Category Archives: vulnerability

Sink Deep, Rise Victorious after Loss

Grief is a universal experience. Every person will at some point in his or her life experience loss in some form. The only way to stay safe from loss is to never love, never care, never attach. The amount of grief we feel tends to correlate to the amount of love we have for a person, pet, job, situation, etc. As a counselor, I advise my clients to let themselves make space for grief and mourning rather than trying to be “fine” and shoving the grief down, drying up the tears, and getting on with life too quickly. In many cultures, mourning is a sacred time set aside for weeks so that a person is allowed to cry, wail, be surrounded by loved ones who do nothing other than “be” with them witnessing this pain and offering kindness (not advice). Being able to sink deeply into grief and truly mourn enables a person to rise more quickly in a state of emotional freedom in which they can feel joy again rather than numbness. Putting off mourning, trying “get it together” and act “fine” by going back to work and regular life duties too quickly only prolongs the healing process. Sometimes we try to “speed up” the grieving process because we are uncomfortable or even terrified of the sinking- the feeling out being out of control, of emotional pain so severe it is hard to breathe, the fear that if we sink we will never rise again. Other times we try to speed this process up because we are of a practical mindset and feel that there is no time to be “in the feels” and we have things to get done. However, grief always finds its way to force us to experience it one way or another. Sometimes, in maladaptive, negative ways such as drinking too much, workaholism, an affair, emotional numbing, disconnecting from loved ones, etc.

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Recently, I experienced a miscarriage. I had gotten my hopes up after an early ultrasound that showed a strong heartbeat and baby growing on target. My blood work was perfect. Everything was in line. Post-miscarriage pathology testing revealed no genetic abnormalities. I was left with no explanation other than simply it must have been God’s will for me not to have this baby right now. I know God loves me and isn’t a magic genie there to just give me all my wishes and make life peachy. I believe that God uses life as a testing ground to teach us the lessons we need to learn to evolve spiritually. Unpleasant experiences teach us things we would not learn from happy times. I can accept what happened and want to ask what I can learn from this rather than “why me”, but I still needed time to grieve as my body endured the physical and emotional suffering for days on end of the miscarriage process at home. For a moment, when I got the news that morning that the baby had no heartbeat and a miscarriage would start soon, I actually considered going into work that night and not telling anyone. I am that much of a workaholic. I had to use my counselor voice on myself and say “Jen that is nuts! Go home!” so I made the radical move of taking a full week and half off from work. Thankfully, I have PDO saved up and could do this. Just FYI, if anyone has to go through this horrible experience I would highly suggest you ask your doctor for pain pills, take the week off from work, get childcare for your kids, make sure you have plenty of Gatorade or electrolyte drinks in the house (hydration will keep you from dying or having to go to the hospital), prepare your mind with prayer and wise counsel (thank you Angela for helping me when I was in spiritual warfare by reminding me of the truth) and plan to settle in for a hellacious ride. I have given birth to two full-term babies with no pain meds at home with a midwife. This was worse simply because the pain was for absolutely nothing. There would be no baby at the end. There was no finish line, only empty arms. If you have never given birth naturally before, it is probably less emotionally and physically traumatic for you if you just schedule a D&C procedure at the hospital. Doing it naturally isn’t something for the faint of heart. It took 5 days for everything to be over.

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But, through this experience I realized this was the first time in my life that I have ALLOWED myself the chance to SINK DEEP and truly MOURN. I remember when one of my best friends was dying of cancer, I only took one day off from work. When he passed, I didn’t take off any time to mourn. I never told many people what I was going through. I just kept soldiering on. And I fell into a depression for about a year. No one knew because I just soldiered on being “productive” while feeling barely able to do so. But, this time I would not make this mistake. I would sink and I would rise. I cried until my eyes were almost swollen shut. I lived on the couch wrapped up in comfy blankets for a week. My church brought meals and my Mom kept my boys for a few of the worst days. My husband made sure I wasn’t passing out from blood loss and was eating. But then….it was over. As if I had “cried it out” and truly felt an emotional release of all the pain. I went back to work the next Monday feeling JOYFUL and grateful to be back to being able to help people and shocked at how good I felt. I wasn’t soldiering on depressed and dying inside. I was ALIVE. I had done my work. I had processed my grief because I allowed myself the time to truly “ugly mourn” the kind that many people avoid doing. It requires courage to sink deep. It requires knowing you will come back up eventually and for me, it requires knowing God is there with me in the sinking and in the rising. I feel closure and peace and it hasn’t even been a full month. Sure, I still have moments (usually when I’m alone driving in the car listening to music) that I feel pangs of sadness or “what if?” but they don’t take my breath away and I let them come and let them go like the ocean tide comes and goes. There is nothing to stuff down or soldier through. Only an allowing, a coming and knowing it will eventually go out too.

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Grief isn’t something we talk about much in our society and most of us just wing it the best we can. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31  May you sink and then rise soaring on wings like eagles as the Lord renews your strength.

Never Say Never…2016 Year of Surprises

2016 seemed to start of just fine, perhaps a bit more boring than usual. Things seemed on an even keel for once. My oldest son was making strides with his autism and the memories of constant struggles were slowly fading away as all of his (and my) hard work, time, and money over the years seemed to be FINALLY paying off in spades with consistently calm behavior, excellent self-expression and language, increasing social skills, no more potty accidents, and only good days at school. We were badassing autism, I would say. My youngest son had found relief through acupuncture from the tics that tormented and embarrassed him so badly at school due to his Tourette’s disorder. He had become BFFs with the neighbor boy. With our boys doing so much better and both of us working stable jobs, my husband and I were getting along better than ever before and having less heated disagreements over house chores, finances, and such. In early May, we went to a winery and I remember feeling caught by surprise and delight that I was falling back in love with my husband as we watched the sun set drinking glasses of Malbec on the patio. The overall stress level for our family seemed to be getting to that of what most people experience in their normal day to day lives. We had been living in financial and autism crisis mode for so long, I had forgotten what it felt like to just kind of coast through life some days. I posted cute pics of the kids or what new recipe I tried that night on Facebook. I went to yoga class regularly, folded laundry while watching Netflix, squeezed in the occasional coffee with a friend, date night with my husband and juggled the pressures of my jobs like a boss.

