his wisdom (even if he never realized I had) because in the years since he said it I have come to appreciate what he said. 

It is likely not what my dad intended to come of his story, but it is a direct result of his words.   Hopefully, my next relationship will also be better for the wisdom my Dad chose to share with me.  Sure, initially I wanted to fight what he was saying and argue against his assessment.  There were lots of tears from both of us.  It hurt to hear my dad say I was hard to get to know and that I needed to be more forgiving of others and expect less.  I honestly feel I am pretty open and give a lot to others.  Plus, I’m still not sure I agree with the lower expectations, but I have certainly tried to offer people more chances.  I’ve also made a point of telling them when they were right (even years later) because I do see it as something that is important.  I know I am not perfect and I am not so prideful that I can’t admit when I’ve made a mistake.  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Girl dating God

I had it all planned out.  I was going to go on these 30 dates with God and blog all about it.  I couldn't wait to get started and I didn't.  I went on that first date right when I said I would and it was GLORIOUS!  We didn't go to Starbucks as I intended but went to Le Peep for breakfast instead.  I'm sure you know what they say about telling God your plans...  it's true, none of this has gone at all the way I thought it would!  It has been so much better.  That first morning (and most times since) I spent way more time sitting there absorbing all he wanted to tell me.  Lots of what I read I already knew on a level, but this time my heart was invested in a different way and so some truths I had previously read sunk into my heart in a whole new way. I was so excited to have this time alone with Him all I wanted was more time with Him.  Sadly, Bren came to town (which was great, don't get me wrong) and so I had to postpone the next date.  I did feel God with us in several moments and I am aware enough to know that in a dating relationship you go out with friends, but these 30 dates need to be just Him and I.  It needs to be about me aligning my heart with his and connecting with him, so as much as I felt him during that time, I will not count them.  

One of the first things God revealed to me was how sacred this time between us is.  It's not to say that I won't share some of the truths He is making me aware of, but I will respect Him (and this relationship I am growing with Him) enough not to put every moment of our time together on blast.  I can't imagine dating a guy and putting all of the intimate and private moments out for mass consumption.  Sure, to share parts of it or lessons learned is one thing or to talk about a situation with the other person's knowledge and consent is fine, but not every private conversation or sweet moment needs to be revealed.  Some things are just for the two people involved.  I will say I am in awe of the things He is doing during this time.  All the little ways He sends me "love notes" or speaks to my heart have been overwhelming.  It is much like a new romance in that the more time I spend with Him, the more time I want to be with Him.  

This morning God did something really remarkable.  He sang to me!  Ok, so he used Billy Joel to do the actual work, but I know it was for me and from Him.  Just a little love note from Heaven that answered a question I had yet to even really voice.  The last few days I have been re-reading Captivating to remind myself of all the amazing lessons inside and to re-read the notes I made a few years back.  There has been some great growth and some very neglected areas that needed the refresher course I have been on.  Last night after group I was getting ready for bed and I decided to check my alarm.  Now you need to know, I NEVER TOUCH THE DIAL.  I had the worst time getting a station to come in clearly when I moved here.  If I had reception while laying in bed it would be static while I was standing or the reverse.  I found some obscure station out of Bowling Green that came in clearly and didn't play country music so that is where the dial has been ever since.  Just to make sure that I will wake up when my alarm is on radio I hit the snooze to assure myself music and not static comes through.  Last night, it was nothing but garbled static that faded in and out.  I was annoyed but grateful I had checked.  I fiddled around for a bit going from one end of the dial to the other twice before I got a clear station and went to bed.  

This morning I woke up about an hour before my alarm.  Instead of rolling over and trying to fall back asleep (like I usually would) I decided to journal.  It was just a private letter to God thanking Him for all He has recently revealed to me and all the many ways He has made His heart known to mine.  It felt as if we were sharing this beautiful moment still laying in bed, but I was pouring my heart out letting God know how much I loved Him and loved where this whole 30 dates thing was going.  Suddenly, in a mental conversational lull, my "alarm" came on and there were no words.  It was the first cords of the song, starting out soft and quiet before I knew it God was talking right to my heart:

She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her

She's got a way of pleasin'
I don't know why it is
But there doesn't have to be a reason

She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know what it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me

She's got a way of talkin'
I don't know what it is
But it lifts me up when we are walkin'

She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound
She touches me and I get turned around

She's got a way of showin'
How I make her feel
And I find the strength to keep on goin'

She's got a light around her
And everywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her

She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound
She touches me and I get turned around

She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know what it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me

She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her

I honestly believe that there is a hole in my soul that nothing other than God can fill.  I'm also starting to believe the reverse is true and it has been something I have been thinking about a lot.  Is there a me shaped hole in God?  If we are all made in God's image, then is it fair to say that by not letting my beauty shine, I am denying others the fullness of knowing God through me?  By letting past hurts keep my walls up am I blocking the path others may have had to seeing and knowing God through me and my heart?  He LOVES me in a way I struggle to fully understand.  He knows me, all of my thoughts, all of my actions, all of my fears and resentments.  He knows the wounds that have been inflicted on me and the ones inflicted by me.  Yet,  He finds me beautiful, wonderful, delightful and intriguing.  He may know all about me and the plans He has for me, but He longs to hear me give voice to those thoughts, hopes, and desires.  Not as a prayer or pleading with Him to make something happen, but as a conversation laying all of my soul bare to Him.  He knows it, but He wants me to want to tell Him about it.  He answered a question I had tonight in a few lines of the song He sang to my heart this morning.   

Right up there is the answer to something I asked him in the quiet stillness of my heart.  

Something I barely gave voice to.

The best part is, He answered before I asked to prove how much He knows me and how He loves me.  He knows my questions, my doubts and my fears before I ever give voice to them.  Just like He knows my hopes, dreams and the desires of my heart before I give voice to them.  He still wants me to WANT to go to Him and tell Him all about them.  Now this is not a new revelation.  I have loved God and known I was loved by God,but the truths He is revealing and the way He is doing it on these dates is simply amazing to me.  The gentle reminders are refreshers to past truths I discovered before He takes me to a deeper level to revel it more fully in a way I can now understand that I wasn't able seen before.  

