Why me?

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I often ask this question. Not to anyone specific but in my head. To life in general. Ultimately my soul questions The Craftsman. “Is this what you intended? Was this what you had in mind when you made me? Are you sure I’m built for this?”

The question could be a symbol of gratitude. Why me? Why do I have a marriage that is lasting? Why do I have kids that are a blessing to not just me but others? Why do I have a community no matter where I am in my, seemingly endless, metamorphosis?

More often, the question indicates anger. Why me? Why did the bottom drop out as a result of someone else’s choice? Why couldn’t I be a child when I was a child? Why do I have to watch and walk through so much death, destruction and disappointment?

Why me? Its a universal question.

The temptation is to hide the question when it hurts. To band-aid it with false mantras. Why NOT me. Pretending the sting isn’t real and convincing others it’s ok and I will be fine. That may be true. Its not yet.

For now, the ache is debilitating. It’s silence, deafening. The question is heavy and it’s ok to buckle under the weight of it.

I don’t wish it away anymore. It reminds me. Broken places that point to truth: I am not in control. The good and the hard alike, happen. They happen to me. They happen to everyone.

Why me often leads to me too.

My favorite phrase of all time. The perfect balm for any heart. Me too. You are not alone. I’ve been there. Its not exact. No cookie cutters. Not a mirror image. Only, I’ve walked a road near yours and Im here now.

Oh the saving grace of that knowing.

It doesn’t change anything but you. The struggle continues but deep down you know you will sing again. Rise up because someone showed you you could. Take what you have been dealt and continuing to play. You walk with a limp now so I will slow down my pace.

Follow the path that “Why me?” travels down. Let it lead you. May you find your resting place in the comforting arms of, “Me too!”

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What are you afraid of?

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This page. I have so much to say. A blank page intimidates me.

Why?

Because I want to write. I want to express. I want to share everything that I have in my head and my heart in such a way that it changes lives, changes people, changes paths, changes perspectives and changes me.

So write.

Oh if only it were that easy. You see, writing is vulnerable. Writing is opening your wounds and your soft, squishy parts up to the world hoping, but never knowing if, they won’t tear you to shreds. Its laying it all out there and praying its not used against you or anyone else to cause harm.

People don’t just leave words on a page. They give their own life to them. They pick up what I have written, send it through their filters, chew it up and spit it out in a form that wasn’t intended. These words, my words, get twisted and sharp and hurt instead of heal. But that is not what they were created for.

These words, my words, are here for me. They are here for the person that can draw a refreshing breath from them. My words are His words of love and care and kindness and hope. The story may be messy but the purpose is so beautiful. The road may be painful but the growth gives me wings. The refining is scary and I can get mad but He remains good. Always good.

This journey, my journey is like a song. A movement of lyric and sound that can compel and withdraw. From every grand ascension or down turn, there is motion, a progression. Its not about the last note, its about the composition, the swells and the quiet spaces along the way.

Oh but its not a song all can sing. Its not a song all can hear, without a casting of judgement and dislike or applause and ovations. But that is not what the song was created for. This song, my song, was composed for me to sing it. To write it. To muscle through the fear of true vulnerability and put my heart on the page and let people see it.

Oh blank page. You intimidate me. You, the reader, intimidate me. I’ve been struck by your swords before. I bear the scars of your disapproval and the marks of your stones cast. But the Author, the Composer, beckons me to write … to sing, these words. My words.

Do with it what you will. For when I write, when I sing, I feel His pleasure. May I find refuge in that alone. A safe harbor from your discontent. I don’t write for you. And yet, I write for you. I sing so that you may be empowered to sing. I write so you may be encouraged to write. I show up so you can stand tall and be present and keep your chin up long enough to see the end of the passing, fleeting, storm. We are all in this together.

Be gentle dear reader. If you cannot, I pray you will find it in your heart to move on. Attack not. Judge not. Unless what you pour out upon my song is a harmony and upon my words a definition that makes you smile, carry on. You are invited to this table. But only love is welcome to stay and eat.

What are you afraid of?

Nothing. No thing anymore.

