Imperfectly, Perfect

My small four-year-old fingers are intertwined in her soft and silky long brown hair. In my ear, all I can feel is her warm breath as she inhales to sing another lyric of a song that makes every bone in my tiny body melt into her more. Love evaporates from her into me and molds me more into all that she wants me to be. The smell of her soft perfume permeates my senses and all I can do is melt into her and listen to each and every lucid lyric that comes from her soft mouth straight into my heart.

This is one of my first and very most treasured memories of my mother and I. In times of struggle and feelings I’ve lacked in self-worth, this memory has been one I’ve held on to many times throughout my life. The young remembrance of my mother’s love and her song all over me is really what I think of her when I dig deep into my memory bank. I haven’t thought of how clean our house was, what was served at dinner, or what she wore. My memory cave brings me back time and time again to the way I felt in her arms when it was just her and I. All that consumes me when I blanket myself with my memory of her is…love. Pure. Unapologetic, raw and beautiful love.

We as women get caught up in the idea we have in our heads as to what makes us a good mother. The pressure to be perfect has never been more intense and our own mind creates this version of what we should be to produce amazing children to gift to the world when we are done raising them. Having this preconceived notion that we have to dance a dance of perfection plagues this generation of mothers who are just trying in this life to do more than has ever been done before. We now have to add the task of providers, protectors, nurturers and loving creatures that will do and be what our kids deserve.

Is it ever enough?

A good friend of mine recently said that she thinks she is a bad mom. Now, this statement left me in shock and a bit angry. I mean, this woman is a GREAT mom who loves on her kids with every breath she takes,  kissing on them, planning great days filled with films of memories for them for when they are older. So, why does what I see as a perfect mom think she is, in fact, a bad mom get me so riled up? Possibly because I often times feel the same way about myself. The reflection she had on her defeated face was staring me blankly in the eyes that looked all too familiar speaking lies that can sink even the strongest of vessels.

This made me take pause at my own life. She said her house is a mess and she doesn’t cook really great dinners like you see on Instagram. Quite honestly if I was held to this regard I would be the worst mother alive. My house isn’t spotless (okay it’s a hot mess at the best of times) and I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for my husband Alan, we’d all completely die of starvation. Yet, as I sought out my reality in this encounter with my dear friend, I too have thought this of myself on many occasions.  But why as God see’s us as perfectly imperfect and that is enough for Him.

I’m a bad mom. I work too much and often times am writing when I could be spending time with them. They don’t have perfect little cubby hole things to put their toys in so their rooms don’t look like a hurricane just drove a deep dive through their bedrooms. I have vices I wish they didn’t know I had. I am tired and cranky at times and look like a zombie on the weekends. I’m sometimes quicker to anger than I wished and I don’t have them in five thousand activities that I’m sure would make them poised to be leaders of the free world.

Why is it so hard for me to hear my friend say those things about herself?  Although I can speak the same language to myself on more occasions I’d like to admit I have. Every time I sit in a deep sinking mud of self-loathing that wants to drown me, my husband reminds me of what a great mom I am. I do hear him and drag myself out of the messy quicksand and wipe myself off and try to remember that I do give them all the love I have. But, why is it so much more of a wake-up call now that I’ve heard my friend speak the bad mom language over herself? I truly think this is so because I see her as a perfect love for her 4 kids, so why do I not see that in myself? Why are we so impossibly hard on ourselves for being…well…imperfectly loving and capable mothers?

My oldest son who is 20 tells me that he appreciates all that I’ve sacrificed for him. My 17-year-old son tells me I’m his hero. My little ones who are 10 and 5 squeal with delight when I come home as I hug them longer than I’m sure they’d like. That speaks all it should, but at times it isn’t enough. I hold myself to this high and impossible regard that at time steals my joy because I can’t obtain the perfection that I have in mind for myself.

A messy house with unfolded clothes on the floor and dreams of play times that pass me by are always in the back of my mind but deep in theirs has to be the love I give them when I hug them. When I walk away early in the morning to work to provide for our family they see me laboring hard for us and the dreams I chase in the aftermath must mean something to them.  As a matter of fact, I know it does, as my (almost) grown children have told me so.

When you hold your baby to your heart (no matter their age) and allow them to feel the passion you have for them that is like no other it makes you a good mom. When you put down the distractions of the day to watch them play you truly take in the essence of motherhood. Breathing in the air that surrounds them is like filling your lungs up with oxygen and feeding your soul with enough water to travel decades in the desert.

When my daughter asked me tonight to sit on my lap, I immediately put my phone down, grabbed her on my lap and breathed in her essence as I sang a single lullaby in her ear. A messy house behind me, and my insecurity telling me that I need to be better, I recalled my encounter with my own mother and my heart lifted knowing that this is what she will remember. This is enough.

Soft sweet nothings sang in her ear with my love exploding all over her like a thousand stars lighting up the sky took over all my insecurities of what I have deemed it is to be a perfect mom. That is what she’ll remember and all I will treasure when it’s all said and done and I’ve given my best version of myself to the world.

Stinky Face

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A note to my four children:

No matter what….

I will always love you.

Whatever comes your way, I’ll be supporting, loving and praying for you.

I am forever on your side, through your success and failure, I will always love you

Whatever you may become in this life is beyond my grandest imagination…

No matter the manifestation, I will be your biggest fan.

Your Dreams will become my own, and I shall fight when you are too tired to go to battle.

Love  always, Mom

Consider the infinite beauty of holding the perfect baby in your arms after a long arduous labor.  In that earth-shattering moment where you were physically connected just moments before, it is hard to embrace that they may embark on a life adventure that you didn’t foresee for them.

