Monday, November 24, 2014

The Places I've Been

I've been to some of the darkest places a human would 
rather not. I've felt the hands of evil, as a young child and
as a grown woman.
Hands that had the power 
for many years to rule my mind 
and my life.
I've had drama in friendships and relationships end poorly.
I've been to dark places in my marriage. 
Where I've barricaded myself
in the closet, with intentions to never exit.
I've gone to the place of utter despair in regard to
my own personal view of myself, through
eating disorders and physical harm.
Self hate is no place to be.
I've hidden in a dark cave, covered in shame.
Physically, I've experienced more
pain than most humans will ever feel in
their lifetime.
I've gone to places in my heart, I never thought I could, both
pretty and ugly. I've lusted,
been envious,
and stole.
I've forgiven, been forgiven, shown mercy, gave grace and 
lived a life of compassion. Those are unnatural to us
humans most of the time.
I allowed to let my self and God take me there.
I've been transformed internally and
 am embracing character building
all the day long.
But I've never been away from my physical elements for more
than weeks at a time.
I've never lived without my husband for an extendeded
amount of time.
I didn't expect my daughter to not spend a holiday 
with her family, but with a man that torments her soul.
These are places I did not expect to go.
I've never been a soldier, leaving behind his family
to serve his country.
I've never been a missionary, living abroad away from
all that's familiar.
I've never even been a college student, living out of my 
element for four years.
I've never had a job transfer.
Aside from being evicted as a single mom,
I've been lonely, desperate, burned out and at my witts end.
I've been mean, rude, and uncharming.
I've always had physical element comforts right with me.
I can be up in arms completely out of whack and all
mixed up, and 
still be ok knowing
 that my real landing place is God's heart.
I could be in a card board box on the corner of Hennepin
in the middle of a Minnesota winter, and still not be shaken.
That's how anchoring God's peace and love is.
He's showing me a new thing, and I'm not liking it so much.
But I need to go to more places, 
if I'm to be used for my highest purpose.
I didn't want to go to the other places either, but
the evil in the world provided some of those
and God pulled me through and brought beauty out of it all.
He'll do the same for this.
I just have to believe.
And I do.
We must go to the places we are unsure of, and trust that God
will use us in the process and in the outcome.
Going to unseen, unknown, unfamiliar places, bring
about goodness, and beauty if we let it.
Consider it a privilege.
At least that's what I'm doing.
Anything that is hard, is worth it.
I challenge you to go there.
Ya, you'll be mixed up and out of sorts like
I am, but you'll land safely to a new place, showing
and teaching you all you need to know.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marriage:A Paradigm Shift

Disclaimer: This post or "advice" does not apply to women/men that are in a domestic abuse situation. I do not condone that behavior and would never suggest to stay in a relationship as so.

As per usual, I'm going to get pretty honest with you. Some people have wondered and asked why I talk about my marriage the way I do. There are two reasons. The first is because I don't know any other way to be. For me, personally, I don't feel I am being true and living authentically if I put on a show or pretend my marriage is OK, or even great, when it was not for many years. That's just me though, I am not saying everyone thinks or feels that way. For me, I have got to be real, I don't know any other way to live. And being real, means being transparent, open and vulnerable enough to share and keep it out in the open. Now there are a few things that I have not shared, that I will be writing in my book.
The second reason I share is because I want to be a vessel for others. I hope to generate hope for others in their marriages or in their own personal life. I wouldn't be sharing if I didn't see the need and I didn't hear the need--people have reached out, they want to hear from me. I am no expert, but I have been through hell and back for 7 years in my marriage and I made a nearly impossible thing work. I know others struggle, and others need our stories, because it brings them hope, it helps them to realize they are not alone.

When I met my husband almost 14 years ago, I thought he was and was going to be my "knight and shining armor"! I  had such high hopes and high expectations. He was bound to fail me.

I basically had a plan written out for him as to how he was going to behave and love me. And if he didn't do it that way, I'd sure make him. What a fool I was.

I put so much pressure on my husband for such unrealistic things, and when the pressure sunk in, he started to sink too. Now I am not saying it's my fault for his behaviors, I am just setting up a picture for all of you. The only person responsible for their behaviors is the person themselves.
I am going to share with you what has worked for me through the years, I'm not going to re-write about what happened because I wrote about that here , here, here, here, here , here, and here.

I don't think I am alone in saying that either my marriage specifically has not gone the way I thought it would or that my spouse specifically is not what I thought I wanted or I am disappointed in my spouse. However you want to spin it or word it, I know I am not alone in frustration, disappointment, heartache, and confusion. I want to offer you some insight that has helped me for the last 6 years or so. I say my wilderness time in marriage for me was about 8 years. I consider myself out of suffering and out of the wilderness to date.