Mom Life

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There is a lot of shame wrapped up in being a mother. Everywhere you go, or even online, you are comparing yourself to the other moms and even if you weren’t, the general public is VERY outspoken about their opinions of how you do things as a mother. Its as if there is a RIGHT way to do it and anything that diverges, even slightly, from that way makes the way you do it wrong. Makes YOU (as the mother) wrong. Its a very critical place to spend most of your time and energy. Plus the rugrats you are exerting all that time, attention, energy and love for don’t exactly give you the affirmation you are needing along the way. It doesn’t matter what you do, at least once a day you disappoint someone. More often than not, we disappoint ourselves. We thought we’d be different. We thought we’d be “better” (whatever that means).

I have been a mother for almost 11 years now so it has reached across two age seasons for me- my 20’s and 30’s. While I am more secure in who I am in my 30’s than I was in my 20’s, the difficulties of being a mother remain the same. I am now in that place where I don’t want to sit on the floor and play blocks/puzzles/cars/trains/etc anymore. Ive been doing it so long I feel like Ive served my time and I want to move on with my life. But all day long I push swings and blow bubbles and cheer over every silly face and jump off the couch because my kids need that affirmation from me. The affirmation I need and desire, I give. Imagine if the tables were turned and every time I washed a plate or folded the laundry or picked up the play room for the 17th time my kids applauded and cheered. It would either be really rewarding or uber cheesy. Even still I think I would like it, if only for a little while. But thats not my life. Thats not a mother’s life. Scripture says that one day my children will call be blessed (Proverbs 31:28) so I cling to that promise, but today is not that day.

The thing that boggles my mind is that there is still a stigma out there for women who don’t feel like they were born to be mothers. While I have always been a nurturing person that loved kids, it was never a plan of mine to become a mom, or a wife for that matter. (I can hear the gasps from here!!) Yet, here I am, being both on a daily basis! I don’t think Im a mom or wife because I am a women and that is what I am “supposed” to do. What I do believe is that this is the path God had for me (specifically) to be totally stretched beyond my abilities and strengths. Being a mom and wife are the two main ways I have been challenged to grow. Had I ended up living in a hut in Uganda like I planned, single and childless, I would be way more comfortable right now. But God isn’t as concerned with my comfort as He is my character. Being a mom (and wife) builds the crap out of my character. I am challenged daily to love beyond my resources which presses me into the depths of the One who loves me, and them, most of all.

My kids know I love them. They also know that I have dreams of doing other things with my time and energy. Until then, I will play blocks/puzzles/cars/trains etc on the floor and applaud their every move. Because deep down I know, God sees each dish I wash, each swing I push, and each meal I prepare and He is cheering me on.

I may not be the kind of mother you were or are, but I am a mother and one day my children will rise up and call me blessed. I will cling to that for now.

Sacred space

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“God cannot fill a place until it’s empty.” Those words came to me during a heart battle I was having one day. One minute I was content, grateful to the point of tears and basking in the beauty that is my life and the next I was in fetal position in a chair in the corner of my room weeping from the wounds of my past.  My attempt at pretending like I was ok and that I would toughen my way through it again just moments earlier, gave way to the nudges of God, calling me to come rest in Him. So I retreated, crawled into His lap and wept. Wept at the gaping hole in my heart I have tried to pretend wasn’t there for most of my life. Mourning the loss of what I was created for but never received. Tears for the disappointment I was feeling and the exhaustion I was suffering from for always trying to make it somehow explainable, excusable and ok. It’s not. It’s not ok, explainable, or excusable. I was broken into a million pieces in a matter of minutes but only after I tried to fill the space and the silence. I went to God first to talk, or pray as some call it. But every sentence felt empty as if only a shell of what I really wanted. I was asking God to fill in the gaps, to consume the place in me that felt barren but He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Then those words drifted across my striving soul, “God cannot fill a place until it’s empty.” I knew what I needed to do. I emptied myself. Pouring out anger, hurt, bitterness and resentment through tears, soaking the chest of my Father. Shortly thereafter, my Abba sent my husband to physically take form as the loving, strong and comforting arms I needed. Once I was empty, my soul rested. Only then could I hear His sweet whispers again.

He filled me. But not until I made space for Him to. God cannot fill a place until it’s empty.

Permission to…

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About 2 years ago I was prompted to write a blog post on here about giving yourself permission to be weak, take care of yourself, or simply sleep! Recently, the theme of “permission” came to the surface again from a book I am in the process of reading. It was a very small section of a long chapter and yet, its the nugget of thought I took with me and been chewing on ever since. As I often do, I write when I need to chew so bear with me as I get this processing out on virtual paper.

