For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All New...All Different...All Good

I rolled over and looked at the clock. 7:30 am.

Four hours for the turkey to cook.

Sigh. I had time. In fact, I had time to cook the turkey, cook the cornbread and biscuits, crumble them up, and cook the dressing, fix potatoes, AND make the ham...provided I could borrow someone's oven for a bit.

Did I want to?

Words from Leslie's* text came to mind:
"Well, it's all new really, isn't it? New to being a fabulous single mom. New to being the matriarch of the family. New to having a sister."
It's all new really, isn't it?

All new...

Not all over...or all broken...or all...horribly sad...

...but all new...

All full of promise...all full of potential...

Yeah, I wanted to make turkey. I wanted to make the ham and potatoes and dressing and rolls. I wanted to make the day great for my family...because that is who I am...a fabulous single mom...the matriarch of the family who sets the tone...who dishes out dinner and dreams and trust that new isn't bad...just different...and it's good.

Yes, that is what I wanted...even if I had to borrow someone else's oven to have everything ready to feed my family...

It really is all new, isn't it? 

Yes, it's all new...all different...and it's all good.

The Dressing
The hardest part of this Thanksgiving for me was Mom's dressing.
She would walk in door, and the smell of sage and onions would
fill the house. She would sit the pan down and dole out big hugs.
I miss her...the dressing...and the hugs.
Time to step with presence, the food, and the love.
I can do this.

Wonder Boy drooling over the "traditional" Thanksgiving meal of
ham, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and cranberry sauce.

Rob joined the children and me for dinner.
We ate too much, watched Thanksgiving football, and played family games.
This morning Anna crawled in bed with me and said joyfully,
"Mom, this is going to be the best day ever."
How did she know?

*Leslie is one of my mom's "adopted" daughters. She worked with Mom at H&R Block. They were very close. I had heard about her for a long time. Mom thought the world of her. However, I had never met her. When Mom found out she had cancer, she said, "You need to get to know Leslie. You'll need her. You'll need each other." Mom knew. I'm thankful she did...and I'm so thankful for my new sister, Leslie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful Despite the Empty Places

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This may be the first time I actually dread Thanksgiving. Honestly, I'd eat Fuddrucker's, watch football, and never get out of my pajamas. I would make it as UN-Thanksgiving-ish as possible because if it isn't Thanksgiving then it isn't a day when my folks should be here...but aren't.

And, yes, I've been told at some point I need to face their being gone, and I've heard the theory that I need to include them by setting places for them at the table, talking about memories, and all that. I have tried to respond with a smile, but sometimes I've been really honest and said, "Believe me, I know they are gone, and an empty chair at the table does nothing for me but make it hard to breathe because it only magnifies who ISN'T there."

This is the first year both of them are gone, and even though Dad passed on 7 1/2 years ago, Mom's passing makes it feel like they've both just gone, and once again I can smell Dad's pipe and Mom's perfume and feel Dad's stiff hug and Mom's tight one, and the hole is huge. And honestly, the idea of a family dinner makes my heart ache and my stomach churn.

However, my children want something that resembles "traditional" so they can feel like their whole world has not collapsed around them, so we are having a dinner and giving thanks...because despite the empty chairs, we have much for which to be thankful. In fact, it is the things for which I give thanks that make the empty chairs so hard.

For instance, I give thanks for:
1. My mom's amazing food. She was a great cook. I loved her fried chicken and her pea salad, and her salmon patties are still one of my favorite comfort foods.
2. The matching outfits she made at Easter. My poor dad and brother wearing the pink shirts with tiny roses buds that matched the dresses Mom and I wore. Dad never griped. I admire him for that. :-)
3. Mom's hugs. If you ever had one, you know.
4. Dad taking me hunting with him. One of my favorite memories.
5. Dad taking us to church on Sundays.
6. Dad putting up a basketball goal where I could practice.
7. Hot coffee on cool morings with Dad on the steps, just talking.
8. Mom choosing to camp with us.
9. The smell of a good pipe tobacco.
10. Long talks about the Bible.
11. A sewing machine of my own.
12. 55 YARDS of ruffles on my wedding gown.
13. Four bridesmaids dresses...even when one of the bridesmaids was "difficult"
14. Some of the wildest games of 42 I've ever played
15. Fishing
16. Riding in the back of a pickup
17. Trips to pick me up at school after UIL or sports...especially when money was tight
18. For an 15 extra years...
19. For a merciful 2 months...
20. For parents that lived in a way that leave us with laughter and tears...wishing for one more cup of more game of 42...the sound of their laughter...the feel of their hugs...gratitude for what they did right...and the desire to do better than they did...