1.) Look within-Find it in your soul to get brave and look within instead of looking at him. What I mean by this is stop looking and seeing all that is wrong with HIM and look at finding some things that might be wrong with you. It's one of the hardest tasks, but the most rewarding. I was so focused on all my husband wasn't giving me, what he was doing wrong, what he wasn't saying, and on and on that I needed to stop all of that in it's tracks---even though a lot of it was wrong and not ok of him---I needed to stop. I was out of control by constantly zeroing in on his faults and his poor behaviors and I wasn't doing myself any favors by doing this. When I say look within, I mean pray, seek, ask. Ask God to reveal your heart, look for something that you might not have seen before. Look for your own shortcomings so you can find a way to improve upon them. What I'm basically saying is find the things that you are doing that might not be helping, but hurting. Ouch, that's hard. We all have our own ugliness to deal with, we just are afraid to go there. I'm saying go.

2.) Your Husband Is Human-Seems simple right? Obvious? Well it wasn't to me. Gosh, I pegged my husband as Superman. Eye yuy yuy. But what girl doesn't want her Superman or a super hero? I put so much of what was impossible on him. It wasn't until he fell flat on his face in sin and mental illness and shattered my world that I realized that he was human. Just a regular, ol', fallen, broken, messed up human. It was not easy seeing my husband on his knees begging for mercy--actually it was one of the most beautiful things I ever did see, but not easy to see before me. Gaining the perspective that my husband is fallen, broken, fleshy, messed up, confused and in need of God, was the start of some things for me. I was able to muster up compassion.I was able to see him as I saw myself--just a helpless girl who needed a Savior and love, forgiveness and grace.

3.) Back off-This is one of the things I say the most to people that ask. Just leave your husband alone. I see how us women can handle things. Especially after we've been wronged or hurt. We have our obnoxious comments, we get little jabs in, we remind him of all he's done wrong, we try to change and fix him and his issues, it's never ending. We have endless "add-ons" and we need to just zip it. I had to back off because my husband was not hearing one word for 4 years practically. I literally tried to get him to hear me in every possible way you can imagine for 4 years straight. It wasn't happening. I learned through counseling how to live and manage and it worked for me. And today my husband has come around, but that does not mean every man will. I desperately needed him to hear me and for him to understand me, but it wasn't happening. He couldn't hear me because of the place he was at internally, (that's a whole other blog post). And whatever he needed to hear, whether I was right or wrong, it couldn't come from me. Sometimes our husbands can't hear it from us.
I had to edit myself like you wouldn't believe. It was a constant state of editing, you'd think I was a producer or something. I backed off, took care of myself, and decided to start hoping. Hope is hard sometimes because it's almost like we are hoping for a particular outcome, that may or may not happen. But I was ok with that, because hope is all I had. It takes bravery to hope.
So now that I have just told you to leave your husband alone and let him or someone else deal with his issues, let's move onto number 4.

4.) Ask Direct Questions-Whenever I would hear the phase, "He can't read your mind" I never understood what that meant. But what it means is we think that if it is perfectly clear in our minds how something should be or how something should go down, whether with the kids, or dinner or whatever plans we are thinking, we assume he agrees, and sees it exactly like we do. I'm here to tell you he doesn't. Not at all. A man's brain and a woman's brain are like complete opposites. It's annoying, I know. I can not begin to tell you how differently he thinks than you do. What is simple and plain as day easy to do to you, is not at all for him. And communicating is no easy thing either especially when you have kids calling your name all day long. But if you can gain this perspective, I swear you can gain the whole world!!! Not only are men and women's brains different, which means they are wired differently, but just as mere humans even in same gender relationships they have the same kind of issues because we are all different. Our family lives growing up, our life experiences, our life happenings and our beliefs...all shape who and how we are. I'm basically saying that we all think differently and we all process differently so we can't expect that our spouse will think like we do and process like we do. Yet we seem to expect them to? We can be passive aggressive or assume they know what we want. I'm telling you they probably don't! I know in a perfect world they would know what we want already but it doesn't work that way! We  have got to give them room to be who they are, without our strong, controlling personalities trying to make it be a certain way. If you want something done, ask him if he can or will do it. Yes, he "should" be doing things around the house and he "should" know to do it, but he doesn't. Or at least for some reason, he won't. SO, let's deal in realities. Ask him straight up a direct question, so you get a YES OR NO answer. If he says no, find someone else to do it, or do it yourself. And move on. Again, right or wrong, doesn't necessarily matter, because we are dealing with reality. Then make sure there is a plan that you both agree on and that you both know how something will go down. This will cause a lot less heartache, trust me.