Time just slips away

It hardly seems like it's been 20 days since my last post, but it has.

I hardly feel like I'm 30 now, but I am.

I can barely believe I graduated college 9 years ago December 10, but I did.

I look at Monkey and wonder when he went from brand new to nearly two... Love Bug is the same... how can she possibly be 4 on Halloween?

There are days of triumph.  Wearing big boy undies without an accident.   Climbing the ladder on the jungle gym all on her own.  There are quiet days of snuggling or pajama days where we stay in bed and read books all morning.  There are days of great 'bentures when we explore a river.  Days filled with grace, beauty, giggles and learning.  Days of fighting, whining and tears when we don't get our way.  Days of frustration when it feels like I say no more than I say anything else.  Days when I am exhausted.  Days when they are exhausted.  There are days when I long for down time and a life of my own followed by days where I can't imagine not loving them and being loved by them.  Days filled with dancing, crafts and imagination exploding.  Somewhere in all of it they are learning their most important lessons.

They are learning to share.  To compromise.  To wait and take turns.  They are learning to show love and receive love.  They learn how to ask for help and how to be independent.  They learn their letters, numbers, shapes and colors.  They learn to read.  They are learning to say "yes please", "no thank you", "m'am" or "sir", "May I...?" and "can you...?"  I hope they are learning that beauty on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside.  That we respect everyone even if we don't agree with them.  That we are gracious and kind towards others.  And most importantly, as Bugs put it, "That God took the naughty.  Jesus loves us so much he took the naughty for everyone."

I try my best to explain things and answer questions in a way that teaches them without talking down to them. I try to have patience (some days are just rough).  I try to nurture and shelter them as they grow.  I hope I manage to impart some wisdom that makes their journey in life a little easier.

Yet, I am quick to discount just how important what I do is.

I was talking with Blake about how I sometimes feel like I am just treading water.  Like I am pouring all my energy into living my boss' lives...sometimes at the cost of my own life.  I give their house and kids so much of my energy in the 11 hours I am here, that when I get home I walk my dog and I am done mentally and emotionally.  Yet, I long to have my own family and how do I get to a family of my own if I don't have the energy to be out meeting people?  How do I date someone long enough to get engaged when I constantly have to cancel because my one boss is on call and the other has a last minute meeting pop up so I am stuck at the house with the kids until one of them can get home?  How do I balance it all without loosing my life in theirs?  I started working with them January 2, 2007 when Bugs was only 8 weeks old.  I have been here a minimum of 55 hours every week (except vacations & major holidays) since then, sometimes working up to 70+ hours a week.  Yes, I am blessed that I love this job and it rarely seems like hard work.  In fact, it comes with a ton of perks ( I get paid to go to the park, the Frist, the Zoo, the Adventure Science Center, the pool, etc) and my "office" is a house or wherever I choose to take the kids.

I know I am leaving a legacy of love in the lives of every kid I have worked with.  I know that my life and time has impacted their lives.  Yet sometimes I feel like I should be doing more.  Sometimes I wish it was my own kids, not someone else's.  I failed to see that I am on the front lines of discipleship until Blake pointed it out.

It's easy to see God in the wonder, excitement, mystery and 'bentures, but easy to over look Him in the dishes, laundry, potty training accidents and temper tantrums.  What I realized is that the kids learn as much (if not more) from how I handle all those tasks as they do from watching baby birds in a nest.  God is in all the moments I share with them and all the moments I don't... but am I making the most of those moments?  Have I taught them how to show love in the mundane chores of daily life?  Have they seen my serve with a gracious heart when their dad is incapable of emptying his own dishwasher (the tone of that might tip you off to the answer)?  Have I shown them how to handle frustrating situations in a way that brings joy instead of sadness or hurt?

Next year, Bugs could be at school 5 days a week.  Next year, Monkey will start going two days a week from 8-12.  Before I know it, they won't need me daily the way they do now.  Something may happen before then and I'll move onto another season.  I don't know what is ahead but I do know that time moves quickly.  I only have so much of it available to me and I often wonder am I making the best use of it?  Have I laid the foundation I was tasked to lay in their lives?  Have I taught them all God has brought me into their lives to teach them?  Have I done all I could with the time I have had?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The date list (part one)

  1.  Coffee *
  2. Dinner at J's *
  3. Stroll along the Greenway
  4. Coffee*
  5. Cheekwood
  6. Picnic at Centennial Park *
  7. Walk at Radnor Lake
  8. Nashville Shakes at Centennial Stage (Loves Labor's Lost)
  9. Coffee*
  10. Drive down Natches Trace
  11. Saturday morning brunch at Le Peep *
  12. Day in Historic Franklin
  13. Dinner at Royal Thai*
  14. The Frist
  15. Coffee*
* indicates times I will bring my Bible and journal with to just read what He wants me to learn about him.  The rest of the time it is my plan to just enjoy the beauty he has put around me, to slow down enough to see it all and to talk with him in my heart & head.  I really tried to balance out my time between delving deeper into what He wants me to hear and what he wants me to see.  I really want to get deeper into this process before I pick the next 15 because I am not sure if I will want the division of time to remain about half and half or if I'll want more one than the other.  

My first date will be tomorrow morning at 9:30.  I have to take Harry Winston into the groomers and I'm on vacation, so I thought it would be the ideal time to grab my Bible and sit a while.  The best part, I have nothing else I need to be doing, so I can just absorb as much time as I want with God.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

30 dates

I realize what I am about to say may sound slightly crazy.  I get it.  It is probably up there with moving to Nashville on the flip of a coin.  (Yes, I really did it.  I was in Huntsville and I couldn't decide between Nashville & Atlanta.  Nashville got heads because it was farther north and the rest has been history in the making.)  The idea started a few weeks back when Wes was introducing our Diagnosis Single series for our community group.