I’ve raised a son, he is eighteen, graduated third in his senior class of hundreds and he is absolutely one of the great love’s of my life born of my body, my heart, and my soul.

Caleb is currently at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In case you haven’t heard of this private university, it is known globally for its music pastoral program.  As a matter of fact, Prince himself utilized the high-tech studio on a regular basis to record and practice when he was still alive.  My boy dreamed, trained endlessly, but most importantly followed the calling on his life.  

For those of you who know my son, Caleb, he is a mere genius.  I can list his many accolades but to not seem prideful (because I’ll admit I am)  I’ll stick to the topic.

When Caleb came to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior he was teaching himself the guitar.  Our family had recently experienced a second deviating loss of a sibling of Caleb’s within a short time frame. My boy lost two infant brothers back to back.  Two graves, two shoebox coffins that forced a young man who never felt emotion embarked on a chasm of eternal anger or possibly a God-given outlet.  Secretly I prayed for us all (to a God I had myself rebuked for years after leaving Him twenty years prior). Caleb found the wonderful and powerful outlet of music.  At the time he was in the Medical Science Academy at his high school that was acclaimed for producing doctors and engineers.  Both of which my boy could become, as a matter of fact, this kid could be anything he wanted to be.

One dark night as I did laundry, Caleb ate his dinner after a long night of leading the youth in worship at our local church he summoned the courage to declare his purpose to me.   

“Mom.”

“Yes, Caleb?”  I stated after putting together an impossible puzzle known as matching socks.

“I feel God is calling me to be a Music Pastor.”

Great pause took place in my heart.  Caleb could be anything, ANYTHING in this world, and succeed in that endeavor past the stars.  His IQ is off the charts, his ACT scores through the roof, and his writing ability clearly announces his feelings, facts, and heart in a fluid and concise manner.  In that, he wants to go into the ministry?  To make a menial living, and live a life of constant and at times unappreciated service.  I look over at my sixteen-year-old man-child as he eats his dinner prepared with love and sacrifice by his stepdad, and all I could see on his face was a look of concern, deeply wanting approval.

…Of what I’d say.  What I’d think, how I’d react.  All I could do was swell with a pride matched by one of the greatest of moments in my history.  For instead of focusing on money and stature, he was following a deep, intense, and at times very challenging calling on his life.  I could barely tether in my smile as I answer him:

“Son, do what fulfills you.  You can always make money, you can never get back a purpose not served.  God will provide if you follow your calling.  Don’t find yourself trapped by expectations of what you are supposed to be.  Be…Just be what you are called to be.

He is studying music at a renowned school of worship in Minneapolis, Minnesota at this moment.

My second son, Cameron is gifted with visuals, behind the scenes talent, as the captain of the camera he has an acute artistic ability.  He has an eye for the camera and his ability makes me shiver.   His love for his family forces me to marvel as he offers me emotional comfort and wise words, I would have never expected from my own child.  Cam has been my confidant, my rock, and the one who I can always count on.  His ability has endless possibilities, past the confines of any insecurity that we all hold deep within.  

Cameron volunteers at his church doing the technical aspects that allow the service to rock out and is a leader in his youth group.  But mostly,  he meets the heart of the youth that look up to him, he joins with people where they are, he cancels plans that mean the world to him in order to minister to someone who needs him more than his “fun” plans coincide with.  My Cameron, my darling gift of a son has a greater purpose than I could have ever imagined.  I asked him one day, “what do you foresee in your future?

He simply answered,

“I don’t know yet, but definitely something in the ministry.”

I once saw him directing films in Hollywood, following his starlit dreams of fame and fortune.  Yet, God called my second son to be His and serve His people.

My two little one’s futures will transpire as they grow in the goodness and trials God has in store for them.  Although, my eight-year-old son Trasen already has a passion for the word.  After summer camp the pastor told me he begged to read his Bible with his flashlight every night before bed.  He also received the “Wisdom” award at Spring Hill Camp.

Lilia and Trasen shall see the magnitude of greatness they are called into in due time.

I’ve always read a children’s book to my kids called:

I Love You, Stinky Face.

At the beginning of the book, the mother tells her child, “I love you, my wonderful child.” ~But the child has some questions, and valid ones at that.

It tells a story of a child asking his beloved mother, would you still love me if….I’m something different than what you want me to be.

What if I’m was an alien, a one-eyed monster, a big ugly ape, or a skunk with a stinky face?
Would you still love me then?

The mother answers, I will love you and I will provide the needs you have no matter where they may take you.

The mama of the one-eyed monster read bedtime stories until his one big eye fell asleep, the ape she fed a banana birthday cake and the skunk she gave a great big bubble bath.  She met the child’s needs despite uncertain and unexpected circumstances.  I mean in all reality no one really wants a one-eyed monster for a child, but if I had one I’d love it with all my being.  It’s translated into an unconditional love that a mother can exude, the kind of love that transcends time, situations, and struggle.

After reading this book that is tethered and worn after four children worth of bedtime stories, it gave me great hesitation reflecting on my current struggles.

My oldest baby has grown up and he is making his way into the world as I’ve always dreamed he would.  All of God’s endless possibilities are at his footsteps.

 But as far as me…I feel left behind.

It spreads through a familiar feeling of abandonment; my greatest nightmare, my most abundant personal parental reality, as to this day…my father is absent.  And my mother…well it’s very complicated, to say the least.

Has Caleb abandoned me?   Of course not!  He has followed God’s gracious path towards the greatness He has planned for him.  Caleb has to find his wings, his greater purpose to fulfill all he is called to be.

But I’m home.  Without his beautiful song echoing throughout my home and my heart.

 Has he left me?  No.

Is he gone?  Yes.