Dear God, for the time that I had...for the memories you've allowed...thank you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Right Answer

While the children are gone, I'm reviewing Man Without a Face. Nearly twenty years ago, it was one of my favorite movies. I haven't watched it in years. The specifics of the plot have escaped my memory, but one particular scene has stuck in my mind. In fact, that one scene is why I want the children to watch it. Because I believe if they understand and take that one scene to heart, it can be a road to freedom for the entirity of their lives.

The scene is near the end of the movie. McLeod has been accused of abusing the boy, and the boy has doubts...and questions.

How could someone for whom he cared so much, whom he trusted so deeply, be capable of inflicting such pain? Surely he couldn't...but maybe he could...If only he would say he didn't, but he won't.

Instead, he says, "Look at the evidence. Look at what you've seen of me. What you've seen me do. How you've seen me act. What have I ever done to make you think I am capable of that?"

It's a powerful scene.

The boy yelling, "If you'll just tell me..."

The friend yelling back, "I did tell you...everyday. There's no cheating on this test. You have to decide the answer. All the information, all the knowledge has been given you. YOU have to answer."

Today, I find myself the boy...and the friend.

Earlier this week I was questioned. My character was questioned. My heart was questioned.

The very core of me was questioned..and I thought the person knew.

And I keep thinking surely deep down the person knows...but in truth, what the person knows is that others have lied, that others have inflicted pain, that others were not who they said they were. Now, I'm suspect, too.

And while I understand the pain, I also want to say, "But I told you...everyday. I have given you the information. You have the knowledge. You have the answer. How did you come up with that one? Or is your answer about me at all? Because it doesn't feel like it is. I don't feel like I deserve that answer, and I feel like you have judged me, not on my merit, but on someone else's sins. How can I ever overcome that, especially if that is all you choose to see?"

And I am questioning.

I am questioning my ability to know someone based on personal merit and not on other people's sins. I am questioning my ability to see past my pain, past my anger, past my broken trust, beyond my bias to another's heart.

I am praying.

I am praying for courage to see the truth, to trust even when it is terrifying, even when it puts my heart at risk.

I am praying not to poison my present with the pain of the past.

And when someone stands before me and says, "But I told you everyday...You have the knowledge and the information...You have the answer..."

I pray I have courage to have the right one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Actually Look

It's nearly 4:30 am, and I am awake because I feel sick. I am sure the hotdogs and chips for dinner have collided with all the sinus sludge from crying to create this gastrointestinal turfwar. While my stomach rolls with the mess, my body goes right on being content and functioning fine because the reality is I'm not sick. I just feel sick.

For a few weeks now, I have struggled with feeling spiritually sick. Symptoms include:
-feeling abandoned
-feeling like God isn't speaking
-feeling like I'm in events and decisions of life by myself and God is just waiting to see if I sink or swim
-feeling like He sees me as a failure

That is how I have felt.

The reality is sometimes God is right in front of me, speaking loud and clear, and I miss Him because I've got my eyes closed.

This week my friends Thomas and Amelia dropped by the rollercoaster. She waved and told me she loved me as I whizzed by. Thomas, though, crawled up here with me and said, "Maybe you can control the rollercoaster by simply leaning a little more in a given direction." Okay. That isn't exactly what he said. What he said was:

"I would like to suggest that you look for the actual grace God sends from people."

Look for the actual grace God sends...

Open your eyes to see what God sends you. Actively see the grace in people...the grace of people.

Yes, Thomas, the grace of people.

Because while I feel alone in my cave, there are those whose hearts God has kept for my family and me. There are those who are praying daily. There are those who still believe in the midst of this mess I have something to say that might help someone. There are those who have not been offended by the raw honesty of my writing...or my silence.

Isn't that grace?

Isn't grace mint chocolate chip cookies because it is all my sweet friend knows to do? Isn't grace my friend who sits phone in hand to communicate via texts because I don't trust my voice to call? Isn't grace the friend who calls every few days, even when I simply reply by text, "I'm fine, just not very talkative"? Isn't grace the friend who treads gently to crawl up on the rollercoaster and say, "Can I make a suggestion? And by the way, we love you and pray for you everyday"?

"Look for the actual grace God sends from people."

Don't get blinded by how you feel. Look for the actual grace God sends...Actually look for God...

I'll let you know what I find, and don't be surprised if I actually have a lot to tell.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Find Me Here

Dear God, find me here... the midst of my shattered dreams. My heart feels broken beyond repair, and all I can see is what isn't. All I see is what is lost.

Give me a vision for where I am going because I don't know.

Oh, God, if you don't speak, I have nothing. If you don't give me strength, I'm going to drown.

I am desperate, and you are silent, and I don't understand.

If you do not abandon me, then how do I not see you? How do I not hear you? Dear God, if you are speaking, speak loud enough for me to hear you over my questions and pain. And if you are being quiet, give me faith to wait...until I hear and know...