Now before I get too far into this, I should state that I am okay being single.  I would be lying if I tried to tell you that I don't want to be in a relationship, married or that I wouldn't love to be spending my days raising my own kids, of course I want those things.  It's just that I would much rather be single than be in a wrong relationship.  I've gone on a few dates here and there recently but nothing has come of any of it.  Mostly it boils down to the fact that I think I have a pretty great life with my work, friends, volunteer activities, church life and my family when I get to see them.  I want someone who I can enjoy those things with and who will enhance my life, but until that comes along I am good with what I've got.  Ok, I wish I had a little more energy for my life after all the effort I put into my boss's lives, but I'm working on carving out more time for myself.  I have made great strides at telling them no, especially when I have plans!

Anyway, back to the point.  I started really thinking about this project when Wes asked us what our relationship with God would look like if we put as much time and effort into it as we do into the pursuit of not being single.  Since I am not out desperately seeking a relationship at all costs but instead try to take them as they come up and let things develop naturally, I wouldn't say I'm putting a ton of effort in there.  I put effort into dating the guy, but I'm not into running trough all guys I meet as a possible relationship .  It still got me thinking about pursuing God and trying to build that excitement that you usually have at the begining of a relationship.  You know that phase where you could spend four hours on the phone and still have a million things you want to talk about five minutes after hanging up, when you can't wait to see them and get giddy with excitement any time to have time to spend together.  So I've decided to go on a month of dates with God.

Yep, you read that right.  I am going to date God.  For a month.

Well sort of.

I am going to make a list of 30 dates I would enjoy.  Be it Cheekwood, dinner out somewhere, a walk at warner park, I'm not sure yet what they'll all be, but I intend to start out with Coffee much like I would with a guy I was getting to know and then try to progress as naturally as possible.  For some of the dates I'll bring my Bible and study what he has to say, for others I may just soak up His glorious creation and chat with him in my head.  I honestly have no idea how all of this will play out, but I know that God has been nudging my heart in this direction and I trust that he has some plans of his own for this.  I will put as much effort into getting ready for our time together as I would any other date and I will offer God the same courtesies (phone off, clearing schedule, etc) as I would were I on a date with someone.  I will be as intentional in my commitment to God for these 30 dates as I always am.

At first, I had thought I would take a month and do something each night, but I quickly realized that it wouldn't be the same.  I want this to have the same depth and breadth as a new relationship would in my life because never before have I pursued God in this manner.   I have gone through phases of reading my Bible a lot or studying with daily devotionals, I have been intentional in my prayers,  I have journaled prayers and I have read books to help my spiritual growth.  I have sought God as my Father, Protector, Healer, Friend, Guide and so much more but I have never sought to put the energy into creating more of a relationship with him that has this type of intimacy to it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Tomorrow (Monday) is the anniversary of my Grandpa Casper's passing.  Considering how poorly I deal with loss in my life, I don't really find it amusing that my two Grandfathers I knew bookended my Birthday with their deaths.  It has really forced me to reflect and appreciate my life in a wholly new way than I did before their passings.  Tonight, I still don't want to reflect too much on how much I miss him, but more on what an incredible man he was.  

He met my Grandma Casper when they were in High School Together.  They dated his whole senior year and then he enlisted in the Navy.  After basic training, he proposed.  He was at Pearl Harbor and served in WWII and they didn't get married until he returned from the war.  Within a year of marrying Grandma, her half brother came to live with them because her father's second wife had passed and he was so lost in his grief he couldn't raise my Uncle Arnie.  A year after that Grandpa's older sister Ruth and her husband Kenneth died in a plan crash leaving 4 children orphaned.  There was a bit of a tussle in the family over custody, some wanted the older kids, some wanted the 3 girls, some wanted only the boy... after about a year of this my Grandpa and Grandma stepped up and said they would take all four kids in.  This is how they became to be my Grandparents, because my mom was only one when her parents died.

I am not sure 3 years into a marriage, with a toddler of your own and expecting your second child that most people would take on 5 kids that weren't their own, but my Grandpa did.  It was important to him that his nieces and nephew not be separated, he felt they had already lost enough.  He also felt badly that the older kids were going to have to switch houses and schools so he quit attending the Catholic church with is wife and children so that my mom and her siblings could continue to grow up in the Lutheran church their parents had attended.  When my Aunt Karen developed cancer, Grandpa never once thought about seeing if someone else could take on the "adopted" kids so he could focus on his birth daughter.  They were all 7 his kids and they were all raised as siblings.  Sure, everyone knew the family history and that Grandpa was their uncle not their father, but he was their Dad.

He had ice cream pants... they were these awful brown pants and it was almost embarrassing to be seen in public with him when he wore them, but you knew if Grandpa had them on, you were stopping for ice cream at some point before going home to Grandma.   He tolerated no disrespect to others.  He had a candy shop and chocolate factory that was the stuff of childhood dreams.  I loved taking my school classes on field trips to Grandpa's chocolate shop... he put Godiva to shame.  He taught me to jump on a trampoline, and was at everyone of my dance recitals.  When I got into a car accident, he sent me a box of Captain Crunch Cereal as a joke.  He loved black coffee and making Sunday breakfast for all his girls.  He called women toots or sweetie but not in a dirty old man sort of way, just in a throwback to another era.  He always said that you could face a problem laughing or crying and that he would much rather laugh at life than to sob his way through it.

He was just a really remarkable man and I am eternally grateful that he and his fairly new bride stepped up to adopt my mom and her siblings because my Grandpa blessed my life from it's beginning.  His legacy is a great one that lives on in the hearts of his many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also in the lives of the people he employed, volunteered with, coached and lived life with.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I think anticipation is one of my favorite emotions.  I enjoy it most when I have found the "perfect" gift for someone.  I can hardly wait to give it to them because I just want to see their reaction.  I try and find things a month or so in advance to let the excitement build.  The second best form of anticipation is the kind I am feeling right now.  When you're waiting for a great time to start, a friend's visit or the start of a vacation, you sit on the edge of anticipation.