Do you love me, God, even though I’m a skunk that needs a big ole bubble bath?

A one-eyed monster that needs help reading her bedtime story?

God says, YES my child I love you no matter what, in spite of your failure, disparage, or in times of deep loss.  Even if it is the healthiest kind, such as your adult son leaving.

Caleb is done being my child under my roof that I worked so hard to grow up, Cameron is on the brinks. I’ve found myself in the midst of what some call a mid-life crisis, having cut my hair and gaining fifteen pounds, and at times being tugged at to fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms, I cling to God begging Him to not take His love away from me.  Even in the midst of not living up to what I know He has in store for me I’m contemplating how to figure out this new life, new dynamic, and major transition, I have to ask Him what if today I were a slimy green alien would he still want and love me?

And do you know what my Father in Heaven says to me?

I will always love you,

Stinky Face.

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Chasm of Grace

I discovered yesterday that a poem of my mine hit the New York Times Best Sellers List 25 years ago…hours after I feared releasing this blog for fear of losing love due to an interrupt to succeed. Yup that is my reality. You don’t win you lose.

When incarcerated, isolation is often used as one of the worst possible forms of punishment a criminal can receive.  Torture techniques include placing people in holes of darkness completely alone, depleted of any interaction with another person for extended periods of time to break the spirit of humanity.

Being alone can be more dreadful more than death.

When I became a full-time author two years ago I was on the precipice my greatest dream coming true.  When I was six years old I began writing anything and everything coming to my heart a rapid pace I would grab my pencil to put into expression my conflicted painstaking experiences.  Through the darkness of my tormented and lonely childhood, God gave me a precious gift, and a means to navigate unthinkable situations.

 

Needless to say having the ability to publish two books in fourteen months is something that I am very proud of.  My memoir ‘The Return to Happiness’ hit bestseller lists on Amazon, ibooks and Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.  MORE importantly miraculously,  my words have helped thousands and thousands of women all over the world giving a voice to the devastating grief of pregnancy and infant loss.  God once again used my torrent of torture to flow vastly into the form of words, yet this time healing others, not just myself.  What a magnificent God we serve.

But it wasn’t all celebration cakes and congratulations on Facebook, I faced the darkest time in my adult life while birthing my dream.

The first six months of pursuing my most coveted aspiration came with a lofty price that has the ability to haunt me until I meet Jesus.  I (unknowingly at the time) sentenced myself the most horrid punishment of maltreatment…isolation.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am the infante definition of an extrovert and a complete and total spaz. I thrive off of people, I love (most) everything about God’s people. The joy or sorrow in their eyes is my goal to discover the reason of either.  Two is always greater than one in times of celebration or despair.

As you can see isolation isn’t beneficially for anyone, especially for a person like myself.  Alone, sheltered, and wrapped up in my own fictional and nonfictional world I fell into the darkest depression and dependence on alcohol and prescription medication that I ever had faced.  Anxiety and depression have always taunted me as I have dealt with abandonment, abuse of the worst kind, a son diagnosed with a chronic illness at four and two back to back second-trimester pregnancy losses.  In prefacing that I have dealt with some mental health issues goes without strong merit.

I’ll never forget my first glass of wine.  A magnificent feeling overtook my mind and body, but mostly the pivotal escape from inner darkness and the child that always felt left behind is what continued to call my name to the lies of the bottle.  The girl who saw too much, the forsaken and tormented version of my inner child was sedated and finally left numbed.  It was the most intensely wonderful thing that I had ever injected into my body.  And I didn’t care if it was wrong.  I simply loved that I could not feel.

Labels kill the over achiever as floods wipe out the innocent.  I never wanted to admit my poison because I wanted so desperately to be loved.

I never became a raging alcoholic in those years of young adulthood.  Thankfully I never received a DUI, or put my kids or myself in danger, or lost a job.  People drink and it is widely acceptable even marketed as a way to overcome a really bad day.  I was successful in many of my areas that in enabled me to somewhat cover up my guilt with my many outlandish accomplishments (yup I’m that humble)  LOL.  A definite result of my distorted childhood was the need to please and to receive love, therefore, I was 110% or nothing.  If I was triumphant than I was loveable.

In that, it is pertinent I add a few of the prodigious things I did in my life before I drop the biggest bombshell to you all that I’ve managed to keep hidden for two years:

  • I wrote an award-winning poem at 16 and was published and hit New York Times Best Selling List in her collection of poetry, thus becoming a New York Time Bestselling author without even knowing it at fifteen.
  • I am the National Prepared Public Speaking winner for the state of Nevada and competed at a national convention in St. Louis, MO.  I can still recall the energy in my body as the electricity jolted me on the stage to shout to the world my words and voice.
  • I was a gifted runner with Olympic potential until I had a career ending injury at 16.
  • I was selected for a national band and played for 30,000 people including President George Bush
  • I learned how to figure skate at the age of thirty advancing so quickly I skated in an ice show 9 months later being the first adult to land a jump higher than a waltz.  Then I went on to perform in seven other ice shows in front of thousands of people.
  • I am a bestselling author of a memoir that will eventually be in the United Hospital System going home with grieving mothers who suffers miscarriage or stillbirth.
  •  I am the proud mother of six babies.  (Two in heaven) whose accomplishments mean more to me than an Olympic gold medal, and a husband who is my heart light.
  • I have a divorce that is healthy.  My ex-husband, his beautiful wife, her kids, and ours are blended.  We have Christmas, birthdays, and Easter, together.  We shield one another in the dark times and celebrate the joys in life.  They are my husband and my two children together godparents.  If anything happens to Alan and I, all my babies will be together in the best care I could ever imagine.

