Just Let ‘Em Be Them

TotallyEthanToday, Grace for Moms is sharing a post I wrote on letting our children just be themselves. It starts with a story I told my daughter…

…I watched the wheels turn in my daughter’s head. “But now you’re your own person, and you can wear make-up if you want,” she stated emphatically.

Her words hit me like a slap in the face. She caught on to an underlying theme of my childhood. I was not allowed to be my own person.

And it made me question. . .In all my striving to find myself, do I allow my children to be themselves?

Be sure to catch the rest over at Grace for Moms. And check out a few other posts too. Many of the posts there have given me the chance to ponder life and how true grace is intertwined within it. A few of my favorite posts are:

Redeeming Negative Life Events by Donald Miller

Since Becoming a Mom, I’ve Lost Myself by Kristy Chowning

Grace, More Than a Word by Christa Ashworth

 

A Letter to my Pastor

writingDear Pastor,

Five years ago our little family was in need of direction and healing. God lead us to you and to the church family you shepherd. You probably don’t know that the words God spoke through you and the circumstances (both good and bad) that were taking place within the church were like stiches sewing together the rips in our hearts and in our marriage.

Your words and your leadership added water and sunlight to the seed of faith within us… the faith that God truly is 100% sovereign in all things… ALL things… even when it doesn’t make sense. The faith that God is not a list of rules and do’s and don’t’s that’s thrown for a loop when we mess up… but rather a God who is in control of all things and who works all things for good and for His glory.

Yes, it’s been five years. The rips are healed… though there’s still some light scars. The seeds of faith have sprouted and began reaching high toward the heavens.

And yet, I’ve never said much more than “hi” to you. You don’t see our family at Sunday school early every Sunday morning. You don’t see us on Wednesdays and Sunday nights. In fact, we’re probably present only about 70% of the time on Sunday mornings.

Why? Why are we ghosts flittering in the doors barely seen and back out again before anyone notices? Short answer… I don’t know exactly.

Long answer… it could be any of these or all of them…

I can’t speak for my husband, but me… I’m scared. Scared of committing myself to a thing… a church… a group of people… a leader. I’ve seen the danger of cult like religion. I’ve seen people who love Jesus place their hearts in the hands of the leader. I’ve seen these people lose their love for Jesus as their hearts turn to stone. They faithfully follow the standards of their group’s leader and judge those who do not. They religiously read their Bible. They claim to have revelations from God, but they are conclusions of their own. I’ve seen these people, and I’ve been one of them.

I love God with my whole being. I’ve sought Him like a crazy person these last five years. And what I’ve found has taken my breath away. I’m scared that by committing to the church… to faithful attendance… to participation in Bible studies… to fellowship with other believers… I may lose this personal thing I have going on with the God of my soul.

Then there’s the fear of people… the fear that I will be found guilty of something… I’ve no idea what. I may be judged. I’m more of a black tea person who likes to percolate the deep concepts of life. Small talk… getting to know you talk… it’s hard. I stumble over my own words. It’s like I can give an entire speech on the incredible sovereignty and grace of God in the workings of life, but I can hardly manage to ask a genuine “how are you?”. The friends I have managed to make at church tend to leave about the time we get past the up front hellos. I’m scared to lose another friend.

I also have this strange fear that any time I even smile at a man in church, I will be found guilty of flirtatious behavior. In the religious circle in which I spent all of my teen years and half of my twenties, speaking as a friend to the opposite gender was just not right. People were punished for it. In those so important years when normal people were learning how to appropriately interact with the other gender, I practiced the standards of looking the other way when a man or boy my age walked by. I did not smile. I did not speak. And when I did, I always felt guilty. How can I comfortably interact with my family through Christ with this weird fear and false guilt always at the front of my mind?

Then there’s just the plain old fear of commitment to anything other than my family. I get easily overwhelmed with life as a wife and mother. How could I possibly join another family and the commitments that go along with it? Could I really give? Do I even have anything worth giving?

It’s just easier to not to…. to not commit.

So in case you were wondering… there it is.

Sincerely,
The little lamb that slinkers past you on the way out the door

 

*photo credit

10 Ways to Beat the Depression Spiral

depressedDepression can swallow you up before you realize it. Here are ten ways you can nip it in the bud or pry your soul from its grip.

1. Recognize patterns. Does depression rear its ugly head at certain times of the month or year? Do certain people or memory triggers bring it on? Knowing the things and times in your life that make you more prone to depression gives you the advantage. There’s no surprise, and you can fortify yourself.