This particular section in the book, small as it was, talked about writing yourself permission slips. The point the author was making was, “we often won’t recognize an emotion if we don’t feel like we have permission to feel emotion.” We either grow up in environments where certain emotions are encouraged/permitted or minimized and seen as invalid, weak or wasteful. “Either way,” the author explains, “writing down permission becomes a powerful intention to stay aware. You may be the first person in your life granting you permission to feel something and if you are afraid feeling something will ruin you, I assure you it won’t. Instead you will experience living out your most authentic self.”

That was it. That was the entire message of this short section of the chapter. Yet my mind and heart clung to these words for days. So being that I am currently in a season of exploring the art of feelings and excavating the foundations of my heart, I decided to invite God into this space. I literally asked God, “What do I need to give myself permission for?” The answer shocked me. It was a concept I had NEVER considered consciously and yet somewhere in the recesses of my soul, the stirring was there.

In this moment, it rose to the surface with sheer force and shouted from the rooftop, “Give yourself permission to be successful!!!” What in the world!? Successful? THAT is what I need to give myself permission to be? Hot on it’s coattails came the excuses flooding in, “But I don’t care about money”, “Im the baby of the family, only first borns are supposed to successful”, “But Im just a mom” and so on and so on. For days I wrestled with this message but in the end, I found it to be true. I do want to be successful. Not in the economically rewarding sort of way (check my DISC profile, I can prove my lack of interest in this area). Instead I want to be successful in the sense of “accomplishing an aim or purpose” as Meriam puts it.

My whole life I have pretended to be ok with status quo and normal but in my deepest place, I want to be great! I have yet to be in an arena where I could explore that more so I naturally click into the default mode of just keeping things moving at a stable and predictable pace. Well 36 years later Im still not great. But with this new revelation I am giving myself permission to change that. Success comes from aim so if I want to be successful, then I need to aim for something. I want to apply my whole self into one area and see what happens. I want to do something on purpose and because I intentionally took steps, leaps even, in that direction. I want to work for it, earn it and celebrate it once its been accomplished! Then I want to dream bigger, reach higher, push harder and see where that takes me. I want to be successful. So I wrote myself a permission slip on a Post-It note, stuck it above my desk, and now I can look up and remember that I have permission to be just that. Successful.

What do you need to give yourself permission for?

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Ink stories

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During the days of the Bible people would often build alters of stones to mark a place in their journey when they met with or experienced God in some way. They did this to remember what they had seen.

In a day and age where most people are trying hard to forget, I have always held a deep appreciation for the art of remembering. I don’t want to dismiss the painful or powerful moments of my life as insignificant, because they aren’t. They have played a role in shaping me and therefore I acknowledge them.

Not long ago I realized that instead of building alters out of stones, I mark the main highs and lows of my life journey through tattoos. Like a Chinese tattoo artist once said, “Tattoo on body, tattoo on heart.” Basically what I share with the world about my story through my tattoos has already had a deep impact on my heart. This is just my way of painting a picture or writing a book – Im telling my story.

#1: My first tattoo was the typical, “I just turned 18 so I can do whatever I want” tattoo. Although not rebellious in image, it was certainly an expression of my instant adulthood. I was really into sunflowers at the time, still am really. Sunflowers just exude a joy and brightness that cause me to light up when I see them so for a few years I decorated with them everywhere. I tend to be a negative thinker so sunflowers help me see a bright and beautiful side to life. When I got the tattoo the petals of the sunflower were bright with yellow and orange tones and the leaves were a deep green- it was really pretty. Nowadays, not so much. Inside the center of the sunflower you will see a cross. You see I became a Christian at the age of 18 and I didn’t know anything about the Jesus fish or any other religious symbol but I knew it was the cross that set me free so I made sure that was in there.

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#2: I didn’t have any tattoos done for the next 10 years. But on my 28th birthday my oldest sister Kim was in town from California for my “golden birthday party.” While she was visiting, I asked her to come with me as I got a tattoo in honor of our sister Tiffany. Tiff fell between us in age so there was a definite gap left when she passed away. Our sister died in a tragic drowning accident on her 12th birthday. I was a witness to the whole event. It was a turning point for our family and we all struggled with the loss. I was 6 at the time and the couple of years that followed her death were some of the hardest, darkest and ugliest days of my life. By age 8 my life was completely different. I was completely different.

Tiffany’s death did teach me something most people don’t ever learn though: life is precious and family is forever (like it or not). So I got a tattoo b/c even though my husband and children would never meet her, I wanted everyone to know she existed. Tiffany was a part of me and I didn’t want to ever forget that.