On Thursday my anticipation will be at the max, because Brenda will be arriving to spend a week visiting me! I met Brenda when I was 7.  She has been there for the majority of my life's ups and downs.  If you need to know anything about me, she could tell you the answer as readily as I could.  She is number 3 on my speed-dial.   She was the second call I made when I found out I won the scholarship to live in Germany.  She was the first call I made after things with J went down and for several years she was the only one I had told.  We can go weeks without talking because life is busy, but we always pick right up where we left off.  We always talk about not letting so much time pass... maybe one of these years we will actually make it happen!  

I really enjoy living in Nashville, but it's not always easy.  Since moving here in May of 2003 I have made some amazing friends, had some remarkable clients and have created a network that I can lean on when things are challenging.  It's just that I grew up with a TON of family (Mom was one of 7 and most of my Aunts and Uncles had at least 3 kids) around, I went to the same church the majority of my life and aside from 7 kids I graduated with the same people I started first grade with.  My Nashville friends like me for who I am now and who all my experiences have helped me to become, but my Minnesota people know how I became who I am now for the most part.   

One of the hardest things about my reality is that I am just not a part of their daily realities and the same could be said of them for me.  Sure, I miss all of them terribly, but it is rare that I call many of them when I've had a bad day because they can't really meet me to go for a walk or come over for dinner.  I sometimes wish I made it home  more often than I do, but my parents moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area about a year after I moved to Nashville, so now when I have time off I head that way instead of going back to the cities.  When I went back in 2007 for my Grandpa's funeral, it had been nearly 5 years since my previous visit.  I went back for a weekend visit in 2008 and haven't been back since.  I do keep up with a great majority of the High School and Church crowd via facebook and I touch base with my two Grandmothers and other relatives with phone calls.  

Ya know you're friends really love you and rank among your "besties" when they're willing to drive 15 hours to spend a week celebrating your birthday with you!  I am so ready for the side aches, smile lines and tears that I know are going to be a daily reality for the week she is here.  I am not kidding we will spend 10 out of 12 hours in non-stop laughter.  Our time together is always filled with fun, making new memories, remembering old memories, lots of camera flashes and somehow always restores a bit of me I hadn't realized was lacking.  

So right now I am filled with anticipation... 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So Thirsty

For the last few weeks my snooze button and I have been pretty closely acquainted.  I am generally not a big snooze button pusher, but you would never know it recently.  In fact, just yesterday I didn't wake up until 6 and I have to be out my door by 6:18 to be at work by 6:30.  I'll have you know I made it with time to spare, but it was a race and Harry Winston was neglected in the whole process.

I was a little surprised when at about 1:50 this morning I woke up suddenly.  I couldn't figure out what woke me, but I was a little thirsty so I got up to get a glass of water.  Once I started drinking I realized I wasn't a little thirsty, I was THIRSTY.  I probably drank close to a liter of water and had to stop myself from drinking more knowing that my body just needed time to absorb all I had taken in.  I started thinking about how much water I had consumed today... it wasn't nearly as much as I should have nor as much as I usually drink in a day.  How did that happen?  A glass of tea and two cups of coffee throughout the morning followed by a soda with lunch were part of the problem.  I did have some water while the kids were napping and a glass of milk with dinner solved the rest of the mystery.  I'd only had one glass of pure water.  Yes, I know that water is the main component of the tea and coffee, but  even counting them I'd only had half the water I needed. I know how much water I should be consuming each day and usually meet those needs without a lot of effort, but occasionally I get a little caught up and don't realize how much other stuff I am using to quench my thirst that isn't the water my body has a vital need for.  I'm not saying any of the things I drank were all that bad, yes I know soda isn't good but one or two a week isn't horrible either, but they can be a problem when they take the place of what you really need.

As I came back to bed and was attempting to fall back to sleep (I failed and have been awake ever since) it occurred to me that my thirst for Jesus is similar.  I may think I just need a little in the moment but then I start to "drink" in his word and I realize I need and want more than I initially thought.  I also have to remind myself to not to over do it, but to go slow so I can really absorb what I'm reading.  I hate that sometimes I distract myself with TV, movies, novels or whatever else when it comes at the cost of my time with God and my Bible. Just like the soda, they are not bad in moderation, but when they come at the cost of my spiritual health they are a problem. I love reading and so I eagerly read books and blogs that will help my daily spiritual growth, but they are kinda like the tea and coffee... no matter how much faith and Jesus you find in them, they are not the same as reading the Bible for yourself.

I have a THIRST for God and His Word, he built it in me just as surely as my need for water to sustain me.  And like my 8 glasses of water a day I need a certain amount of time with God each day to be my most healthy self.  I know how much better I feel when I get enough water.  I know how more centered I feel when I make time for God each day.  There are no substitutions but plenty of distractions.  Just like I can get busy and forget to drink as much as I should, I can fill my time with other things, but at some point I will wake up in the middle of the night thirsty for Him.

I'm off to start my day with my usual cuppa tea, but instead of getting ready while I enjoy it I am going to share my tea time with God today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I never said...

I am very surprised I am about to write this.  As little as two days ago I made a comment on Kyle's blog about how I usually share this story one on one, but that I didn't think I would ever put it out for mass consumption. Things started to shift for me yesterday when Pete was preaching on praying.  The two biggest points that started to shift my thinking were when he said, "At the very core of intimacy is truth" and "As long as I strive for control, I will never achieve the true intimacy I long for."  Then in our community group last night Brett Bergstrom made the point that if someone tells us they love us it encompasses all of what made us who we are now.  Who we are now has been shaped by all we have been through.  Today, while the kids were napping the thought of writing this all out was pressing on my heart, but instead of rushing into writing I prayed about it and then started to reread a bit of Plan B.  Avoidance is a great tactic unless it is a bit of a slap upside the head like this was:

On page 135 Pete encourages us to "...fight the temptation to hide.  Take the risk of sharing your authentic self whenever you can possibly manage it.  Trust that God will eventually provide you with a community that will circle around you even if it comes from the most unlikely of places."

