take your idyllic life and shove it

It used to be white picket fences. Now, pretty sure it’s more along the lines of a 2500 sq. ft. house in the burbs.

I had a white picket. I built it around my heart. (Oddly enough, there was one in front of our very first house and every day, the school kids would scribble words like fuk on it- go figure.)

For far too long I cultivated and conjured the idyllic life. Pretty. Well ordered. Adorned. I thought I had it. Then it slowly disintegrated like a prim mirage in a heat wave.

Finally, the pickets came out one by one. They all had names like perfectionism, self-righteousness, obedient children, financial security, or dream vacations. I am certain a few were taken out by gale force winds of upheaval.

Without that fence, my life felt bare and exposed. This was new ground to tread and nothing appeared picturesque at all.

I have to talk myself out of panic attacks. My toilet hasn’t seen a brush in two weeks. My kids sometimes call each other the “d” words. I look in the mirror most days and think, “Oh crap. The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.” I can’t paint my rented walls that eggshell shade.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should see what’s underneath.

Idyllic? No. Ideal? Rarely. Fabulous? Working on it {most days}.

I’m glad that fence came down. It was freedom that I never knew I wanted or needed. Freedom from expectations and confines and religiosity and so-called bliss.

This life of mine is not very neat and tidy but I love it, every weird, loud, emotional, uncertain moment of it.

If I want idyllic, I’ll have to go to Disneyland.

My Public Confession and Declaration (about parenting)

I’m sitting here feeling (a little) sorry for myself. At least I’m woman enough to admit it. For that past seventeen years my life has been bereft of my mother and my dad, who tried beautifully to fill both shoes left me almost 5 months ago. So, yeah.

Then there’s the fact that motherhood represents the great cataclysmic change in my life that has brought out my absolute worst and but sometimes best sides. So, I decided I’d turn flip the script a bit. Instead of my kids giving me some schmaltzy accolades (which they did ‘cause they’re awesome), I’d write a public declarations and confessions post.

First, the confessions:

#1 I didn’t love being a mother at first. In fact, I think it took me a number of months to even like it. Thanks to post-partum depression that assailed me like a ton of bricks after each birth, I was in the doldrums while everyone told me I should be flying over the moon.

#2 I yelled too much. I dug in mentally, said I was going to win every argument and shouted to prove it. Ugly, harsh words that if I had the breaths of a lifetime, could not suck it all back in. Also, I still lost a lot of arguments.

#3 We actually thought spanking was the best way to discipline. How absurd! I am indelibly sorry for spanking you- ever. If we still had it, I would personally build the bon fire in which to burn that stupid “whacker” we used to administer corporal punishment.

#4 I diluted your juice waaayyy beyond when I should have  and I made you go to bed too early for too long (which I said was because of science proving kids need good sleep, but was really because I was just “done” by 8 pm).

#5 I was a mediocre teacher who fumbled around trying to pretend I knew what I was doing, too hard-nosed and demanding. But kudos to me, you can all read, write and think relatively well.

#6 I listened to other people’s opinions too much and played the great “how-do-my-kids-stack-up-against-yours-academically-physically-spiritually” game, instead of looking at each of you as unique individuals, gifts perfectly designed to be raised by me (and your dad). (By the way, we came in at 44,786th place. Not bad.)

And lastly, #7 For too long I was afraid, very afraid that I would mess up and you’d turn out horrible, so I tried to create a bubble world I thought would protect you. Then the bubble burst and guess what? It’s okay because I am outside the bubble with you and more than that, so is God.

There’s that. Now on to part two: the declarations.

#1 I love you- NO MATTER WHAT! My mama heart is yours through the tears and rages of young adulthood, through the bad and good decisions you make, through the experimentation years and ignoring me years and the years of trying to figure out just who the heck you are.

#2 I admire you in innumerable ways and I need to get better at reminding you of that everyday: your courage, your intelligence, your creativity, your strength, your determination, your tenacity, your sensitivity, your humor, your beauty, to name a few.

#3 I will give you a good verbal whoop up every now and then because if mom can’t get in your face time to time, you need to toughen up.

#4 I will continue to annoy you, no I will in fact seek to annoy you at times, just to make sure you know who is boss and not take life too seriously.