 

#3: I think I was about 30 when I got my next tattoo but it was a year in the making. Nathan and I would often wander into tattoo places and ask about pricing or look up fonts but then walk out b/c he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But finally we found a place that would do it and he knew what to get, so we had each others’ initials put on our ring fingers. For me it was symbol of our commitment to each other. Yes a ring does that too but in today’s society, rings can be removed. We had no plans to exit our marriage but we had already been beat up a few times over the years and we saw this as a way of sealing the fate of our relationship. We will always be together, even when we are apart.

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#4: My Africa tattoo is the one that gets noticed or commented on the most b/c its on the inside of my wrist. A lot of people would assume its for our daughter Jaydn who was born there but my ties to Africa go back much further. I have felt a connection to Uganda since 1998. I didn’t know why until I did some research and started learning about the plight of children out there and how they were being terrorized by the LRA. I started joining forces with organizations such as ONE and INVISIBLE CHILDREN to raise awareness and contribute to relief efforts and support. I was constantly burdened for these people and promised one day, I would travel there myself. After a few attempts to travel there, I finally got to go in 2006 with an organization called WATOTO (which means children). When my feet hit the ground, I felt like I was home. We heard a phrase while we were there that says, “If you come to Uganda, you will find that you bury a piece of your heart there, in the red soil and when you leave, it will always beckon for you to return.” That was so true for me. I love Uganda. I love the people, the country, the culture, all of it! When we went back in 2010 to gain guardianship of Jaydn I was so excited to be home again. We lived there in an apartment for a little over a month and it was hard for me to leave again. So my tattoo of Africa has a heart over Uganda b/c that is where part of my heart is buried and where part of my heart was born.

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#5: My most recent tattoo is on the inside of my left foot. The placement of this one has significance b/c as a soccer player back in the day, this was always my weakest foot. So it was there in my weakness that I had an anchor placed. Over the course of the past year or so the waves have been crashing against me and ripping every aspect of my life to shreds. The only thing I had to hold onto was God and He was constant. God was the anchor in my storm. He was faithful to me when all I could do was bury my face into His promise to make “all things work together for the good of those who loved Him.” So no matter how high the waters rise or how hard the waves crash in the past or in the future, MY ANCHOR HOLDS.IMG_8471-3

 

#6: This is my biggest tattoo and honestly, I didn’t intend for it to be so prominent. But when I saw the drawing and how it looked on my back below my neck, it felt right. So there she is! This tattoo was for me. Many dark and ugly things have happened to me throughout my life and I always knew that they were meant for harm but that God had used them to produce a depth in my character that wouldn’t have come about any other way. But after the recent desert experience I walked through I noticed that there is a victim inside of me. I have always been the one that bad things have happened to and I have always tried to do my best with it. I am a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of girl and I have powered forward almost ignoring the hurt or at least not allowing myself to really feel it. But after everything I went through this year I felt like I was broken into a million pieces and now I have the opportunity to almost reinvent myself. The same elements are there but I get to choose which ones to put back in and which ones I won’t allow to carry weight with me anymore. Despite what you may think, I decided to hold onto my wounds. They are woven into every fiber of who I am. What I did though, is change what they were saying to my heart. They used to say things like, “You will never” and “suck it up” but now they say things like, “use this to fuel you” “I am a part of your story but not the end of the story.” Truth is a lot of junk HAS happened and it HAS shaped me but I get to decide what it will shape me into. So for the first time in my life I am choosing to no longer be a victim but to be victorious instead. So this tattoo reflects my new attitude with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. Its a feather breaking off into birds with the saying, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” I intend to.

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The Garden

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The Garden:

I dreamt of a life

in straight little rows

where I could meander

and dirty my toes.

It was planted with order

and tended with plans

but as it grew larger

it got out of hand.

Though the life I am living

is shabby at best,

my garden is growing

north, south, east and west.

Each root has dug deeper

each bud toward the sun,

and soon I had realized

true life had begun.

Its not in neat corners

or making much sense,

but it’s ever so special

this big flowery mess.

Though the flora grow sideways

and rows go unseen,

Im surrounded by beauty

like that in a dream.

My life is a garden

full of color and scent

its wild and free

and some branches are bent.

But I love this sweet place

and I rest in its glory

and humbly accept

how Gods woven the story.