5.) Share How You Feel-When you want to tell your husband that something isn't good between the two of you, or that something is hurting you, go ahead. Just make sure you tell him in a healthy way, using "I" statements. Don't point the finger at all he isn't doing and all he's doing wrong, that will make things worse. Focus on speaking from your heart and your point of view, and leave it at that. He may get defensive, he may not. If he does get defensive, at least you did your part in speaking up and that's all you can do. Typically, if you give your husband/spouse enough breathing room without attacking him with too many words, he will come around. Give him the space he needs to think and be and react. Us women are so strong and forceful, we need to relax. I think because of our perfectionism, and idealism when it comes to the household and children, we are very harsh with our husbands. I have found the more I back off and give him time, the more he will come around. But remember when you are sharing how you feel, keep the focus on you, not him, otherwise it turns into nagging and criticism.

6.) You Won't Get All You Want/Need-This is a hard pill to swallow. It was very difficult for me to learn this. But when I did, it helped me cope so much. I even learned that not one girlfriend alone can give me all I want. What a novel thought! It just means that each person has different values, gifts, and contributions. We are all looking for ways to get our needs met and one of the main ways we do that is by putting that all on our spouses. And it is not going to happen. If there is something you want from him that you aren't getting, ask him about it first, and then look for other sources. I am talking about possibly emotional support that you want, but your husband doesn't seem to give it to you. Or maybe you wish he was funny and you want some humor in your life, well, you might have to go find someone else that will make you laugh! Maybe you wish your husband was a shopper, but he's not, that's ok, find someone that will shop with you! There are many examples of ways we are not getting our needs or wants met. We can do something about it. I was naive and had watched too many fairy tale movies I guess.

7). You Always Have A Choice-I am not here to tell you that you have to stay in a marriage that you are just completely unfulfilled or unhappy in. I'm actually not here to tell you anything, I am just here to share with you a bit I have gained from the hell I lived in. This is MY PERSONAL experience and my story, it doesn't mean it's the same for you! This is what I had to do to survive. I made a choice to stay in the marriage because I could not support myself financially and I had health issues. Had I not, who's to say I would not have left? Now I stay because I want to be married to my husband and he ended up coming around in his own time. I changed before he did. So this is not easy work. And sometimes they don't come around, and sometimes we never change. It's always a choice to change or not change. To do the hard work, or to not. To stay or to not. You have a choice. It's an option. But I wouldn't leave until you have literally gone down"kicking and screaming". Most things are ugly before they become beautiful, just like a butterfly. Cheesy, but true. The process for that cocoon is not pretty, or easy. But if you are willing to literally give it all you've got and make a fool out of yourself along the way, I'd say you have a fat chance. I, at one point even left and went to a women's shelter, and I was not being physically abused. I was so judged for that. People thought I was crazy. But I was welcomed there with my 15 year old daughter because I was being emotionally, mentally and financially abused. He promised changes when I returned, and that didn't happen. So I dove into counseling and focused on myself and my kid, and got my mind and heart exposed and healed and learned to deal with my reality. Not what I wanted, or what I mourned, or what should be or what was wrong, but with REALITY. So much of the time we don't want to deal with realities, because we wish things were different. But reality is all we have. I promise you, it's better to deal in reality than fantasy.

Learning and grasping that my husband was not my GOD or Savior was one of the hardest things for me to grasp! I have always wanted rescuing! I have always wanted to be treated like a princess. I looked to my husband for this and it did not happen. Only my God could be my god. And when I was being drawn completely away from my husband, I was being completely drawn to God. God took it all and all that was broken and not of His plan was shaken to the point of being brought back to Him through reconciliation. Complete restoration. I do not believe God caused this, but He used it. It was our broken humanness that caused our mess. And we brought it all back to the only one that can heal, and redeem. We surrendered our hearts and minds. All in His will and ways and all for His glory. Without that, I wouldn't be writing this post. We knew only God could take something so twisted and ugly and make it worthy and beautiful. With open hands, honest hearts and seeking minds, God will work. I hope you're ready. Nothing is beyond repair!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What About "Who Are You?"

I adore picking flowers.

I can't tell you how much I loathe being asked "So what do you do Gina?" Usually I'm like, "Well, do you have an hour?"

I am no typical 40 year old, mainly because I don't work in the mainstream, meaning I don't have a "job". 