#5 I will keep telling you to swim against the tide, to be yourself, to go after something if you want it, to not follow the crowd in doing wrong, to get a grip, to do unto others as you’d want done to you, to go to college, to look for beauty everyday and you’ll find it, to remember that God is writing your story, etc.

#6 I will keep listening- always- about your hurts and hopes, about your crazy and brilliant ideas, about your loves and lost loves, about your fears and struggles (Even if it’s the middle of the night.)

#7 I will always make the best chocolate chip cookies. You can count on that.

#8 I will always pray for you.

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Shattered Illusion

This is not your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but hang with me.

 The illusion of control…

It’s a concept I have been battling with for several years now. Sometimes the illusion has been broken and I accept it. Most other times though, I’ve fought it with both fists drawn. This invisible force seemed to be working against me at every turn- cruel fate was dealing me a crappy hand and I was not having it.

Recently, I watched a video that compared the safety of driving an automobile to riding in an airplane. By a long shot, riding in the airplane is much safer than driving your car anywhere, BUT why do we feel safer driving and more apprehensive flying? The illusion of control. Behind the wheel, we control our every move. When we fly, we are continuously at the mercy and trust of the pilot. We do not like this, not one little bit.

You see, we fancy ourselves masters of our universe, holding our puppet strings. If we are mothers, we think we are holding our children’s destiny in our very capable mother hands. In marriage, we balk against feeling like our partner controls us (thus why many marriages where men are controlling or women are strong willed, fail.) It chaffs against our very nature. And so, we accept the illusion that we surround ourselves with, convince ourselves with really- that we control us and if we are mothers, we are pretty darn comfortable controlling our kids too.

As of late, I am more and more comfortable outside the illusion. I’ve tried being the one who spins all the plates without dropping them. I’ve tried being the strong, hard ass type who doesn’t let my guard down or ever be vulnerable. I’ve tried controlling my kids’ every move in hopes of churning out successful, motivated, educated, people (who happen to think just like me). Guess what? I failed at everything. And maybe that was the intention; the magician revealed the trickery and spoiled the show. I was undeceived at my ability to be god of my destiny and though at first it unsettled me, slowly, I began to accept it.

This left a void and then I was forced to acquiesce to what I knew deep down all along: faith was the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Try as I might, I let me down. My illusion to control myself, those I loved, and my circumstances broke indefinitely.

Only one thing was left- faith in One greater, wiser, better, more loving, more kind, more fulfilling. God knows the secrets I could never begin to understand. He knows me before and behind. He loves me totally and more importantly, He loves those I love even more than I could ever love them.

The shattered illusion has left me happier and more at peace than I could have ever imagined because what was never intended to be mine in the first place was “put back” into the hands of the God more capable than I ever could be anyways.

throw down the trophy

3445f_Starlet_TrophyThe faux golden bauble stood admiringly on the shelf. The pride swelled in my heart and I gave myself a little proverbial pat on the shoulder. I had worked so hard for that thing! In fact it had been pretty much a relentless 24/7 job earning it. Thankless, tiring and consuming as it seemed, I now had this symbol displayed for all to see. And why not? It represented the blood, sweat and tears, my personal achievement monument…

I picked it up, took one last prideful gaze and threw it on the concrete with every ounce of force I could muster. It shattered and splintered into bits, unrecognizable as anything it was before.

Man, that felt good! A wave of awareness washed over me- it felt strangely like relief; like the sigh that comes at the end of a hard work out session. My striving was over, the expectation to live up to what that trophy represented was gone now. I was liberated from the pressure of my prize and pride!

