Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Hangover

It's like that time when I partied with Jose.  Or that other time when the Absolut and I went around the dance floor one too many times.

Hung Over.

Except this was different.

This involved my heart.  And her heart.  And just like the times when I've indulged too much on the spirits, I have felt the ache in my head and the pit  in my stomach for more than a day now.

I never wanted to be a mom who yelled or screamed.  And I haven't been.  I am happy to report that I usually maintain control when dealing with my kids.   I can be firm,  I can be stern, but I've never crossed the line to being mean.

My teenager told me I was being mean.  Yelled it at me.  She was probably right.  But...

How can she not know how tired I am of this issue?  How can she not see the white flag that hangs out of my pocket, asking to be raised at any moment?  When do I get to lay my head down at night with peace, knowing that she is responding to my parenting, to my role in her life?

I let the words fly.  I didn't edit or revise.  Days, months, years in the past, when this issue has previously come up I somehow had the grace in my heart to hold back.  Not now.  It needed to be louder... this time.  It needed to be forceful.  I needed to scream it so she heard it... this time.  It was ugly, and it was awful.  I hated every second, and I couldn't stop.  I felt an urgency to make her understand my exhaustion from this cyclical behavior.  There was an intensity pushing my forward into a world of thoughts and words that had never been expressed.  I had been pushed too far, too many times and this time...  I exploded.    
I've loathed myself.  I've confessed to both she and the Lord.  I've cried and prayed.  My heart is still hurting over the things she said to me, retorts I hurled back at her.  But why am I the only one apologizing?  Who cares about the bruises on my mother-ego?

Days later, I'm hungover.  With doubt and with regret; experiencing the unpleasant, symptoms of the
S-word.  Shame.

Shame that I could fail so badly.  Shame that I could feel so un-loving towards my child.  Shame that I feel hatred and sadness and failure.  Shame that I didn't handle things better. Shame that I'm not a more equipped mom, more spiritual in my expressions, more self-controlled when tempted to lose it.

 I expect so much of myself.  I expect that I won't ever get out of control and say things I will regret.  I expect that I will continue to put on a happy face even when I'm angry and disappointed and frustrated.  Everyone has a breaking point. Everyone can only be pushed so far before they crack wide open.  My high expectations of myself are the strength of my mothering - I don't crack very often.  I always tell myself "You've been through much harder things than a kid's disobedience".  So I pull myself up by my bootstraps and handle things "gracefully".  "Perfectly".  Well, that's a facade as flimsy as a snowflake, revealing the greatest weakness of my mothering - I want to be the perfect mom.  I want to hit home-runs in every conflict, win blue-ribbons in every battle.  I know the foolishness of my lofty goals.  I understand the ridiculous efforts behind my desire.  Yet I still try. Failure isn't an option.  Or at least it wasn't until now.  Today, I realize that actually, I can fail.  I can fall.  I can blow it.  I can reach the end of my rope because God's Word promises that my end was always the place that He wanted me at.  He wants me at my weakest, so that He can show up with His strength.  Because THIS is where the grace resides.  Not in MY perfection, but in HIS.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that "His power is made perfect in weakness."  It doesn't say that His power is made in MY perfection.  That perfection is a phantom place of lies and pride and sin,  where I feel FAKE power and FAKE strength.  That isn't what I want.  What I want is God's REAL power and strength coming to me in my weakest, most honest place of need.

By God's grace, my hangover is gradually subsiding.  I am finding comfort in the wisdom of others, the healing of love, and the benefit of time passing. My girl and I are going to be okay.   I hope to take this awful experience and learn some new things about conflict, about myself, about my kids.   I hope to take what happened between my daughter and I and use it to revamp my skewed expectations of myself as well as handle things more calmly next time.  Because I know that I will be here again.   I also know that God's love and power will be here again and again.  It won't run out.  "That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The snow started pouring down.  Heavy, wet flakes that I didn't know were coming.   My 16 year old  was supposed to be somewhere about an hour later, and I was concerned that the visibility, that kept getting worse, would be too much for her inexperienced driving self.  I called my husband and let him know of my concerns, asking if I should drive her instead.  "Nah" he said.  "This will pass". 
And... he was right.
In less than 15 minutes, the snow had stopped, visibility was restored, and my worries about her being out driving subsided. 
It didn't take me long to apply this scenario to life. 