Having to quit my job in 2007, when I was 33 years old, was very humiliating to say the least. It is not what I wanted, at all. I loved working. I have always worked, I'm still young, so saying I had worked since I was 14 doesn't say much, but hey, I have some cred. I enjoy people, structure, learning, bringing home the bacon and taking pride in whatever I did. The last job I had was as a Barista, which I adored. I adored my customers. The 4:30am mornings weren't easy, but who does love those? 
Leaving my job was not by choice, it was by necessity. It was March, and I had already had 3 surgeries that year. I knew more were on the way. And some major ones. One included a complete Hysterectomy. Little did I know that that year would also include one more surgery after my Hyst. and another one in Bend, OR, where I had special treatment for my disease. It was a total of 6 surgeries in one year. 35 the years prior, and one in 2010. Inhumane, right? Tell me about it.

Oh, I self-rejected, self-hatred, and self-pitied for about a year or more. Surprisingly, not more than that considering all I had been through, and all that couldn't be but all that was. Nothing I wanted. Nothing I dreamed of. Nothing I hoped for. I was 33 and nowhere I thought I would be in life. Little did I know that my heart was being prepped for "bigger and better" things for my future. Little did I know I was being refined in a way that would ready me for my greatest, highest use. I know this now. But when you are in the fire, it's hard to see through the flames. We have to choose to see through it all. Choose to not be defined by our suffering and utterly awful circumstances that we didn't ask for or want. Choose to have hope. Allow God to use all that was completely broken and totally painful and messy. Choose to see that not only are we not what happens to us, but that we more likely than not, are not what we do.  

I love nature and chase beauty!

It's a rare thing if you are what you do. I think about my husband for instance, he's in sales. My Mom was a secretary. My dad is a maintenance man. They may enjoy their jobs, and be good at what they do, but it doesn't mean it's who they are. Why, then, why do we always ask this when we meet someone? Why not ask, "So who are you? Or What do you like?"

When I see my Dad, I see so much more than a handy-man. I see his precious soul, and heart, and see that he'd give you the shirt off his back. I see that he is a devoted husband and father. I see that he has an amazing sense of humor. I see that he has a gentle spirit that is sensitive and he loves others well.

When I see my mom, I see so much more than a secretary. I see how supportive she is in all us kids do. I see her interact with her grandkids and take pride in them. I see her accepting, non-judgmental spirit that has helped me through the years. I see her thoughtfulness in her speech and her messages. I see her striving to be more whole. She's a tender one too, that woman. 

I am passionate about mentoring teen girls, I love spending time with them!

And my husband? Sales? He is not what he does. For anyone that knows him knows he is far from what he does for his job. Doesn't mean he isn't good at it, doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy it. But my husband is far from what he does for a living. He is charismatic, funny, gentle, compassionate, and he's the biggest encourager I know. He loves God, and others well. He lights up a room. And he loves hugs.
I am a writer, and I love coffee!

I know and understand that I am looked at oddly a lot of the times. I am literally a 40 year old empty-nester who lives with a disability, so I am not able to work a traditional job. So I chose to be used where I was at! Instead of dwelling and wallowing in all that I couldn't do, I created ways to be used and to "work" with what I could!  And now as most of you know, I am writing more, and working on my first manuscript, I have an Etsy shop, I'm a Lay Counselor and I mentor a variety of people. I want my life to be a life for others. Ironically, I am sort of what I do! But just because I am not in mainstream, society accepting professional job, does not mean I have less to offer, or that I am not of value. 

I just have never quite understood the extreme focus on what people do for a living or for a job, instead of WHO they are!

So maybe next time you meet someone for the first time, try asking them, "So what do you like to do?" OR, "So who are you?" Trust me, most of the time people like to talk about that much more!!! And it gives people a chance to see how valued they are, no matter what they do for a day job.

So, what do you like? Who are you?

Friday, September 12, 2014

That Time My Husband Lost My Cell Phone

My pastor talks about Calvary love. All it means is to love with a love that Jesus did. This kind of love points to the Cross. And what's at the Cross? Sacrifice. Others focused. Love not based on circumstance or how we feel. Well, this sort of love was on repeat throughout our whole trip, and we didn't expect it.

My husband and I have dealt with some major issues. We have dug deep, and then dug even deeper still. We have dealt with all the hard stuff you can possibly imagine. The one thing we haven't, is a terminal illness. We've gotten down and dirty with every problem, because we know that on the other side of it, there is restoration. Now I'm not saying that he was gung-ho about all of this. It was I who was stern about facing all these issues and dealing with them head on. With most couples, it's rare to find both people who are ready and willing to face problems/issues straight on. One is usually the pursuer of, and one usually, well, is not. I was the pursuer. I have been this way ever since I can remember. I am odd---I am not afraid of conflict. I, in fact, like it. Because it means we are getting down to the nitty gritty of a problem or issue, and if we stick it out we will resolve it. Which then means, realness, rawness, authenticity, and restoration! Which is what we were created to live in. The problems are just visible evidence that something is wrong inside. And I like to figure that out. Call me crazy.