...Until you find

The Rollercoaster from Hell

That is what I feel like I'm on.

Most days are fine. Then I get hit with a week like last week, and I cry almost everyday. Next comes a day like yesterday when I finally decide it is pointless to even get out of bed. So I lie in bed and pick a fight with a friend, close down my Facebook account again, and decide it's stupid to try to be a writer at all because...really? What of any value do I have to say anyway?

This morning I wake up before 6:00 am...and smile. My head is clear. Priorities are obvious. Goals and strategies are simple. I have my prayer time, read my Bible, and am sure I hear God speak. The day is going to be wonderful. I know it.

When I get time, I call my friend to apologize and request a truce. We are fine.

I head out into the day to enjoy hanging with my children.

I love contentment, peace, and being settled.

And then there was the post yesterday...

I cringe. 

Maybe I should just erase it. Pretend it never happened. Ugh. There are comments about it in my email box. Great. How do I explain the horrible darkness of yesterday and the peace of today?

Simple. I'm on the rollercoaster from hell.

This afternoon I saw the chocolate mint chips that Amelia dropped by when she brought me cookies a month ago, and I smiled because she remembered they are my favorite.

Debra texted that she thought of me when she read Psalm 30, and I sighed out, "Thank you, God, that she prays for us."

Lisa responded to a text and asked me how I am, and I could feel her hugs. They felt wonderful.

Rae called, and I enjoyed chatting with her instead of dreading picking up the phone.

That was today. Did I mention it was wonderful?

Who knows about tomorrow?

I don't know how many people have called, emailed, or texted that they are here for me if I want to talk, but really, I don't know what to say because whatever we talk about is their reality for where I am and where my family or marriage is.

If I'm in a good mood, Rob and I are talking nicely, and the kids are having a great day, they assume life is great and there could be a good possibility of reconciliation. One person asked simply, "Well, if you can talk nicely, then why hasn't he moved home?" If only it were so simple.

On the other hand, if Rob has gotten on my nerves and I say something negative or the kids are struggling that day or I'm just in tears, that is the reality that person has. It looks like we are coming apart at the seams, and that is the reality they take with them when we get off the phone. While an hour later, all may be fine and settled here, for that person, the chaos is still there, or vice versa.

And while I am trying to wade through rejection aftermath, I can be having a fine morning, someone I admire or care for can say something I perceive as critical, and I'm in tears. One day I was in the store doing some shopping, bebopping along, great day, and then I smelled it. Mom's perfume. Suddenly, I couldn't breathe. I thought I was just going to hit my knees right there. Sometimes I can be having a great day, but the kids have a rough day, and by the time I go to bed, I feel defeated, sad, and angry.

It also works the other way. One day Anna and I were both sad and boohoo-y, and we were talking about Mom, and she just said, "So do you think we'll miss all four pies she always brought for Thanksgiving or just the slice we ate from each one." I burst out laughing. We laughed hard for the next half hour or more. When we were done, we were fine. I've been furious at something Rob has done, found something that brought back a good memory, and shaazam!, all is fine again. Or sometimes, I've been struggling to remain settled or constant, and one of the children will bring a book, cuddle up on the big bed, and ask me to read. We read until we are okay, and we really are okay.

One of the reasons I deactivated my Facebook accounts is because I hate the rollercoaster, and I know it spills into public arenas of my life. Sometimes I can't help that. Last night I went to my CERT graduation, and instead of chatting with everyone, I kept to my children and brother. It wasn't like me, and today I received an email asking about it. What was I supposed to say? "Uh, yeah, yesterday stunk. Basically, my mental and emotionally world caved in around me, and I cried all day. No worries." I hate being seen like that. I simply replied, "Hard day yesterday. No, I wasn't my usual self, but I'm better today. Thank you for asking."

When I sent it, I sort of cringed because I expected the usual reponse asking if there is anything the person can do. If so, I don't know what it is. Just accept yesterday as a blip on the radar, and let's move on.

And really, I think that is what I would ask for most. I would ask people to listen quietly during the hard days, don't ask me how you can help, and for goodness sake!, don't try to fix it or make me better. I'll get there, just have faith in me long enough to give me a chance to get my feet back under me. Realize that, yes, I have hard days, sometimes a hard week, but overall, it's a blip on the radar, and I may have hit a low spot, but the rollercoaster is still in motion, and who knows where I will be tomorrow? Or even in a few hours.

Or if you talk to me and we are laughing and all is fine, don't be shocked or ask, "What happened?" if I call you later that day in sobbing tears, overwhelmed, and feeling like I'm drowning. As for the "What happened?", life.