   ~~~~~~~~~

Our children can become our trophies: set up as an enduring symbol of our hard work, our push for achievements, our endless hours of driving all over for classes or lessons, our relentless and tireless pursuit of the right education, our sacrifice for the “right stuff”, etc.

We want them to shine like stars (and of course they do in our universe), but that isn’t quite good enough. We gotta have some recognition, some “Ooo’s and Ahh’s” from people, especially other parents.

Here’s the lie : IT IS NOT EVEN ABOUT THEM IN THE END, IT’S ABOUT US. It is a self-seeking venture to garner attention for our own achievement. I mean, everyone knows that a kid like THAT HAD to come from great parents!

And here’s the antithesis of that lie: another lie, that if they don’t turn out as a crowning achievement, amazing student, upstanding citizen, destined for fame or fortune, WE ARE THE FAILURES. We are at fault. We did something terribly wrong. Our trophy never arrived.

This is the most damaging, beguiling lie of all.

So, dear reader, maybe you have that bauble already set on a shelf (because, dang, your kids turned out alright) or perhaps you are already eyeing the wall for a display case you know you’ll need soon. Conversely, you may have anger, resentment, profound disappointment or dashed hopes because well, frankly, your prize is tarnished, damaged, misshapen. You have nothing to show for all your labors.

Throw down the mentality that your kids are yours to behold. Give them wholeheartedly to One who created them. Yes, work with all your might to teach them right from wrong, shape their thinking. And love them no matter what. Then remember that God is molding them and they may look very different from what you’d imagined.

Proverbs Poetry

 

Here is a piece I wrote after reading Proverbs 7, which cautions a young man about the temptations of the seductress. Drugs, alcohol and sex lure and tantalize. The young are being more and more barraged with promises that these vices bring pleasure, fulfillment and escape from life’s problems or insecurities. God and His wisdom are being touted as boring, restrictive, narrow-minded. May we pray harder than ever for the next generation. Love them intensely and teach them truth.

 

I looked through the window of my house, just between the shades.

Evening was coming on, the dusky darkness becoming heavier with each moment.

I saw an idle throng of people, loitering about.

Among them was a senseless young man- inexperienced and shortsighted.

He was ambling down the shady street, the street of hallucinations.

Around one corner came a dazed looking man.

He had been waiting for the youth, undetectable in the inky shadows.

First came the laugh then the hushed tones, “Come in here and see my stash.”

Brazenly and without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the young man’s arm.

 

In, he pulled him.

The stench of smoke filled the air.

So thick, it was hard to see and made his stomach recoil.

He coughed. His lungs weren’t used to this.

Although, he’d never been there, the kids were from his high school.

He said hello to an acquaintance and got a nod in return.

The room was disheveled and fetid, so starkly in contrast to his home.

Yet, the mellow vibe appealed to him.

“Try some of this.” A tall thin guy handed him a pipe.

This was uncharted territory for the youth.

Gazing up, he remembered the statistics of drug addiction from class.

But the ambiguous smile and his reassuring words, assuaged any fear.

All around were glazed over looks, bleary eyes and relaxed bodies.

 

Soon, the youth was slumped over in a chair.

His body felt numb, but his mind was racing.

The things his mind conceived were incomprehensible.

It seemed like he was catapulting through a kaleidoscope.

Before he knew it, he craved more.

Day after day, he longed for that escape.

Little did he know, this house was on the street called Destruction.

At the end stood a precipice with vacuous blackness below.

Like a net hidden for the prey, was this habit-

A snare meant to entrap.

Like a calf being led toward slaughter,

The rope now around his neck doubled as a noose.

He was bewitched.

 

So, son, listen to me, take these words of mine most seriously.

Don’t fool around with friends like that;

Don’t even stroll through that neighborhood.

Never go into the house.

Countless victims have come under the spell.

Many have fallen prey to its clutches; their minds forever changed.

That path that appeared pleasing will lead you straight over the precipice and into hell.

Proverbs 7:1-4

“My son, obey my words.
    Store up my commands inside you.

 Obey my commands and you will live.
    Guard my teachings as you would your own eyes.

 Tie them on your fingers.
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.

 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister.”
    Call understanding a member of your family.”

 

At 40

It’s no secret and I‘m not ashamed to say it- I turned 40 this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling it some days, mentally and physically. Every once in a while, I catch a look at my reflection and think, “Ay Carumba, I’m getting the gizzard neck!” Time for more Oil of Olay Night Firming Cream (as if that does anything for the inevitable) or sometimes I might just be an itty, bitty tad forgetful.