All of those things I didn’t accomplish on my own. I once had a deeply rooted relationship with Jesus and loved my Lord more than myself.  When I left Him I still continued to soar, yet slowly crumbled deeper than the sky could lift me up.On the cliff of greatness in 2014 looking off into the sunset of finally becoming a published author I knew this would top anything else I had done in my life.  Yet I was only touching the surface of my journey back to God, deeply I was falling vastly into depression and drinking.  I was alone.  Because I chose isolation.  From church  from God, from friends. I was too busy building my business, writing my books, and well for lack of better words trying to drown my sorrows.

 

I ended up drinking myself into a horrible mess, dipping deeper and darker into depression.  I called a suicide help line one night.  I felt so lost, my dad had left…again….my past was ruining me, haunting me, nightmares made my turmoil happen over and over every night so I’d stay up all night working and numbing myself into a place where my sleep wouldn’t hit the stage of dreams.  The police came to my house at three am to make sure I wasn’t going to hurt myself, waking my husband up to attest to the fact that I wouldn’t kill myself was one of my darkest moments.  The fear in his eyes was enough.  Enough to find the inner will to fight the greatest storm of my life.

A week after I called the suicide hotline I hit it.  The cement wall holding the ability to crack my skull open and leave misery-drenched in the form of red, fluid that holds the breath of death, with no hope of reconciliation.

I decided to quit drinking cold turkey soon after a dreaded night to my realization that I wouldn’t have reacted that way if I had been sober.  I mean really, me in a screaming match?  Nope,  not reality, not truth, not the grace God has instilled in me.

The whole next day, horribly hung over, I laid in my bed alone, I covered the windows with the darkest of blankets and cried.  I shook with withdrawal symptoms and when my older boys got home from school I instructed them to come up as I had to tell them something.

They entered my room sorrowful from the sheer greeting of a black room and a clearly sick mom.  They had no idea my drinking had gotten out of control as I was  the master of deception.  Remember, if I fail I’m not loved.  It’s what my parents taught me.  What else would I know?

I told my boys that I had an altercation with our neighbors and some changes were on the horizon.  My oldest son Caleb said, “Mom you need to get involved in church.  You need community, I’m worried about you because I know you and this isn’t you.”  Caleb looked around the dark sullen room and my listless body still in bed at 4 pm with compassion and concern.

My oldest son Caleb said, “Mom you need to get involved in church.  You need community, I’m worried about you because I know you and this isn’t you.”  He peered upon the dark sullen room and my listless body still in bed at 4 pm with compassion and concern.

Yet the only thing that was was in me was anger.

Church?

God!?

A God who only took from me, who wrecked me taking my two infant boys, Caleb’s health, my innocence, my father?   The love I yearned for but never received from my mother.  NO WAY would I ever serve Him again.  I was so faithful in my youth and He still gave me nothing but adult years of suffering.

My children left heartbroken seeing their mother who was usually strong lying on a bed that had the stench of death.  The woman who they watched make dreams turn into reality was truly giving up.  I can’t even imagine the pain I placed on their young hearts.

Twenty-four hours after my last drink I went into delirium tremens (DT’s) which is a possible, fatal condition caused by severe alcohol withdrawal.  I write in more detail in my upcoming book about how this felt, but I can paraphrase and say it was like a nightmarish light show that was evil instead of in celebration. Streamers fell from the sky in a brilliance of color, but it didn’t feel like the fourth of July it felt like the end of life. I reached up to grab what seemed real only to see it dissipate in the confines of my pale  hands.  Rock bottom never looked so colorful and felt so regretful.

The next morning being the hypochondriac I am, I googled ‘hallucinations after ceasing alcohol’.  Of course,  every site said get yourself to an emergency room because you could die

Deep inside me,  I knew I didn’t actually want to go to be with the Jesus yet, so I had my husband Alan take me to the local ER.  Staff became serious extremely fast as I was admitted,  and I was placed on a “seizure” watch in fear that I could seize and die.

My initial fleeting moment of wanting to die weeks earlier could become a reality and in the grips of such deafening possibility of truth I held on like I had never fought in my life before.

I saw Alan.

Caleb.

Cameron.

Trasen.

Lilia.

Mostly I saw me.

My potential.  What I meant to people.

My smile.

My love, soul, gifts, and deep torment that can be used to gift those going through the same.

I fought so hard I felt like my hero Rocky Balboa after his fight with the Russian.  Beaten, yet ultimately blanketed with a title belt around my waist.

The doctors at that point recommended rehab for dual diagnosis depression and alcoholism, with  my pride fighting to hold me back…I went.

Being in a facility akin to the darkest of places a person can go was a creation within my being I wasn’t accustomed to.  Giving in to failure, not clinging to my success. I heard stories much more tortuous than mine.  I saw heroin addicts, suicide attempts, schizophrenics, deeply depressed people and severe eating disorders.

And in that my chains were broken, for we are all at the throne.  We all struggle no matter our life path.

All of the unlovely sat at the table we ate our meals at and we loved one another, while Jesus sat at the head of the table I actually felt Him and knew through His stripes we were healed.

Eight painfully beneficial days later I left and something on the last day during one of our group meetings we were told that seventy percent of us will relapse.  \

Seventy percent of you will fail.

In essence, that means thirty percent win this battle.  And I’m really good at winning, my prideful self-self-declared.

 

But instead of victory, this time,I became a statistic. One month later I was back.

I had become the seventy percent.

In the months that followed my second visit to Rogers Memorial Hospital, I rewrote both of my books that were crafted in a non-authentic clear-minded way.  I completely stopped drinking and went on this amazing adventure that a year later brought me back to my best friend, Jesus.

 

My son was insightful in giving me powerful words from the throne of God that we thrive when we have people rallying around us not trying to cope on our own. Two are always better than one.

