|360 Degrees of Transformation||
I know it has been a long time since I wrote anything. Sometimes, the words are hard to share.
Recently, something huge has happened in my life. Something that I heard clearly from God. He challenged me to, once again, share with my best friend the love I have for him.
Seven years ago, God told me to do this, but I didn't listen. Neither did he. This time, my friend responded that he, too, loved me. Instantly, it felt like a switch flipped in my heart, and the love I had turned off years ago came back in full force.
"How sweet!" some people might say. Others might warn against allowing this relationship to happen. Let me tell you why. This man, the one whom I love, is my ex-husband, the father to my daughters. Despite my years of praying for him to be out of my life, because it was painful, God didn't remove him, but He did flip the switch off....for a time. During that time, we remained friends, and God worked on both of our lives.
Since then, I've looked for red flags, and tried to consider the opinions of others. The reason is that I wanted to be sure that God put us together. My continued conclusion is that even after the turmoil we encounter, or, rather, I encounter, the end result is the same. I love him. He is the one I love. He loves me in a way I've never felt loved, besides by God.
He is 100% sure that he loves me, and wants to be with me. I question him all the time. I say "Are you sure?" and "How do you know?" I am satisfied with his answers. I am honest with him, unlike I have ever been before with a person, and it scares me so badly. To be honest with your feelings and emotions is to make yourself vulnerable for someone to come in and stomp all over your heart. I tell him that I am nervous. I tell him when I have doubts. I tell him when I am fearful. He tells me that it is okay, and that he will be patient. He tells me he will remind me that he loves me, and why, whenever I need him to. He doesn't lie to me, or tell me things I want to hear.
We have had quite a few discussions, and we don't always agree, but we always talk it out, and let God speak to us, and resolve it. That's all we can do with our messy past. Let God redeem us, and let Him redeem our relationship.
Like I said earlier, I have encountered negative and positive feedback regarding this re-connection. Mostly, people are happy for me, for us. However, there are a few people who think I am making a mistake.
I encountered a situation where I was judged unfairly....by men, no less. Men who don't know me. I wasn't able to get clarification as to what thing I had done that was so wrong, so I just let it go, and walked away.
But at home, I became a wreck. As I sit here, my eyes are puffy, and I have a crazy headache that makes me sick. I lost my appetite, my stomach is in knots, and those old fears resurfaced. Those dark, self-mutilating fears.
Tonight, I became that small, terrified, violated girl. I second-guessed my relationship with God, I second-guessed that I was hearing His Voice. I second-guessed that I was His child, His princess. I second-guessed that I was valuable enough for redemption and transformation. And it was because of fear. Fear based on a couple sentences from some man, and the sharing of my private confidences from someone I was supposed to trust.
I was talking with the girls' dad tonight, the one I love. He said to me that something bigger had happened, because I wasn't the confident Leah he knew. I understood what he was saying, but I didn't know what had happened. How could a short conversation lead to the quivering and self-destructive mess I became later?
I thought and thought, and then it came to me. Because of that interaction, and because I learned of the betrayal of my confidence, and then learned that these two men wanted to have a meeting with me to discuss their problem with me, I was reminded of the other times in my life where I was overshadowed, bullied, and ensnared.
The first time I remember strongly was when my boss called me in to work on my day off, in order to have me committed to the psychiatric hospital. The second time is when I was bullied and threatened into signing legal paperwork by three men, none of whom were on my side, one of whom had date raped me.
The one whom I love also asked me why I never get angry. Its simple...getting angry always hurt me worse than the person I was angry at. I was the one who suffered. So, I shut down, and I hide. Its safer.
I think about the conversation I had tonight with the one I love. It took me a long time to share with him. I was scared. I was scared he would be angry with me, I was scared he would decide he didn't want to deal with this mess. But God says to trust Him, so I do, and I eventually tell the one I love my hidden fears and feelings and thoughts. And he responded in a way that soothed my heart.
He hasn't disappointed me. He knows what to say to me. He knows how to respond to me. His delivery isn't always perfect, but neither is mine.