The message is coming in loud and clear.  I am going to let go and put it out there.  I can't control how it is perceived or received.  I can't control the impact it has on anyone or what anyone walks away thinking about it, but really it's not about who I am,  it is about a situation that happened and shaped me.  It is still my story, but it is far enough in the past that I don't have a problem talking about it (except for my parents, I can't see how it will do anything but hurt them) I just hate the way that once people hear what happened, it shifts how they look at me.

I am not a victim, or at least I don't see my self as one.

I don't take on an empowered survivor status either.

I am not sure that I classify it in anyway, which I think ultimately is the reality of the situation.  You see it's not about being a bad girl or promiscuous.  It's not about putting myself in harm's way by making unwise choices. It's not about getting drunk or being reckless or some wild college story, though I was in college at the time.

It is about a girl who loved a boy.  It is about a significant relationship.  It follows a death and proceeds a graduation.  It is my story.

I was involved with a guy who served our military while I was in college.  When my Grandpa passed away on Spetember 4,2001 J wasn't able to get leave right away, but EVERY day from the day my Gammpy died he called me.  The day I drove the 5 hours from Milwaukee to Minneapolis he was on the phone with me at every opportunity.  I will assure you that without his calls I would not have made it home because I kept pulling off the expressway to sob uncontrollably.  At the wake, after the funeral and in the days that followed before I headed back to college, J would call and check on me.  He sent flowers to my parent's house.  He had my favorite ice cream delivered.  He had my heart in his hands and he took great care with it.  My parents were impressed with him and our relationship.  I headed back to campus and eagerly awaited September 11th.

Yes, that September 11th.  J was a part of a training exercise but had been cleared for a visit following that morning's activities.  That never happened.  Instead I awoke to a call from Mom frantically asking me where J was and telling me to turn on the TV.  In the hours that followed I think I was pretty numb.  I had just come from my hero's funeral and the man I loved was unreachable but most likely in that chaos.  Eventually, the newly married wife of his best friend called to tell me that the guys were okay and headed to deal with clean up and security.  Eventually things calmed down a little and we were able to resume phone calls and emails.  The horrors he would talk about would surface on the nightly news a few days after he would confide in me.  I can not imagine living with what I know he saw.

Mid-October he was able to come visit for 4 days (3 nights) and I was over the moon excited.  I just wanted to hug him and have him wrap me up in his arms.  I wanted to feel that he was safe and I wanted to lean on him in the wake of my Gammpy's passing.  J's flight came in while I was in class and I had told him that I couldn't meet him for at least 2 hours after his flight landed but it could be up to 3 hours if the Professor took the full class time that night. By the time we got out of class there were a bunch of increasingly angry voice mails from J.  Apparently he had forgotten I was going to be in class or expected that I would blow it off.  The problem with overloading each semester and having a Grandpa pass a month earlier is that I had already missed all the classes I could without it affecting my grades.  I called him as I took my suitcase and book-bag out to my Del Sol.  I got his room number and assured him I was on my way as quickly as I possibly could.  I also tried to figure out where we might want to go for a late dinner.

Um, lets just say we had a very enthusiastic welcoming party inside that suite before heading out to dinner.  At dinner I started to catch glimpses of a very different and very angry version of J.  This was NOT the man I knew.  Yet, after dinner when it was time to head back to the hotel (boys were most certainly NOT allowed to stay in the dorms of my Catholic all women's college) we got into a major fight on the street in front of the restaurant.  J apparently could not be driven around by a girl, not even the one he was "making purple" with and didn't care that I never let anyone else drive my car.  Now, I am not one to fight especially not in public... I just hate yelling at each other because it gets to be about winning and not about hearing what the other is saying.  I caved.  I eventually just gave him my keys.  I wish I could say that once we were at the hotel I was smart enough to drop him off and head back to campus.  I wasn't.  I wanted to work out what was going on with him and resolve the stupid fight over who was going to drive a few miles.

I wanted comfort, love and consolation over my loss in the arms of the one I loved... not anger, distrust and petty fights with this stranger in my boyfriend's body.  We worked things out and headed to bed.  I wasn't really planning on anything more than snuggling and sleeping that night with the hopes that in the morning things would be back to the way they had always been before.  It was not to be.  Instead I was awoken a few hours later by the insistent nudging of J and a few hours after that and then a few hours after that.  In fact for the next four days I would not be allowed to get more than a few hours sleep at a time.  He would wake me up for a "fun" little romp or to watch Along Came A Spider and other such movies.  Movies that I wouldn't be really excited to watch under the best of circumstances, but especially not when everything J & I own (including all my clothing) is locked in the waist high bathroom safe except for my boyfriend's boxers, t-shirt and service weapon.

Yep, I spent 5 days in a hotel suite with my boyfriend and his gun.  There was lots of purple being made and I never once said no.  Now, I didn't really say yes either and I didn't fight because let's face it he had a gun.  No, he never pointed it at me, but it was never more than an arm's length away from him either.  My main thought was just on trying to keep Mr. Crazy-pants calm.  I was not going to do anything that might upset him.  He was already raging that I was just trying to trap him and I was after his money.  I only wanted to be with him for where he could take me if he kept moving up the ranks the way he had been... I just kept denying it and trying to sooth whatever concerns he brought up next.  Eventually on the 5th day I woke up before him.  I wrapped myself toga style in the sheet and with my heart in my throat I quietly made my way out of that room.  Every instinct I had was screaming to run and instead I went painfully slow trying to prevent the snick of the door latch from waking him.  It didn't and I was able to go to the front desk where I explained the situation and they let me sit in a back office while we waited for the police and for someone to get all my things from the room's safe.

