Abiding- in a pleasant place. In which I’m surprised by God- yet again-Even Here.

IMG_0094I’ve spent the day- walking without shoes. I’m not sure if I wore shoes yesterday, either. I may not wear them tomorrow.

Don’t panic. It’s for an good reason. No, there is no #icebucketchallenge involved. There’s not even “a mile without shoes”- challenge. (Yet.)

Today, I walked barefoot, on a dream.

We’ve been married 26 years in October. Almost 30 years ago we spent long summer and fall days- on Big Portage Lake and Tim’s Lake- near Jackson, Michigan. We always talked about the cottages that lined the lakes. We shared stories of each of our families’ cottages.

“Someday.” We dreamed. “Maybe, someday we can have a place on a lake.” However-we never actually believed it could happen. Lake front property is notoriously expensive. (Yes, even here, in Michigan-  where we have more lakes than bathtubs.)

There is always “something” else that we needed. Like: college tuition. Groceries. Vet bills. Cars breaking down or needing replacing. Home maintenance. Life. It’s always something. Isn’t it?

Still-we kept saying: “Maybe, someday.”

For one week a year we have a time share that my mom and step dad blesses us with. It’s in Traverse City. Right on the water. Every year we look at buying another week or two- because a week by the water is just not enough. It’s heaven. But, goes by so fast. Except, that involves just another week. It’s also hours from our home. Not exactly somewhere to just go spend a day. Or, two or, ten.

We’ve looked at property there-every year- and dreamed: “Maybe someday.” “Maybe, someday, we’ll have  a place up here-where we can go anytime we want- and just: rest.” Nature or nurture or, maybe God’s calling us to His creation- water and sun and trees = almost instant- rest. Always. Sunshine and water are better than Zoloft. (Trust me, I know of what I speak.)

We love to go camping- and for years we’ve been calling our camper “our mobile cottage.” Still thinking: maybe someday. Camping is amazing- but- it’s a lot of work with moments of rest. Every time we’ve packed up to leave our campsite we’ve said: “Maybe, someday.”

Then- came surgeries and cancer and their BFF’S: medical bills.

“Someday” Became “No way.”

For the past few years our lives and dreams have been on hold. Between my hubby’s health and my own- it’s been wave after wave of waiting for test results,surgeries, doctor’s appointments. Treatments.  All while working and writing and traveling for work and living and kids and – life.

A couple of months ago- we started talking about how tired we are of being on hold. Being on hold is different than waiting. Waiting ends. Test results eventually come in. Decisions are eventually made.  Having your life on hold, means not making decisions because: “What if?” “We can’t plan a trip, because what if the test results are bad that month?” “We shouldn’t spend on that- because: what if? The BIG What if, happens?”

Only like the cable company- when your life is on hold- time continues to pass. So does the life you actually, have.

Instead of moments savored, they are moments of torture.  Like the cable company- there is also, bad hold music. Of course. It’s the sound of all the worries and scenario running- good, bad, miraculous and ugly- that plays in your head the whole stinkin’ time. You’re on hold.

As we thought and talked that through we realized that whatever happens- this is the day we have. This is the life we have. However long or short, it may be. The truth is- none of us know how long our days will be. Only God knows and he wisely keeps that to himself.

So we took ourselves off hold. We changed some of our what it’s.”

Everyday I pray for a few things- that God would bless the work of my husband’s hands and heart, that my kids would know they are deeply loved by us and by God, and that God would make a way where there seems to be no way.

He hasn’t healed my husband’s cancer- (yet) and I think my kids know they are loved. And this year- God did some pretty awesome things through my husband’s hard work.

We made some plans. College plans. Bill plans. Financial plans. (We’re Ramsey flunkies who are slowly getting it. We passed the second time- it’s a process.)

Then we realized: That dream? Well- maybe it could happen. If we could find something that would work for us. The “that would work for us” part was the difficult part.

Our list:

  • Close enough to home to actually be able to go to for just a day trip.
  • In a price range that wouldn’t change our ability to help others.
  • Big enough- but not too big. (Bigger means MORE WORK.)
  • NOT a fixer upper. We wanted a place to rest- not work. Low maintenance.
  • On the water.

We weren’t asking for much, were we?

We started looking online. We were shocked to find some reasonably riced cottages. We tried not to be excited. We started to spend weekends driving all over South East Michigan – looking at cottages. “Too far.” “Not handicapped accessible.” “Too expensive.” “Needs too much work.” Then I found one we fell in love with online. It fit our criteria. It was also on the lake we’d spent so much time dating on.

We drove out just to “see it.”

We loved it. We called the realtor from the driveway. “Sold.” I nearly cried.

Kyle (My husband) Suggested we just drive around a bit in the area to see if anything else was for sale.

A few misses and then: Bam. It happened. At first glance I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go in- It was red. Which was kind of weird. My hubby said: “Let’s just look.” He called the realtor. It was still available. “Could we see it?” She called the owner’s- who happened to be at the cottage. They said to come on in.