2. Avoid depression triggers when possible. If you know that driving past the theater triggers painful memories and sends you spiraling into dark sadness, do not drive past it. Obviously, if its gloomy weather that trips you up, its a little hard to avoid those cloudy days, but you can turn on as many lights as possible to try to counter the darkness.

3. Take your vitamins. Your body actually needs nutrients to be happy. Your emotions are physical triggers that need vitamins D and B to keep you smiling. If you’re feeling continually sad and fatigued, it’s a good sign you may need some happy pills. A good multivitamin should give you what you need if your levels are normal. But you may need to visit your doctor and get some blood work done. He will be able to tell you if you need an extra vitamin D boost.

4. Fall in love with sunshine. Sunshine is the happiest medicine in the world. It’s bright and cheery and full of vitamin D. Spend at least 20 minutes in it every day that it’s not hiding from you. Hang up photos of sunshine streaming through the trees or playfully sparkling across a stream in your home or office for those cloudy days.

5. Get dressed. I mean like really dressed. Hide the sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts. Save them for camping. Put on your cute jeans, a nice (but practical) shirt, and some cute shoes. Put on some masacara and cute earrings. When you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your sleeves, pant legs, or shoes, you send electric pulses to your brain… “See me. I’m cute today. I feel good.”

6. Put your earbuds in. Music is pure medicine. Well, so long as it’s cheery music that strengthens your heart. “Lost my truck, lost my dog, lost my wife” music doesn’t count. Nor does break-up music. Listen to music that makes you feel happy and that inspires you to hold on to hope. For me, it’s contemporary Christian music, but it may be different for you.

7. Use your imagination. Our imaginations are powerful, powerful things. Think of the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or experienced. Does it make you nearly tear up? That’s the magic. But we need to use it in reverse. Think happy thoughts. I’m not talking positive thinking here. I’m talking about not letting your mind wallow in the sad. Think of the things that make you happy. If you’re having a hard time thinking of any, make up happy stories. Watch happy movies in your own head. Read inspiring, happy books. Whatever you do, don’t let your brain wallow in the darkness. Do not watch depressing movies or read depressing news or stories. You don’t need to carry the weight of the world’s depression. Your own is enough.

8. Surround yourself with liberating words. Scripture or inspiring quotes trigger a psychological response. It sends the brain to the happy place and signals the emotions to follow. They inspire us to action and give us a resolve to reach beyond the blackness. Scribble them on post it notes and stick them everywhere. Scrawl them across the windows and mirrors with dry erase markers. Put them where you will see them frequently. Let them inspire you.

9. Talk. Find a friend or counselor that you can meet with on a regular basis. Let them hold your hand through this long, hard trek. Talk about the things that bother you. Talk about your resolve to move past the pain and sadness. Talk about your progress and your failures. Keep your appointments with them. Do not play hermit. This is not the time to wallow in loneliness.

10. Smile. Sounds simple and yet incredibly impossible. When you’re fighting depression, the last thing you want to do is smile. But sometimes our actions need to lead our emotions. Smile at strangers, at your co-workers, your family, your friends… at every human in the world. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Soon the forced smile on your lips will find its way into your eyes as smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin.

 

*photo credit

Snatch Up the Nuggets

goldnuggetMoving on… As if we simply turn our back on it and walk away. And yet that’s impossible.

The hurts, the mistakes, the wrongs, the struggles… We strive to move on and get past them in an effort to keep them from defining who we are.

But what if we’re going about it all wrong? What if, instead of trying to forget it and erase it’s effects, we embrace it… the pain and the mistakes… the tragedies we face in life?

It’s in the midst of hardship that we find the sweetness of life. It’s then that we dig the deepest, search the hardest, and rejoice the loudest over the tiniest glimmer of hope. These are precious, precious things. It’s this digging, searching, and finding that chisels away the “un-us” to reveal more of our true selves.

This reminds me of something I heard once. I don’t remember who said it. Probably someone from my ATI days that I’d rather not quote, but it’s true, none the less.

“Good and bad run on parallel tracks, and they often arrive at the same time.”

I’m not talking about a Pollyanna theology here, where if you just find the silver lining, the sadness will just go away. I’m talking about letting the hurt sink in. Letting the struggle take its course. And finding the good in the midst of it.

I read an excellent article this week over at Grace for Moms that speaks of this very thing. Donald Miller shares a very practical way of digging for the good in the midst of tragedy. I highly recommend reading what he has to say about finding a redemptive perspective.

So, don’t try to run away. Don’t waste your time with the giant eraser. It doesn’t work anyway. Embrace the tragedy. Find the gold nugget buried inside and let it bring out the best of who you really are.