I have to live with the fact that I never once told him no.  Yet, I am not sure that telling him no would have made a difference, in fact I would guess that it might have made things worse.  I guess I will have to trust that I made the best possible choices in those moments by following my instincts.  I don't know that I would label it Rape or say that I was a victim.  I know when I headed to my Gendered Violence Class that night, it was the most difficult class to sit through.  After class my professor asked to speak with me, apparently I went a little white during the lecture and discussion (Duh!) and she was the first person I voluntarily told.  She told me it was rape and suggested a group I attend.  I didn't.  I had a few months left until my graduation in December and I had too much on my plate as it was so I just tried to push past it.

It would be too simple for things to end there, it was probably another month or so of vulgar phone messages and threats.  He would fill my answering machine, my cell phone's voice mail, my Hotmail inbox with his ranting messages.  Honestly, it was those messages of hate that did the most damage.  They are what wounded me the most, not that I believed intellectually what he was saying, but somewhere inside the wounds started to build up.  Little nicks that pierced so deep and didn't heal easily.  For quite a while I stopped trusting myself.  I chose to share my heart with this man.  I welcomed him to me.  I loved him.  Okay, I know I didn't love PTSD him, but for a long time after this I quit trusting my own judgement.  I had just failed my self so spectacularly how could I possibly be trusted to protect myself in the future?

I did eventually move on and I have shared this story with several people.  At this point it is 9 years in my past and I have worked through all but my hatred of guns.  I still get physically ill around them as I discovered 6 weeks ago.  It has changed me and how I approach relationships, I proceed with great caution now.  I will be quick to back away if someone seems too demanding or if they try to put too much pressure on right at the beginning instead of letting things develop at a more natural pace.  I never enjoy telling the guys I get involved with about this, but I do have to tell them because it changed the core of me and how I react in certain situations.  I just really despise how it changes the way people see you.  I hate the labels that get attached and the looks of sympathy.  I think in some ways they re-victimize because labels come with presuppositions.

I didn't ask for it to happen.

I wasn't a wild child.  I didn't hang out with the wrong crowds.  I wasn't a naughty party girl that got too drunk one night.  I wasn't whatever other image society wants to put out for why girls have it happen to them.  I didn't stay.  Once there was a chance to get safely away I was gone.  I didn't go back, even when he was making all those threats.

I had just turned 21.  I had lived on my own since I was 17.  I had already spent a year living in Germany.  I had almost completed my B.A. in Behavioral Sciences (Psychology, Sociology & Anthropology) program in a mere two and a half years.

I gave my heart to a man I thought I could trust.

He damaged it.

I healed.  I found a way to add value to my life with it.

I used it while working with teens who had been abused physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually.  I could never tell them that I had been there and come out the other side stronger.  Boundaries.  But I could empathize, I could encourage, I could listen and really hear what they were saying.  All those untold moments that lurk between the voiced ones, I heard them.  I could know the plethora of emotions that can't be described.

Knowing it all, I count myself fairly lucky.  I wasn't seriously harmed in a physical way, though I think verbal and emotional do more lasting damage.  I have mostly put it behind me and what still lingers has enabled me to help others try to find healing.  I would never go so far as to wish for it to happen to me again, but to know that something that horrific can happen to you and that you can get to a place where I am now is an odd comfort.  It's also a strong reminder for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and things will start looking up no matter how bad they are at the beginning.


  1. I am grateful for the fog that greeted me this morning on my walk, for it is a reminder to always walk in the Favor Of God.  
  2. I am grateful for the wonderful talk I had with my Nashville campus pastor Blake yesterday evening, even if what we spoke about had my thoughts churning and kept me up way past my usual bed time.  It was worth it!
  3. I am grateful for my community group and all the wonderful people I have met there who enrich my life immeasurably each Sunday night.  The friendships, support and insights they offer are priceless.
  4. I am so grateful for all the parents who have chosen to trust me with their kids and homes.  I know I have put in the effort to earn that trust, but I do realize what a precious gift I've been given by being allowed to live in these moments with them.
  5. As I sit here listening to H read books in her bed before starting her day I am grateful for the legacy I will leave on the hearts of each of these kids.  I know that no matter what the final outcome is, I have helped lay the foundations their futures will stand upon.  I have changed the world one small child at a time.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Exactly Enough

I am not sure when it started.  I know no one ever said it.  No one even implied it.  Yet somehow, while I was growing up I started to feel like I wasn't measuring up.

Mom would make a comment about getting my hair out of my face but I heard that I wasn't pretty enough.

Dad would make a comment on my outfit and I wasn't stylish enough for my photographer father.

Grades, not smart enough.

Swim team, not fast enough.

Dance, not graceful enough.

Before I knew it, I lacked follow through, I wasn't a good enough driver, pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, have a good enough voice... the list went on and on.

Having a dead brother didn't help.

It made things worse.

In addition to not feeling like I measured up, I was failing twice over.  I was not just letting myself down, I was letting Adam's memory down.

Somewhere along the line I convinced myself (please note, I DID THIS TO MYSELF) that I had to do more, be better, or just attempt to somehow live for both of us.  This world was going to miss out on all the possible goodness and all the imagined gifts Adam would have blessed it with.  So, in my mind anyway, it now became my responsibility to not just live for me, but excel for him.

Talk about pressure.

I am not sure how it started or how I came to believe it so surely, but believe it I did.  Every time I felt I fell short of the imaginary "ENOUGHS" I was failing the both of us.  I remember a few times where I wondered if the wrong child had died.

I know!  Horrible thought.

But I still thought it.

To myself.  It would have gutted my Mom to know what I was thinking.  I can't believe I am actually admitting it but I am and it feels kinda good.  I used to think that if Adam had lived he would have been better, made less mistakes or somehow had this blessed life that I just couldn't live up to.  I could never live up to what I imagined the greatness of his life would have been and it was easy to imagine his life would have been great.  I mean, if you're wishing a kid back from the dead, you're hardly likely to imagine them ordinary...

I also can't pinpoint when I stopped worrying about the "ENOUGHS".  I guess they were a bit like a plant you don't water... they just sort of faded over time until they were just dead twigs reminding me of what had once been there.  I came to recognize that if I really believe that God has a Master plan, imagining the wrong child died was like telling God he made a mistake and I don't believe that.