The kitchen needed a little love, but the view and the deck and the layout? PERFECT. They were also selling it: furnished. Appliances included. We left to talk- and pray. And question and pray. We talked to some trusted friends. We battled a lot of guilt- because really- it was  a want- not a need. And- I remember so desperately wanting a home of my own for years-that to have a home and a cottage just seemed like too much.

We talked to our doctors. Both said: Do it. Enjoy your life, now. It will be good for you. Mental health can lead to physical health.

So- Friday- we did it. We bought that tiny almost 100 year old cottage on the lake. By Saturday night- it felt like our own. The previous owners left everything immaculate- and stocked- from a jet ski (another dream- little known fact: jet skis are my roller coasters. Give me a ski and a tank of gas and I’ll hit that lake hard, and come back to the dock with bugs in my still grinning teeth. There is a shed full of everything a cottage owner needs, lawnmower (Mostly moss and low growing grass- only needs cutting about twice a season.) a bbq a bug fogger- lake rake…. life jackets, enough floaties to invade Cuba. Patio furniture, fans and window AC units. It even has a big wooden swing.

All we had to do was bring clothes and give it a Tracey Makeover. Which we did. Including an actual writing desk that faces the lake. It’s light and bright and cozy all at the same time.

In some ways- it doesn’t make sense. Now? Really? In other’s it makes total sense- it’s now- or never. We decided to be brave and wise and go with now.

Which is where I am, right now. Writing where I’ll be finishing up my book. Facing the water. Soaking in sun, and finally feeling off hold.

No. The cancer is not gone. Yes. it’s still bad. But, today? We have a place to enjoy- rest, recover between appointments and make memories.

When I chose my word for the year- “Abide” I had totally thought it was going to totally be about abiding and enduring. I had no idea it would also involve abiding here- in a dream come true.

I have no idea what you’re going through. I have no idea what dream you have that you’ve set aside as “not ever.” I have no idea why your life feels on hold. Honestly- I also have no idea why we were blessed with this option at all. We sure don’t deserve it.

But, I do know this: Winston Churchill was right when he said: “When you’re gong through hell- keep going.” Whatever your hell. Whatever your dream on hold. Keep going. Take another step. Breathe. Do the next thing. You just might find yourself surprised by God, even there- as well.

“Dear Lord- I thank you for all you have done and are doing. Thank you for our little cottage of grace that we so do not deserve. Thank you for all the tiny affirmations that this is the right place for us- for now. Help us to enjoy your presence even as we continue to go through the hell that is cancer. Even here- abiding in grace- and surprised at where it’s led. Lord- for those who’s lives feel on hold- who feel like they’re barely treading water- help them to keep going. To try again. To breathe one more breath. Take one more step. And meet them with grace- where ever they are.- in Jesus’ beloved name- amen.”

Dementia- I wish I never Met Ya. The Job I Never Showed Up For- and How I Face that Fear- Every week. (Because God has an ironic sense of humor.)

UnknownIn my brain- it was a natural fit. I already had the white shoes-(Years of waitressing= white non-skid shoes.) and I love people and taking care of them! I was pretty sure it was even biblical- fits under the orphans and widows thing or honoring your parents- (Even if it wouldn’t be mine I was honoring.) To my 20 year old brain, it all made sense. Of course my next job should be to care for elders in need at a nursing home. Duh.

I walked in for my interview- and stopped to chat with those gathered near the front door in their wheel chairs- obviously longing for some attention and chatter. “I got this.” I thought, My current waitress job was at a restaurant known for it’s older clientele. And they loved me. I was a shoe in.

In the administrator’s office -overflowing with paperwork and files, I aced the interview. She hired me on the spot- then took me for a tour after giving me my employee handbook and training materials.

Which is when the panic set in. The people in the rooms were not exactly like the people I’d envisioned, or those I’d met by the front door.

I was thinking: “Hanging out with people like my grandparents.”  These people were not like my grandparents. These people were sick. Hurting. Limited in their abilities. They needed bedpans and diaper changes. These people said awkward things that made me feel confused at best, and extremely uncomfortable at worst. In the middle? Just plain at a loss. Some talked to me like I should have a clue what they were talking about- often with insistent questions I didn’t have answers for. I didn’t.

I kept smiling and nodding.I tried to talk to everyone as the administrator introduced me as”the new girl starting soon.”

Inside? I was CREEPED OUT. It wasn’t the smell or the messes that did it- it was the Alzheimers, demential and the senility. It was the impossibility of answering a question and having it understood. It was in short: ME.

White nurse shoes purchased or not- I was not cut out for this.

I never showed up for that job. I just couldn’t do it.

Years later, when My great grandmother had to be placed in a nursing home due to her own dementia and limitations- I visited often- but the same feelings haunted me. Not understanding people and not being understood or remembered scared me.

I went anyway.

Decades later- we’re facing the beginning of a new journey- with my much loved and somewhat-crazy in-laws. There is some dementia. A stroke. Several other health issues- all of which added up to their needing more hep than the family can provide.