 

*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 5

window

Be sure to read part one, two, three, and four.

 

Mia felt as if she were spinning round and round, faster and faster, the walls seemingly closing in on her. Her breathing came shallow, and she was sure she would suffocate in the black ocean of these awful memories.

All this time… All the strange psychological issues she’s faced in life… All her anger… All the fear, her mistrust… Why she wanted to cry and run at the sight of a baby… It all made sense now.

It wasn’t that she was given to insanity. It wasn’t that she was afraid of commitment, as her boyfriend accused. It wasn’t that she hated kids.

It was that she had been scarred, traumatized. That, in an effort to protect herself, her mind had shut out these memories. But even without the memories, her subconscious still felt them, preventing her from trusting and loving… preventing her from living free from the memories’ chains.

A lone tear trickled down Mia’s cheek and hit her knee with a tiny splash.  She took a deep breath, trying to stop more from coming, but it didn’t work. Like a broken dam, the deluge poured forth.

No longer possessing strength to remain upright, she let herself slide down onto her side. She hugged her knees tighter and sobbed so hard it felt as if her heart would burst. Why? How could anyone be so awful to innocent children? Why am I so damaged by something that happened so long ago?

“I just want it to not be part of me anymore,” she pleaded through her sobs. “Just make it go away, God! Please!”

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Mia?”

She opened her eyes. “Mrs. Stapleton? How did…? I didn’t hear you….”

Gayle took Mia’s hand and pulled her up into her arms, holding her as she would a five year old child. She stroked her hair and planted a kiss on her top of her head.

“He… he…” Mia tried to speak between her sobs. “He hurt… me…. He would come… into my room… and do things.”

Tears silently streaked down Gayle’s face and onto Mia’s head.

“He yelled…. He hit us…. He shook her… hard… too hard… He killed her, Mrs. Stapleton… He killed my baby sister.” There were no tears left now. Only dry sobs and anger.

“I’m so sorry, Mia.” Gayle pushed Mia upright and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Mia, that I did not do more sooner. I wanted to help your mother. And I wanted to keep you and your brother safe.”

Mia leaned her back against the wall and stared out the dingy window. “What happened that night?” she whispered.

Gayle scooted over next to Mia. “Once your mother realized the baby was dead, she left the hospital before anyone could ask questions. She came back to my house. She was scared and didn’t know what to do. We called your grandma to come and get you two kids. Another neighbor stayed with you while you waited for your grandma to come. I went back to the hospital with your mother. We told them everything.”

Mia frowned. “I think I remember that we stayed all summer on my grandma’s farm.”

Gayle nodded. “Yes. You did. That was a very long summer for your mother. She pressed charges against your father and filed for divorce. Your father went to prison. She looked hard for a job and a place to call home, so she could be with you two. She stayed in contact with me for a few years, and then we lost touch.”

Gayle grabbed Mia’s hand. “Honey, what you went through with your father was terrible. I don’t know what you’ve gone through since then. But I want you to know that those terrible things do not have to define you or control you. Now that you know what happened, you have to power to let it go. To let it make you stronger. You have the power to live beyond these memories.”

Mia looked down at her hand in Gayle’s.

Gayle smiled. “Come on. Let’s go to my house and get something to drink.”

____________________________

“Well, what did you find?” Mia’s boss asked when she came in to work the next Monday.

Mia thought about the week she spent with Gayle. “I learned that until you face the memories, you can never live beyond them.”

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 4

babyBe sure to read part one, two, three, and five.

 

Mia slowly closed the big, paint peeled door behind her and let her eyes adjust to the dark. Large wooden stairs rose in the dark shadows to her left, beckoning her upward to the sunlight pouring in from a dusty window. She placed her hand on the curved end of the banister and immediately flashed back.

______________________________

Three year old Mia slowly and carefully climbed onto the rail at the top of the stairs. Her brother stood on the step next o her. “There ya go, Mia. Now put your foot up.”

“I ‘fraid, Mack.” Mia whimpered.

“It’s ok!” he assured. “It’s fun!”

Mia managed to get her leg over the rail and now lay across the rail like a napping cougar in the jungle trees. She held the rail tightly and began to whimper again. “I fraaaaaid!”

Mack put his hand on top of hers and began to pry her fingers loose.

“Noooooooo! I ‘fraid!” Mia screamed.

Mack smiled and reassured her. “It’s fun. Let go and slide.”

Mia slowly loosened her grip and began to slide. It was kinda fun. She loosened her grip even more. Faster. Faster. “Weeeeeeeeeeee!”