I keep questioning God. "Lord, my God, is he the one? Is this truth? Can I trust him? Is it safe to love him again?" And, sometimes immediately, but sometimes not, God will answer. "Yes, beloved. Trust me." And I'm going to go with that.
Last Sunday, at church, I was given a challenge to allow God to open my heart to love everybody. Not just love the people who are easy to love, who I like to love, and not by just saying "I love you", but loving ALL people, even those who aren't lovable by the world's standards, and SHOWING sacrificial love. Actual, real, agape love. I prayed, for myself, an invite to let God come in and change my definition of love.
Since then, I've spent a lot of time with my heart breaking, and tears pouring out. God has re-lit a fire in my heart, and I can feel the protective shell burning off. I feel exhausted by the weight of love for people who's stories I've heard but never met, and the sadness for their pain. I even had a dream where I experienced in detail a heart-breaking and overwhelming grief for the hurting children of the world. Have you ever awoken from a dream where you've been sobbing, and it affects your entire day? Today is no exception. In my job, I hear many people's stories, and again today, my heart is hurting for those who hurt. Inside America and beyond our borders, who are the ones who we see hurting? Who are the ones who require sacrifice to love? And what can we do about it?
Loving others, how Jesus loved on earth and how God loves always, is not for the faint of heart. It hurts! Physically, mentally, emotionally hurts. I can no longer hide from it, and I don't want to! If this is a part of what God feels for everyone, because of His love, I want to feel it ALL. I believe that many times, people are unable to handle that pain, and that is why they hide from it. My God calls for me to stop hiding from it. I know what He wants from me. What He has always wanted from me. To shrug off these chains of "self" and make the daily sacrifices for those who need to experience God's love, as I have experienced it.
What does that sacrifice look like? It looks like time taken from my day to give someone a ride. It looks like giving money to help someone out, without expecting repayment, or expectations of how it should be spent. It looks like listening attentively when someone needs to tell me their hurt, and not offering "helpful" advice or judgement. It is offering to run an errand, watch someone's child, and SERVE someone who needs to feel loved, without reciprocation. It is doing or giving to someone without expectation of thanks or praise. Here is what else it looks like, for me. My experience has been to hide away when the world is overwhelming, and when I've been hurt. My instinct has always been self-preservation, to protect myself from those who have hurt me, and from those who WILL hurt me. It will happen again. It looks like me getting back up when I've been knocked down, walking right out the door to keep loving when I just want to hide.
God doesn't say that we won't ever be hurt again, and He doesn't say it will be easy to love, but He does promise that He will provide peace, comfort, and strength to continue. He promises to give rest. When you need something, look to God, and He will provide what you are needing. Just remember that it doesn't always look like what you think it should. And love doesn't always look like how the world says it should.
Where can we go with this sacrificial love? Anywhere. Go with courage. It takes courage to admit that bad things can happen to regular people like us, and is not the result of imagined bad choices or bad parenting. It takes courage to give to people who the world says are undeserving. It takes courage to speak up, lovingly, to defend others. It takes courage to not hide behind computers, the words of other people, and past mistakes. It takes honesty to come out from under the labels placed on us that differ from God's identity for us. It takes honesty to speak truth to ourselves, even when it hurts.
I encourage you to always begin and end with God. Look to Him for help and direction. Look at how Jesus lived to understand what it means to love like Him. This is no easy task, loving others with agape. Again, it is painful, requires the free will sacrifice of self, and is viewed as radical and strange by others. But...if you want to be another step closer to understanding Who God is...live a life giving away agape love to everyone you meet, dirty and clean, rich and poor, misunderstood and unlikable, ___________(fill in the blank). Love those that others call on you to hate. Love those who you might believe deserve pain and death. And count on God to fill you up, meet your needs, give you rest, peace and strength, instead of relying on others.
Whatever you decide, I still love you. Mostly, it takes more than one call for you to be ready for this change. Keep letting God in. Don't shut Him out.
And, always, please pray for me. This is a difficult journey for me, and your prayers do help.