They aren’t in a nursing home. They’re in a lovely assisted living apartment. But, I’ll be honest- it’s hard. As much as I love them- it’s hard to see them lose independence. It’s hard to not be able to make them happy. (They’re not exactly fans of their new accommodations and I tend towards people pleasing… so yeah- that’s fun.) It’s not the place-the place is great and so are the caregivers- it’s the idea of not being at home that bothers them. I get it.

I just can’t do anything about it.

Problem: Dementia and situations like this: still freaks me out.

But, this is my inlaws! I love them!

So- I go.

Not showing up- isn’t an option here.

Tuesdays are my day. I take over whatever they need. I try to think of things to do with them or things they may enjoy while we’re not there- I keep hoping it will make it easier for them.

It doesn’t.

But, I keep showing up. Yes- it’s sometimes awkward. (Last week someone decided that depends are as good as pants. Um -they’re not. GO PUT SOME PANTS ON. OY. It burns!)

Things are said that make me feel uncomfortable. There are people hanging out by the front door just longing to talk to someone. Abut: anything. Somedays it takes me a while between hitting the button to be buzzed in and actually walking the 50 feet to their apartment. Cause I Have to talk to the lonely ones.

My inlaws- are actually on the high end of wellness – and we’re thankful for that. Assisted living is not the same as a nursing home. (Still trying to convince them of that.) But it’s still hard.

Partly it’s because of : ME. Give me  room of drooling crazy hyper kids? I got that. A room or auditorium full of people to speak in front of? No problem. Love it. A little nervous that I might suck- but for the most part: bring it.

Coming face to face with dementia? I’m tempted to go fetal. I’ve read books. (I research everything to death.)  But, it still comes down to just going- and facing my fear.

So I do. And I will again today.

I’m trying to find humor in the awkward. (Every week we have the same discussion about my tattoos…. it goes like this: “No, it’s not new. It’s scripture. I don’t think Jesus will send me to hell for having scripture on my foot…..if He does- that would really suck.” They do not find this humorous. They usually switch the TV to Jimmy Swaggart to make sure I at least hear the word and might someday be saved. Ironic: ager a dose of swaggart or other TV preacher- they immediately turn on the afternoon soaps. which I’ve never watched. Because I think they’re just garbage.

However- the dichotomy between TV preachers and  the soft core that is afternoon soaps? I just-don’t get. It’s also really uncomfortable sitting with your father in law while 14 people climb in and out of bed with each other- mostly while threatening and plotting against each other. Awkward. On so many levels.

I’m trying not to take their anger and frustration personal.

I’m trying to not be judgmental. Apparently failing at that. I ALMOST edited the last paragraph out because it’s so judgey- but- I try to be honest about what a jerk I am- so I’m leaving it in.

So- decades after slipping out of those white nurse shoes because dementia creeps me out- I now weekly go by choice. (And without getting paid- just saying.) This time it really is to honor my parents well- my in-laws whatever.

It’s still awkward. It’s still kind of creepy. But apparently God won’t let me off the hook on this one. Whether it looks like it or not- I have to believe I’m making a tiny difference.

But i’m not wearing white shoes- they make my feet look fat.

Dear Lord- this is so hard. Please give my inlaws peace and strength and dignity in this hard phase of life. Give our family grace and mercy and courage and endurance to help them. especially me- Lord- You know intimately well how outside my comfort zone this is….and yeah- I get the joke- if there is one. My little disappearing act won’t work here. So go ahead- teach me something. Even  here- in dementia and assisted living and the mess of emotions and stress that swirl around it…. Thak you lord for the amazing people who are called and equipped to care for elders- without fear and with love-they amaze me! I love you lord- amen.

Questions for you my reader friends: 

Have you ever just plain not shown up for a job? What was it and why?

Have you ever gotten a job only to find it was NOT a fit?

i think there are 2 kinds of people- (totally making this up) those who can handle crazy kids- and those who can handle crazy old people- which are you? Or neither?

Ive said before that ‘sandwich” generation is a misnomer- it’s more a hot panini press-of stress – than a simple sandwich. Am I the only one feeling it? Are your parents or in-laws or grandparents moving into a more dependent phase of life? How are you coping? Or not?

PS: The Theme for MOPS International this year is “Be you, Bravely” who knew it would apply to assisted living visits?  It does. Trust me. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Robin Williams- and My Best Failure. (At least to date.)

I was a teenager. Full of all the angst and fury and fear that teens can be full of.  Angst at who I was. Fury over a lack of control and fear that I could never become  what I so desperately wanted to be: good enough. Good enough to be noticed for something. Loved. by someone.  (Other than my parents- as a teenager they didn’t count.I was weird.)

The details of my story don’t matter- because they could be a Madlibs of issues. You could insert your own nouns, verbs and adjectives and end up with the same ending. A suicide attempt.

Or, maybe it was a beginning.

In this story, the beginning came after the ending.