 

We need each other to thrive, grow, prosper, and be kept accountable.

 

In this increasingly hard time in my life with my Caleb going to college and feeling like a quarter of my heart is in Minneapolis for the first time in a while I’ve been struggling.

 

God has called me to greatness, He has predestined me to write my story of addiction and childhood/adult abandonment and how I overcame impossible odds to find my destiny  Yet, first I have to arrive.

Again I stand at the brinks of a multitude of choices to deal with transition and the pulling question of which direction will I take?  Will I allow evil to spit the ugliness of sin on my face  or will I shower myself with the grace of a Savior filed with ultimate possibility?

In my young life abandonment meant if I wasn’t the picture of perfection I wasn’t loved.  In my mid-life my parents exude the same standard.  For I’ve been shown that if I mess up, or am less than righteous, love simply leaves.  It is gone, sometimes forever. That is why sharing this with you all is so hard for me.  For I am flawed, and so blessed to have you all hugging me and praying for me in a church that is anointed and blessed, yet if you know my darkness will you still offer me light?  This hasn’t been my history so it is hard to grasp that it could be my future.

 

And I do know that my bullet point of my greatest accomplishments mean nothing, yet I needed to state them for fear of loss.  Of love, fellowship, and YOU.  Each and everyone of you who meet my eyes on a weekly basis and pray with me when I leave the service to grab a tissue because I miss my oldest boy.  I love each and everyone of you.  And I pray you still love me, even though I’m flawed, gravitated toward forgetting, and a broken child of God.

 

My shame in the perils of escape through drugs and alcohol have defined me for many years.  Success that many will never see has also defined me for many years.  And the God in my soul says NO!  None of it matters, success or failure He accepts me and hugs me like the father I long for.

 

Jesus is the King and through it is well.  Simply put… it is well with my soul.

 

Friends, I will NEVER be perfect, but I will forever need love. In my life my idea of my perfections have been rewarded with love, and mistakes that are punished with the very worst form of torture;  isolation. And sadly, as this was done to me by my parents as a child and still as an adult, it was what I gave myself in 2014.

 

If I’m writing books or in rehab,  I’m flawed, ugly with shame and still have the ability to fall.  So many thanks to you to my new family at Journey Church. I even obtained the mentor I have been praying for through her testimony one Sunday at church, of her struggle of parental abandonment and addiction.  Since then we meet regularly, she keeps me accountable and Alan and I are attending our first life group with her on Thursday…

That is community!!  The essence of where two or more is gathered greatness is imminent.  Isolation provokes death for your soul and body, yet communion invites prosperity and more joy than we can conjure up in our minds.
The chasm of greatness brings me to the soaring cliff of stamina where we all have the ability to jump to the other side of healing. That we are forever free, falling into the hands of grace and eternal forgiveness.

Courage Forward

A letter to my oldest son who is on the brinks of leaving home and going to college. Join me as I give him my ten tips that I have learned when I was in his shoes.

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To My Oldest Boy,

After turning forty nearly two years ago, I found myself completely perplexed as to why people find such a milestone to be a negative impact on their lives.  I mean, I felt like I was chasing a lifelong dream of becoming an author, had a beautiful marriage, wonderful children who were equally making their dreams come true, and still felt and looked super young.  I just didn’t get the whole hating on forty thing…

But what I’ve discovered your last year in high school, Caleb, is that it isn’t an age that  manifests itself as a presence, yet a moment such as you graduating high school that can carry such a heavy burden.  This has truly been a year of reflection for me~yet also a year of beautiful discovery.  I’ve pondered your eighteen years as if it were a test I was studying for or a book I was researching to write.  It was as if I had all of a sudden woke up out my  normalcy to discover that “normal” was about to change, BIG TIME.  I would no longer have all four of my babies under one roof.  But more so, I wouldn’t be apart of your everyday life.  I mean, come on, that is a GIANT pill for a mother to swallow.  Letting go is the ache of the heart, the impossible filtration of the mind, and the awkward pull of the universe.  People have struggled with letting go for as long as God has had us walking this strange place called Earth.

Trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I am old enough to have a child heading to college, I;ve come up with ten things that I think you should take with you.  So here are my top ten things you should experience in this next exciting, personal roadmap years of your life:

  1. Play football in the middle of the night.  You just need to do this, no questions asked.  Find some friends, an empty field, a pigskin, and go for it.  You’ll laugh more than you know possible.
  2. Take a road trip to somewhere you’ve never been.  Cram yourself in a car (safely of course) and take off with your best of friends.  Laugh, play the music way too loud and discover a new landmark that you would have never seen if you hadn’t followed your life’s calling to go to another state to attend college.
  3. Talk to someone new.  One of greatest I things I admire about your dad is that in college at our Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Thursday night meetings he would find a person he didn’t know every week, and talk to them.  He would make them feel welcome, blanket them with the comfort of fellowship.  Because this is what it’s all about, right?
  4. Courage forward.  Find someone who is insecure but has no reason to be and point out all the brilliance they exude.  I know you will find this because I have taught you so.  Hug a classmate who has had less than you in this life and buy them lunch, or heck something more.  Take a person in need into your heart and fill them with all the love I know you have to give.
  5. Branch out of school and church.  You have to expand your circle more than just the Christian bubble that you will be cocooned in.  Meet people that are different from you and learn from them.  God brings us His people that need to  be ministered to that are often times not found in church or chapel.  Look at Jesus and the company he kept, blessed, and eventually saved.  Those are the people who need us more than our awesome Christian brothers and sisters.
  6. Run far away from judgment and legalism.  One of the greatest regrets I have during my college years was a legalistic, judgemental call I made in the name of God.  Shame on me for not being a bridesmaid in my sister in law’s wedding because she was marrying a non-Christian.  That is not my conviction to place and it is not our job to guilt people into God’s kingdom.  It is our calling to love.  That is how people will see Jesus through us. 
  7. Fall in love.  Fall in love with friends, mentors, pastors, teachers, parents, and anyone who may need your love on them like the air we breathe. Some of your life long friends will be met in the years to come.  Enjoy every one of them and relish every time you say, “I love you, bro.”
  8. Call home.  Yes, this may sound self-serving (and maybe it is, a little…) but the reality is you have this huge prayer and love chain residing in your childhood home that would love to hear all of your adventures.  Your youngest sibling, Lilia, will be almost 8 when you graduate college.  EEEEEkkkkkk.  I know you want her to have your stunning influence all over her heart.
  9. Take a class that you have absolutely no interest in.  You never know what you may get out of it, and how God may use you through the experience.  It’s always good to try new things throughout your entire life.
  10. Journal, journal, and journal.  One of the things I value the most in this life are my journals.  I know I’m a writer, but even if that is or isn’t your life’s path, writing your life journey is POWERFUL!  Not only does it help you filter through what you are going through in that moment, it is also your story to look back on.  Your history, the memoir of God’s remarkable presence in every step of your walk you were meant to take.