The truth about me is that I tend to see the heavy flakes coming down in front of me and that is all I can see.  I get  anxious and fearful about the lack of visibility. I worry about the treacherous path in front of me.  I react to the immediate rather than waiting.  I usually don't even think about the possibility (probability!) of the storm passing. 
My smart hubby knows something about waiting for a minute to watch what the weather does.  He trusts in the passing of time.  He recognizes that most weather patterns shift pretty quickly. I tend to think that I'm going to be in this storm "FOREVER"! That this is the "WORST STORM EVER"!! I get caught up in immediate solutions - "What are we going to do about this NOW??" rather than "Let's pause and wait and see what happens."  
The truth is, I never really see the benefits of the storms.  I would prefer that the weather be calm and peaceful and never-changing.  I would like there to be nice weather now, AND nice weather predicted.  I found a great verse in Nahum 1:3 that is encouraging to me.  The whole chapter talks about the Lord's feelings towards a city that was misbehaving in a big way.  The verses describe the Lord as powerful, one who will demand obedience, but also a God who is full of love and patience.  Tucked into the passage in verse 3 it says that "the Lord displays his POWER in the whirlwind and the storm".  Well.  WOW.  This is saying to me that the storm has value.  It has purpose.  It is where God's POWER is displayed. 
Verse 7 says "The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble(STORMS) comes. 
He is close to those who trust in Him". 
 God is POWERFUL in the storm and  He is PRESENT in the storm.  How much I will miss if I avoid the storms.  If I run in the opposite direction of the storm.  If I whine and complain throughout the storm.  When I trust Him in the storm, He will get me to the other side of the storm with His power and His presence. 
"The storm will pass". 
"Just wait".

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Me too

We sit across from each other
 Years of elbows on tables behind us

Tears, shed and unshed
Words, said and unsaid


All that mattered was

"Me too."
"You too?"

"Yes, Me too."

"Ahhhh... You too...".

We sit across from each other
Years of elbows on tables ahead of us.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thoughts on the Spark Retreat

Winter in Colorado isn't my favorite time of the year. The brown and the brown and well... more brown is all around.  I miss flowers!  I miss color.  So, I try to keep myself immersed in color... color in the house, color in my wardrobe, wherever I can put color... I do.  I actually found these workout pants that have color AND flowers!!  Two of my favorite things!!
I was blessed to get to go on a short trip last week.  I went to Ojai, California for a writing retreat . Ojai was a beautiful place with gorgeous flowers and fruit trees!!! I so enjoyed getting to see such wonderful landscape.  

Early one morning, I went on a walk by myself.  My walk was filled with moments of reflection and prayer.  I spent time thinking about what I had been learning so far during the writing retreat I was attending.  I walked by houses with turquoise doors and cobblestone driveways, contemplating concepts and thoughts I was going to take home with me.  

At the beginning of the retreat we were asked, "Why did you sign up for the retreat?".  My first thought was surprising to me, but I went with  it... "I came for my kids", I said.  And that is true. 
 I left home to attend a retreat with an unknown agenda, to stay with complete strangers, to participate in new activities.  Why?  To encourage myself to be brave.  To do something out-of-the ordinary.  To take a solo trip to California to see Ojai.  To discover something new about the art of writing.  All for the sole purpose of taking what I learned about myself back home.  To show my kids that you're never too old to do new things.  To demonstrate by my actions (not just by my instructions to them)  that courage is a valuable character trait.  To impart to them that they can manage without me being at home with them.  I tell my kids all the time that I want them to have courage, to be strong, to try new things.  However, I rarely do these things myself.  So that is why I traveled to Ojai for the "Spark" retreat.  
 On a couple of occasions, I sat by this pool with my journal, filling in blank pages with the specific writing activity given to us by our writing hosts (Kelle, Claire, and Annie).  It felt good to get different thoughts down on paper.  I enjoyed some new "how-tos" and "you should try this" methods.   I heard stories of challenges and difficulties from the other attendees.  Some stories were downright sad. Some stories were full of encouragement.  These women who started out as strangers became friends.
 We were nourished by delicious food and drink.  The chef that cooked for us had a soothing way about him that caused all of us to take part in our meals in a reverent manner. However, even more than the food that nourished, the Lord nourished me while I was there.  He spoke His love into my soul and comfort to my home-sick heart.   He reminded me that He was with me and that He was with my family back at home. Through every workshop and every encounter, I was grateful for the hope of Jesus in my life.  He alone is my friend, my Savior, my deliverer .  Hard things come into all of our lives and the truth is that He is right there with us, if we will let Him be.  I don't have to save myself or solve my own problems.  I must daily seek Him and rely on His strength. Then I must LIVE - Live   with God's power and truth, truth that propels me into greater adventures and more loving influence on others.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Power of the Mama