At least what I’d planned to be the ending:

My dramatic exit from this earth. It looked like this in my head: To be found asleep in my white eyelet canopied bed- suicide note pinned to the canopy. After which, the world would know how much they’d lost when they lost me.

Of course- I’d also be done with the angst. The fear, the depression and self loathing and fury.

I waited until bedtime- went into the bathroom and swallowed all the Tyelnol I could swallow. Then- I went to bed. Fully expecting not to wake up. Irony: did I really want to kill myself? I think so- however- I ironically bypassed the bottle of aspirin because I am allergic to it. So maybe somewhere in my brain I didn’t really want to die. Or I bypassed it out of habit.

Either way- what happened instead: I failed.

I woke up vomiting the most horrific “Exorcist” like stuff you’ve ever seen. And I woke up: scared. This HURT. This was not my dramatic slip into the netherworld- plan.

What followed was a flurry of a drive to the hospital- a transfer to children’s hospital a lot of tubes inserted into a lot of places- and blood work taken every hour. Apparently the ibuprofen I’d chosen instead of the aspirin I was allergic to had done enough damage to my liver to almost carry out my plan. Plus: I remember feeling like the biggest loser before the show existed- only the biggest loser in the universe- because I could;t even kill myself right. I was disappointed. AND hurting. That’s a rude awakening.

I’ll never forget the hurt in my parents eyes.

I’ll also never forget the chicken wire like windows that were in my “suicide watch” room. I’ll never forget the timed phone calls in the hallway like prisoner in a movie. I’ll never forget the gag order put forth to keep other kids from copying my attempt. (Suicides often happen in waves. They aren’t contagious- but almost. I was :”sick” I hadn’t tried to kill myself. Except: I had. )

I don’t remember going home. I do remember going to counseling.

I also remember years later- when my mom brought me the evidence of her broken heart- my suicide letter- that she had carried in her purse for years. I remember the guilt of the hurt I caused.

I remember the freedom I found in burning that letter. I wish I could have burned up her pain along with it. I couldn’t.

I’d love to say that Jesus showed up in that chicken wired room and took away the depression and all the insanity that had led up to my attempt. But, he didn’t. At least not in the dramatic way I’d prefer to write into this story. (Although- if I’d told them Jesus showed up in my room- I think they would have extended my stay… justsayin.)

Instead- I slowly got better. Over the years-I learned that depression doesn’t haven’t to be terminal- but it does tend to cause recurrences.

It almost was terminal for me.

Except I failed. And 30+ years later, I think that was my best failure to date.

I am my own living “It’s a wonderful life.”  I know what I would have missed- the good the bad the horrific and frightening and amazing had that plan “succeeded.”

  • 3 incredible man-children.
  • A husband who adores me- even at my most crazy.
  • Encounters with a God that give me meaning, purpose, grace and mercy and unconditional love that I longed for and still do.
  • Friends and family that love and “get” me. In part because I’ve learned to let them: know me.
  • A calling and purpose that is bigger than myself.

This is just a tiny slice of what I would have missed…..of course I’d have also missed grief, sickness, pain, feeling helpless in the face of my husband’s cancer and a whole host of other problems….

But what I know now- is this: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and most problems- are temporary or can at least be managed.

Depression is treatable- in my life it’s like diabetes in my brain. I have to care for my brain like a diabetic does their blood sugar. I take my necessary meds- I do the hard work of dealing with emotions, and I keep trying. It gets better. Depression doesn’t usually hold the MainStage of my life- but it’s sometimes playing it’s song in the orchestra pit.

Lives can be changed.

There is help.

Depression does’t have to be terminal.

I’m glad to say- my failed suicide is my best failure ever. I wish Robin Williams would have failed, too. Because he was an amazing, brilliant, gifted and well loved man.

So are you. Whether you believe it or not.

Need help? Get it now. 

Want to help? Click the same link and either donate or volunteer.

Or be brave enough= reach out to a friend who you think might need help.  You matter. They matter. To me- to God and to the world… even when you don’t feel like it.

PS: I wish I could erase the pain I caused my parents.  Now that I’m a mom- I can think of no greater pain than to lose a child- or to have a child want to die. I can’t- but I can help others- so today- I’m offering this in hopes that it helps someone.  Moms- watch your kids. I’ll admit I’m hyper vigilant about mine. (They’d probably call it paranoid.)

I hope this: saves a parent the heart ache of child a lost.

A child the trauma and loss of a parent lost.

Or, just plain lets someone know they aren’t alone.

You aren’t.

 

 

 

 

Sock Basket Albatross. Time to Let it Go. And I’m not talking about Frozen.

10301062_10203276759212474_4664838666416046099_nIt has mocked me from the end of my bed for years. Day after day I feed it’s maw with offerings of hope and it just sits there.  I keep hoping the rest will show up.  They don’t. It’s just a black hole of guilt and procrastination. I can’t even tell you how long it’s been there.

it’s been at least since we’ve been married- in one form or another. White , blue, five dwelling places- but always at least one.  I don’t exactly remember packing them up- they’re just always- there.