It's not what happened in the last few hours or minutes. It's what has happened in the last six months that simply got touched in a painful way, and I may not want to explain it because, honestly, it may sound dumb in contrast to the emotional impact, and really, I don't want to feel dumb or feel I need to explain why I put on the family ring Dad gave Mom as a "going away" gift, wore it most of the day with no problem, then looked down at it, and suddenly began to sob. Really? You're going to understand that? Or can you simply understand that I miss my parents? I figure you can understand the latter better, so that is what I'm going to tell you...while I hold that ring, think of my dad, mom, and messed up marriage, and cry.

The fact is if I am crying that hard or feel that sad, I know you expect it to be from something of equal traumatic definition...and it is. It's just that the trauma didn't happen today. It's just that something happened today that punched a hole through to the pain, and it came screaming out. And usually that something isn't very big, and when I hear the silence on the other end of the phone or hear the, "And?", I know you don't see it as big enough to warrant this kind of reaction.

I understand that. I have been where you are. I still am. Sometimes those "you aren't serious" type things set the children off, and I have to remind myself that this is not about my interpretation of the event or the trigger. It's theirs. I may not care about a particular bead, but if that is the one that Anna made Grandma's necklace out of last Christmas, it's a huge deal because Anna doesn't need to make anything this year, and in the midst of that loss, a bead becomes an emotional sink hole.

And the rollercoaster takes a downturn.

Aren't you glad you aren't on it? Thought you might be. Don't feel bad. I wish we weren't on it either, but we are. Someday, when it all settled down, maybe I'll tell you about, but then, maybe I won't...unless of course, you find yourself here. And if you do, feel free to call. I won't lie. I don't know or understand what it is like for you, but I give you my word, I'll do my best to wave at you and scream a word of encouragement as you go by because I know that's all anyone can do--and it's really what you need most--when you are on the rollercoaster from hell.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Yesterday was hell on wheels. I have no other description that aptly describes it. "Hard" doesn't touch it. It was truly an emotional and mental day made in hell.

In the midst of the emotional and mental chaos, a friend and I tossed a few sharp darts at each other, and when the "how dare you's", "you have no clue's", and "let me tell you a few things" were done, I felt pretty good about life, how I am doing as an individual, and how we are doing as a family. Defending the ground I have helped me realize how much progress we have made.

But while the darts were flying and the emotions and doubts were raging, I sat in my shower floor while hot water pounded down, and I cried.

I don't know which was fatter, the hot drops of water falling from the shower or the hot tears falling from my eyes.

All I knew--and know--is the feeling of failure that comes when nothing I do is right and everything I do is wrong, and yesterday, everything I did was wrong.

If I left the children to go for a walk, I should have been home.
If I chose not to leave the children, I was suffocating them and needed to let them breathe.
If I took a class I enjoyed, I should put the kids first and be with them.
If I chose not to do something for me, I wasn't taking care of myself.
If I went on a trip, I was neglecting the kids.
If I didn't, I was controlled by guilt and needed to get over it.

NOTHING was right. NOTHING was good enough. NOTHING!

So finally that is what I chose: nothing.

Nothing to say. Nothing to share. Nothing to let people give their opinions on. Nothing... find out what a failure I am find out how inadequate I am hear all the ways the details don't line up with others' opinions run through the filtered experiences, feelings, and brokenness of others.

I have amazing friends. Even the people that I have struggled with the last six months are amazing. They are also filtered.

We all are.

And the fact is no matter how much love, compassion, or good intention fills our hearts, our humanness is filled with our interpretation.

People interpret my marital separation depending on their background, religious beliefs, or own marriage experience. People interpret my mom's death and my response according to loss of loved ones in their lives or how they responded...or the lack thereof.

The fact is most of these amazing people are strong Christians whose hearts are to serve and love God, and in turn, His people. Some have even been where I am at various times, and believe me, they know exactly what I need to do to get where I need to be, and if God had the same destination in mind for me that He had for them, we'd be fine. However, I'm finding that there is no cookie cutter plan.

In the Bible David took one road to kingship while Joseph took another, and Esther had a different one still. Peter was called to be a disciple from a fishing boat, and Paul was called from a religious mindset. All of them had one purpose: to glorify God. That is where the commonalities ended.

Life hasn't changed much in a few thousand years.

God is still blowing away boxes, doing things that seem insane, and taking us along for the ride. Those of us in the midst of it look like we are from some other world, and maybe we are.

Maybe I'm doing everything wrong in the eyes of people because only God knows what it will truly take to get to the other side of this whole and healed. Maybe I look crazy because the cracks in broken filters make the progress too fuzzy to see.

I don't know.

All I know is when I don't listen to the voices, I am at peace. I can identify goals, determine strategies to reach them, and move us forward. I feel good about the progress we are making, and I know we are moving toward healing, toward being whole, toward God's destination.