But I am not writing to play a sad song on my pity violin about the woes of aging. Instead, am celebrating 40! I mean isn’t it cool, the catch phrase we can now assuage ourselves with at the turn of each new decade: 40 is the new 30, 60 is the new 50 et al.? It makes no sense but it sure makes us feel better!

So, six months into this phase called “MIDDLE AGE”, I think I’ve learned a thing or two. While I know I have yet to arrive at some upper echelon of enlightenment, I do think that a few lights have come on (even if they are just night light bulb sized). So, at 40:

  • I wear what I want, what makes me feel comfortable, what I think looks good. High heels are hellish and I refuse to wear them. If someone thinks I dress “too young”, too bad. I still want a pair of Converse in every color and sometimes, I even wear my daughter’s clothes. It’s not like I am going around in a crop top for the entire world to see my lovely stretch marks that crept up my sides when I was pregnant.
  •  My friendships are deliberate and meaningful, deep and loyal. Life is short, so why waste time on some, whiny, over dramatic, manipulative woman that adds nothing to my life but another pain in the A? I love the fact that I have a variety of friends in all age groups, walks of life and religious persuasions. I’m done with overly zealous, backbiting gossips, quick to judge people.
  • Parenting is the most DIFFICULT job in the world. I went into it blindly and naively, depending on the opinions of others instead of God and my own good common sense. I was dead wrong about a lot of things, right about a few and still down on my face in prayer about most things. Every stage and phase brings a new set of challenges. This I am sure of- your parenting won’t look like mine and vice versa. If your kids turn out A-OK, PLEASE do not break your arm patting yourself on the back or smear it in my face. Likewise, if they turn out “different than expected”, don’t razor strap yourself with a burden of guilt. These are people with a will of their own, not a piece of Jell-O that I mold just how I want and they stay like that for life.
  • Marriage is a strange beast. I went into it with a textbook mentality and I am here to say- THROW THE TEXTBOOK TO THE WALL! (No, I do not literally think marriage books are not helpful.) My marriage has taken twists and turns that were wholly unexpected. Nothing could have prepared me or warned me of the issues we would have to duke out. Yet, my marriage is, this side of heaven, the pinnacle of delight in my life. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do consider my husband, my best friend and confidante. Yet, I speak my mind to him as he does to me and sometimes this does not bode well. Such is life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  •  I am unapologetic about my faith. It is the sum total of why I do what I do, how, when and where. I do not bow to the whims and fancies of man’s theological ideals. I do not ascribe to mere rules taught by other Christians. I think for myself with an abiding sense of awe for God’s word, holding to this as my highest authority; not because I am a weak-minded zealot but because I am convinced that if not for God being LORD of me, I would be dead or at very least in a shambley mess of a life (messier than the one I’m in).

At 40, there are a good many things I’ve learned, a good many things I hope to learn and a constant sense of keeping my fingers on my own pulse. I’m smarter than I was in my 20’s and more confidant than I was in my 30’s.

I’m not dead yet. In fact, I’m feeling rather invigorated, happy and ready to fight the next monster that comes around the corner called inevitable.

A Letter to the Shunners

Dear Shunners,

I write out of love. I write because I must. I write because I am tired of it.

Yes, I have three children and yes, they are all unique and varied individuals. Right now, only one of them is an adult and free to make choices that are many times in direct opposition to what we believe, as his parents.

If you know him and see how he has changed this last year, it may sadden or shock you. But what you can never know are the conversations we have behind closed doors; when no one else gets that intimate glimpse into his heart or sees the confusion and insecurity in his eyes. Nor can you hear him wrestle with the magnitude of what it means to grow up, the fear of having to take responsibility and become financially independent.

To those that don’t know him and have either listened to juicy morsels of gossip or taken advantage of moments when in a quest for transparency or vulnerability, I’ve shared too much, shame on you. You are culpable for making a judgement call based on a snippet of information. Your limited knowledge has gone to your head and given you license to shun- him, our other children and maybe even us. Just so you understand what I mean, here’s what shun means: avoid, evade, eschew, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one’s distance from.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to do these things. Maybe you shun because you are afraid of a rebellious child and the implications of it on your own child/family. I understand the fear. I used to feel that way before providence would have it that we would need to love our own prodigal of sorts. Or perhaps you have forgotten the priority of Jesus’s message was to seek and save the lost- not shun and avoid the lost. This is the message we carry to the world.