No, not my husband. I like HIM. And no- it’s not some weird animal I’m keeping chained up that could get me arrested or protested by PETA. (Although I’ve briefly considered keeping a sea otter in my bathtub.. they just make me smile. That. Much.)

Nope. it’s not alive. It’s a black hole I keep tossing things into. Useless things. Things that make me crazy. (Okay- crazier.)

The mismatched sock basket.

(Full disclosure that will probably cause you to judge me as a sock hoarder- but I’m being honest- it’s 3 laundry baskets- not just socks… mostly socks, but also random other things I don’t know what to do with. There. I said it.  3 baskets full- just like the baa baa black sheep…..only not. Honesty is so freeing. )

I keep MEANING to go through it and match up what I can- and toss what I can’t.  But something always stops me from actually doing it.  Like laundry that people actually need cleaned. And vacuuming. And knitting. And writing. And reading. And just about anything BUT, sorting those evil, guilt overflowing baskets.

Saturday morning– I tried to just bag the junk up and throw it all out.  But, I could’t do it. What about all the naked footed children in need? What about my own kids- who are probably sharing the same 3 pair of socks each that I keep rewashing because they keep being thrown into the hamper already matching? What about the waste?

Instead- I gathered them all up- tossed them into the washer (I’m sure there are a few less after that… ) re-washed and dried them- then sat down in the living room. Pile before me- iPod on my ears.

And yes- I played the worst game of “Memory” ever. For at least 90 minutes. So long that my feet fell asleep and my back ached. So long that Christmas music came up on shuffle.

When I was finished- there was a basket of neat little sock balls- and STILL a sickening pile of mis-matched socks.

UGH. They are like foot shaped ragged little bunnies- multiplying faster than I can roll them up.

I went through what was left, and THREW OUT anything with holes or stains that didn’t resemble anything worth putting for sale on Ebay. (No socks stained like Michael Jackson or, Jesus. Bummer.)

There was still a pile sitting in front of me.

I put the pile in a bag. JUST in case I find more socks. You know- the missing ones. Then I started the dark load. OY. yes. A whole second batch. And I did the same thing all over again. the next day.

Now, I have a basket of white sock balls and a basket of dark sock balls and 2 piles almost as big- of STILL mismatched socks.

I suppose that’s progress. Right?

Here- the thing- I’m sick of these baskets taunting and mocking me. I’m sick of my bedroom looking like a laundry museum. I’m sick of holding onto things that are useless. Things I don’t need. Things I haven’t used and probably never will.

I’m also tired of holding onto the guilt.

So today is the deadline. I’m letting it go.

All of it. It’s time.

I think we all have things we hold onto and hoard that make us feel like these sock baskets. They sit in a corner and taunt us- and we just keep feeding them. Not dealing with them- just adding to them. And they just grow bigger. They take up more space in our heads, hearts and lives than they deserve. What starts out as a simple temporary place to store mismatched socks turns into a huge vortex of self condemnation.

Maybe, it’s not about socks. Maybe, it’s something else. Something else you keep feeding and avoiding dealing with. An addiction? A pile of bills? Another mess? Or something from your past. Pain. Sin. Anything. Something you keep feeding and holding onto…..

What would happen if you sat down, did the work you can, and then- let the rest go?

I’m not actually sure what would happen. It could be risky.

  • What if we run out of SOCKS??? We’d have cold feet!
  • What if the Other sock shows up and it’s too late? What if it’s heartbroken that I didn’t keep it’s mate?  Could I live with that guilt?
  • What if there’s a miniature flood and we  could have used those mismatched socks as tiny sand bags?
  • What if there’s an urgent crisis for single socks on a yet to be discovered island of one footed orphans and I miss my opportunity to bless them with my abundance?
  • What if someone posts the perfect use for them on Pinterest?

I just don’t know.

But, I’m willing to find out. How about you?

Are you willing to do the work to clean out that mess you’ve been avoiding? Are you willing to let go of that guilt you can’t do anything about?

Me too. And I’m starting with the sock baskets. Really. Today. I Promise.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Dear lord- somethings are overwhelming and frustrating. Like the guilt I keep feeding and the mismatched socks. I don’t even know where to start to clean them up. Help me to know what to hold onto and pry my fingers off of the things I need to let go of…. I need your help- I love you lord- amen.

PS: For the really smart and intuitive among you- yes- this was yet another way to avoid actually throwing out what’s left or finding something else to do with them…..I’m just. that. good. at avoidance. :P

But, I’m doing it. TODAY. I’ll post pics. I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no Trump Card in the Game of Pain….. (Which is Worse than the Game of Thrones- Which- I’ve Never Watched, ‘Cause I’m not Cool Enough.)

UnknownI’m pretty much a “what you see is what you get” kinda girl. I am admittedly two faced, but there’s only the one I wake up with and the one I paint on, shortly afterwards. That’s it.