We occupied seats 3C and 3D on the tiny jet headed back to Denver.  Me, with my head already in the clouds, and she, holding her baby and wanting to be chatty. We both sat down and stowed our carryon bags.  She had brought a lot more onto the plane with her, and was carrying her loot along with her child.  Hubby and another child followed her and sat down across the aisle.  I thought that it would appear rude if I put my headphones on right away after sitting down, so I waited.  During my wait, she turned to me and apologized for any noise that her cute little boy would make on the 2 1/2 hour flight.  I explained that I wouldn't be bothered.  She then began the friendly questioning.  "Where have you been?" "Where are you headed?" "What did you do while you were here?"  I volunteered my Mama status, explained that I had 4 kids, which settled her anxiety about her little boy getting on my nerves.  She glanced away and I took the opportunity to settle in to my own seat, trying to still be friendly, while making it clear that I welcomed some distance from her. 

As she unstrapped her baby from the carrier he was in, I had a flashback to flights that I had taken years earlier.  Babies too young to sit in their own seats, sat with me.  I could recall 2 different trips that I had my littlest ones attached to my body for most of the duration of the flight.  If felt good to have them close to me, to think that I was their "flight" that transported them across the country to our final destinations.  As I stole a peak at her little boy, I remembered with fondness when I was everything to my babies. Or so I wanted to think that I was.  This mama sitting next to me had the matters of flying with a baby down pat.  She was an expert.  She looked like she could have written her own version of "What to Expect when You are Flying on an Airplane with a baby".  There were snacks, and pacifiers and blankets.  She sang songs and played games that she came on board with, prepared to use at a moments notice. 

But the baby's favorite thing wasn't the toys that she brought, it wasn't the pacifier or the snacks.  It was her.  She was the activity that he wanted to play.  She was the comfort he needed.  Her's were the eyes that he wanted to look into, the nose that he wanted snuggled into his cheek.  This mama was his everything.  At one point during the flight, she passed the baby over the aisle to the dad.  The cries and fussing reached a higher decibel during this exchange, and then quieted back down as the mom and baby were reunited.  I heard her whisper to him.  "We're back together again. Its ok." 

She didn't know that I had been away from my kiddos for 4 days.  She didn't know that my heart was longing to get back together with MY babies as well.  I had talked to the kids while I was gone, and I knew that they were doing just fine.  Daddy was on the case which meant there was plenty of care, plenty of love and plenty of yummy food.  BUT... they didn't have ME.  And they missed ME.  They missed  my presence in their lives, my hugs goodnight, my scratches on my back, even the silly things that I always say.  Littles and Bigs alike, they missed me.  I am their constant,  something to be certain and assured of.  There are times that can be exhausting, but for the most part, this is a role that I love.  I know that for sure.

I came home from California with a greater determination to be PRESENT.  To not be so distracted.  To enjoy the ordinary and the normal.  To participate more fully and engage myself more honestly with my kids and husband.  I am energized in my spirit that I am, as KelleClaire,  and Annie taught me this weekend, "the keeper of the details of our life." That is my purpose, that is where my power lies.  This HOLY HABIT of giving my kids what they need to be comforted, showing them how to live, speaking wisdom and hope to them, celebrating the wonderful things, guiding them through the painful things.  Just like that mama on the plane, I have the power to entertain, shoosh, rock, comfort and play our way to a safe and happy landing.