When I do listen to them, I end up a sobbing mess in the bottom of my shower wishing I had the option of not even getting out of bed...until I have to defend where I am and realize I like it. I like how we are doing. I like the joy we have. I like the connecting we are doing. I like the laughter that rings through the house. I like lying on the trampoline and staring at the stars.  I like...waking up each morning and knowing it's a great day and we are alright...and we will be alright.

This morning my friend said honestly, "I can't help you with this. I'm biased, and I can't see where you are in it." I smiled. I had noticed.

So we talked about other things, like the day's plans to go to the Science Museum, maybe head to Tyler to see the leaves, my need to do laundry because I have no clean socks. Before we got off the phone, I said, "Thank you."


"For being a great friend, a great sounding board, an amazing encourager, and a voice I can trust."

Because you know when it is best not to speak at all, and you are okay when I know it is best for me not to listen.

To me, that is a big deal, but then, maybe between friends, it's really nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When There's Nothing

For the last five to six months, I have tried very hard to keep my head up, to smile a lot, to look on the bright side, to have vision of where we were going. I have tried to stay solid in my faith, to praise God anyway, and to believe for better things.

However, I must confess the warfare has taken its toll. Between the shelling from the enemy and the hits from "friendly fire", I am tired. Frankly, I have never felt so abandoned in my life. I have never felt so much like I belonged no where. I have never felt like so much of a failure. And I have never hurt so badly.

Of course, we pious Christians like to remind those who aren't quite where we are that if they aren't as close to God as they used to be, it's not God that moved. Well, obviously I've messed up enough to put me completely off His charts.

And if I am that far away, then it is no longer sensible for me to write a blog hoping to point others to Him. I have nothing to offer. I do not know if I will remove this blog or leave it up with hopes that it still blesses people or that someday I will return to it. There are a lot of uncertainties.

But this I know:

Even with all my hurt and all my questions, I am convinced God is good. I am convinced He is loving. I am convinced His way is the best way. I know He is kind and merciful. I know Christ died for every sin, and I know forgiveness is found in His blood. A cruel, heartless, vindictive God could not love and give with voracious passion as the Father does. His passion and pursuit are beyond the human mind's ability to comprehend. He is God, and the wondrous things about Him never cease.

May you find Him in your seeking...


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Depth at Arm's Length

A week or so ago I deactivated my FB account. I didn't go in depth in the reason. I didn't really know what to say. A lot of folks were very supportive. Some were very concerned. I am going to take a few minutes and explain what is happening around our home 1) to alleviate concerns, 2) to maybe give a picgture in to help folks who have never been here understand and offer aide and comfort to others they know that find themselves here, and 3) to hopefully encourage others where we are that there is Life, and He has you much closer than arm's length.

After Mom died October 2nd, we had the funeral on the 6th.
October 13th-- I was in the ER with chest pains. Several thousand dollars in test later, they thankfully determined it was an anxiety attack.
October 20th--I hopped a plane to Harrisburg, PA, for a conference.
October 23rd--three weeks from the time Mom died, I listened to one of my favorite bloggers talk about the Upside-Down Kingdom, being raw and honest and just what folks need to hear. I was honestly raw, but I didn't know if I had anything for people to hear.
October 24th--I returned home with the goal of stepping back into life where it had left off July 30th when Mom entered the hospital with stroke symptoms.
And I did.

I stepped right back into the shock of being separated, being a single parent, and figuring out how to build a life for the children and me...just the three of us.

And this time, it really was far more the three of us than it had been.

My brother and I talked, and we agreed we really were not up to celebrating Thanksgiving. My stepdad has imploded with his anger and doesn't speak to us unless it is a required business matter. The holidays loomed before me like a tsunami waiting to drown us. Both of my parents are gone. My brother won't be here, and Rob isn't here. Besides the children, I had no family with which to spend the holidays. It took about 48 hours for the wave of "alone" to pass over.

During those 48 hours, I cried A LOT. I barely ate because I felt like I was going to throw up.

I missed Mom horribly. Then the weather changed, and my emotions were drawn to the front porch of my parents' house where Dad and I sat and drank coffee on cool mornings. The feeling of "alone" hit even harder. And for a few days, I felt like I was drowning.

The weekend came and went, and Monday rolled around. I was feeling a bit anxious because my CERT class that I have enjoyed so much would be ending in a few weeks, and then I had nothing to do. I've loved this class. I've learned so much, and I've grown, but I love the people most. I look forward to them each week, and soon they would be gone. That left me a bit blue.

Then Stacey called. Uncle Buck had died in the night.

I just cried.

When Mom died, I was talking to God and said, "Now I know why you only gave us two parents. Because it would rip us apart to bury three."

But that is what had to be done. I didn't plan on going to the memorial, but I drove up to the funeral home. I couldn't handle the social visitation, but I visited. I talked. I thanked him. There was a lot to thank him for, and while I had tried to thank him over the years, I needed to tell him again...and I did.