I have no poker face. If you ask me how I am- I’ll most likely tell you. If you ask me how my husband is- I’ll tell you that too. If you ask me my weight, I’ll probably give you a blank stare and tell you: “Nunya”. No- that’s not a curse word in another language. (That I know of.) It means: None of your business.

I’m pretty much an open book, with a few boundaries.

Which has been pretty interesting and kind of sad over the past few years.

Because once in a while- someone will ask, I’ll answer, only to discover I just threw down the Trump card, in a game I didn’t even know I was playing.

It usually happens when talking to someone and I think we’re having a real honest conversation- the kind I like, the kind that matters. About life and the messiness of it and how it’s all hard and worth it, but sometimes sucks. Then suddenly the other person looks me in the eye and says:

“Oh, wow. I should shut up. My life’s a piece of cake, compared to yours. I don’t want to bother you with my “Stuff.”

BAM. DOOR CLOSED.

Game over. Trump card played in a game I didn’t even know we were playing. The game called: “Your life sucks so much, it makes me feel like a giant whiner that shouldn’t have any feelings about my current tiny crap-tide- so I’ll shut up now.”

I get it. Really, I do.

The other person suddenly realizes my life is a jacked up mess. They do a quick emotional balance sheet and decide I have enough stress in my life and they don’t want to push me over the edge to crazyville.

Except, they pushed me away. What was a two sided conversation, suddenly becomes awkwardly one sided. The other person feels like they can’t be open or honest with me… because well- my life is crazy.

Instead-they shut down and stop talking. They become uncomfortably “there for me.”

People don’t just do this in conversations- they do this in real life, too. They decide I can’t handle their “stuff” in addition to my own- so they try to protect me. By not including me in “their stuff.”

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I was trying to be considerate.I get it. I mean- when you compare feeling frustrated with your spouse or in-laws or the bill pile, or the abundance of laundry you can’t seem to keep up with, or kids who are driving you nuts, and someone else says: “Yeah- I feel overwhelmed and frustrated too….this cancer thing is making me nuts.” It does put things into a different perspective.

Except-I didn’t realize how comparing and shutting down and cutting them out to protect them- can make the other person feel.

It makes me feel: disconnected. Like an emotional leper. Like my life is so hard that I can’t possibly think of someone else- and like I might not be able to handle it either….(Newsflash: I can’t. Neither can you. That’s why we need each other and God. Justsayin’)

I feel like I just won the game of “Who’s life sucks the most.” A game no one wants to win. (Well, I suppose there are always a few who are up for that win.. But, not me. and not  most pseudo- emotionally healthy people.) Winning that game is lonely.  It leaves you perched on the top of a dung pile by yourself, holding a trophy you don’t want. And since you’re holding giant “my life sucks the most” trophy- you can’t even plug your nose against the smell.

It makes me feel: useless. Like I couldn’t possibly help someone else because of the mess I’m living in.

Feeling disconnected and useless are not helpful.

Here’s what I’m learning: Comparing and shutting down- doesn’t help anyone. It creates disconnection when we most need connection.

Instead of comparing our pain and declaring someone the winner and someone the whiner. What if we just heard each other out- connected and were compassionate to each other? What if we let each other set emotional boundaries instead of trying to set them for each other?

Sidebar: That’s usually how boundaries work. we set our own and respect the boundaries of others.  I know-because I’ve read that in books, like 10 million times- so it must be true.

The truth is-there is no Trump card in the game of pain.

We all have pain in our lives. It’s relative. The most pain you’ve ever felt- is the most pain you’ve ever felt. The pain you’re feeling right now- HURTS. Whether it’s cancer, or finances or relational or daily frustrational. (I like to make up words. So- whatever. Frustrational is now a word. I said so. Spell check can underline it in red forever. I’m leaving it. )

There is no trump card in pain. It’s like the Cake in Portal- it’s a lie. (Random Video game reference. Go ahead- google it, I’ll wait.)

Pain hurts. Pain shared- hurts less.

Let’s quit the card games and comparing and start living with love and compassion. Deal?

(Ha! Deal… cards… get it? I’m punny.)

Dear Lord- There is no trump card for pain- you know us and love us and long for us to connect. Help us to stop comparing and start living with compassion and love, even when it’s messy and hard…and we feel like our pain pales in comparison to another’s. Give us courage to love boldly and to respect boundaries and the pain of others. I love you Lord- even when I’m the disconnecting doofus… amen

So am I the only one?

Tips for dealing with friends who are living in and with a mess:

1) Let them set healthy boundaries.

2) Keep them in your emotional loop. (trust me- sometimes it’s kind of weirdly nice to help someone else when you’re own life is jacked up.It makes you feel like there is something MORE than just your own pain.)

3) Don’t compare pain.

Any tips you’d add?

Post them in the comments and I’ll add them here;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough.

teeter-totter-google-images-300x152-1If my opinion of myself were a teeter totter it would teeter and totter between thinking I’m too much and not enough.

I’m too loud.

I’m too talkative.

I’m too emotional.

I’m too open.

I’m too hyper.

I’m too messed up.

I’m too heavy.

I’m too disorganized….