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Then, that equilibrium that I hoped would be my new normal slowly disappeared in a domino effect leaving me in utter brokenness, some of the darkest nights of the soul I have ever experienced, on my knees pleading to God, crying my eyes out in my car, calling doctors begging for help for my son, sitting by the lake talking myself out of wanting to swim away and never come back, counseling sessions, trips to multiple specialists for a new medical and mental health condition my son developed called PANDAS (“because moderate autism just isn’t enough is it God?” I lamented) which occurred after a bout of strep throat. He was also starting puberty. Crap. Humbled. Waving the white flag by calling the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta crying and breaking down begging for someone to help my son and to help me. They did….with a psychiatry appointment. The last thing I ever wanted for my son. Never say never…..

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We had previously experienced so much miraculous success with naturopathic medicine and diet changes, public school special education programs, SonRise program and therapies (Occupational, Speech, Aquatic, and Hippotherapy), that I NEVER thought I would be one of “those parents” (sorry, I was just so ignorant) who put their kids on psych meds. As a mental health professional, I understood theoretically that there is a time and place for meds, but I observed that often parents tend to just jump the gun and go straight for meds rather than trying other treatments first and using meds as a last resort. I still advocate a conservative approach to medication. But, where I went wrong was assuming that because I am a mental health professional, well versed in natural treatments for various ailments as well, that my son would just NEVER need meds. WRONG. Last resort was exactly where we were at. At least I could feel confident I had exhausted all the options first I suppose.

PANDAS (see article) plus the onset of puberty made autism look like a cake walk. PANDAS made debilitating OCD symptoms, insomnia, and aggression appear. These tormented and took over my once sweet and docile son’s daily life and thus my life, my youngest son’s life, my husband’s life, and even affected our extended family and friendships. We had to stop going to church, taking him to the store, visiting friends, or going out to eat as a family. He just couldn’t handle noisy or crowded places anymore. We would spend hours trying to get him to finish up his rituals of closing doors certain ways or counting to 12 over and over. One night, I stayed up until 2am waiting for my son to stop repetitively banging the bathroom door to the count of 12 over and over again for hours. If we tried to get him to stop or even so much as breathed too loudly during these rituals, we would be violently attacked. My son is as tall and weighs as much as I do. I would have heated disagreements with my husband and my mother about medication. I was desperate and wanted to try it for my son, they were adamantly opposed. One day, one of my younger son’s friends came over to visit and made the mistake of “opening the door wrong” and my son went into a rage. When I tried to calmly de-escalate things (even thought I was on the verge of a panic attack) and make sure my younger son’s friend wasn’t attacked, my son started pulling me by my hair to the ground where we wrestled and I had to pin him down just to get him to let go. I am a trauma survivor and every time my son had one of these episodes I would end up going into the bathroom crying and barely able to breathe in the throws of a panic attack. I would have to drink a small glass of wine just to feel like I wasn’t going to hyperventilate. I was worried about one of us being seriously injured or that I would snap. I just wanted it to STOP.

I knew hospitalization was an option people would advise if I told them the truth, but I refused to put my son in a mental hospital where God knows what would happen to him. I saw news reports of children at local mental hospitals dying or being scalded in the bath. I would rather have my ass kicked all day long or let him kill me than risk inhumane and traumatic treatment for my baby. This is how so many parents feel and why so many families end up in tragic situations. We can’t trust the quality of the help and many can’t afford it if they could trust that care would be adequate. “I am a mental health professional, I will make my home my son’s treatment facility”, I decided. I just didn’t have prescribing privileges, so I needed a doctor’s help. That’s when I reached out to Marcus Autism Center. They normally have a 6-8 month wait list for psychiatry. After I told them the truth about what was happening and how I didn’t honestly know how much longer I could take it, they worked us into a cancellation spot 4 days after my call. I just had to hold on 4 days.

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The first medicine, Clonidine, helped so much with sleep. My son sleeping again helped me feel like I might make it after all even though the days continued to be torment. I found the place he raged the least was in the pool, so every day off was spent at the public pool for as long as we could stay. I still had to pull myself together and make it into work looking like my son hadn’t been attacking me and act as if nothing was wrong and do my job as a mental health professional. It doesn’t make good water cooler talk to discuss how your son kicks your ass if you breathe wrong when you work at a domestic violence victim’s services center. I needed to keep my job and my paycheck. Next, we added in Prozac supposedly for the OCD, which made my son violent and manic all of the time. Now, I had a child who was in an irritable mixed state mania plus it didn’t do crap for his OCD and PANDAS. I called the psychiatrist and told her I was stopping the Prozac. She wanted to try increasing his dose at first, but I said hell no as politely as possible (you HAVE to advocate and speak up to survive this thing as a parent) and she made an appt for us to come in the next day for another treatment plan. That’s when the decision was made to put my son on Risperdal. As a hippie, crunchy type mom this was a “big gun” antipsychotic med I did not trust and did not want to try. It was going to make my son diabetic and make him grow breasts, I feared. But, in utter desperation I honestly would have tried a tranquilizer dart for a bear at that point so I said “what the hell? I don’t even know anything anymore, screw everything I think I know” and got the prescription filled. I lied to my husband about it. Within just a few days my son was BACK. He kept getting better day by day, calmer, happier, engaging with us, not zombied out like I had feared. Biting himself less, attacking less, then I realized days had gone by and he hadn’t gotten physical with us, I hadn’t had to tell my younger son to lock himself in his room for safety. It was a MIRACLE. I finally told my husband and he cried because he finally had to admit that our baby did need meds and that they were helping. This isn’t what we had wanted to do. But never say never….