This took years. And I am not exaggerating. Our marriage started to go south in 2005. For that first whole year my husband did deal with the issue at hand. It was wonderful and beautiful. But then he shut down in 2006, and didn't fully resurface until like 2011 or so. I had some to do with him going into hiding--I had poor habits and little tools to know how to handle his behaviors. I handled it mostly wrong until I pursued my own heart and got some counseling. After a 5 or 6 year stretch of no fruit or change, we finally started to come together and were able to work and deal with the issues collectively. 

I can honestly say that we are on the other side of a 7 year wilderness experience. There was a time when I didn't think I would actually be able to say that.

While on vacation in Colorado, when I asked my husband to hold onto my phone in the forest because it was starting to sprinkle, he said sure and I didn't ask for it back until hours later when we were on Pearl Street, in Boulder. We were getting out of the car to go to our restaurant destination. As were were getting out of the car, I asked him if I could have my phone back. Well, then you can imagine what went down.

He looked so befuzzled--is that even a word?! I thought, oh no, oh no. As a Lay Counselor all I could think of was "distress tolerance" and "emotion regulation", but it wasn't working, at least at first. I stormed down pearl street, going passed our restaurant several times LOL, all along the way making wise cracks at my husband. I was furious and in shock. I didn't want to accept that it could be true.
Geez, you would think I was talking about a death in the family or something.

We finally got to the pub we were going to, and he was sad and down, and probably afraid, and I was angry. I had so much I wanted to say but I knew I couldn't. So I went to the bathroom. It is there that I continued to literally have a fit like a toddler. They had Pangea Organics hand wash and all I could think of when I was using it as I stomped my feet and cried was "WHY CAN'T I JUST HAVE THIS MOMENT IN THIS COOL TOWN WITH THIS AWESOME ORGAINC HAND SOAP WITHOUT BEING INFURIATED ABOUT MY PHONE BEING GONE--IT'S NOT FAIR." Pretty funny, right?

At that moment I heard the still small voice--"If you are this angry and hurt and feel as awful as you do, think about the way your husband feels right now, it's even worse." Wow, as thankful as I am that I hear from God on a daily basis, it's when I hear things like this that I feel so resistant. "But but---"

I get back to the table and Kevin holds my hand and looks in my eyes and tells me how sorry he is and how awful he feels. I told him, thanks, and I appreciate it, but I still need some time to cool off. The rest of the meal we were mainly silent, which is better than words I'd regret later. Like I said, Calvary love. On repeat.

This was the theme of our trip. Most people would think that losing my cell phone had some sort of plan for me to learn how to not be distracted. Or to learn how to be more in the moment. Well I'm telling you, I am a most "in the moment" person I can think of. I am not saying I am never distracted by the use of my phone. Of course I am. But it's not a problem in my life or in my relationships. Would I like to use it less, yes. But is this a lesson learned in distractions and intentinallity, no.
For me it was a lesson learned in a couple different areas. 

1. We/I am extremely spoiled. For the most part we get what we want, when we want it and how we want it. We do what we want, when we want to and how we want to. We hardly are inconvenienced and we hardly have to wait for anything anymore. Even at the markets, they don't hardly have us wait in lines anymore, they are usually opening up another lane asap so we don't have to wait. Oh my.
I acted like a spoiled brat for about an hour when I discovered my phone was gone--and I cried twice. I think we all have some attachment issues when it comes to things. God is pushing me beyond this. I need to hold on to stuff looser and looser.

2. Although in my marriage, I have dealt with the "big guns" of deep, hard stuff, does not mean I am a pro at the "small stuff". I need to continue to manage my emotions in the day to day annoying things. Like my husband, on the trip, brought his swim trunks for the trip, but did not bring them to the beach the day we went. WHAT?! Help me understand that? It's in those moments of furry that I want to spaz out and say cruel things, but God is calling me higher. Higher out of that way of doing life. Learning to regulate my emotions well and stay mindful. Mindful and meaningful in the moments you want to lose it.

Calvary love is something we choose. But we need practice. Think about it next time something happens that really, truly doesn't matter so much in the grand scheme of life. No one wants to admit that they are spoiled, or bratty. But the way out of that is by admitting it and becoming mindful of it so you can choose a different way to act. And it's not about shame if you do act like a brat. I mean I know God was not condemning me because of the way I acted, His grace is always perfect and plentiful. But acting that way doesn't match His spirit. It doesn't match what God wants for my life. It's not what He wants for my interactions with not only my husband but with anyone. 

Choosing Calvary love is choosing to treat someone not based on how they have treated you or based on something they have done or not done. Calvary love is loving a person who has lost your phone and packed their swim trunks even though they did not go swimming with you. It doesn't mean you can't, in a healthy, direct way tell them that you are upset or affected by what they have done. Absolutely. It just means you don't retaliate. 