The “Too” list weighs me down and just when I flex my knees to push up against those- the “Not enough”  list starts it’s pull me in the opposite direction:

I’m not good enough.

I’m not educated enough.

I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not eloquent enough.

I’m not intuitive enough.

I’m not compassionate enough.

I’m not considerate enough.

I’m not really a fan of teeter totters. I was  that really skinny kid on the playground who’d always get stranded in midair and have to say humiliating things to be let down.

Even worse? I was the one left on the ground with the wind knocked out of me because my “teeter totter partner” jumped off at just the right moment to send me straight to the ground like a watermelon dropped from a roof. (This is in the olden days when teeter totters were allowed and playgrounds were not padded. For the record- old school-packed playground sand, is not a soft place to land.)

There’s nothing quite like trying to tattle to your teacher when you can’t breathe.

So yeah- I have serious teeter-totter issues.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what would happen if I jumped off the teeter totter?

What if I stopped believing I’m too much- and not enough?

What If, I’m enough?

Just as I am. Loud, talkative, hyper, all of it- what if I’m exactly what God needs me to be- today? What if I stopped worrying about it and just started being it?

I hope you’re not sitting on the other end of my teeter totter- cause if you are- you’re about to hit the ground. Cause this girls is done with the teeter totter.

I am enough- because HE IS.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I am enough- because he created me….

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

And so are you.

Dear lord- I pray that we’d each find courage and hope in the knowledge that we are enough. Not too much, nor too little- we’re exactly what you’ve created us to be- and it’s enough- because of you. I love you lord- and thank you. Amen.

PS- Lord? Teeter totters are evil contraptions. You should do something about those devices of childhood torture and temptation… justsayin. 

Do you struggle with feeling like you’re “too much” or not enough?

In what ways?

Do you have teeter totter issues? (Or just a great teeter totter story?)

Let’s talk about it in the comments!

 

“Open, Shut Them. Open, Shut Them. Give a Little Clap!” Parenting Adult (ish) Kids

photo“Open, shut them. Open, shut them, give a little clap. Open, shut them, Open, shut them, lay them in your lap.”

For years, I sang this little song to pre-schoolers. First- to classrooms of children I taught. Eventually-to my own preschoolers.

“Open, shut them. Open, shut them.  Give a little clap.

Open, shut them. Open, shut them. Lay them in your lap.”

It always worked to get their attention and to get them to cooperate- sitting quietly at tables hands in laps and ready for the next activity.

Today, the words have a different meaning. It’s not preschool hands I’m trying to control.

It’s mine.

Today is an “Open, Shut them. Lay them in my lap.” Kind of day.

Not because I can’t sit still. (I can’t. I don’t even bother.) It’s because parenting has become a high-stakes strategic game of knowing when to hold on, and when to let go.“Open, shut them. Open? Shut them? Give a little clap? Open, shut them. Open? Shut them?  Lay them in my lap?” 

Today is a “letting go” day. My older two sons are taking off to go with a friend, to a gaming conference in Seattle. Hello, Seattle is across the country from Detroit! They’re going on a plane. Unsupervised.

The very same college kids who stay up all night playing video games, drink Monsters like they used to drink apple juice and sleep till noon or later-when they aren’t in class or, working.  Those giant man-boys. Through TSA. On public transport. To a city they’ve never been to. OY.

Let’s just say I;m doing my best to keep my hands open- but it’s hard to lay them in my lap. It’s really hard to give a little clap. But, I want to.  I want to cheer them on. I know they can do this. I know this is a good experience for them to have. I’m pretty sure they will have a great time. They are good kids. I don’t even anticipate a call from jail or a hospital. (Oh, please lord- keep them safe and out of jail…)

So my hands are: Open.

But- I really want to shut them.

Parenting is a lot of letting go and holding on. From birth- to burping-babysitters, preschool, to bike riding, elementary school to middle school. High school  to driving and graduation. College.

It’s all holding on and letting go.

I remember older Mom’s telling me on “Open, shut them.” kind of days- that it gets easier. They lied.

It doesn’t get easier- it gets: differenter.  I trust  them more- but the risks they take are bigger.

  • Career choices.
  • Life choices.
  • Safety choices.
  • Oy let’s not mention: drug, alcohol and sex choices.
  • For pete’s sake: flight and trip choices had me ready for a xanax.

(My mom reminded me last night that she understands. Apparently- her daughter is always flying off somewhere unsupervised- and actually- supervising others. I know. It’s crazy. Yes, I’m her only daughter.)

So how do you cope when it’s one of those days? When it’s right to open your hands and let them go- but you desperately want to hold them back?

Well- I’m going to be doing pretty much the same thing I did the first day of kindergarten.

  • I’ll manically clean.
  • I’ll knit like a fiend.
  • I’ll wait till they come home and be thrilled when they safely do. I will do my best not to embarrass them. (Too much.)
  • I’ll pray and I’ll trust.

Not just my kids- but the one who’s always got them in His hands- and the one who loves them best.