After he was stabilized mentally, I had the energy and strength to start going more hardcore into researching PANDAS and treatment options. I found a pediatrician in Atlanta (Dr. Rodbell) who takes our insurance and is PANDAS informed (many doctors aren’t) and we got on the wait list to see him. We started a treatment protocol of long-term antibiotics. This made me cringe because we avoid antibiotics in our crunchy natural household like the plague. Never say never….

Lots of driving back and forth to Atlanta ensued (about 1.5 hours away from our home). I somehow shuffled my work schedule around to be off some half days to take my son to his specialists and therapies myself and not lose hours. I proceeded to get quietly then loudly pissed off at my husband for working his 9-5 job, going about his business, and not really seeing all that was going on in my world at home in the “mental hospital” I ran while I wasn’t at work at a domestic violence crisis center and all of the stress that I felt was damn near killing me. I said I would never be “martyr mom” who did absolutely nothing for herself, but that’s exactly who I became during the Summer. There was no time for me to even think about what I might like or want to do. I didn’t go to yoga class for weeks. Those who know me know that I need my yoga just to stay sane and that I NEVER miss. I wasn’t sane. I looked like shit. People probably thought I was on drugs or worse. Nope. Hanging in there. Pulling up at the school in my PJs to drop the kids off late. I never imagined I would let myself go like that. I fought so hard to not let that happen, but it did. Never say never…

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I came out of the “Summer of Hell” now embracing the wonders of psychiatric medication (still as a last resort, but one I wish I had tried much sooner before things came to a crisis point when I barely had the will to live left). Never say never. Crunchy hippie natural mama meets hell yes for RisperDONE. That really is the drug name. I joke with my husband that I would gladly make a TV ad for Big Pharma smiling and saying in my sweetest Mary Poppins voice: “RisperDONE…for those times when your child’s aggression and violence make you want to say I’m just DONE son!”

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So, we were back on track with my son’s mental health. We resumed his therapies and he went back to school no longer headbutting the teacher and giving him a bloody nose now that his meds had him stabilized. Life seemed to level out….but that feeling of love for my husband that had surprised and delighted me when we had that winery date watching the sunset on the patio overlooking the vineyards had gone…somewhere…away….we had devolved over the course of that summer into being simply fellow survivors living in the same fresh hell.

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We tried to maintain connection the best we could. We never stopped talking or being physically intimate, if nothing else just for moments of free stress relief….but the connection, the love, the emotion just wasn’t in it. We were both like shell-shocked zombies stuck together by trauma bonding. I found us a marriage retreat for special needs parents and was so excited to go in October. This was going to fix everything, right? We just needed to chill out and really connect. Love would surprise us again…right? Sadly, my precious Grandma had to have emergency open heart surgery to fix several life-threatening issues a month before our retreat. My Mom is our only respite care provider by choice because I have high standards and trust issues. She is the only person I am confident can handle my boys as well as I can over long periods of time. She had to stay in the hospital with my Grandma for over a month. We had to cancel our trip. I cried and soldiered on. I was worried about my Grandma, but she came through and is doing well thank God! We registered for the December retreat instead. We went on the retreat, connected, had fun, laughed, had one spat about housework, but overall it was a fabulous time with new friends who “get” what living the special needs kiddos lifestyle is like. Love didn’t arrive to take us by surprise as it had done at the winery, but something else was happening. It felt cleansing, painful, but good. We did realize how much we still have in common and how much we enjoy each other’s company still after all these years.

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Then, one week after the retreat when I’m walking on cloud 9 all hopeful thinking things are starting to maybe look up for the first time, we had gone out for sushi, picked up the kids at my Moms, and just had to get them put down to bed in order to continue our date night 😉 So, I’m walking into the kitchen all la-ti-da in my pink PJs to get a drink of water after putting the kids to bed when I’m hit square in the face with the fact that my husband is not who he claims to be at all, not Mr. Self-Proclaimed feminist Christian who is sensitive to the fact that I spent years in therapy getting over anorexia and trauma. That every time he portrayed himself as “someone who doesn’t struggle with THAT” he was lying. Nope, he was all of a sudden in a flash of a second none of these things he had so frequently and vehemently claimed to be. He was cheating on me. He was some shady bastard I didn’t even know anymore. I won’t go into the gory details out of respect for him, but there was no mistaking the proof. In this age of technology, it can be confusing what even constitutes “cheating” anymore, but when a husband and wife discuss and agree upon THEIR boundaries, needs, and definitions then anyone who violates that while their wife is looking forward to them coming to bed and paying her some attention is cheating, plain and simple. Cheating your thirsty spouse out of your love, attention, and affection and putting your sexual energies into someone else is cheating. And it makes that person wonder why? Am I not good enough? Do I look bad? Should I start starving myself again and undo the 6 years of therapy that got me to the point of being able to say “I’m no longer anorexic at all and I am actually able to view myself as beautiful FINALLY”? When my husband would support my recovery and tell me he thought I was more beautiful not scary skinny, was he lying to me?

Regardless of how it went down, in that moment I felt everything I believed to be true crumple into a big ole pile of bullshit. I could barely stand. I yelled the first thought that raced through my mind, “Well I guess I’ll just go out and do whatever I damn well please with whoever I damn well please now (expletive) huh!” and ran to the bathroom to throw up. I threw up over and over again all night long. It was like labor. I felt my body, the one thing that has never betrayed me and has always tried to protect me, trying to empty me of whatever was causing me to feel so sick. My body, unlike my husband, was trying its damnedest to protect me and cleanse me of anything noxious or harmful to my health. My mind was whirling around. I always said that I was the type of woman who wouldn’t put up with certain types of bullshit. I won’t put up with disrespect in my own house after I bust my ass at work all day and take care of the kids anytime I’m not working. I won’t put up with cheating when I’ve offered the option of an open marriage. I just won’t abide a liar who claims the highest fidelity in order to coerce loyalty from me. I own my home with only my name on it. I make my own money. I pay my car note. I am by no means stuck, I thought. All bets were off. What was good for the gander might just be good for the goose…..So, I told my husband to get out of the house until I could stop raging and wanting to kill him and go seduce the nearest unmarried person. I alternated between crying so hard my body shook, being so angry I almost broke my hand punching a door, and dolling myself up and flirting a little with strangers out in public. I don’t regret it. I survived being punched in the gut and having the wind knocked out of me, emotionally speaking, so I think its only fair and normal I came up swinging rather than being sweet and doing all the “right” things.