So, I lovingly plead with those who cannot empathize with us or him during this season, to stop. Stop shunning. Stop standing in your high and lofty place as judge of our family, our parenting methods, or especially our son. And please stop assigning guilt to our other children based on the struggles of one.

Most of all, be mindful of self-righteousness, a lack of grace and the tendency to eschew someone whom you perceive as a rebel. Recognize that no matter what decisions our children make- good or bad- our love for them remains zealous and unchanged. Our fierce sense of protection still wants to “assault” those with intent to hurt them.

We don’t make excuses for wrongdoing. We accept culpability for mistakes we have made in parenting. Conversely, we embrace in gospel love those who think differently than us, look differently than us, live differently than us- especially when they happen to be our own flesh and blood.

Grace will reach farther and soften a heart more than shunning ever could. Grace will lead the rebel home.

With tenacious boldness,

Jane

why?

You know how toddlers cutely, inquisitively and annoyingly ask, “Why?” one hundred fifty times everyday? Yeah. Well, sometimes my inner toddler just won’t quit. It queries all day long like a song on repeat.

Fortunately for you, dear readers, these questions have a bit more depth than a 3 year-old but can be equally perplexing (if not even unanswerable).

Here’s what’s been bobbling around my head (and this is just today)! {Do you ever wonder these things? Or am I the only one with this intense toddler like curiosity?}

– Why is it that when a celebrity succumbs to reckless or naughty behavior, we fiendishly mock, ridicule and scoff at their downfall? Stupid people do stupid arrest worthy things everyday. Shame on us for delighting in it. It shows what man worshippers we can be.

– Why do those over shared “you’re gonna bawl your eyes out”, “watch this with a box of tissues”, “I dare you to get through this without crying” videos NEVER even make me tear up? Am I some cold hearted, non-emotional creature that feels no connection to cute babies, animals or sappy love stories? My heart strings are not easily tugged apparently.

– Why do some of my friends continue to have Mount Everest amounts of crap happening in their lives right now? Again and again. Over and over, dealing with pain, suffering, sadness, disappointment. I wish I could take a Mount McKinley sized piece of it from them. Lighten their load. Make them breathe easier. Find an easy cure or magical potion to make it all better.

– Why do things really break in triplicate? Or why do car repair places always find additional repairs to recommend while fixing the original issue- as if the costs were not already making you bleed out?

– Why are teenagers walking oxymorons whose ideas wax and wane more than the phases of the moon; whose emotions yin and yang more than all the 80’s surf shirts still in existence? And WHY oh why do do they eat so strangely, have such filthy mouths and sleep either like a hibernating bear or like an always prowling cat?

– Why are some days just ethereal in nature and I find myself subconsciously saying: La Vita y Bella, smiling at the silliness of my children’s antics, fondly recalling the dashing bravery of my husband to go out and face the world for us everyday? When, why on other days (and for no apparent reason at’all), I feel a dark force hanging like a rain cloud around me, weighing down the very core of my being and making me mope around like Eeyore?

– Why do people seem to weave in and out of my life for different seasons? Or why does it seem so hard to make lasting friendships at this age, when as a kid, you could make a best friend in 5 minutes?

What bobbles around your head? Do tell.

My Overflowing Cup

True to my “go against the flow” side, I have not partaken in the Facebook trend to write a daily “what I ‘m thankful for” ditty, but as I was looking up some recipes this afternoon (for absolutely obliterating the healthfulness of sweet potatoes by adding copious amounts of sugar and butter), it struck me that indeed, my heart brims over with gratitude.

I promise you won’t walk away and think I have some peachy keen life full of sunshine and flowers. In fact, I hope to reveal that some of my most profound thanks is born out of loss and despair.

So here is my (brief) gramercy list in no particular order:

~ Thankful for parents who took me to church and raised me to know who God is so that I wasn’t left searching the void when my young adult years came.

~ Thankful for parents who stayed married so I never had to endure the pain of divorce, yet whose poor communication and lack of friendship made me realize early on the immense priority those things must be in my own marriage.

~ Thankful that my mom and I had 24 years together. Her death caused me to be acutely mindful that each day of life is a gift to be treasured and that the influence a mother has on her children is life long. Death doesn’t scare me anymore.