Calvary love. On repeat. Put the needle on the record.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It Had To Become Real

Dropping my daughter off for her second year of college!

Can I just be a broken record again for a minute? This adult child parenting thing is HARD. Can I seriously get an AMEN. 

There are facts. And there are beliefs. I happen to believe that what some might not consider to be a fact, a fact. I believe it's true. With me so far?

I don't have any qualms about letting people know I'm a Christian. Even though that term has gotten made such a mess out of, it's just the easiest way to say I believe that Jesus walked the earth over 2000 years ago and I believe that He is God's son, and the truest example of how we are to live. I also believe it to be true by faith that He saved my soul and I'm going to be with Him in eternity!!! I have made Him "Lord of my life" and I have chosen to live by His design and I long for the heart of God on a continual basis. I guess you could say I live a surrendered life to His will, His ways. I know I have blog readers that don't necessarily believe exactly what I do, or maybe you don't even believe in God, but that's OK, I love all my readers and this is just what I believe to be true!

I remember when I first became, what you would call a "born-again" christian. It's not as scary as it sounds. ALL it is is a verse in John 3, when someone asked Jesus a question about what a christian is and how to live according to that. Jesus tells the man he must be "born-again". Meaning, all of us humans are born out of sperm and egg (science and miracle both), living in our "flesh". Living the only way we know how to. Our "what comes naturally states." But Jesus talks about being born of the "spirit". Meaning, your old way of living and life are to be gone (some refer to this as sinful life), and your new way is with me, and my path; He's essentially saying CHOOSE ME, and walk THIS way. To rid our self from our selfish ways and self-centered lives. To not live for ourselves anymore, but for God and others. Simply put--being born again is life WITH God leading. Living in the spirit, not living my own way. It's like "old self" verses "new self".
I'm honestly just explaining it as basic as possible because I don't want to get into exacts and theology.

Once I fully understood that odd way of wording something, I actually started to really see things differently. My story of how I came to Jesus is long, and today I didn't want to focus on that. What I wanted to share was a little bit about this thing called Motherhood.

I remember reading the New Testament for the first time, and I fell in love for sure! As a writer, I noticed, it's written so beautifully. It fed my soul. It lifted my spirits. I also fell in love with the Poetry books like the Psalms and Proverbs. I mean so beautiful!!! I was encouraged and didn't have any issues overall with all that it had for me and all that was written. But there is a reason for that.

I was broken.

When I came to know Jesus and I started to read the Word, I was trash as far as I was concerned. I had no self-worth and thought I was a nobody. I had come from so much physical, emotional and mental pain that it was hard to get through the days. And that lasted for many a years, boy did it ever.

My daughter is starting her second year of college today! And this summer proved to be a bit confusing for me. She's making some decisions that not only do I disagree with, but that hurt me and rock me to my core.(I will add that it's really special that we have an open relationship and honesty. I appreciate that more than I can express, because I know a lot of kids that are dishonest with their parents at this age because they are fearful of what their parents will think and DO).
It's especially difficult because I raised her differently than some of the choices she's making. That's a tough one folks. Really tough. I can actually say today--which I NEVER thought I would---understand why my parents were sad and disappointed when I told them I was pregnant at such a young age. I have to this day always felt protective and defensive about that. But now as a Mother with a child the same age I was when it happened, it sure changes one's perspective. It's because we have this idea or image of what we want for our children! And we know the best decisions for them-especially while they are still in college, so it's hard when that doesn't happen. It's hard when they don't choose YOUR way or GOD'S way. It can really tear you up inside.

A lot of the way I choose to deal with it is through prayer and worship music. When I was listening over the weekend, one of the songs was said, "You took my shame, and paid it all upon a Cross"...something to that nature. My daughter grew up singing these songs. Do you think these words meant more than just a mere fact to her? Don't you think she was just going through the motions and doing what she was brought up in? It wasn't hers. She may have believed that that was factually TRUE, but to her personally, what did it mean? Aside from thankfulness, probably nothing. I'm not being harsh, just honest.

I felt God speak to me and tell me as I was singing the song: "How do you expect these songs to mean ANYthing to her if she doesn't HAVE or experience sin and shame???"


So true. But not easy to hear about your child. 