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Finally, one night I was crying in bed alone, my hand outstretched onto my husband’s now vacant side of the bed. Cold crinkled sheets. I can do this. I can survive this. I’ve lost loved ones, lovers before. I know how to suffer. I know how to feel like you are going to die…and yet survive. I started praying. Blubbering crying and praying. God reminded me of everything wrong I had ever done to my husband. How I wouldn’t marry him for so many years because I didn’t know if I could be faithful or not, 99% certain I couldn’t be. How I had messed up just weeks before we said “I Do” due to my fears creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and how, even in spite of my Herculean efforts at recovery, I had grown overly confident that I no longer could be tempted, allowed myself to be in a compromising situation and almost slipped and cheated while I was newly married, catching myself at the last second before going through with it. I realized that my husband had forgiven me much, as had God. But ultimately, the realization that was the most profound was that even if my husband wanted to see other people, I still wanted him to come home and be my best friend. I wanted him to come home to my bed, my body, my table, my food, his children every night.Heartbreak.jpg

There is no rational explanation. Just LOVE. Not co-dependency, because this isn’t insecure need out of fear of being alone (the thought of being alone actually excited me and relieved me in many ways), this is simply what I WANT and what I choose right now at this juncture. His pros outweigh his cons. I forgive him and he has forgiven me. And to me, that is love. 14 years. Plenty of reasons to leave, but more to stay and try. Maybe we could work towards reconciliation, I thought. When we had a heart to heart, he finally acknowledged the truth and shared that in counseling he had realized that he honestly didn’t trust me and thought I was still cheating on him which made it easy for him to do what he did. Maybe, I thought, instead of signing a lease at an apartment using our kids Christmas presents money as a down payment, he could just come home and we could work through this by the grace of God somehow…..It’s been tough…and beautiful…and surprising in so many ways. Surprising like that day at the winery falling back in love over wine. Except this time, we are falling back in love over honest, heart-felt conversations rather than the buzz of wine. I’m still figuring it out and realizing I don’t have to figure it all out. I can just let it unfold. The boys are super happy to have Daddy home. So am I. One thing is sure…I will never say never again after this year’s humbling lessons. I will just continue to wing it…together with my sons, my husband, and you all my sweet friends and strangers 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Bless Our Mess

My son’s occupational therapist shared with me something cute my 8-year-old shared with her at school. She said, “He said my house sure can be a mess sometimes, but its the best mess. Its my favorite place to be.” At first, I have to admit, I was mortified because I carry a little bit of secret shame about my free-spirited, “just trying to survive and stay sane as a working mom” housekeeping philosophy. But, then, I was struck with how profound my son’s statement really was. Our house, our family, ourselves sure can be messy, but messy can still be amazing. Messy can still be our favorite place to be. A big ole come as you are mess is actually quite comforting and endearing. You are always accepted and don’t have to clean up first and fit everything into a neat and tidy toy box. It’s the expectation of shiny, well-organized constant perfection that trips us up in so many ways, isn’t it? I honestly don’t want a constantly neat and tidy house. I want a sanitary house with clean dishes, the litter box scooped, enough clean clothes for the week and the trash taken off, but do I want floors with daily fresh vacuum lines and with toys neatly in their place or my son’s art supplies in perfect order at all times? No, I really don’t.

One of my favorite things about my Mom’s parenting style was that she was very relaxed when it came to her expectations of the house. She would rather let us relax, study, and play at home most days than to have a rigid chore chart schedule. There were times she asked for help or told us “alright that’s it, your room is a disaster its time to clean it up,” but overall there was always a sense of home being a place to rest, get schoolwork done, and to not have to be as tightly wound as the outside world expected. I want my kids to look back on their childhood the same way. That their home is the one place of constant refuge where they can kick back and relax, be messy, be themselves, but also a place where they can earn a dollar if they help Mama do the dishes.

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Of course, I’m not advocating never cleaning or letting your house be unsanitary, but I am all in favor of relaxing a bit and instead of shaming myself for my messy home, savoring the fact that this is my son’s favorite place and “the best mess.” My kids don’t care that my desk is overflowing with books and papers for the online class I teach. I’m thankful my youngest son’s room looks like a Lego explosion and he feels creative freedom and relaxation. I’m thankful my oldest son’s room is an explosion of stuffed animals and art supplies where he can shut the door and decompress after school. I’m thankful I can go to yoga or read a book instead of spending hours each day trying to get my home to look like a magazine. I do not enjoy cleaning at all because it is an exercise in futility and I don’t have the time to put any effort into futile pursuits my kids will just undo for me. Why spend an hour picking up Legos or hounding my son to do so when I could instead be playing Marvel versus Capcom with him or even just sitting by him on the couch reading a book, available if he wants to talk while he draws? He is just going to empty out the Lego boxes looking for the perfect Darth Vader helmet tomorrow anyway, so why bother? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I sure don’t. I work 3 jobs for goodness sake and take care of 2 boys, one of whom has special needs that take up any excess energy I might have. When you are just trying to survive as the parent of a child with special needs, you don’t have time to get neurotic about perfection. You start to accept and cherish the beautiful mess that is your life because your ideas about perfection were shattered the day you received that diagnosis.

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As I think and write, I realize that housekeeping tends to be a deeply personal issue for me and for probably most of us women. Men are pretty much off the hook because if someone comes over and the house is a wreck, no matter if the wife works just as many hours or not, somehow the spoken accolades or the passive-aggressive disapproval falls on her. Her only hobby  after working full-time should be cleaning and childcare right? That is the unspoken expectation so many of us feel. It is us women who frantically announce, “Ya’ll! Clean up NOW Grandpa is coming over in 2 hours!” as we bust out the mop, the vacuum, and the shovel for all of those toys simultaneously in a flurry of panic at the thought that our family member or friend is going to judge us harshly for slacking off and maybe playing with the kids or reading instead of non-stop cleaning.