I do still try to honor Adam (by donating to charity in his memory) but I no longer try to live my life to make up for the loss of his.  I'd like to believe his spirit would be proud of my growth.  I came to trust that my Amazing God made me just as I am and that by virtue of that fact alone, I am exactly enough.  I have been blessed with all the exactly right attributes to make me who I am.  I have lived through all these experiences, including the loss of my brother & the warped perceptions that grew out of that loss, to shape me into whom I'm to be.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting out of my own way

May 10, 2003 I moved to Nashville from Huntsville.  

One of the first things I did was to find a church.  I was feeling a little emotionally and spiritually bankrupt after my time in counseling.  It wasn't that the job was so all together horrible, but the schedule of 24 hours on for 3-5 days and then 24 hours off for 1-2 days made it hard to get involved with a church because it was so rare to have Sundays off.  It was also really hard to make friends outside of the job because you had no consistency to make plans with people.  It was also hard for me to witness what some people were capable of doing to their own children.  

I really didn't put a ton of effort into finding the church.  I went to the ELCA website and searched for churches in Nashville.  Then I tried a few out until I found First Lutheran downtown.  I liked it and the people were nice, there was virtually no young adult group, but that didn't keep me from getting involved.  I got very involved.  I was on the youth committee, I did the food for fellowship hours and made dinners for our Room in the Inn program.  I joined in the Supper Club and that was wonderful for meeting a variety of people in the congregation.  It was a great place for restoring me, but it didn't fire me up to go out into the new week.  

By late August 2009 I was done.  I had been longing for more for quite a while and I was starting to feel really taken advantage of by the church.  IT wasn't the whole congregation and I am willing to admit that I probably should have said no more often over the years.  By the time I was saying NO, people were not willing to hear it.  

Despite the fact that I was longing for a church to both restore me and fire me up it took me close to two more years before I discovered Cross Point.  I tried several churches but this time I did something new... 

I went outside my comfort zone.  

Yes, that's right this nice Lutheran and Catholic girl decided to try all sorts of churches that weren't necessarily what I had grown up with.  

Some I tried were really not for me.  Some were okay, but just not quite what I was looking for. 

Through it all I was longing more...

It was the best thing I could do.  To go outside what I had known and explore all these different churches, because while none of them were right for me, it helped me get a broader sense of what I did and didn't want in my new church home.  Also, not having my church needs met enabled me to get to a point where I let the walls down on the "Everything is fine" facade and to really let a friend know what I was struggling with.  

She told me about her 2 year long search for a church and how it brought her to CrossPoint.  She told me all about her pastors and this new series they were starting on Shattered Dreams.  The first week I went, I liked it.  


I cried.  

(I still cry almost every week.  It's how I really know I'm where I need to be.)

BUT... I really missed the Lord's Prayer and the Creed too.  I knew from my friend that the did Communion but I didn't know how often.  What I am surprised by was more what I didn't miss.  I didn't miss most of what I had growing up.  I was happy to discover the worship music filled that void I was missing.  I was charged up for my next week.  It didn't take me long before I realized that I didn't even miss the Lord's Prayer or Creed at service.  I say the Lord's Prayer before I go in and then I am usually so overwhelmed by the music and message that none of the rest matters.  

I have been amazed by how after 28 years of church attendance, teaching Sunday School and all my church involvement all the books I have read... I hear these familiar stories and it's in a new and fresh way.  I am learning things about passages I thought I understood that make me understand them in a deeper and better way.  I am so glad that I was able to go out of my comfort zone, because that flexibility has allowed me to stretch and grow my faith.  It pains me to admit that I'm not sure I would have been as open to CrossPoint's differences from what I was used to had I not tried all those other churches and been without for so long.

What area of your life would benefit from your trying new things that might be outside your comfort zone?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not in my plans

I had this whole post planned out, but what I am about to say was NOT in my plans.

I don't get it.

In the last week I have been contacted by 3 (THREE) different guys that I was happy to leave in my past.  This isn't the first time they have just contacted me out of the blue either.

Two are guys that have been friends of mine for over 10 years now and we don't keep in contact terribly often, but in recent years communication has really dropped off.  In the past when they would call or email it was exciting to touch base again.  Now, I am glad to hear from them but really just wonder what they want and how long they'll be around before they drop off the face of the earth again.  The conclusion I have come to over the past couple of years is that some girl has made them feel badly and since I am so sweet they come to me to boost them back up and remind them how wonderful they are before they feel better and can move on to the next girl.  I am willing to admit I may be COMPLETELY off base, but that is just how I have been able to make sense of their actions.  "Boston" called me drunk to tell me that he was thinking of moving to Nashville.  "Chicago" sent me text messages to see how I was and to tell me has reached a point of clarity, wants to change the world and it's right up my ally... do I want to help him?

The guy that was my ex was ages ago and I felt a little bad about how things ended way back when.  Right before Christmas he was apparently at a friend's house while they were on Facebook.  He had his friend try to find one of our mutual friend's page since she was expecting a baby and he wanted to see if she had had the baby and posted pictures.  Instead he found my face smiling back beside a comment I had left for her.  He called her, got my contact information from her and then called me out of the blue.  That was thrilling.  I was very excited to catch back up with him and have a chance to make peace with our past.  We emailed, talked on the phone and he came to visit more than once, but then suddenly he just dropped off the face of the earth.  I was a little confused but since so many years had passed after our real connection and we hadn't had much time to reconnect I just brushed it off.  Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, I was confused and I did have some moments of self-doubt... but I quickly came to a conclusion that it wasn't about me.  It was his poor manners, his bad behavior and I deserve so much more than that type of behavior.  He just emailed me.

Okay the thing I REALLY don't get is that they all seem to come and go at the same time.  I mean, it can be 3 months or 9 months.  Now, none of them know each other and it is rare that they all contact me on the same day, but it isn't long after one shows up that the others come creeping back too.  Is it something in the water?  Does it have something to do with full moons?  Really, it stumps me.  I just don't get it and I struggle with why they just keep coming back to me.