I have to remember that these worship songs and the bible--when I encountered them, they had a different meaning to me because of ALL I had come from and experienced. I was hungry. I was starving actually. I had been used, abused and spat at. I had experiences that led me to the Cross in a completely devastated state. She hasn't. Do I want her to? No. Will her experiences be like mine? Probably not, they haven't been so far. Will she have her own glory story? Yes. Will she experience brokenness? Yes. Will she discover the things of God on her own in the right time? I believe yes. But it has to be HERS, not MINE. Not particularly fun friends. It's a tough blow. Something I never even thought of or realized as a parent. But I hear so many stories of how kids need to find their own way. So I guess it's true and inevitable, and I shouldn't want it any other way because then it's authentic. It's real. It's raw. 

If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to try to see whatever it is through a new lens! Gain new perspective and pray your face off!

It's no easy thing to think of our kids broken and in need of God, but they are no different than us, and I am in constant need.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Give It All You've Got--On Marriage

I've been so tangled up in my emotions as a Mom, and taken aback by the process of motherhood, that I guess I got paralyzed. It hasn't been a whole summer writing break, but over a good month. For whatever reason, I find myself locked and blocked so to speak when it comes to writing sometimes. Especially when emotions and confusion runs so deep, it's hard to function. But I'm actually not writing a post about motherhood. I'm writing one on that other deep relationship we have: marriage.

My husband and I just booked our first trip together in 4 years. He has been in need of a vacation more than I have, but he handles it with such grace, geez, how does he do that? I've been going bonkers wanting a vacation and I am not in the daily bump-N-grind rhythms like he is. Big props to him for that.

We will be heading to Colorado in early September! He's also in the process of job hunting and most of the jobs that he is looking at are out of state--not in Minnesota. Who knows what that means for us, but for now, back to this trip.

If you've been around here for a good length of time, you have probably read my blog posts on marriage. I've written about 7 or so on the subject. My husband and I had about a 6-7 year period of torture. And I do not use that word lightly. We are on the other side of it now, which is strange to even say out loud.

This will be the first trip in geez, I don't know how long, maybe almost 10 years, where we will be looking one another in the eyes, and saying I LOVE YOU. Did you know there was a 5 year period or so when I didn't say I LOVE YOU at all to my husband? And it's only been recently that we have looked one another in the EYES. Yes, you're hearing me right.

When so much pain and hurt have taken hold, without reconciliation, this is the state you are left with. This is no marriage at all. DEALING with your junk, hurt and pain is the best, wait, only way to go. Without the investment in that route, then you're just waking up and going through the motions. It takes GUTS to dig deeper than you can imagine to SHOW UP and fight. Fight in a good way. Marriage requires going places within yourself that you didn't think existed. It's the only way to truly love someone. Because I am a christian I  have relied on the God and His power to help me dig deep within myself (and a lot of therapy), and then to extend love to a man that hasn't deserved it more times than I can count. But you know what? There is no time to keep track or record of wrongs, because guess what? I haven't deserved it EITHER.

Looking within to discover what you can do internally to better yourself and then offering that up to your partner is GOLD. Humility is GOLD. If we are prideful, we are still hurting. If we are stubborn, and keeping track of wrongs, then we still have hurt to deal with.

Hurt and pain (and unresolved issues) bring out bitterness, unforgiveness, stubbornness, contempt, rudeness, coldness. 
Things that are not of God.
Healing and digging deep introspectively (resolving issues) bring about forgiveness, softness, compassion, gentleness, empathy. These are all things from God.

We made these choices to be with this person for the rest of our lives. And yes, sometimes, ok, maybe a lot we wonder, why?! What were we thinking!!! But they are here now and we are together now, so it's my responsibility to look within and pull out of me what I never thought capable of, and show up. And let me tell you, my man has hurt me almost beyond repair. The only way it IS repaired is by the GRACE OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD.

Jesus was the least fake person on earth. He dealt with things, He was real. Geez, I don't think He EVER made small talk! He always got right down to the heart of matters and what was important. He was REAL. And we need to be to if we want our marriages to be good and healthy. It takes BOTH partners to do their part. 

NO, you can't do your partners work for them. I use to think I could do my husbands work for him--told him the books he should read, told him the friends he should have, suggested this and that to him. Told him he should act this way not THAT way. And on and on. All that did was drive a bigger wedge between him and I. So I let him be him--and that was NOT easy. But I trusted he could work himself out. And eventually he did and he has. And I let me be me. And by both of us going our "separate" ways for a while, it helped in coming together to show up for our marriage. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally people), to get to the place we are today. We have knocked down the walls that prevented us from saying, "I love you", we  have knocked down the walls that kept us from looking one another in the eye. And it was an uphill battle all the way. Do you understand what an uphill battle is like?