"It’s hard having a child other people actively don’t want."-HKL, Star In Her Eye blog
I never knew my daughter would be classified as special needs. I never knew that she would struggle so soon in her life. I wasn't prepared to handle her challenges, or fight the battles that come with giving her a life in the world that cannot see her invisible needs.
Some days I see the progress, and I see how she can have a life like others, but then other days I am reminded that she will never be in the same world as her peers. Like this morning, I hold her as she cries because I can't allow her to do the things that the other kids get to do. "It isn't fair, Mom." No, it isn't.
Some days I sit here, angry at the world that leaves her out of it. I am frustrated by the people who think they understand, but really have no clue. I feel helpless as the only adult who has to deal with this on a daily basis, and who is the only one who sees the aftermath. When my child spends recess standing by the fence, alone, because she has made the mature choice to take herself out of a negative situation instead of exhibit those old behaviors. When I see her negatively experience situations, and when she clings to me, crying and begging to leave, my heart shatters. She has made the right choice, but she still suffers greatly for it, and only she and I see this.
As my daughter goes through each day, every experience or interaction she has is stored as negative or positive. Something that another child is able to shrug off, she internalizes and stores it as negative. When she encounters a negative situation, she backs away, or she engages. Part of her disability is the inability to process in the middle of tense situations. Afterwards, she can say what she should have done, but in that moment, her brain shuts down. Her reaction will either be to run away and cry, or engage. Fight or flight. If she engages, generally she is seen as the problem or the instigator, and then she is unable to speak up for herself. Her experiences in the past have taught her that it doesn't matter what she says, because the adult will not believe her. Unfortunately, there are a number of children in her social circles who know what happens if they quietly push her over the edge. They start something, and then sit back and watch the fireworks, but my daughter is the one who is burned.
These situations have occurred so many times this year that for her mental and emotional well-being, she might lose her recess from school, and miss out on certain social events. I thank God that He has provided a way to be able to home school her next year, and she can begin to regain her freedom. Society says "Daycare, public education, socialization!" Society says it equals freedom. Not for children like my daughter. It isn't freedom at all, but a cage. Lock down. Solitary confinement.
My daughter has special needs. Her disabilities are not visible or obvious. I first noticed that she had difficulties when I put her into daycare at the age of two. Back then, her disabilities were obvious. Outsiders, teachers, and professionals attribute her behavior to bad parenting, terrible twos, and just being a bad kid. Every day, negative stored experiences far outweighed any positive experiences. Her negative experiences overflowed outward, and at three and four years, she talked about killing herself. Now, at nine, she has learned a lot, and has learned some coping skills. Sometimes she is able to use those, and sometimes not. Sometimes she self-medicates, which only further exacerbates the situation. However, despite the coping skills she utilizes, she still experiences anxiety, stress, and negative self-esteem. These days, much of it is hidden from everyone else, except me. Instead of coming out in public and overflowing, it burrows inward, hidden like poison.
I have long suffered with anxiety. Over the last couple of years, God has begun to deliver me from this. I still live with it, but it doesn't rule my life like it used to. On Sunday, I experienced an anxiety attack. Sitting in church, attempting to listen to God's message, and internally fighting with something that had grabbed hold of my throat, strangling me. Its been a long time since I experienced that. Unfortunately, as my daughter struggles, so do I. And as I struggle, so does she. I've had to pull back from society's life lately, and in doing so, I realize I also need to pull my daughter back. I've had to pull back from people, and when this happens, the lies of the world are louder than ever.
I know EXACTLY how my daughter feels, and I know what a lonely life it is. To feel that you don't fit with any group, that you don't belong. As parents, we want something different for our children. As I have been saved from the old life, I want something different for those around me. As I see my daughter experience pain that is not her doing, I want those around her to UNDERSTAND and SEE that her name is not anxiety. Her identity is not her negative experiences. I want those around us to help her learn that her identity is not those negative experiences, and to give her positive experiences that far outweigh the negative. Those few people who know her better than her actions, and get to know her, God bless you for knowing and interacting positively. To those who interact with her daily, but don't want to take the time to understand what is going on, what a pity. What a shame, because despite what you think you see, my daughter has a lot of love to give to people who want it. If you take the time to interact with her and get to know her, you will see a girl after God's own heart. You will see a girl with a lot of talent and passion. Knowing her will change your life.