So, my son, as I drop you off in two weeks at the doorstep of your next adventure, and I travel back to find my new normalcy, please take with you,  my heart, my words, and yes my blogs.  No, just kidding, my life experiences, that in essence have always existed to share with you and your siblings.  My ventures as well as yours, are meant to grow, root and propel the remarkable people you will encounter in times of greatness and in moments of struggle.  My sweet oldest boy, that is what life is all about.

 

I love you always and forever,

 

~Mom

All of My Sacrifice

We find our whole world in upheaval by one singular moment in time altering the axis of our normalcy. Dealing with such situations has proven tough for me, no matter the occurrence, or for lack of better words, change totally stinks!

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Major life changes have a way of doing funny things to you.  We’ve all had to deal with the swift change of the winds as it rises the shifting tides in our life.  For some reason, the stirring up of the norm creates a strange response in the human brain.  More like a plea that sounds something like this: “Wait, slow down God, I was fine before.  I actually liked the way things were going.  I WAS COMFORTABLEWait, what, this is really going to happen…no!!!!!!

Then we find our whole world in upheaval by one singular moment in time altering the axis  of our normalcy.  Dealing with such situations has proven tough for me, no matter the occurrence, or for lack of better words, change totally stinks.

As many of my readers know, my oldest son is going into the world in three weeks.  This new journey called…college.  But the strangest thing I have to wrap my mind around is that he is going there without me.

I mean this is a crazy concept, right!?  For real, how can my child, my baby, my flesh and blood, the tiny little creature that formed inside my body and made me love more than I ever knew how to love….leave me?

I’ve spent the past year of my life trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my oldest of four babies here on earth will be flying into the next.  Even though it has seemed like miles away as I’ve processed the idea of him leaving, I’m faced with the fact that his impending departure has turned into…now.  

We all deal with the idea of major change in different ways.  Some people crumble into the fetal position and cling to the past, some turn to a new outlet of social ties to help them through and some eat too much ice cream…I’ve done all of the above plus more…

  1.  I’ve cried.  A lot.  Probably to an embarrassing degree.  When I took Caleb to NCU for an audition for a music scholarship, encompassed in the next home that he would eventually have, I couldn’t stop the cascade of tears pouring from my eyes.  I felt like I was in a relay race handing the baton off to the next leg in the chase.   
  2. I’ve rejoiced.  My son has made me more proud than I could have ever dreamed.  While this past year he has pulled away and I’ve clung to one last hug, he has shown me that he is ready to make his impact on this world.  He is capable and ready to walk out my door and into the amazing journey that awaits him.  As I’ve rejoiced in the man he has become I have to pause and know that he will take with him all that I have given him.  Even the smallest of lessons like how to not ruin your clothes by putting them in the dryer on “hot”.  I’ve smiled a lot this past year rejoicing at all he was and the magnificent, intelligent and capable creature he has become.  
  3. I’ve tried to hold on.  I’ve pushed myself on him, wanting more, begging, hoping he would give me what I needed.  But in the midst,  I was missing the lesson that people never give us all of what we want but most importantly, what we need.  People innately fail us, yet, God gives us what we need.  Yet the one last glance, one talk, one hug I longed for came to me in the simplest of forms, in sparkles of hope and rejoice, and not all from Caleb himself.  His friends blanketed themselves around me this past year.  Sharing with me tales of how my boy impacted their lives. The smile that placated their faces as they spoke of him truly showed me the love my son is giving the world.  Yet, every interaction with my boy somehow felt like a “last” until I realized that instead of goodbye, this next season in our lives as mother and son is a new hello.  It is indeed a brand new beginning of a bright change in our relationship.  I’ve done my duty, now he will do his.
  4. I’ve learned to let go.  Every time I’ve watched him leave this year I’ve imagined it being when I drop him off at college and he walks through the doors of his new exciting life. I know it sounds ridiculously dramatic, yet, it has felt all too real to me.  To have one less child at the dinner table, to not be a part of his every decision, his undertakings, successes,  and failures.  I’ll never forget one of the most tender moments I’ve ever shared with my son.  When he 10 years old, after fighting 6 years of type one diabetes we shared a very powerful moment.  He was mad.  Angry, sick and tired of needles, finger pokes, highs,  and lows.  And so was I.  He melted in my arms and told me how frustrated he was with the failure of his body.  I held him tight and proclaimed that I was really mad as well.  Then we cried together.  Probably the last time I’ve seen my son shed real salt water tears.  I wanted him to know that life isn’t always perfect and that is okay, we receive ebbs and flows, joys and sorrows and to feel them is the presence of God, for this is all He has intended for us…the challenges and the blessings.