~ Thankful for a husband who has endured many rude, disrespectful words from my lips without retaliating, also that he stuck by me through seasons of depression and loved me when I was so unlovely.

~ Thankful that we have “lost it all” materially speaking because this revealed my heart of greed, sense of entitlement, misplaced worth, lust for earthly treasures and lack of compassion for the poor.

~Thankful that God gave me the distinct privilege of being a mother to my 3. Thankful that the intense pain and intense love of motherhood balances me out and reminds me of the great love God and mercy has for me.

~ Thankful that, after being part of the conversation between a partially hearing and a deaf person, I have my five senses (for now). To see the beauty in creation, to smell the rich brew of espresso, to hear the notes and tempo of my favorite song, to taste the creamy sweetness of crème brulee`, to touch the strong hand of my husband- these are the spice of life!

~ Thankful that my few lifelong friendships give me a depth, solace and acceptance that is irreplaceable and for the friendships that come and go- they are precious if only for a short season of time.

~ Thankful for a sister who, despite our very different personalities, is my dearest friend, confidante, cheerleader, prayer partner.

~ Thankful for a hip disease that humbled my youthful pride and for the surgery that took a year to heal from, so that I can empathize with diseases/illnesses that debilitate other people. I am mindful of this every time I run, jog or walk.

~ Thankful that my husband and I are committed to each other through the ups and downs of life (and there have been many downs), that he values our time together and dates me “just because”.  His laugh and smile make my world a brighter place.

~ Thankful for a God with whom I have full acceptance, a Savior who knows the nuances of humanity, and the Spirit He gave to empower us supernaturally; also for the Bible- the beautiful words we have that reveal His plan for the world, comfort our hearts and direct our steps.

Give thanks. Today. Everyday. For the rest of your days.

Drowning Parents

They just keep coming like relentless waves crashing against the rocky shore. At first, I was shocked. Now when I hear something new, my stomach turns sour and my eyes well up with tears. “Not another one”, I hear myself scream.

I am searching for some common thread and find none.

They found a condom in her purse. He smoked something that made him vomit. She is pregnant. He is verbally abusing his girlfriend. They were up all night at the hospital because she had alcohol poisoning. Gay porn was discovered on his laptop. She ran away from home. He is getting high every chance he gets. They found a pregnancy test in her drawer. She denies the faith. He questions if there even is a God.

These are all real scenarios, from real kids that I know. Kids from the church. Kids that were home schooled or public schooled. Kids that were in AWANA all their lives. Kids whose parents are godly, gospel loving parents. Kids who served in the nursery. Kids who went to youth group every week.

I grieve. I wrestle with it. I ask God why. I shake my head. Something went wrong. Or did it?

There are the “other” parents that I now observe from a distance because some of them have put me there; ostracized because they “have heard” what my son has done. They are afraid that their children will be tainted by him, so they avoid me and do not let their younger kids play with mine.

The rest of us, whose kids are the main characters in the scenarios above, are left…. heart broken, baffled, wrung out, embarrassed.

We raised them to be different. Maybe that’s just it. All the work we did and we thought we would have our “prize” at the end: a successful child, a godly child, a child that others look at and admire as an example. Then naturally, they would look at us and think, “They did parenting right. Accolades are due them.”

I can’t shake the guilt or disappointment- no matter how I try. It keeps coming back, hauntingly. I know it doesn’t do me any good, (in fact it only harms and points an accusing finger). It comes through the stares of the parents whose kids are on the right path, keeping their noses clean and heading towards a bright successful future. They don’t mean to (probably), but they have this oh so smug aura about them. And every time, it twists my own knife further.

Meanwhile, we are crushed, sitting on the sidelines trying to love our children unconditionally, trying with every ounce of our being to exemplify patience with their foolish choices. Our hearts broken. Our minds perplexed.

All I can do is cry out through the tears as another wave, another heart-wrenching story comes at me. I beg God to save them all, to let them see the dawning of another day, to save them from an early death and eternal separation from Himself.

Did I do everything right? No. Neither did the other parents. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes, by us all. Will God have to save all in His time? Yes. He makes things beautiful in HIS time.

I am left to weep and try to make sense of it all. The waves wash over me and they linger through the salty residue left behind. At moments, I think I might drown. Then I remember the life preserver at my waist. I can’t see it. I just know it’s there and that alone assuages my fear and guilt for another moment.