Whatever you might be going through in your marriage or where ever you are both currently at. Whether you're struggling with a mental illness in the marriage (we did), or you feel you are completely opposites, or you have nothing in common. The list goes on. There are a lot of people unhappy in their marriages. For numerous justified reasons, I get it. But may I submit to you this: show up as your best for your spouse. Stop worrying and carrying on about what they are doing or not doing. Give them room to breathe! Give them room to show up. Look into your own heart, I so dare you. It's the hardest thing a person will do. Look directly into your own heart instead of trying to judge someone else's. See what you find when you look bravely into your heart. What ugliness is there? Dig it up and uproot it out! Bring your spouse something better!!! Even if you think they don't "deserve" it. All marriages have their unique challenges and marriage will challenge you beyond your LIMITS, trust me.

Meet your spouse at their competency. We all grow up so differently and we forget that that should all be taken into consideration. Their history of upbringing, experiences, traumas, etc...Learn to love them where they are at. We forget that marriage is a sacrifice. We marry and then forget that we have to do so much work. But if you do the work, it will become less work.

Also, get yourself some tools and skills. A lot of couples don't know how to communicate. Figure out the errors of your communication and that will be a good place to start. Learn how to communicate with one another--this and financial issues are a huge culprit of marriages. We have to tweek ourselves ya see. I know, it totally sucks. But we must if we are living side by side with another human forever. We can still be who we are, but we just need to be refined, that's all. We need to become less so to speak, because we can't just say and do everything we want to or feel like all the time in marriage! We have to stay mindful to all the ways that our marriage isn't working, so we can find out how it can work!

I hope I have made a morsel of sense--all I really wanted to say was dig down deep, give it all you've got and even if the other person doesn't, you know you've done all you can, and you will be at peace.  You've chosen this one person, so you may as well make the most of it!

This is us at our engagement party in 2001. Us again in Colorado?!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Is A Life Worth?

Who can measure a life? How do you measure a life?

There is a lot I am passionate about, I've shared several through my blog. But there is one thing that nags at me, one thing that hits the deepest and that I feel most passionate about, and that is someone's self-worth. We hear this term a lot. Sometimes it's used talking about someone's value.

Worth can be defined as something that has significant value, or useful and of importance. Unlike money, humans don't have a dollar amount when it comes to their value or worth. It's easy to judge how much a house is worth, it's simple to have the knowledge of how much the car I drive is worth (and at this point in time, it ain't much). We easily measure worth on property value, product value, food value--those are all tangible ways to measure somethings worth.

So how do we measure a humans worth? What is the worth of a human? What are you worth and what is your value? What is mine?

Many, especially americans, value their worth based on their jobs. That's a biggie. My husband and I are currently watching a relatiy show called The Pitch, us ex-ad geeks are loving it. On the show, two agencies battle it out to win new business through their pitch. Last week, when they were showing clips of the agency employees who were working on a specific piece of the pitch, one of the girls was being interviewed for the show. She literally said, "I really have to win this pitch-my self-worth depends on it. This is how I value who I am." That is word for word my friends. I looked over at my husband (he knew what I was thinking), with my jaw on the GROUND. How incredibly sad! I wanted to reach into the TV screen and scream at her and say "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo"!!!

Let's look at all the ways us humans measure our worth:
-How much money we make
-How big our house is
-Where we work
-What we wear
-What we eat
-Who we talk to
-Who we know
-Where we come from
-The houses and neighborhoods we grew up in
-The schools and universities we attend or don't attend
-What we know/knowledge/how smart we are
-How well we do on tests
-How many skills we have
-How creative we are
-How much we weigh
-What we look like physically
-How others treat us
-How we treat others (meaning if we treat people really good are worth goes up)
-How much of a difference we are making
-How popular we are/how known by the world we are
-Our religious beliefs
-Our political beliefs
-Our ethnicity
-What's happened to us/our past
-The degrees we hold

I mean honestly the list goes on, what did I forget?

I gotta know, do you believe any of that? That you are worth less or more based on the above list? If your kid came home from school and told you they got a C on a paper or a test, would you think or believe that their value or worth as a tiny human was lowered or changed at all? What about if they got an A? Would you think their worth went UP? Gosh I so hope not.

Our world is so focused on rank and elitism. I think it's absolutely disgusting. There, I said it.

I wish I could reach every single teenage girl and more to let them know this: 
My daughter is in Africa right now, and I could never believe that because she is american that 
her life is worth more than these precious boys. Just because she has more opportunity and more money and probably more resources doesn't mean that her life is worth more. They are equal in the eyes of God.

If this isn't the truth, then I may as well crawl into a hole and die. And I am not kidding. I get through each day BECAUSE of this truth! I have removed myself from the ranking system of the world. I refuse to play into it, and I have offered the same truth to my daughter.

I don't think I could live a minute in this world if I was basing and judging my self-worth on anything other than the raw truth that all lives are equal in the eyes of God. I just couldn't. I would drown.