Then I went home.

The next day I went to the graveside service, listened to a beautiful sermon, celebrated a wonderful man, and came home tired.

On Friday I made an appointment with my doctor for another evaluation to see if surgery to remove my gall bladder will be necessary.

And in the midst of those two weeks after returning from the conference, I worked to build a routine, to roll with emotions, to create unity among family that has seen each other so little. The children responded beautifully. We cleaned the house to "baseline", which is what the house should be before we go to bed each night. They rolled with the emotions, did their schoolwork, enjoyed activities, and talked.

We talk a lot.

And each day I spent about an hour lying on my bed with a child who simply wanted to connect, so we did.

Each night I went to bed tired. I didn't always sleep well, but I was tired.

During this time, my goal was (and still is) simple--create a stable environment for my children where they know they are safe, they are part of the solution, they can make a difference, and they are going to be okay.

We all needed to know WE ARE OKAY and WE WILL BE OKAY.

I needed to spend my time praying and pondering, analyzing where we were disconnected or struggling, and determining a plan to attack the gap, and it had to be done in such a way that the children stepped into it instead of being pushed or forced. They needed to be part of the healing process, too. We had to talk...A LOT.

I could not talk to them and talk on FB or email or phone or text. I refused to interact with anyone in any form that might affect my ability to think clearly or respond well to the children. I had a clear objective. Everything else was peripheral. Thus, I deactivated my account, and quite possibly will do so again. We are not through this yet. The holidays still loom ahead of us, and I still need to focus my attention on getting myself...the children...through.

I do not need escape. I need purposed relaxation and refuge, which I have been blessed to find. Last weekend was a tough weekend without the children, but my friends Chris, Shaleen, and Dena were fabulous about giving me a soft place to land, talk, and cry. And we all know that is temporary. Building a life takes time, and I am doing that one step at a time. I'm not there yet, but I will be. In the meantime, a place to not think and not have to be in charge...a place where someone else took care of me...was perfect. By the time Sunday came, I was charged and ready to go.

I tackled the garage. With help, I was able to organize one half of the garage and begin to dig into Mom's boutique full of clothes. To give you an idea, I've done 1-3 loads of clothes each day for the last three weeks I've been home. I'm not exaggerating. I had done 3 (over-)full loads of pants last week. Today, I did 5. I have at least 2 more to do tomorrow (JUST PANTS). We wash a load, hang them out for 12 hours or more until they no longer smell like cigarette smoke, and then we fold them and start over. We emptied around 20 large kitchen bags of clothes Sunday, not to include the 10 or so I had already done OR the 2 10-ft closets still on hangers lying over a large wooden trunk in my garage. And did I mention the other 70 or so pairs of shoes? We are around 200 pairs of shoes right now.

Also, I have signed up for my Emergency Medical Responder class, and Chrissy and I are working on chartering a homeschool 4-H. There are some other things that I prefer to wait until they are solid to mention, but they are exciting. Anna is rocking with her drama, and Robert is loving the cooler weather and being able to be outside to exercise. They are also working on designing and coding computer games.

So as you can see, we are really doing great. If you are worried, maybe you need to talk to Chris, Shaleen, Dena, John, or Rae. I think all of them will assure you that we are not floundering. We are flourishing. We have clear goals, and we are working toward them as a family. We are talking, crying, screaming, and laughing. I am watching the children mature and grow in beautiful ways, not broken ones. We have a fabulous counselor who is helping us when we feel overwhelmed by the landmines that we are trying to avoid. And we are learning that often landmines really aren't as bad as we fear they will be. We are learning that "hard days" and "sad days" are really good days because they cause us to think, process, and choose healing, and they give us a chance to talk, to be still, and to connect. It is amazing how one can hurt so much and be at the best place possible at the same time. God is so weird that way.

And speaking of God, our faith is solid. We question theology, but not God. We know He is giving us strength, peace, and wisdom, and we know He has not abandoned us. He is with us and for us, and although we don't understand why He does things or allows things, we know He sees the picture we don't see. It's one thing to serve a middle-class, cushy seat, hour-long service each week God. But to serve a God who isn't afraid to throw us into the fire to bring us forth as know we blame Satan way too much for the "hard stuff" when we should be giving God credit for His faith in us and His love that makes Him do hard things to accomplish great things in us...THAT is a different way to live...and while it hurts, it heals.

So there you go. That is where I have been--boldly building a new life based on God's promises to do above and beyond what I can imagine. I will most likely disappear again. If so, don't worry. I'm not failing. I'm focusing...and we are flourishing...and it is a great place to be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Comfortless Comfort Zone

Much of her day was spent floating in the ocean of grief she thought would consume her. She lay on the couch, curled in bed, sat in the rocker and stared...into nothing...into her pain.