Yet as a mother my mind has drifted to a question as my son leaves me~who, now, is going to wipe away his tears?  

Letting go is the hardest thing to do.  No matter the instance.  Saying goodbye is brutal, echoing a heartache that makes one fall to their knees begging for a remarkable pardon from the feeling of absence.  Yet I know deep in my heart that he will always be with me.  For how could he not be?  He is and always will be one of the four greatest parts of my mind, body, and soul.  That’s called being a mother, and it doesn’t cease when they graduate high school and move on to the next phase of their lives.  

On Caleb’s graduation invites,  I had captured the scripture, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

It seemed fitting.  Yet, now I know who this scripture was really for…and that was indeed, me.  God is telling me that I will be okay, my boy is ready to fly, and I am so ready to watch him soar!  My Lord is comforting me in saying that Caleb leaving is a gift of promise not a burden of goodbye.  I’ve made mistakes and made promises I couldn’t keep.  I’ve let him down, yet I’ve given him all of me.  All of my sacrifice, my word, my lessons, my laughter, my work ethic, my mind, my servitude, my earnings, and my blood, sweat and tears.  I’ve given it all.  We love and breathe and provide everything thing for our children, and then we receive the greatest prize ever, a child walking into the world with promise, hope, and dreams of a future.  The tricky thing for me this past twelve months is finding how I will fit into this new world.  Yet God has taught me that life is a cycle of giving, nurturing, loving, teaching, losing, falling, winning, and finally letting go.

If you see me in the months to come beaming with joy and pride, or glossy eyes missing my boy know that I have done my job, and I may need a hug…

Please enjoy the song that inspired this blog post…Empires by Hillsong UNITED!

 

The Everything​ that Holds Me Back From Your everything.

When God tells us to let go we hold on tighter. Is that the root inside us saying that we are afraid of excellence or is the enemy burning us of our greatness as he only has a last ditch effort-or both? Follow me as I find out…

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Your Grace Abounds in Deepest Waters~ Hillsong United

Last night I had the privilege of seeing one of the greatest worship bands of all time on the last leg of their US tour.  As I danced, sang, and worshiped my heart out at Hillsong United’s Chicago finale concert I was brought to a place I haven’t been in a long time.  A place of complete and total surrender.  Because grace is not deserving  of  the abundance  God gives and can be perplexing, so we shun it because it simply doesn’t make sense.  Yet I’ve had the privilege of  receiving God’s grace first-hand several times in my life.  First, as a wandering young adult who could have chosen loss yet somehow someway chose a life  changing life.  (Through that, Grace brought me one of the greatest joys of my life to this day.)  Second, as a young adult who could have vanished at the hand of my own hand with an eating disorder that left me thin, depleted, and not as in control as I thought I was.  Third, as a middle aged woman still longing for love and seeking it in all the wrong avenues, through a mind-numbing state.  Doing so after a life of abandonment and loss of two infant baby boys in the span of 18 months.  This time a clear liquid found in a bottle saying it was my friend and my escape, I clung to.  Sure felt like grace at the time, yet it brought me nothing but sorrow, emotion of the evil kind, and so much devastation.  That is where the true forgiveness came.  When I was at my deepest darkest lowest cavern, Grace was with me when I wasn’t with it.

“As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'”  ~Romans 9:33:

Shame.  It comes it waves and it can wash over me faster and swifter than any tsunami that claims the land.  The sun sets and that is when it seeks me out the most.  When smiles fade and eyes list off to slumber is when it wakes me up from my hope of rest.  Shame speaks mountains yet God overshadows all with earth shadowing lights that blind our view of what we believe.  That is what I saw last night at the concert of a lifetime. With my teenage son, my eight-year-old son, and my husband by my side.  Lights come, rains pour down, and prophets sit and wait.  But if we cannot reckon our shame we are lost…in a sea of excellence made yet not received and that makes us simply a facade.  

This is me.

When I am sober, I am a force to be questioned by the enemy.  A force that God uses to move mountains and build bridges of struggle yet knowledge and peace of salvation.  I know the gift He has given me.

Yet I struggle so deep and far  into the past…

To numb the loss.

And my fear.

The pain I’ve suffered in this life.

I know what promise lies ahead for me, yet I fight them internally in a deep battle greater than all that has come before and will go into the sun.  Because that is what happens when the darkness is threatened.  I’ve overcome so much in my life.  Why is this addiction the most difficult so far?

I’ve overcome so much in my life.  Why is this addiction the most difficult so far?

Grace, what have You done?
Murdered for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in Your blood  ~Hillsong United

The cross has taught me to live.  At church this morning my pastor delivered a grace-filled message that ripped me open and left me tearful and broken.  I feel the enemy has been working my whole life to tear apart the very things Jesus can use, the gifts I have despite the struggle, or more so because of the struggle to serve Him better.  My pastor spoke of the fact that “I’m not judging you, that you should judge yourself.”  And that, “The enemy is going to barricade you inside your hell to hold you back when you have come to know Him.”

Yes.  And Yes.

Judging myself alone, I know the idol I need to leave at the altar.

Alcohol.  My bitter enemy and most pretty war that calls me king: and gives me false joy.

The enemy haunts me down: even though I rededicated my life to Jesus six months ago and was baptized in the warm waters of Wisconsin last week… indeed I’m being attacked.

Can I overcome, yes!~

Am I predestined for greatness?