I am also struggling with how to cut this off because there just isn't much a friendship left anymore.  There are great memories of how close I was to each of them, but now they are no longer a part of my reality.  While they may still get something out of the relationship, I really don't.  When I need a friend I don't think to reach out to any of them because odds are I'll be met with radio silence.  Closing the door on a friendship is never easy, but I do think at times it is required.  There are times when the relationship needs to come to a close but I struggle to do it.  I hate to walk away from people and while I may know it is time I certainly don't do it with any sort of ease.

Have you had to walk away from someone recently?  How did you do it?  Would you do anything differently?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The fine line between yummy and dummy

Some of you may know that I am allergic to eggs (No, even if I could, I would never eat Robins' eggs, I just love the color of them).  Not even the whole egg really... if I can find a way to get to the yolks without them being contaminated by the whites I could be in eggy bliss.  You see, I LOVE EGGS!  I love them when I bake, I love them in egg sandwiches and I love them when I cook.  The worst part for me is I think if the allergy was worse I would be better at living with it.  Right now, my reaction isn't great, but it isn't life threatening.  I don't even break out in hives all over, instead I get these annoying patches on my elbows and knee (right side only) that itch like crazy.  The allergist told me (after the prick test) that since it wasn't life threateningly severe I didn't have to completely cut eggs out if I didn't want.  He did say that I would have to manage my exposure and over time my reaction could become increasingly uncomfortable to the point where it might become severe but there is no way to know when or if it would worsen or how bad it might get to be.

The doctor told me that my reaction would be worse if my body was dealing with other allergy triggers (say Christmas with 3 dogs instead of 1) and that it would be better if they were baked into things than cooked (cake = good, mayo = bad) or combined with other things.  Please, trust me that I am really grateful eating eggs doesn't require use of my constant companion the Epi pen or send me to the ER because I have had my throat swell shut and that is NOT a fun experience.  It's just that when I first found out it was really overwhelming.  I mean, I started to run through all my favorite recipes... No pancakes, No pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, No custard pie for Christmas, None of Mom's sweet breads, No cakes, No French toast, No crusty breads, No breaded chicken and the list just went on.  I started running through all my favorite recipes (I have quite a few since I like to read cookbooks like some people read novels) and thinking about how the last time I made them I didn't even realize that they were causing my problems.  More importantly, that it would be the last time I got to enjoy them.  Thanksgiving was just a few weeks away and my family was coming to me this year.  What was I going to do?  There had to be pumpkin pie.  I was not going to make them miss out just because it would make me uncomfortable.  Then as I came to grips with the fact that this was my new reality, I started researching and experimenting with egg free cooking.  I now have some tricks that have helped me to continue baking and be able to enjoy the treats I make without itching.  

Joy, right?  I found a way to work around this complication... not so much.  I know logically that cutting out eggs completely clears up the itching and makes life in my skin more comfortable.  In fact, since I found out what exactly the problem was I have cut eggs out for the most part, and that is the problem.  "For the most part" means that I no longer eat omelets, traditional cakes or most breads from the grocery... but I still drink Root beer, nibble on jelly beans if they're around and succumb to the temptation that is really good sour dough bread if I am not focused on what is in them.  Uh-huh, that's right, all of those items contain egg whites.  Yep, I know.  They are EVERYWHERE!  The obvious things aren't such a problem, even though they still tempt me, it is all the little ways eggs sneak into things.  Then, just that because the reaction is mild and mostly uncomfortable not threatening, it is easy to be less diligent about checking when I am feeling rushed or stressed over other things.  I also occasionally rationalize that just a little isn't so bad, the allergist told me I just had to manage my exposure to eggs.  The thing is... I know if I avoid them the patches go away and I don't want to crawl out of my skin, so I know in my heart that I should cut them out COMPLETELY.

I kind of think of it like temptation and sin (and yes, eggs are majorly tempting when you can't have them by the way!)...

There are some things that really aren't good for us, but the consequences of those choices aren't dire.  Sure, they maybe make things a little uncomfortable and make it hard to live in our skin for a bit, but because it's not sooo bad we let ourselves slide when we're stressed.  Instead of checking our choices, we just go with what we want and then later, when the now familiar uncomfortable reactions set in, realize it was not our best decision.  If it was a hard and fast NO vs a YOU WILL HAVE TO MANAGE THIS it would be easier I believe.  The flaw is in thinking that we can manage it.  Because we can't.  Not without putting a lot of time, effort and work into managing it and odds are that even then you will slip up because we're HUMAN and fallible.  We start out strong managing our temptation, we research a little by reading the Bible, find other people's tips and tricks for working through the process and then we start to put somethings into practice.  We do enough to feel comfortable and confident with this new altered reality of our life and then the problems start.

We're comfortable that we can handle it, so we are a little less intentional and diligent.  Maybe you stop looking for new ways of managing the temptation or you quit seeking out others who are coping with the same situation.  We've got this down, so we mainly exist with our safe options until that one day we see something new and decide to give it a go without really looking into it... It's only later that we realize that it was a seriously bad choice for our well being.  Sure, we can stop now it's not too late to walk away but we've already compromised ourselves.  We will be paying the price for this choice.  I think that like eggs for me, sin is the same is everywhere, it can start out small enough but will cause increasingly severe reactions over time and in some ways it is just better to cut it out completely than try to manage it.

So yeah, while I am really grateful that my reaction to eggs is mild, I think I would be a lot more diligent if it was a serious threat instead of an uncomfortable one.  I am especially prone to feel this way as I scratch at my knee because I have forgotten that egg whites are used to make Jelly Belly candies shiny and have consumed several.

It is everywhere, it can be hidden in places I wouldn't expect it, I need to be diligent about avoiding it because some of the things that are just uncomfortable for me to live with now may later cause serious complications and put my life at risk.  

What things is it just easier (or maybe would be smarter) for you to avoid than try to manage?