I watched. Ready to jump in if she went under.

The waves grew taller, more frequent. Her ability to stay afloat weakened. She grew exhausted from simply trying to keep upright.

When the waves finally toppled her, she cried for nearly an hour and a half. Hot tears. Sobs shaking her thirteen-year old body.

When air was available, she screamed, ranted, and questioned, and then the sobs came in another wave. When her head came above water again, so did the anger and pain. She thought she was drowning, but I knew I was watching her swimming the ocean of grief with beautiful precision and excellence.

Finally, she told me what had sunk her.

"Mom, they think I shouldn't be sad."


"It seems like everybody." A long list of names come forth. Youth leaders, youth pastors, friends...trusted hearts she thought would be a safe haven that had lobbed painful bombs. "They tell me I shouldn't be sad."

Within the last four months:
--her parents separated
--her long-time diving coach had lied and left her feeling disillusioned
--her traditional activities had come to an end as her age transitioned her out of them
--her grandma had been diagnosed with cancer and died
--her grandpa had imploded with anger and no longer spoke to us
--her uncle wasn't coming to Thanksgiving dinner
--her mom's uncle had died

In four months, her world had disintegrated under her feet, and she was trying to figure out where to stand...if there even existed a place to stand....But!, she had no right to be sad.

"Anna," I whispered quietly, "you are doing beautifully. I'm so proud of you."

Her breathing stopped, and her head jerked toward me. "What? Mom, I can't stop crying."

I smiled. "I know. Good for you. You should cry. This is horrible. The losses are horrible. Grandma was an amazing woman, and she left a big hole. Thanksgiving is always special, and she won't bring dressing. That stinks. And she won't make pies."

Anna laughed. "You mean the pies that she told you to make but she always brought?"

I laughed, too. "Yep. Those."

Anna shook her head. "She always told you she was only bringing dressing, and then she brought two boxes of food."

I nodded. "Yes, she did."

Quiet settled in for a bit. Then Anna said, "Mom, I'm afraid I'll cry on Thanksgiving."

"Then come sit with me, and we'll cry together."

"Mom, they said not to talk to you about Grandma because it would only make you sad."

I fought to keep the calm. "They're stupid," I said flatly.

"I don't want to make you cry."

"Anna, you are not my mom. You are not responsible for my emotions or my tears. I am so sorry anyone was so cruel and stupid as to put that load on you. That is not your job. Your job is to heal. Period. And healing often means crying and telling where you hurt, so cry and tell me. Besides, who else will understand the pain of losing Grandma as much as me?"

She was quiet a moment. Then she said, "Mom, they keep telling me Grandma is happy and better off. I know that, but I still miss her."

"Next time someone says that, just say, 'Yeah, but my heart has a giant hole, and that is what I have to deal with.'"

She ventured her heart again. "They say she is always with me. No, she's not." Her anger finally showed up for the party. "She's not here. I can't hug her. I can't call her. I won't see her Christmas. She is not with me."

I smiled, so proud of my daughter, courageous enough to speak truth others like to evade.

"Next time they say that, simply say, 'Really? Where? Cause I would like to give her a hug.' I hate when people say dumb things like that."

She stopped, seemingly surprised that she is not the only one who hates such comfortless remarks.

She stepped further into bravery. "Mom, they make me feel like I don't have a right to be sad, like I'm selfish. I'm not selfish. I hurt."

I'm not selfish. I hurt.

My heart swelled with pride.

"Anna, their comments have nothing to do with making you feel better. They are all about making them feel better. They aren't comfortable with your sadness, so they try to make themselves comfortable by making you what they are comfortable with. They are the ones being selfish."

She nodded. "Yeah. I thought they would be sad with me or be sorry Grandma was gone, but instead, they told me I had to feel better so others did, and if I didn't, I was selfish."

I smiled. "Well, I don't think you are selfish. I think you are grieving, and that is perfectly acceptable."

She became quiet. Finally she spoke. "Mom, thanks for being comfortable with my hurting."

I squeezed her tight. "Not a problem, Amazing Girl. I totally understand."

And unlike the others who say that, I really do...and she finds comfort in that.

God, thank you for all the times You have allowed me to feel what she has understand that other people don't really experience the pain of people's comfortless comfort I could learn from You the ability to create and be a safe harbor...where healing comes by making it to the other side of the hurting...where I am comfortable with her...and in me...

Gratitude 40--Belonging

This year the holidays feel daunting. Both of my parents are gone now. My brother wants to be by himself, and Rob and I are still separated. Frankly, it is easy to feel like I have no where to belong, except the people I know make it so clear that I do...and for them and what they do...I am grateful...

With deep gratitude for...