Just like she has changed mine.
"The things I've experienced are with me still. I know there is more that I buried. I catch fleeting glimpses of it. Smells, feelings, scenes from a horror story. It isn't gone. For years it was rotting, eating me up from the inside out, slowly poisoning me and people around me. I knew I would die, either by sickness or suicide.
It feels like you have got it together. You've gotten to be a master at hiding it, burying it deep. You've gotten to be such a good actor. And beneath the surface, that junk is rotting. It will kill you. You try to forget it, but its still there."
I wrote this a year ago. Thank God that that wasn't the ending for me. Every day, thank You God for saving my life.
My dear friends......from my heart to yours.....hang on. Do not give up. I had everything against me. I know what its like to live in that bitter, dark place that feels absent of light and hope.
Where was God?
He was there, in the dark and evil places with me. I didn't see Him at the time. I didn't feel Him. I couldn't hear Him. I was boxed up in my coffin. You don't have to be dead to be buried.
I didn't see God working in my life until years later.
My first pregnancy, coming at a time when I didn't want to live. The counselor who suggested I leave my hometown I'd lived in for the past 19 years. The fear that motivated me to get myself and my children out of there. The one place out of five that accepted my request for a housing application. After turning in my application, I was told it would take one to two years to find us an apartment. We had one in six months.
This church family that I have grown up with in six years. There is a multitude of blessings that God has brought to me through this family. I was an adult when I moved over here, but spiritually and emotionally, I was a traumatized, fearful child, hiding in the dark, praying no one would look at her.
Thank God they looked at me. Family Life AG, thank you for looking.
My friend...God sees you. He sees where you are buried. He sees what you have lived through. He's been with you this whole time, even though you may not feel Him, see Him, or hear Him.
So....He sent me. You can see me. You can hear me. Maybe you can feel me. Thank God for what He has brought me out of. I look back at my messy past and I'm THANKFUL that what I have endured enables me to reach out to you.
God has given me the gift of words. I use them to reach my hand out. My friend...I know you are hurting. I know you are scared. I know you don't want to be seen. I know you don't trust. I know you are bruised, bloody, broken into pieces.
My friend....I don't have tape for you. I don't have glue. But I know Someone who fixes broken hearts. I tried for years to put myself back together, and it did not work. It doesn't. It won't. When you are ready to start this journey, I'm here, with my Healer, my Father, my Comfort, my Peace. Message me.
Thank You, God.
Who knew, that one day I would be looking back on all these traumatic experiences and thanking You for them?
Thank You that witnessing domestic violence as a child would give me a heart for those haunted and bruised at the hands of their abusers.
Thank You that being a victim of rape would teach me to speak up, speak out, and offer healing to others with my story.
Thank You that being a single mother would teach me to rely completely on Your provision and Your care.
Thank You that all of these things that taught me not to trust, You have used to teach me to trust YOU.
Thank You for giving my back my voice and my words.
Shame is what I feel when I have to beg if I want the right people to consider giving me a chance. In every situation I encounter, I can decide to be vulnerable and give insight into my situation in the hopes of being given a chance and to prove that I'm not unfit, or not. If I ask for help, I always have to consider if I can emotionally handle the "conditions" that come along with that help, even if it is listening to someone's version of helpful advice, telling me what I should be doing, or the expectations that will help me to "learn" how to take care of myself. If I am asking for help with something financially, it must be because I don't know how budget, right? Or that I'm living above my means?
I grew up in poverty. I was loved, but it didn't mean I always felt it or that it was always given. My childhood didn't always include safety, and that continued after I became an adult. I was 18, halfway through my senior year of high school, when I moved out of my parent's house. I crashed on friends' couches, but I finished high school. I signed up for food stamps, but I finished high school.
After I graduated, I moved back home. I was very smart, but I didn't go to college. I had too many issues to deal with, one being anxiety, and the fear of going into the unknown, being on my own. I was working, but shortly after, began a battle with depression. I wasn't doing drugs, and I wasn't drinking, but I was cutting myself. I was very scared and alone, and I didn't know how to get out of it.