Who do you allow into your home? I am very selective. I know which friends are my “safe friends” who I don’t have to clean up the house for if they want to swing by for coffee and these friends are the same ones I go to when something serious is going on in my life and I need to share my pain or my emotions without having them judged “a hot mess” or offering to “tidy up” my feelings for me either. There is something beautiful about accepting the messy parts of ourselves, our people and our homes. Let’s cut ourselves and each other some slack as we wing it through parenting, housekeeping, and realize we are all really a mess in one way or another. But we can find the love in our messiness. We don’t have to get it all in the toy box to be loved or enough.

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Always Struggling? What God is Teaching Me About Success and Humilty

Do you ever feel like the struggle is just all too real and all too constant? “What am I doing wrong here?!” you may ask yourself. Been there. Still there. Where did we get this message from the world and start buying it that success = ease and plenty? That we should be embarrassed by our struggles and seek to portray ourselves as “winners” rather than just struggling people saved by the grace of God?

In the course of living my life as a working professional and mama to two boys with special needs, I have found that in spite of my best efforts and many prayers, feeling like I have it “together” typically only lasts for a few hours here and there scattered among days that are exhausting, filled with challenging behavior and sleep deprivation that requires constant patience and “therapy mom” mode, then having to go into work acting like I’m the “with it” professional who can garner respect and making sure all of the paperwork for my son’s therapies and insurance is completed in a timely manner. I’m almost always at least mildly struggling. I’m always coming up short. I am not perfect. The pictures I post on social media don’t show my struggles. I’d really rather not be lookin’ all busted in my pictures, but you should see me as I walk my kids into school in the morning lookin’ a hot mess (I go home and get ready for work after I drop them off). I definitely do not have it together. One bit. Just doin’ the best I can over here.

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 I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT FAILING AT LIFE JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE STRUGGLING THROUGH LIFE.  When did struggle become shameful? There is so much freedom in hearing a friend say “me too” and realizing you aren’t the only person going through it. I find comfort in God’s Word. God never promised us that we would be free from struggle or weakness, only that He would never leave or forsake us in it. The world’s image of “winning” was NEVER the standard on which we are meant to judge our “success.” He said we should boast in our weaknesses, that His strength is made perfect in weakness.” I actually hate the word “success” because it brings to mind all of the worldly definitions of  “winning” and “success” being financial prosperity, vacations, beauty, health, lack of struggle and strife and also how  many “successful” people look down on those who are “unsuccessful” as if the advantages they have had in life had nothing to do with their “success” as they claim the glory for themselves rather than giving full glory to God in utter humility for every single blessing received from innate intelligence to being born to a loving family to having good looks to being able-bodied and able-minded.

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This idea that lack of struggle = “success” is so dangerous and discouraging. It isn’t from God or at least what I’ve read in the Bible. Sure, sometimes we bring struggle upon ourselves by acting like little kids who throw caution to the wind and do whatever we want regardless of it being wrong (like a little kid who eats all of the Halloween candy in one sitting and then spends the night throwing up asking “why am I so sick mama?” because all that sugar at once made them sick.)  We can’t blame God when we just act dumb or lazy, go against His advice and knowingly YOLO it. But, I’m not talking about messing up on purpose. I’m talking about doing the best you can, looking to God for guidance every day, and still struggling through life. That doesn’t mean we are doing life wrong or that we are just “unsuccessful” or “ineffective” losers. Take heart. Be encouraged.

Here is what God’s word actually says about suffering and struggle:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV   

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Romans 5:3-5 ESV 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 23:1-6 ESV 

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. …

Luke 18:9-14 ESV     

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ …

John 1:5 ESV

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Romans 8:1 ESV 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13 ESV 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

James 1:2 ESV   

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Hebrews 13:1-25 ESV 

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” …

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

1 Corinthians 2:1-16 ESV     

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. …

 

Matthew 7:1-2 ESV 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Exodus 14:14 ESV 

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Romans 14:10-13 ESV 

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Psalm 71:20-21 ESV 

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.

1 Peter 5:10 ESV    

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV 

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Acts 14:21-22 ESV    

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV      

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Romans 5:8 ESV    

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:18 ESV          

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

lordspurpose

I find it hard to hold my head high with my struggles sometimes, but maybe that’s the point. Thank you God, for humbling me daily and bringing me to my knees so that I can go to work and meet my clients who I counsel in a place of my own suffering and humility that I may never make the mistake of implying that life is about “lost” versus “found” and “successful” versus “unsuccessful” people. I am lost and found daily. I am both successful and unsuccessful daily. Thank you Jesus for always finding me and giving me what I need rather than what I want as I wing it through this life…

P.s. I know I whine more than I should, please forgive me and keep giving me what I need, not what I want. Also, if you could make my kids behave better and give me more patience that would be much appreciated. 😉

godsuccess

Breaking News: Boobs! Meanwhile in New York beautiful things are happening…..

So I go online this morning and the “top news” story trending is this story about a celebrity’s breasts (although I applaud her speaking out about the negatives of breast implants): https://gma.yahoo.com/melissa-gilbert-feels-going-size-dd-just-average-134014073–abc-news-celebrities.html 

I look forward to a day when women’s bodies are no longer “breaking news” and instead our minds, hearts, spirits, professional accomplishments and philanthropy are the “top stories”.  Amazing things are happening in this world! Flowers are breaking through the hardened sidewalk of society. Stories like this one:   http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/24/living/feat-humans-of-new-york-harvard-fundraiser/

How are we in 2015 and still women’s bodies are not only fair game for commentary, news stories, judgment, etc. but these stories overshadow stories about exemplary women who are making a difference in the world every day in ways that have nothing to do with appearance? How many news articles do you see discussing a male politician’s new hair-do or fashion choices? How many male actors are plastered on a magazine shamed for gaining weight? No matter how accomplished or dignified a woman is, her body is still subject to the gauntlet of public opinion. News stories about women’s bodies or fashion choices trend, while other stories get overlooked. Why is that?

little girl

It’s no wonder we women are so dang messed up and every woman I talk with has some kind of body image issue. Some part of her body she hates. Instead of seeing herself as a whole woman with inner and outer beauty, a woman will take issue with her breast size or shape, how big or small her butt is, or how big her nose is. Why can’t we all rise up and just buck this trend? Because it is all around us. It is pervasive. We can’t dig a hole, crawl in and escape it.