951. Snoopy and the Red Baron

952. Help with the garage

953. Texts really early in the morning to see if I am okay

954. Invitations to movies

955. Sitting in the floor and talking while bathroom remodeling goes on around me

956. A gathering of person...and via speaker phone.

957. A place to cry...and laugh...and sigh deeply because...

958.  A place to land

959. Comfy couches with warm blankets and Chinese food

960. Adirondike chairs in the yard while oil is changed in the driveway, laughing about (and with) the mechanics, and being warm inside...even when it is cold outside...

...I thank God at every remembrance of you...Philippians 1:3

holy experience

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude 39--Giving Thanks, November 2010

It has been a long time since I typed in a list of thanks...although my heart has been grateful for many things these last several months. I'll share more as time goes on, but for now...for these people and blessings...I am deeply grateful...

931. For my amazing children

932. For my CERT class, what I've learning...but more with whom I learning it.

933. Hard seasons that let the unncessary stuff die to make room for the good stuff to live.

934. Dena K. Walts, who thinks I am an answer and have something to give.

935. Raymon K. "Buck" Kelley, the perfect substitute dad in a season when "home" wasn't

936. Brian Hearn, who tells me I am worth the effort

937. Lisa Buffaloe, Christine Thomas, and Lori Freeland, who reply ASAP to joyfully and excitedly be references for my resume

938. Kevin Zuniga, with a heart of God

939. Pop Shires, who finds the heating element for my dryer in less than 48 hours, picks it up, and brings it to my house

940. Chris, who teaches me how to change out the heating element

941. Al, who offers to helpd cover costs for my mission trip next summer

942.  Rob for helping with the resume and garage.

943.  Leslie, who keeps me in her heart

944. Eryn Gruwell, who did her job with excellence and impacted the lives of her students...and us

945. CERT board, for seeing my potential

946. Val Roach, for always checking

947. Melanie Curl, for caring and noticing

948. Christmas ornaments for soldiers

949. CPT Ramona, former Army, for keeping us in the loop with soldiers to support

950. Contented smiles

holy experience


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Emotional Weather Days

I just want to cry.

It's that simple.

I have spent the day with tears sitting in the corners of my eyes waiting to fall, probably needing to fall. One of those be-good-to-yourself days when I can't.

They are children, mature and wonderful, full of grace, but children. They don't understand days when it is easier for me to lie in bed than stand against the sadness. They don't understand why my usual laughter is edged with annoyance or why small things have suddenly become so large.

I understand their confusion, and I seek a way to explain. Sometime I don't understand either. All I know is some days are hard, and on those days, tears come easy and patience doesn't.

Tired from the strain of trying to force calm that cannot be created, I lie on my bed and pull close those I've been pushing away. We try to find light in the emotional cloudiness of the day.

Cloudy. That is it. If only emotions came with a forecast, a type of heads up of what to expect, then we would know whether to wear galloshes in the form of careful steps or umbrellas in the form of greater grace.  Perhaps we would simply know better how to avoid the storm altogether, and if we couldn't stop it, maybe we could ease the effects.

"Do you ever get sad with all that has been happening?" I venture. I know the answer, but they need to understand.

Silent nods...theirs and understanding.

"Me, too." I pause, let the reality sink in, let them think sad, let them feel it. "Do you ever have a sad day when you can't quite get over the sadness, you don't just sit and cry, but you're sad?"

Again...silent nods. I let them wander into those days, into those hearts.

"Me, too." We sit in those days, and I venture further. "When you have those days, do you ever feel like you can't quite get happy? Like you can't stop being unhappy? Like everything is a bit bad even when it isn't?"

Eyes drop. They don't need to nod. I know. They know. They've had those days. I've witnessed them. Now, I let them witness mine.

"Some days I have sad days. Some days I just can't quite find happy. Some days everything feels a bit bad, even when it isn't. Some days you two do everything right, but my heart is still wrong."

It is quiet. No one needs to nod. We know.

"Today is one of those days for me. I'm sorry it is a hard day. I am trying, but I can't quite get to happy, and that is not your fault. I know you are doing everything right. Unfortunately, today, my heart isn't right. Today it's sad, and maybe instead of trying to pretend it is sunny and perfect day, I can just tell you what it really is. Maybe on days like these, it would help if we could tell each other that it isn't a sunny day, but a cloudy one. Maybe we could help all of us by simply giving an emotional weather forecast just like they give weather forecasts on the news. Then we know what to expect from each other, and we act and respond accordingly."

There are no nods. We all know. We know the power of understanding, the power of grace. We have the power to give it. We do that well. Now we have power to ask for it.

We snuggle close. I smile. The clouds still roll, but we are not as stormy.

We rest in the peace we could not create...only the grace we know how to give each other...and ourselves...especially on emotionally cloudy days.