(No- not the internet. The other one- Jesus.)

photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Dear Lord- Help me as I let go once again. Like first bike rides and first days of school and driving- this is just another step in their becoming adults. Be with my kids- as you always are. Help me to trust you- as I let them go. Parenting is hard lord-it gets different- and it’s amazingly good- but it’s also:  hard.  Give me wisdom to know when to hold on and when to let go. Help me to give a little clap (Quietly. In my mind. So I don’t embarrass them to death.) as they do yet one more thing on their own. Help each reader, to do the same. In Jesus name- Amen. PS: Please lord- help them continue to make smart choices and have fun and avoid jail or hospitals… EVEN THERE. In Seattle. Justsayin.”

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” John 3:35

A Mile in My Own Shoes….. In which the path is messy- and I walk it anyway.

IMG_8032 IMG_8047 IMG_8048IMG_0010 IMG_0021IMG_8078 IMG_8092 IMG_8063 IMG_8058 IMG_8059 IMG_8060 IMG_8034 IMG_8035 IMG_8046I love to take my camera for a walk. I am braver with it-than I am without it.

I walk places I might not walk- without it.

I know I’ll find something amazing to snap pics of.

Somehow- when I’m behind the lens- paths that seemed too root filled and rough- without the lens- are transformed into opportunities.

I take the next steps. even if the path is mucky and edged in slippery mud.

 

 

Or, when the path is narrow- and the drop off is steeper than I’d prefer to fall. (Which = not at all. I’m not a fan of falling- neither is my bionic neck.)

 

 

I walk on. Finding patches of light under a dense, forest canopy.

 

Even when I know part of the trail may be: “Open for hunting.” (For real? That’s comforting.)

 

 

Because when I do- I bend down and find things like this.

A fairies teacup…

 

 

 

A hot air balloon reflected on the lake’s surface….

 

 

 

A perfectly spectacular Indian Ghost pipe.  That you’ll never see walking through a backyard in the suburbs.

 

 

 

Dappled light draws me in- deeper to explore.

 

 

 

 

A perfect branch- about to burst in bloom.

 

 

Breath taking luminescent leaves.

 

 

 

all because I took the risk to take the next messy step.

 

 

 

even when the light starts to fade…..

 

 

 

 

 

And the holes you find could hold snakes……

 

 

The walk is always worth it.  Even when you start out on one path- and find yourself on another.

I’m making a lot of tough decisions. Every day, I feel like there are new obstacles, new twists, unexpected turns- directions I wasn’t planning to walk in.

Yet- I take the next steps. And as I do- I’m amazed at both the challenge and beauty I find along the way.

Not sure what your walk is like right now- maybe it’s full of beautiful light and a clearly defined path. Or, maybe it’s “Open to hunting.” And you’re feeling at risk. Maybe it’s full of roots to trip you up and mud to make you stuck.

Keep walking. take the next step.

I’ll do the same.

Wherever it leads. Watch for beauty along the way. Yes- even in the mess.  And even if you have to hide behind a lens to be brave enough….. maybe the lens is seeing your path through this lens: 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 [Full Chapter]
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

In which I decide we need a DSMM- Diagnostic Statistical Manual Of Mommy Disorders….

531884_624643007568545_930571928_nTruth: I’m a mom. I am crazy.

Also truth: I’m not the only one.

In another life I used to use the DSM on occasion. It’s a helpful tool that professionals use to diagnose and treat mental disorders. (It can also convince you that you’re crazy if you buy one on clearance at the book store- and don’t know what you’re doing.) In my case- as a pastoral counselor- I used it as a reference guide to understand  clients’ diagnosis’. Mental illness is not a joke. I’m not making light of it… I am however going to have some fun with the crazy that is mothering.

Here’s the thing: The crazy that is mothering is not listed in the DSM. I think we need our own version. I see some common issues that could be helpful if we had a guide to help us understand.

Here are a few potential Diagnosis’ I’d like to present to get the ball rolling: Continue reading

In Which a #Speak Up Conference Speaking Critique is NOT American Idol for Speakers…

This nest and bird have been in my foyer for 3 years..... please note it's exactly the same bird.
This nest and bird have been in my foyer for 3 years….. please note it’s exactly the same bird as in the centerpiece from Speak Up that I posted yesterday.

Speak Up Conference part 2: The Speaker’s Track- Small Group Critique

“We won’t get rid of your butterflies, but we’ll help them fly in formation. A little nervousness is good.” Carol Kent- Speak Up Conference- 2014.

I get nervous before every talk I give- but I’ll be honest- I love writing and speaking so much- that my nerves are about 50% excitement, at this point. It’s not so much feeling afraid as excited and a little nervous that I’ll suck.

Not so much at the Speak Up Conference – Small group critique session. this was pure terror. Butterflies? Mine had razor blade wings-and I could feel them slicing up my guts.

The butterflies sprouted razor blade wings for 3 reasons: Continue reading

Where I write about what it's like to walk a few miles in my shoes and the shoes of others….

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