I am an accomplished, professional woman who has received numerous kind and crass comments about my body over the years (especially during my stint waiting tables and during my dating days) from women and men alike. I just want to tell all of them “please don’t comment on my body; its mine you know. I’ll ask if I want your opinion.” I hate how every time we are at the park with my father-in-law he comments on women’s appearances. I hate how one of my best friends slipped and called me fat the other day joking around…even though she knows my struggles…and she struggles too. I hate when I try to open up about my insecurities to a friend and she offers me diet advice instead of advice on how to love myself…

nobody

The worst thing for someone like me is when all of a sudden I start receiving a lot of compliments about how good I look when I’ve lost weight. You see, I don’t ever let myself get “scary skinny”. This is a common misconception about eating disorders. That only people who look skeletal have one. Not true. These people who complimented my slim physique were well-meaning, but they were complimenting my eating disorder. They are positively reinforcing my anorexia. When I slip back into my patterns of restricting food and compulsively exercising, I am literally flooded with all of these comments about my body from women and men alike “oh you look so good! What are you doing?” I’m starving myself eating an apple, a yogurt, and a salad everyday….I’m exercising for hours at a time hating myself….I don’t recommend it. It’s a pretty miserable existence.  No one compliments you when you gain weight, even if on the inside you are psychologically the most healthy and happy you’ve ever been. In our society, weight loss and uber-fitness is lauded as the pinnacle of success. “She has it all” yeah…including an eating disorder and self-loathing….no I don’t have it all. For Pete’s sake, I don’t even have dessert! Have you tried living like that?

If I’m about 10 pounds overweight I’m in my happy place with my eating disorder and food. If I’m skinny again, I’m losing. Losing and risking my life. I’m having heart palpitations and my stomach is screaming for food and I’m not listening. But I sure do get a lot of compliments….

eatingdisorder

For the past two years, I’ve been in the best place of my life. I have felt like I was in full recovery and have started to love myself as-is instead of constantly trying to change myself. My husband and my counselor have both helped me start to love myself even with a little extra weight on me that comes from….you know…eating and not compulsively exercising. My husband is the only person who tells me I look better the way I am today than when I was 100 pounds. Even my friends remind me that I looked “so great” back then. Sigh…they can’t help it. They are women and they have been acculturated just like I have.

So I’ve been doing well with this thing, but yesterday….I saw a picture of myself and was horrified. Utterly disgusted. I broke down crying. It triggered something in me that I couldn’t talk myself down from. I couldn’t see the sweet moment I was having with my children in that picture. I couldn’t see the smile on my face. All I could see was fat. FAT. FAT. FAT. DISGUSTING. LET MYSELF GO. NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. I cried and cried and then I had to go to work. I didn’t eat all day. I felt dizzy.

There are three precious little girls at work. They asked me why I was only eating a small piece of chicken and a small salad for dinner as I sat with them. They knew I normally ate more and enjoyed dessert. These girls tell me they love me every day. Over and over. They smile and run to hug me when they see me. They want to be around me 24/7. They want to play games and eat with me. I couldn’t bear to tell them the truth. I lied to them. I told them I had a late lunch and my stomach wasn’t feeling so good today. But it wasn’t my stomach that was hurting. My heart was breaking. My mind was racing and at a loss. I don’t want to go back down the road of misery, but I don’t want to look at pictures of myself and feel horror.

When I start focusing on doing the “Paleo diet” or whatever other “eat this, not that” diet people tell me to try, it spirals out of control into orthorexia then anorexia. Honestly, I’d rather just not eat than eat food that I don’t like and get no pleasure from eating. I don’t like being in a deprivation mindset. It feels icky. It feels wrong to me. The only way I have overcome anorexia is trying to eat healthy foods, but not put too much thought into it. As long as it doesn’t contain MSG, artificial sweeteners, or anything else that is just plain toxic, its ok by me. Carbs are ok. Desserts are ok. I don’t count calories (counting calories always becomes a game to me of how little I can eat and survive). I just focus on moderation and healthy choices as my goal.

dieting

But, look where “not thinking too much about it and just eating normally” has gotten me? To the point where I am horrified by a picture of myself. Obviously this “eating like a normal person” thing isn’t working either. I don’t know what to do but turn back to my old ways…nothing I’ve learned in counseling school works for me. No advice my healthy friends give me works. Mindful eating? Nope. I enjoy it too much and fixate on the pleasure of food to the point where I binge. “Healthy eating” turns into a contest to see how I can use fruits and veggies to drastically reduce calorie intake. Treating my body like a temple? Then I start feeling guilty for not being able to eat perfectly (I hate smoothies and I can’t stay on a “30 day challenge” of any kind) and I get depressed because I am a failure and my temple will never be good enough.

Food and I have such a messed up relationship. I don’t understand how some people just go about their lives eating and not having this love-hate, starve-binge, freak out if their pants are tight, freak out when they see a bad pic where they look fat issues….I wish I could just be normal. But I’ve struggled with this since I was 9 years old. I am a highly sensitive, perceptive, and intelligent woman who grew up in this culture where women’s bodies are always the subject of commentary and news stories. My mom would go on and on about how much she hated her stomach and how fat she was (she wasn’t actually ever overweight). Family members would praise me when I was starving to be thin. This stuff has deep roots.