I spoke with a friend, who encouraged me to go see a counselor. I set up an appointment, but the day before that appointment, I was involuntarily committed to the hospital. I was there for six days. About a week after I got out of the hospital, I was date raped. Not only was I being crushed by depression, fear, anxiety, and loneliness, now I had the shame and self-disgust of that to add to the pile. For many years, I denied it, and blamed myself.
A few months later, I became pregnant with my oldest daughter. Now add to that pile the shame of being an unwed, young mother. I didn't need the shame of others piled on me, but that didn't stop people from giving their opinions and their judgments.
After my daughter was born, I was enrolled in college, and two years later earned my AA. During this time, I was also representing myself in a custody case between my daughter's father and me. I got married, but the marriage didn't last long, and included a lot of pain. We split when I was pregnant with our daughter. One month later, my best friend committed suicide. I've had CPS called on me because of custody issues. Can you see this pile get bigger? Lets add the stress of court, school, the pain of a failed marriage, a pregnancy, and death of a loved one.
Eight days after my second daughter was born, I started in school again, working on getting my BA. Four years later, I earned it, after more custody issues, a divorce, and moving across the state to a city where I knew no one. To utilize the services for job search and to support my kids while I was without a job, I applied for welfare. When I had the meeting for the application, I was asked about my birth control methods, and when I said I was abstinent, I was directed to make an appointment with Planned Parenthood. My first day with the job support services, also known as Work Source, I was treated with scorn when I asked a question about childcare. During other times, when I attended the mandatory workshops, I was laughed at when responding to a question that was asked of me.
As I continued through the program, I met roadblock after roadblock. The anxiety I lived with grew with each rejection of job applications. I applied to a temp agency and was told that my four months of secretarial experience wasn't good enough. They wanted six months. The anxiety grew with each class I had to attend. I was on the verge of another hospitalization, and every day was closer to losing the battle against cutting. The end came when I couldn't even stand in the lobby with people without having a serious panic attack. I called a family friend, and he said to just leave. So I left, and when I called my social worker to tell her what was happening, she told me to stop making excuses and that she wasn't willing to give me a break. At the time, I was seeing a counselor who encouraged me to apply for social security. Thankfully, when I talked with another social worker at DSHS, she encouraged me to apply, and helped me through the process.
Let's fast forward to today. It has been seven years since we moved to Anacortes. During this seven years, I've battled to get my daughter the help that will get her to be successful in managing her special needs, instead of just medicating her to satisfy those who don't understand her. She has seen a few therapists, including one who voiced concerns that her father was abusing her because of a rocket ship she had drawn, and another who believed her problems were parenting issues. I had to fight to get her into a regular school with temporary help, because of a bad experience that the school had with a troubled student the year before. I've been struggling to get her the help she needs because she doesn't have the right diagnosis. My family has lived in low-income housing the seven years we have lived in Anacortes. During that time, my children have been physically and emotionally abused. I've been taunted and called names by children who have lived here. My special needs daughter has been ganged up many times by groups of boys because they feel threatened by her. She was punched by a mentally ill adult neighbor. There have been drug use on the grounds, including needles left behind at the the bus shelter where the children wait for the school bus. I can't even count the number of times that police are called, or how many times I have to call my children in because of the inappropriate behavior that goes on where the kids are playing. Added to the pile is the guilt I feel because I allow my children to live here. I feel like a crappy mother. I want so much more for them.
After seven years on the waitlist for Section 8, we finally have received a voucher to find a home to live in. A home where my daughters can feel safe, and have their own space. A home where I can feel safe. As I'm searching for a house, I find myself cringing when I have to ask landlords and realtors if they accept Section 8 vouchers. Most of them don't want to deal with the paperwork, or the stereotype of the low-income. Yesterday, as I listened to a realtor explain that they don't accept Section 8 because of the problems they have had with tenants, I had to fight down tears. And I felt such a heavy load of shame, that I was almost crushed. How many other times have I been denied the chance to move forward out of poverty because of the actions and stereotypes of low-income people? I wanted to give up. I've been fighting my whole life. I'm exhausted. Can someone take over for me for awhile?
I've been given so much help from sources outside of government assistance. I appreciate it, because they have seen me for who I am, not my situation. They have come alongside me to provide things that others think are necessities, but aren't things that I have access to on low-income. The most recent has been support for me to gain control of my good health.
I currently receive social security, which I'm grateful for because it has given me a chance to focus on digging myself out of the emotional pile of junk that has buried me for so long. I have a lifetime to dig out of. There are some people who are right beside me, shoveling with me, but there are also people who are just throwing more crap onto the pile. I battle constantly in a war against my old self. The prize is a belief that I am worth a better life. Some seasons I am losing the war. Some seasons I am too tired to lift up that shovel, too tired to call for help. Sometimes when I call for help, it isn't loud enough. I am not heard. Sometimes when I call for help, and people come with well-meaning comments and advice and ultimatums, all it does is break down trust, and add to the pile. Sometimes I don't need an opinion, or advice. I shouldn't have to keep from asking for help because I just can't handle the response. But I do. So many times.
I am educated. I don't need parenting classes. I have been a parent who has taken responsibility when others have walked away. I have been a parent who doesn't want to give up on doing her best to help her children. My kids are growing up with the effects of poverty. My goal since I was pregnant was to break this cycle of poverty for my children. I see the things I want for my kids, in the distance. I'm moving towards it, but I'm shackled with a giant pile of guilt, shame, self-doubt, exhaustion, fear, anxiety, and poverty. The thing about financial help from the government is that it is just enough to keep you in that hole. I'm not wasting my money on drugs or alcohol. I'm not having more babies to get more money. I'm not lying to gain more help than I should. I'm not even out searching for a man to take care of us. I'm not unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes and accidents. I'm not refusing to pay debts, or nor am I late with my payments. I'm trying to find a way to become financially self-sufficient, but so far...nope.
I was in a war with myself to even write this all out and share it. I have an anger that lives in me. Sometimes it's a scared anger. Sometimes it's a defiant anger. Or it's a hateful anger. Anger at how I feel, how I fail, the situation that I'm in, the questions I don't want to answer. A frustrated anger at those who dump their responsibility on me. The misunderstanding. The deadness that creeps up on me of that place where I used to survive. Anger at the tears that fall. A tired anger. A helpless anger.
I'm still looking for the chance that will get us out of here. I'm too stubborn to give up. As long as my kids are still here, I'm refusing to give up. But pray for me, please? The mental struggle is the most burdensome.
Its after ten pm. Tears pouring down my face. I've discovered something the past few months. There are certain days of my past where I've experienced traumatic and heartbreaking things. I have come to realize that during those specific days, I struggle with my emotions and my moods more than other days.
I'm not sure how to explain it. Perhaps if you have experienced it, then you would know.
I take it as hope that I have finally reached a place in my life that God says I'm doing well enough to safely dig through this rotting garbage, and clean it out. The other years never affected me, perhaps because I was buried too deep.
Today it has been one year since I learned my Gramma died. I don't say passed away. Passed away, to me, gives the event a somber, clean, fake feeling. Wrapped up, nice and neat, in a black box. But Death is not fake and Death is not neat. It is very much real and messy, and gives life to an intense, heart-wrenching pain that leaves me gasping for air. It is akin to a panic attack. I've learned that grief is the emotion I feel the most. I am not able to hide grief away into myself and bury it like I'm able to do with other emotions.
I sit in my apartment, surrounded by my gramma's things. Every time I open the cupboard or turn on the lamp or look at the pictures on my walls, I have a million memories flying through my mind. Each one of those memories leads to a spasm of pain. Eventually, this pain will fill me up until it spills out, and then process starts over. One day, I hope to remember my gramma without this pain. I hope to remember her voice, her loving touch, her beautiful smile, and her funny sarcasm.
Oh, Lord, please, I just want one more hug. And I don't want to let go.
The weakest part is not the body, but the mind. Sometimes I just don't have the energy to be positive, to shrug off the hurts from other people. Like a sliver that festers. A tower of cards, crashing down. The hardest thing I encounter daily are my own mental struggles.
The last few days I've encountered enough negative reactions from people around me that my confidence is shaky. This is a danger spot for me. My natural reaction is to pull back and hide. I am working really hard to change my lifestyle and the wrong I learned, but that is easy compared to pushing through the negative.
It takes much courage to love other people. Humans are not easy to love. They hurt. Many might have heard the term "Hurt people hurt people." It is so true. What does it take to change that? It takes forgiveness, understanding, and strength to get back up and move forward when someone hurts you. It takes more courage to love, be hurt, and love again, than it does to hide away.
Sometimes I don't FEEL courage, and I don't FEEL like loving people. But if I don't, I will just cause more harm, spreading hurt like a contagious disease. I don't like to be hurt, but I'd rather be hurt and keep loving, no matter how hard it is, than keep hiding away and being a victim. But in NO WAY am I able to keep loving on my own. I am a Christian, depending on God to keep me moving forward. Jesus, teaching me to live beyond my emotional human frailty. I try to remember that humans aren't perfect and they fail, including me. Thankfully, there is God's grace for those who hurt others, and those who are hurting. A grace that never runs out, and cannot be bought, but only given and received.
When I am hiding my heart in pain, Lord, pour out your grace on me. Pour it out on those who hurt me. When I make mistakes and hurt others, please bless them.
I don't think about Mother's Day with excitement. If there is a build-up to the occasion, it is usually trepidation, and a heavy pit takes the place of my stomach. I wake up in the morning, not feeling like it's any special day. The girls might say "Happy Mother's Day" and I will get a card and hand-made gift because someone reminds them and provides the materials and direction. Normally that job is for the father and husband, but that spot in our home is empty, as is the spot in my heart.
Mother's Day begins by reminding me of the hurt I was given in the past, intentional and not, and the inadequacies of my role as mother. My failings in parenting my emotional pre-teen and my special needs daughter.
It continues on as I look at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, and the messy rooms created by my children, knowing that to expect a clean home is to expect a fight. A fight of which I have no stamina to engage in most of the time. A reminder of how weak I really am.
I feel my feelings, and experience more failure within myself because some of my thoughts are selfish. This particular mother's day I have been hurt by someone close to me, and as unintentional as it was, it still wounds because of my past experiences. Now, that's not fair to put that on someone. Selfish.
Lastly, I am disappointed because Mother's Day is like any other day, and most people can't quite understand that. I don't want to go out in public because when others wish me a happy day, well-wishing is expected in return, and every time I hear "Happy Mother's Day" or wish it upon another, I am pushed further toward a sobbing messy breakdown.
But, I went to church anyway, because I know what happens when I skip it. I was greeted many times and responded like-wise. When the call came for the mothers to stand up and be blessed, prayed for, and honored by their spouses, the two spouseless women and I came together in our little corner. And our very dear and loving Pastor Jim came to pray over us, to bless us, and honor us. Other people came to compliment me in one way or another. By the time it came to leave, my cup bubbled over with contentment and love, and the tears that came were from joy and laughter. I get home and proudly display my gifts.
The one who hates my God, and is my enemy, did his best to keep me down today. He failed. My Father God blessed me greatly today, and answered my prayer for the healing of hurts and selfishness that marred my heart. I am still the mother of an emotional pre-teen and a special needs daughter, my house is still a mess, and my heart still needs healing, but God has kept His promises to never leave me, to help me when I call, and lift me out of my despair. He is my Comfort, my Joy, and my Healer. He is there, catching my tears, and weeping with me.
Thank You, Daddy.
Happy Mother's Day.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few people who I went to school with. I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years with these people. The joy I felt at seeing them was great. I loved to hear about their lives and their families. Over the rest of the weekend, I reflected on my past, and who I am today, 13 years after high school. Leah Potter, the funny, smart, serious-thinking, and talented girl disappeared for ten-plus years. That is a long time to lose someone.
She didn't just lose her way. She was disappeared by those who she trusted. Physically and emotionally abused by the ones she loved. She got scared, and hid. Cowering to protect herself under a constant barrage of anger, maliciousness, and lies. What was left was a silent girl hiding in a broken shell.
It took awhile for her to start to come out of the shell, to start to speak without fear of retribution. And many times she turned back and hid. Even now, there are setbacks. There are experiences that leave her with a handful of bricks, building the wall to protect herself from those who broke her trust...again. But she always had a small hint that I was in there. A tiny bright dot, never disappearing altogether.
The more this person becomes me again, the more I am able to nurture and protect this girl. Today, I am stronger than I ever was. I don't believe the lies that were poured into my head, sinking heavy and black on my heart. Everyday is an experience that I learn from. Either its an awesome day full of pure joy or it's a tough day that I fight like hell to survive. In each case, I can thank God for His blessings and strength, and for providing a way back to who He created me to be.
I still am not completely back. I know there is more ahead of me. Dreams that disappeared with who I was have resurfaced. Passion for the things that ignite my soul are beginning to flare up again. I still have remnants of those experiences that haunt me. Little things that wouldn't bother someone else send my heart racing and paralyzing thoughts ricocheting around my brain.
But my voice is back. My passion is lighting up. My dreams are clear ahead of me. God hasn't promised me smooth sailing, but He has promised to be with me 100% and all the way. We only get one chance at this life. I lost over ten years of my life. I don't intend on missing out on any more.
Last week at the pool, a grumpy old man yelled at Eliska. We were lap swimming in a lane, and of course, she is still getting the hang of it. We were taking up one lane, but there were other spaces in other lanes available, plus a whole other lane was empty. This man purposely got into our lane, swam over to Eliska, and yelled at her that the lanes weren't for playing. Then he swam off down the lane.
I wasn't nearby, and I'm not sure what I would have done. I wanted to punch his face. The point is that he didn't come to change things, otherwise he would have spoken to me. He came with the intention of causing a problem. Eliska cried. She was scared. In that vulnerable moment, rather than stay and pursue the matter, we moved over to the open lane on the end. I asked God to let us have a great day despite that, and to help us to let it go.
Fast forward to this week. Today, Eliska and I were again in the pool, doing the same thing. Lap swimming. I heard someone calling me. I looked up, and the same man was in the lane next to me, firmly scolding me, informing me that the lanes were for swimming, not playing. I tried to explain that she wasn't playing, and that if someone needed the lane, she would move over. He talked right over the top of me. I said, "You yelled at my daughter last week. Don't you ever do that again." Then Eliska and I swam off. I looked back, and he was complaining to the life guard. I was very proud of myself in that moment, because instead of internalizing a white hot anger towards this man, I spoke up and left it behind. I stood firm, and I did not run. My daughter got to see me do that!
Later I spoke to the life guard, and asked if there was going to be a problem. She said he was a grumpy old man, who had been going to the pool for twenty years, and if he became a problem, she could kick him out.
Side note: I love this life guard. She has been amazing, speaking so positively to Eliska, making a point of interacting with her.
As I was finishing my laps, I thought about what I wanted to teach to my kids. What mark did I want to make on their life? I want my kids to be tough. I don't want them to just lay there when adversity knocks them down. I want them to be kind, but not a doormat. I want them to know and understand the value they have. I want a life where they are healthy, bold, loving, and compassionate. Where they can see where they come from, and dream of where they are going. Where they demand the best of themselves and for themselves.
These are the things I have to teach them. No one else will do it. And they will learn by seeing me do it. Eliska learned today not to cower in fear, and that she is not wrong in this situation. She learned that it is okay to speak up for herself, and that if the other party isn't interested in working out the situation, then she can turn around and walk away. Eliska learned to love herself today. This is more valuable than diamonds. For Eliska, she learned she was WORTH standing up for.
I have come a long way. I know my value. And I know my children's values. I WILL do my absolute best to teach them the important things of life, the things not of this world. This is the mark I will make on them, the legacy I will teach to them. I was Eliska's champion today. What a feeling!
We might be in different places, but all of us are on a journey.
Leah's Life Verses