Indeed, I am.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

As the showcase of lights danced on and the bombard of music sold my soul and the cadence of song continued in my heart to call me home, I clung to the cross that has declared that I let go of the one last lie.

The last everything that holds me back from everything God has planned for me.

So tonight as I write to God, to you, to me.  I say this, that  I want more.

God has given me a promise of forever.  I want this to be it, a mercy seeking greatness that has been promised to me by my King.

Tonight my husband said something to me that moved barriers, “I need to hold onto the love that has been sung to me last night in the form of a voice so beautiful.  A voice that said to me this morning in the form of a splendor of a speaker that God is using on this earth in the form of the leader of our church.  Through the example our church used in a woman who bore her deepest soul on a stage that shown her every dark moment, yet draped in me all that I am and all that I fear and hurt so deeply.

As an author, many of you know God has called me to tell my story of childhood/adulthood parental abandonment, divorce, success, love, progress, and addiction.  After an extremely convicting Saturday night spent with one of the greatest worship bands of all time, and a Sunday morning spent with a Journey Forward pastor who calls out and loves the people of his church as God has called him to do, I am left feeling challenged.  To pierce through the dark and become all I am meant to become in spite of the enemy in the prime of my greatness.  Not the pain, abandonment, fear, and anguish that makes me want to numb my future greatness.

So, I encourage you all to fight hard and find your greatest purpose God has for you no matter the challenge you may deem impossible.  Join me in my journey as I say, my God,

I am Yours and You are Mine.

Enjoy the song that inspired this blog:

The Wish Flower

God’s beauty comes in so many forms we miss them every day. What if your ugliest of secrets could be used to be His most beautiful of testimonies? Join me in finding our inner wish flower!

Every now and then in life, a wish has the potential to manifest into reality.  Possibly, a plush garden that we are set free in and given free reign to grow and prosper.  But in all reality, nothing of the sort comes without a lot of hard work dedication and sacrifice.  A short time ago I clearly heard the voice of God telling me that He has extraordinary plans for me…perhaps a stunning garden of my own to dance and sing in if only I was ready….  

I saw a vision so magnificent chills prickled my skin to the point of ache.  My eyes filled with tears filtered through a colander crafted by Hope.  The kind of desire only God’s promises can bring, those created with the purest of gold.  The sun formulated shadows on the stunning Wisconsin landscape as I envisioned my dream turning into reality, for as we all know God doesn’t lie. Holding on to the peak that God had just given me, I imagined myself right where my Maker had told me I could be…

But under one very important condition, one that I wasn’t sure I could meet.

I had to give up my last vice, the one that had been plaguing me for the better part of my adult life.  My poison, my escape, my greatest lie yet what I oddly considered to be my very best friend.

God clearly told me “no more one foot in, one foot out!”  He declared that in order for me to fulfill the destiny He has laid out in front of me I had to stop blowing on the wish flower hoping my dreams would come true.  It was time for me to become the wish flower.

Early in springtime, our green grass is filled with bright yellow weeds we call dandelions. Most of us find them to be a hassle, an annoyance, and something that eventually turns into a feathery mess that only creates millions of more ugly weeds.

Each and every one of my four children in the innocence of childhood found such “ugliness” to be a flower that they could pick for me.  When my three boys were little they would run to me with a handful of the golden weeds, proudly handing me what they saw as a dozen yellow roses.  Of course, my eyes lit up and I kissed them harder than they liked.  I’d put those darn, hideous things in a cup of water and place them where all could see.  They were flowers from my sons after all.

Recently my youngest child, my one, and only daughter discovered the brilliant abundance of flowers everywhere her eyes could scan!  The same glory shone on her face as she picked as many as her small hands could hold to present to me.  I smiled and warmly held on to the memory of my older boys doing so as preschoolers and finding myself so blessed that I got to be the recipient of dozens and dozens of dandelions one last time.

As the weeds went to seed I taught my daughter to pick one, close your eyes tight, make a wish, then blow!  We had so much fun running in the meadows captivating our wishes and watching them fly in the wind.  A few days later my daughter and I were on a walk and she declared with her sweet angel voice:  “Mommy,  let’s pick the wish flower.”  As she tugged on my hand dragging me over to a dandelion that was resigned to nothing but a bunch of white seeds held on by a frail material that would scatter with the slightest of winds, she picked one for herself and then one for me.

“Blow, mommy, blow the wish flower.”

In sweet unison we sent the seeds out to pasture with all the breath we could muster. Fragments of the once robust weed were sent in every direction to cultivate the next season of the ugly weeds life.

I took great pause looking at a stinky old weed through the eyes of my children, and in that moment I realized how similar I am to that “flower”.

Often times I feel less than desirable and misplaced.  An annoyance that shouldn’t be adored as a “real” flower, but merely one that only looks like one from a distance.  

Standing there watching the tiny buds of future life fly in the sky destined for their landing place I realized that is how God uses us.  He takes our “yuk” our undesirable and unlovely things to plant the earth with His mercy, grace, and beauty for all to look on in awe.  I’ve discovered through struggle and past turmoil that our past where we no longer live, but where we can be used in tremendous ways.

Of course,  the catch twenty-two is we can’t live there anymore if we are destined to do the work God has in store for us.  We have to move past the comfortability that holds us back, whatever the last straw is, we have to break free and move into the light and testimony of the calling He has on our lives.

A few days later I did it!  I leaped into the arms of promise and purpose giving up my crutch and truly began living, soaring toward the woman God has in store for me.  I’m ready for Him to breathe new life into me and blow my seeds all over this world.  For every part of me, broken and beautiful is wonderfully and fearfully made and God has promised me that He will use it all for His glory.  

For as a daughter of God, I am His wish flower.