My natural body type is curvy with wide, child-bearin’ hips and thick thighs. I am short. I have never had a perfectly flat stomach even before kids. I’m stronger than many men. My biceps are bigger than my husband’s. That’s just how God made me. I am still living in a culture which floods my mind with photoshopped images of women who look nothing like me and I can’t even scroll through my Facebook newsfeed without someone posting pictures of scantily clad women or their “before and after” weight loss pics (they usually look better in the before though). I wonder how my husband could want me when there is so much (real or fake) “perfection” out there. But he does. He is so good to me. He always says the right thing and he is so atypical.

I would never want this for these little girls I was sitting and eating dinner with. I would never want to model food restriction to these beautiful, perfect angels. I would want them to know that they don’t have to be what the magazines try to tell them they need to be. They are wonderfully made by the Creator who made the stars. I want to be a role model for them…but I’m back-sliding….it feels like I’m sliding down the mountain and I’m grabbing onto it, but my fingernails are breaking off and I know I can’t hold on. I pray and pray and cry and cry. I don’t want them to see me fall. All I can do is hide from them how I really feel. And that is not who I am. Of all things, I never want to be a liar again. Authentic is my goal, my mantra. But tonight, I can’t.

friends talk

I can look at any other person who is overweight or normal weight and not ever think a judgmental thought. I actually think women who are “thick” are so beautiful, so sexy. But not me. I see me at a normal weight, maybe 15 pounds overweight and think “Oh my God what have I done! I’ve let myself go and pretty soon the next picture I see of myself I will look obese and then…..”(down the rabbit hole I go with all of the awful things that will happen to me if I don’t look good enough). Why can’t I just love myself when I am able to love every other person on this Earth just the way God made them? My whole life has been chasing “good enough”. I’m still chasing it. Why can’t I find it? Intellectually, I understand that God made me perfect, whole, loved, accepted, cherished. But in my heart I know that this world doesn’t run according to how God sees me. And, as much as I hate it, I have to live in this world. 

friendschristwhoyouare

We have to live in a society that tears women apart with subtle things like every single magazine having articles like “How to stay slim without feeling hungry”. Women compliment each other on weight loss and eat fat-free Nutrasweet laden yogurt for lunch. Men download porn and view women as 2-dimensional objects who exist solely for their guilty pleasure. They don’t wonder who these women are…what they think…what their lives are like…if they are sad or addicted or contracting AIDS. They don’t wonder if maybe when she was a little girl she really wanted to be a doctor or a teacher, but she’s doing this instead because she has 3 kids to feed and they have a deadbeat daddy. They don’t know that a lot of abused girls grow up trying to take their power back by claiming to “enjoy” doing this for a living. They don’t realize that girls who are posting naked pictures of themselves online seeking attention are feeling empty and insecure. They don’t care.

There is so much sickness in our society. Even women who have fulfilling careers, who excel academically, who earn professional degrees and hold our heads high as our strong bodies walk down the street know eyes are looking at us. Not at the whole woman, not wondering who we are, what we do, what brings us joy, what good we are doing for the world….those eyes are looking at our body parts… undressing us with their eyes. Other eyes are comparing our waistlines to their waistlines. We women are all trying to answer the question, “Am I ok? Am I good enough?” 

I hope the women in my life I love dearly have found their answer and that it is “yes, I’m wonderful.” However, based on what clients tell me in counseling sessions, most girls lose that confident assurance around the same age they go through puberty and start looking outside into the world asking the world that question and receiving a resounding, “NO. Not good enough” everywhere they look.

I’m gonna fight this thing. I am determined not to slip as far down as I once was. Today, I may still be sliding down the mountain. Yesterday, I lost the battle of my mind. Today, I’m going to try again. I’m going to try and make peace with food, with bad pictures. I’m going to try to “love myself as my mama loved my baby feet” (thanks Mary Lambert). I’m going to try and see myself how I see those precious girls at work. “You don’t have to try so hard, you don’t have to try try try try, you just have to get up get up get up you don’t have to change a single thing” my Pandora radio sings to me as I write this.

Today I’m going to make a Youtube playlist and listen to songs like these over and over, winging it until something sinks in…are you winging it through a messed up relationship with food? Are you a woman who is just trying to figure out how to live in a world which tells us only certain body types are acceptable or attractive? Share your wisdom, struggles and thoughts with me please.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXoZLPSw8U8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8NvU9Ah-uY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3f1zii5skA

A broken foot, a broken heart, and the boss who made my friend work late on a Friday…3 friends and an unusual girls night out. Come hell or high water.

More and more I find myself in awe of how people weave in and out of each other’s lives. I think of it as sacred weaving. I have heard it called divine appointments.

Tapestries-520x245

It is Monday morning and I am still in gratitude reflecting on the experience I had Friday night with two…no three…women whom I love dearly. The first woman is my long-time friend who knew me during my “bad girl” high school days. She is one of only two people I call when I am ugly crying and can’t make sense of anything about life. The second woman is a more recent friend. She is someone I love more every time I talk to her and learn more about her.  The third is author/speaker Glennon Doyle Melton. I discovered her truth-telling during a time in my life when I needed to read exactly what she was writing. When I heard her TEDtalk, I decided to try her whole “just do the next right thing and that will take you all the way home” advice out.

Back to Friday night. So, a few weeks ago I was reading Glennon’s blog and she posted a list of upcoming speaking events. I thought I might get lucky and she might be speaking in Atlanta. I live about 1 (or 2 depending on traffic) hours from Atlanta so I would be willing to drive to see her speak. NO. She was speaking in MY LITTLE TOWN! 10 minutes down the road from me! What!?!? Divine appointment right there! Nothing comes to my town. This was really weird. And the event was not some $195 conference. It was $30. I registered myself immediately and then thought about these two friends. Their names just popped into my head. The three of us hadn’t been out together in about 2 years (we all have kids with special needs, work/school, etc.). They were down, so we all put Friday 1/23 6:30-9pm into our schedules as a girls night out.

Then Friday came. I had torn a tendon in my foot 5 days before and was in a stabilizer boot and on crutches. However, I’m going come hell or high water. One friend was having the day from hell at work and her boss made her stay late rather than her slipping out early as planned. She had to pick up her kids and get them home then get back to my house by 6 so that we could get to the event. It was raining cats and dogs. Of course there was a wreck between her house and my house (which are 10 minutes down the street from each other). I could hear in her voice that she was drained from a rough work week, 3 young kiddos screaming in the background, and now this. “It’s ok, we will be late if we have to”. She made it to my house come “day from hell” and high water. “I swear, this lady must be about to say something that will change my life, because the devil really doesn’t want me to make it there tonight,” she joked.

I had been talking with my other friend on the phone that day discussing some really difficult decisions she was facing and I could feel her heart breaking through the phone. The kind of heartbreak that I know all too well and I wish I didn’t. The kind of heartbreak that happens when you try and try to make it work, but it still isn’t working. The kind that brings judgment from the people you need to love and support you unconditionally when your heart is breaking. It hadn’t been a good week. For any of us. We all had reasons to cancel on each other. But we showed up with our various physical and emotional ailments. We just showed up. That’s half the battle in life right there.

 friendslifehard

From the outside, when we walked (hobbled) into the lobby, I was the only one who was visibly hurt and broken.  These two friends are so beautiful that even though one had cried her makeup off in the car on the way to my house and one hadn’t had time for a shower or make-up in days, no one would have known they had the week from hell. I have noticed this with myself and with other women. If we have had a day or week from hell, we think it shows in our appearance. Good week: I’m alright. Bad week: I look like Shrek. I wanted to take a picture of the three of us, but they were horrified at the thought.

So, Glennon was speaking at a big church. When my friends and I walked in, we all looked at each other and commented that we felt a bit out of place. Jokes were made about it being a miracle the church wasn’t struck by lightening as we walked in. We laughed. We smelled like cigarettes. At least we had each other in this swarm of women we didn’t know. I think that as we looked around and saw hundreds of women, we saw their “outsides” and maybe assumed that because their “outsides” looked fashionable and put together with great care that their “insides” matched that image. We didn’t have scarves or nice boots or carefully styled “hairdos” (I tried but my hair fell into a stringy mess in the rain). We just showed up as we were. We found our seats and sat there waiting for Glennon to come out.

I wondered if maybe they wouldn’t like the event and think I had turned lame and boring spending my Friday nights at a church. Our last girls night out 2 years ago had been at a bar…Wild Wings…anyway… Glennon came out and started speaking. I looked over and my friends were laughing so hard. Whew, I felt relieved that, at the very least, my friends were smiling and laughing after a long, hellish week.

Then Glennon started getting into the kind of stuff that I was so hungry for back when I first read something she had written. The messy life stuff, the tough stuff, the BRUTIFUL stuff. Like this. 

There were things I had wanted to say to my friend whose heart was breaking as we talked on the phone. I had once not so long ago been the one on the other end of the phone not knowing whether to stay or go. Whether I had tried hard enough or not. Whether I was right or wrong.

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Glennon!

But then, this magical thing happened. Time slowed to kairos….which is exquisitely described by Glennon here.

Glennon was talking about the time when she and her husband separated due to very valid reasons (not just some “I’m not happy and I think I can find a hotter man” whimsy) and that some of the very people she needed to love her through this heartbreaking time were the ones who judged her and told her that marriage was more important than her healing, more important than her safety or misery. Many of these people were members of her church family. She said it so well “What if we are making an idol out of marriage? As if staying married is the only important thing?” Then she discussed the epiphany she had that whether they found redemption as a couple or apart, that separating and taking the time to heal, pray, seek change, go to counseling, etc. was what would bring them that redemption. No one should have to just decide to live a miserable or unsafe existence because they idolize marriage and fear the judgment of their church or family. I loved it when Glennon said something to the effect of: I know God loves me, I know God loves you, I just can’t believe His will is for us to suck it up and give up on healing and redemption and just hunker down in a miserable or scary marriage.

friendschristwhoyouare

It was as if everyone else in that room faded out and only the three of us were sitting there with our hearts swelling with love and pain and life experience. My friend heard something no one else had said to her in the exact way she needed to hear it.  I looked over and saw these big tears welling up in their eyes. I put my arm around my friend. Tears were streaming down my face, too. I had been there. Here we were, one friend who had been divorced for a while. One friend, sitting in between us, smack dab in the midst of that difficult decision and what life would even look like moving forward. And myself. Although now happily married, my husband and I had separated. Twice.

Looking back, I remember a girls night out when I was crying about my relationship over a pitcher of margaritas to friends who made me laugh even when I was a hot mess with mascara and eyeliner running all down my face. I am thankful they were there for me when I felt so alone in my brokenness and uncertainty. They didn’t presume to know the path I needed to take to find my redemption. They just loved me through it. Since then, some of those same friends have been divorced, separated, back together, remarried to someone new. This relationship and marriage stuff is so hard. It’s really messy. Love is the most brutiful (brutal and beautiful) thing I’ve ever experienced. No one should get up on a high horse and judge because you never know if you’ll get bucked off and need a friend to help you up out of the mud. There are things we can do to try and cultivate a great marriage, but I don’t have a crystal ball.

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So, Glennon wrapped up and there was a time for us to come up and take pics with her, but my friends and I slipped out the back and went to a Thai restaurant instead. Each of us had gotten what we needed. With our spirits filled and overflowing, we sat and talked over curry and Pad Thai about the kind of really deep stuff that usually doesn’t come up on a “girls night out” like our bad habits, fears, insecurities, our love/hate relationship with our bodies and we laughed until they started flashing the lights at us to leave so they could close the restaurant.

We will keep winging it together through this brutiful life thankful for how favorite authors and bad weeks and a girls night out all weave together to make a beautiful piece of our tapestries.

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Our fortunes. Hers, mine, and hers.