But Mack had not told her what to do when she got to the end. She found herself flying off the end of the banister railing. Down she fell, hitting her head with a loud thud on the wall behind her. Everything went black.

As the blackness began to clear, she heard Mack crying and loud footsteps coming. The hall door flew open and their father stomped in. “What are you kids doing?!” he yelled. He grabbed her arm tightly. “Get up,” he yelled even louder, as he yanked her up off the floor. “Get down here, Mack!”

Mia could not stand. She felt dizzy and weak. Her father jerked her up again. “Stand up, Mia!” The yelling pierced her ears like sharp knives.

Mack made his way down the stairs and stood in front of their father. “What were you doing?!!”

“Mia slid down the banister,” Mack barely whispered.

Mia felt her father fiercely spank her over and over again with his hand. Her head spun, the voices echoed, and all went black again.

______________________________

Mia shivered and quickly moved up the stairs. “He always did get away with anything while I took the punishment,” she mumbled.

She walked down the hall and entered the first room on the right. This had been Mack’s room. She could visualize it as it had been 20 years ago. An old, rickety bed had stood in the corner, the sheet and blanket all rolled up into a ball. Stuffed animals, dirty laundry, and broken crayons had been strewn all over the floor.

There was no sign of these things now. Only a thick layer of dust on the hard wood floor and fuzzy dust bunnies in the corner.

She stepped across the hall and into another room. This one was larger with a gabled addition to the side of the room. This had been her room. Her bed had been in the little gabled nook, and her baby dolls, doll cradle, and little kitchen set had been in the larger part of the room. It would have been any little girl’s retreat, except for one thing. Something about the room made her stomach churn and she felt another memory coming on.

______________________________

Five year old Mia lay in her bed, holding her teddy bear close to her chest. Something had woken her. Her heart thumped loudly as she stared into the darkness and listened hard. Stairs creaking. Footsteps down the hall. Doorknob turning. She knew what was coming, and she wanted to hide. She pulled the covers over her head.

“Mia,” her father whispered as he gingerly pulled the sheets off her head. He silently stroked her hair and caressed her cheek.

Mia remained stiff. Maybe if she pretended to be asleep he would leave. But it didn’t work. His hands moved down to her chest, stomach, and legs. A lone tear ran down her cheek. She hated these nights.

______________________________

Mia’s heart pounded in her ears and her breathing came fast. She felt cold and clammy and sick to her stomach. She turned quickly and ran out of the room.

There was only one room left. Mia slowly pushed the door open. It squeaked on its hinges. What had this room been? She let her eyes slowly move around the room as if she were looking for a clue… something to spark a memory.

Her eyes reached the last corner, and she heard a cry… a baby’s cry. A crib came into focus.

______________________________

Young Mia lay in her bed listening to her baby sister’s cries. She wished she could help her. She sounded so sad and so mad. She heard her mother’s steps coming up the stairs.

“Shhhh,” she heard her whisper. “It’s ok, sweet baby girl. Mommy’s here.”

Mia listened to her mother’s humming. It was beautiful and calming, and she dozed off to sleep again.

She soon woke up with a start. Her baby sister was crying again. Her mother tried to calm her, but she would not quiet. Mia heard her father’s footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hallway.

“Can’t you make her shut up?!” he hissed.

“I’m trying,” her mother answered.

Mia tiptoed to her door and peered around the corner.

“Give her to me!” he hissed again. Her baby sister cried louder as her father snatched her from her mother. He shook the baby and yelled in her face, “SHUT UP!”

“Stop!” her mother insisted. “Stop right now!”

Her father tossed her baby sister into the crib. She let out a wild scream and then lay still and silent.

“Get out of here! Leave! RIGHT NOW!” her mother yelled, as she ran to the side of the crib.

Her father turned to leave the room, and Mia quickly pulled her head in and hid behind the door. She stayed there until she heard her father slam the front door. He was leaving.

Mia tiptoed to the baby’s room. “Mommy?”

Tears streamed down her mother’s cheeks as she held her baby close. “You’re gonna be alright, Sweet Dear,” she whispered. “You’re gonna be alright.”

“Get your brother, Mia,” her mother demanded sternly. “You’re going to stay with Mrs. Stapleton tonight.”

______________________________

It all came back. The trek across the alley to Mrs. Stapleton’s in the darkness of the night. Her mother leaving in a hurry to the hospital. Being put to bed on a blanket in Mrs. Stapleton’s living room. Lying awake all night. Her mother coming back in the morning without her baby sister.

“He killed her,” she whispered in realization, as she slid down the wall and pulled her knees up to her chin. “He killed her!”

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit