Friends and Family

How Is This My Life?

Yesterday, I said it again: This is not how I pictured my life.  It’s a phrase I have uttered far too many times over the past several years.

I’m not the type of girl that overly fantasized about how my life would look when I grew up.  I didn’t cut photos from magazines of my dream wedding. I didn’t see 2.5 children, one of them definitely a girl, living in a large house with a picket fence. I didn’t picture what my husband would look like or what career he would have or whether we would have a dog or a cat.

I had some assumptions. I assumed I would be married. Forever. I assumed I would have children, and yes, even assumed at least one would be a girl. I assumed I would have a short career and then transition to being a stay-at-home mom with a healthy volunteer resume to boot. I assumed I would be happy. My husband would be happy. My children would be happy. And all of us would be healthy.

In my mind’s eye, my life would look like this: my husband and I would drive together to our son’s soccer game. We’d cheer for our son together. We would take him and his three brothers out to eat after his game.Together. In one car. I’d ask my husband about his day and he would ask about mine. We would celebrate our son’s victory as he would tell us both – at the same time – about the kid who kept trash talking him on the field. We’d smile at one another and everyone would be content. It’s not too much to ask. It’s not a wild daydream. Families live like this everyday. Mine was supossed to.

Reality, however, does not mimic that picture. Last year, while sitting at my youngest son’s soccer game, my boyfriend and I took our seats on the far end of the bleachers. Soon, my ex-husband rolled up in his wheelchair and stopped next to us. A few minutes later, I heard a familiar voice and glanced back to see me ex-boyfriend sitting behind us. I laughed at it then, mainly out of awkward discomfort. I laugh at it now because it makes for a ridiculous story and I love ridiculous stories… even if I do sound a bit like a floozy.

I’ve written about this notion of life not turning out the way it was supposed to: https://lynnhouse.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/a-real-life-thanksgiving/ and I know I am not alone. So often I hear some variation of this phrase uttered from friends who are going through a divorce or the death of a loved one or some other traumatic incident. “How is this my life?” they ask.

This is exactly what I said to my friends yesterday as we sat by the pool catching up on each others’ lives. I told them about my son’s 20th birthday and how my ex-husband joined us for dinner. This is a rare event as he spends most days comletely bedridden from  a rapidly progressive stage of multiple sclerosis. As we sat at a local restaurant, it all seemed so normal as the banter from our boys bounced back and forth across the table. When our food arrived, things ceased normalcy. As he looked at his salmon and quinoa, my ex-husband asked one of the boys to feed him as he is incapable of moving his hands to his mouth. It seemed silly for my son to get up from across the table to feed him, so I offered to do it instead as I was seated next to him. Our four boys carried on eating and talking and laughing as I fed their father.

I told my friends that I can’t quite put words to the feelings I had around this situation. I don’t talk about the pain of our divorce much any more. Partly because it’s been eight years since he moved out, and partly because I don’t know how to share my truth about it without getting in to details that are not mine to share. Needless to say, divorce incites the kind of pain that causes your heart to PHYSICALLY HURT. The kind of pain that you hope no other loved one will ever have to experience because you don’t know how you possibly went through the deepest of pain without actually dying. But in some mysterious way, the pain ends up settling and you go about doing things  you never thought you would do. Like feeding your ex-hiusband his dinner at your son’s 20th birthday party. You do it not to be a martyr and for others to recognize what a big person you are. (The irony of sharing it here is not lost on me, but getting kudos is not my intention.) You do it because you find a way to love again. Despite all of the pain or anger or sadness, you love again because love is freedom and  the alternative is too dark a place to stay.

I wish I had a way to speed along the heartache for those of you who find yourselves asking how your life turned out this way. I know that the garment of grief is heavy; my hope is that you will not stay under its weight for long. I hope that ultimately you will understand that love provides the strength you need to shed the burden you carry. Real, honest love, that is. It cannot be manufactured. It cannot be hurried. But it can be cultivated. So when you fall into some weird scenario like feeding your ex-husband you can practice choosing love. You can do the thing you never thought you would do, the thing you never pictured when you assumed life would deal you a different hand. And in time, my friend, I think you will see that it is love that allows you to move through these questions and realize that althougth things look different, you are still okay.

 

Categories: Divorce, Friends and Family, Marriage | Leave a comment

What Carson Has Taught Me

Carson is a senior at the high school where I work. Until last year most of our interactions were contained to passing one another in the hallways with a quick smile. She had been a freshmen when I first started working there, and her brother Jake was a senior.

Jake was an outgoing and charming kid. Everyone knew him. His reputation around the school was one founded mainly on his gregarious personality, but unfortunately also on his addiction to drugs. One year ago, Jake succumbed to that addiction and died from an overdose of heroin.

Two nights ago,  (spoiler alert) I sat through a play in which Carson played an addict who ultimately dies from an overdose. The play, Go Ask Alice, is based on the book by the same name. At the end of the play when Alice breathes her last, and her parents are crying out in anguish, sniffles were heard from every corner of the theatre. Tissues were passed from friend to friend, and eyes were dabbed of tears. For those of us who knew Jake, or any other addict for that matter, Carson’s portrayal was all too familiar. And all too painful.

The show was dedicated to Jake. When the theatre lights went out after the last scene, Carson walked to the middle of the stage. Her recorded voice came over the speakers as she read a list Jake had made of things for which he was grateful. Twenty things he had written in his journal during one of his stints in rehab. There was a sense of hopefulness in his gratitude. An awakening of sorts. But the awakening was never fully realized in this life as his addiction overpowered him and chained him to a darkness from which he could not be freed.

As the dim center-stage light turned up, Carson thanked everyone for coming to the show. She talked briefly about Jake and the mark he left in his short life. How he was finally free from the pain he felt over the loss of their youngest brother and his fight to be clean. (For the background story on Jake, Carson and their youngest brother Max,  see this Indianapolis Star article.) I can’t remember much of what Carson said, honestly, as I was  trying to hold back any more tears due to her performance. I couldn’t get over how she had stayed true to her character, neither glamorizing drugs nor making the character out to be a horrible demon. She had effectively given addiction a face to which people could relate.

Young Actors Theatre, the organization that produced and directed the play, raised $13,000 for Carson’s college tuition to American Musical and Dramatic Academy, in Los Angeles, where she will attend to fulfill her dream of acting, writing and directing productions that spotlight addiction and her brother’s life.

When I reached out to Carson the day I heard about Jake’s death, she responded immediately with warmth and grace. Since those days of mourning with her, I have come to know a young woman full of hope and passion. In honor of my sweet young friend I’ve created my own list of 20 things I’ve learned from Carson, in no particular order…

20. Give yourself space and time when grieving. Carson knew when she needed a break from people or from class. She took care of herself in those early days of grief (and continues to do so).

19. Share memories with those you love. Carson would often share her favorite stories of Jake from the days prior to his addiction as well as the times he was clean. She was never afraid to talk about him and made it easy for others to share their stories about him as well.

18. Keep your friends close. Carson knew who she could turn to and who her safe people were. Those who were only jumping on the “bandwagon” after Jake’s death did not get her attention.

17. Cherish the journals, photos and artwork left behind. Carson was always eager to show off Jake’s words, art and their photos together. It added to the narrative of Jake beyond his addiction.

16. Find common ground. A month after Jake’s death, another student at the high school passed away. His siblings often sat in my office with Carson and shared what it was like to lose a brother. It helped them feel as if they were not alone.

15.  Keep your passion alive. For Carson, acting was her safe place. She never stopped reading scripts and auditioning for parts. She never let her dreams fade, even in the darkest hours.

14. Educate Others. As part of her dedication to Jake’s memory, Carson continued to share stories of addiction and how others have been successful through intervention and recovery.

13. Continue to learn. I can’t count the number of times that Carson has come into my office to read an article that has taught her something new, a poem she has discovered, or song lyrics that have touched her heart.

12. Grow. Carson never stayed stagnate or gave up on life. She interned with the theatre company in which she acts so she could learn the business of theatre.

11. Act humbly. When others wanted to highlight Carson and her story, she conducted herself with grace, dignity and humility never calling attention to herself, rather in the greater story of her life and those around her.

10. Laugh. After the heavy fog of grief lifted, Carson would often bound into my office with a funny story that had us both giggling.

9. Lean on your family. Carson knew when she needed to spend time with her family, whether that was her mom, her dad, her cousins or grandparents. She knew they needed her as much as she needed them.

8. Being strong doesn’t mean you won’t cry. The strength I have seen in Carson often revealed itself through her tears.

7. It’s okay to get mad. When someone you love dies from a drug overdose, emotions can run all over the place. Carson had righteous anger, but she never let it engulf her.

6. Don’t use your trauma as an excuse. There were legitimate times when Carson didn’t feel as if she could sit through class after Jake’s death, but she never took advantage of the situation. She would go to class and if she felt as if she needed a break, she took appropriate measures for self-care.

5. Eat healthy. Carson didn’t fill her body with substances or other addictive types of behavior to cope. Her lunch often consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables and she was careful not to numb herself in unhealthy ways.

4. Keep hope alive. Since Jake’s death, I never saw Carson in despair. By the time she came back to school, and even on the most fragile days, Carson kept her head held high and took one day at a time.

3. Be aware of needs and serve others. Recently while Carson was going to rehearsal, she saw a woman in a wheelchair who couldn’t get to the grocery store due to the snow blocking the sidewalk ramps. Defeated, the woman and her young son had turned around to head back to their apartment. Carson spoke with the woman and told her she would be back to help her later. Once at rehearsal, she took up a collection, went  to the grocery with a couple friends and delivered the groceries to the woman and her son. An act of love and compassion.

2. Be brave. Playing the lead role in a play about an addict who loses her life was nothing short of heroic considering what Carson watched her brother go through. She didn’t do it on her own, however; Carson believed that Jake’s spirit, gave her the courage she needed for the show and for several other situations she has faced.

1. Celebrate teenagers. I feel sorry for anyone who dismisses teenagers as shallow, immature or without wisdom. Carson has shown me a depth, maturity and sagaciousness that lies within her young heart and soul. For that I am forever grateful.

I love you, Carsy!

DSC_0568

Carson and friends acting goofy in the school cafeteria

Categories: Friends and Family, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Who Asked You?

I’m not very good at taking constructive criticism. Sometimes because of pride. Mostly because of shame.

Today is one of those days I’ve struggled with shame part. I had warned the boys that we would be going to church this morning. It’s sad that I use the word “warned,” but we’ve gotten out of any sort of routine when it comes to church. Most Sundays when they are not at their dad’s, we elect to sleep in or have “house church,” where we gather together in the family room, read from the Bible and then discuss what we’ve read. We pray together, and we’re done.

But I miss church sometimes. And I miss them going with me. So I warned them because I knew they would whine and come up with 101 excuses not to go. After some arguing and quite frankly some manipulating on my part,  two out of the four actually made it to church.

As for the other two:  one was downright obstinate and church attendance is not a battle in which I wish to enter because I never want my kids to have a bitter taste for faith resulting from being forced into attendance. In other words, I wasn’t willing to totally guilt him into coming with us, especially at his age where he is trying to figure out his faith journey separate from his parents.  The other objector had been coughing up a storm — and nobody wants to sit next to a hacker at church, or anywhere for that matter.

After church, I took the youngest to the NCAA Hall of Champions because he has been asking to do something fun all weekend  and I hate the idea of him sitting in front of the TV or playing video games when he’s begging for an engaging outlet. The second-born has been asking to take his bike to the repair shop so when I returned from the field trip with my youngest, I had  the second-born load his bike in the car. Then the oldest remembered he needed to pick up his guitar, and he wanted to get more driving hours in, so the three of us set off on some errands.

We were just a block from returning home when the oldest, still driving, got too close to another car and clipped the side mirror. We pulled over and rang various neighbors’ door bells to find the owner of the car so we could bear the bad news and offer to pay for damages and exchange insurance information.

By the time I walked in the front door with groceries that my boys did not offer to carry, I was spent. Haggard. Irritable.  Truthfully… I was ready to rip a head off of one of the mice, hiding under my stove, with my bare hands. From the whining about church to the lack of gratitude for being taken to places they asked to go,  to the downright sense of entitlement, I was done.

I walked into the kitchen and looked up and down in disgust at the dirty dishes piled in my sink. I passed the pile of clothes that needed to be put into the washer, and sneered at them. I threw my phone and keys on my bed, not caring if they bounced off and hit the hardwood floors, and I entered my bathroom where I turned on the water to fill my solitary, serene claw foot tub to the hottest temperature possible.

And there I sat and read my book about India. A book that had nothing to do with church, or errands, or car accidents or children with attitudes. I read until my toes looked like the tread on my winter tires.

My boyfriend is smart. He knew it was best to leave me alone.  So he waited. And several minutes after he heard the bathwater drain, he knocked on the door. By then I was in some comfy clothes propped against some pillows in my bed. He sat on the edge of the bed, and started with “You’re a good mom.” And, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.” And then, “I know you are overwhelmed.”

My arms crossed against my chest. I set my jaw forward. And I set up every invisible wall I have ever constructed for a time like this. What followed was not comfortable. But it wasn’t horrible either. He offered insights on what he saw in my boys and what he thought they really needed from me. None of it was new to me but it was now that I needed to hear it. A lone tear ran down my cheek as I dismissed the defensive linemen around my heart so I could receive the advice he lovingly offered.

Being a single mom is hard. It’s damn hard. When a married woman wonders how she’s going to survive when her husband is out of town for a week,  I try not to throw myself a pity-party knowing that single-parenting is my story every week. Nearly every day of every week, there is no spouse to help with the day-in/day-out —  wake up calls, laundry washing/drying/sorting/folding, breakfast feeding, lunch packing, dinner making, dish washing, grocery shopping, sports-practice running, game attending, band transporting, cheerleading, new shoe shopping, teacher conferencing, homework checking, shower demanding, teeth-brush reminding, full-time working — duties.

And sometimes it wears. me. out. Sometimes I’m too worn down from my children’s complaints, that I give in when I shouldn’t. Sometimes I’m in such desperate need of peace and quiet that I retreat to my bedroom instead of engaging in conversation with my children.

So we single moms (or dads) beat ourselves up an awful lot because we let our boundaries slide or our discipline tank. But thankfully I am fortunate to have a strong man in my life who loves my boys and is willing to step up more if I give him permission. And I have an ex-husband who is active in my boys’ lives and who parents them well… because, my Dear Readers, I can’t do this alone.

I thank my boyfriend for reminding me of that tonight. I didn’t ask him for his advice and I certainly didn’t ask him to do my dishes or make my kids dinner. But he did it because he knew I was swimming in a sea of disappointment and shame that I had not handled my children differently today. He knew that I wanted to have better boundaries and parent with grace instead of with disdain.

If you know a single parent, I encourage you to ask her what she (or he) needs. And ask more than once. Because there will be times when she has all of her plates masterfully spinning in the air without so much as a bobble. But ask again and you may find her slumped over a heap of broken dishes wet from her tears. That is the time she will know she cannot do this parenting thing alone. So pick something practical from the list below and take a bit of the load off –  even if she didn’t ask you.

  1. Make her family dinner. There’s nothing like coming home from work knowing dinner is a ready to heat and eat.
  2. Ask to come visit then unload and load her dishes (or hand wash if she doesn’t have a dishwasher).
  3. Pick her child up from practice or school and, depending on the age, either watch the child at your house for a while, or drop the child off at home.
  4. If she has more than one child, ask if you can help one of them do homework while she helps the other.
  5. Take a load of her laundry home and wash it, dry it and return it folded.
  6. Babysit her children while she takes a nap. Or a bath. Or runs to the store alone.
  7. If her kids go to her ex-spouse’s for a night ask her to do something fun together. Since being single, chances are she doesn’t go out as much any more.
  8. Call her to see if she needs anything when you are running to the grocery and drop off her items on your way home.
  9. If she has a sick child, deliver Gatorade, crackers, Tylenol, etc. Or see if she needs a prescription picked up from the pharmacy.
  10. Pack her kids lunches for the week and deliver them to her labeled and ready to go.

 

Categories: Divorce, Faith, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys | Leave a comment

My Job Contract Should Have Come With a Warning Label

When I was handed my job contract as director of enrollment at a local high school, it should have come with a big, red WARNING stamped across each page.

The top ten warnings should have read:

1. Warning – You will no longer have only four children. You will gain at least 650 more.

2. Warning – You are not simply enrolling students into a school, you are admitting them into your life.

3. Warning – You will build relationships with said children, and with their parents, grandparents and siblings. They will entrust you with intimate details of their lives. Treat them with care.

4. Warning – When you leave the school campus, your job will not end.

5. Warning – Your private life may not be so private any more. You will see students at the grocery store, the mall, concerts, and even on vacation.

6. Warning – Because your son goes to this high school, you will have students entering your home from morning until evening. Some of them may set up semi-residence.

7. Warning – You will never sleep the same again. Students will infiltrate your dreams and wake you from worry-filled nightmares.

8. Warning – High school students will surprise you, disappoint you and exceed your expectations, often all in the same day.

9. Warning – When tragedy or disaster befalls one of these 650 students, your heart will break into a million tiny pieces.

10. Warning – There is no end to this role. You signed up for it. It will last a lifetime. Long after a student graduates, moves away or passes on, you will find their names engraved into your heart.Image

Categories: A Day in the Life, Friends and Family, Urban Living | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The Day Reason Kicked Panic’s Butt

It’s been a seven year tradition: our annual ski trip with two other families. Typically, we ski two days and then visit the local shops or hang out at the rental home one day. This year, we headed into the town of Harbor Springs, Mich., to browse the shops. The first store we walked into was a Paris-inspired boutique with lovely home accessories, clothing and handbags. My friends oohed and ahhed over the cute centerpieces, candles and clothing, while I barely made it two feet inside the doorway. On the table at the entrance was a book titled, “Notes to my Son Before You Go,” by Vesna M. Bailey.

The cover had a beautiful black and white photo of a young boy, standing on some drift wood at the beach. Inside were more stunning photos along with words that the author had both collected from various sources and written herself. Her goal, she said, was to impart wisdom to her son before he leaves home.

My mind went to that place. You know the place. That place where you start to compare yourself on the universal meter of mothering perfection and realize you are nowhere near the perfect mark. You panic, realizing you have not imparted the wisdom or advice that this author has so painstakingly shared with her son. Then a deeper panic sets in when you realize you have only two more years to come up with all of the inspiring, motivating, loving, guiding words to bestow on your child.

And you have nothing. If he were in front of you at that very moment, you would probably stutter or perhaps you might mutter something like, “Don’t forget to put on clean underwear,” or “Treat others as you want to be treated.” But nothing near the definition of wise or inspiring fires across your synapses. And YOU ONLY HAVE TWO YEARS to come up with something good. With words that will really mean something. With catch phrases, meaningful quotes, life-saving advice.

I clutched the book to my heart as I walked, panic-stricken, around the store. I hoped that if I hung on tight enough, the words would pour off the pages and into my bloodstream right up to my brain where I would store every bit of information. Then I would be able to share it piece by piece with my boys. Yes, I would buy this book, read it cover-to-cover and recite the words to my boys until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were ready to leave home – prepared to be Godly, kind, healthy, well-adjusted, peaceful, strong, joyful leaders of the universe.

Then something happened in between my friend trying on a blue and white striped sweater and her decision to buy a gigantic handbag. I loosened my grip on the book, walked over to the table where I found it and put it down.

Reason had kicked Panic’s butt. Reason told me that I didn’t need someone else’s words to help prepare my boys to leave home. I wasn’t failing as a mother just because I hadn’t written a book of clever phrases or gathered famous quotes.

What my boys needed was what they were getting. What they are getting: Love, prayers, stability (yes, even post-divorce), and tradition to name a few. After I put the book down, I headed to the next store with my head held high. I’m far from perfect in the realm of motherhood, but I am confident that with all the mistakes I make, I’m doing some things right.

Things like providing experiences that will be remembered far beyond the words I may recite to them from a book I picked up one vacation. No, instead I want to impart pictures of grace, love, laughter and belonging in their minds.

IMG_5339So, for example, over Christmas break when they asked to go sledding one night at 9:30 p.m., I said yes. So we donned the snow pants, the boots, the hats and gloves, and threw the sleds in the back of the Suburban. And when the house looked like it had vomited Christmas gifts and wrapping paper after two weeks at home, I let it go until it was time to restore order before heading back to school. And when they asked to take a road trip to the lake with their friends, I set aside my day of reading and writing and loaded the car with warm clothes, junk food and a few friends… because these are the times they’ll remember.

These are the memories we create so that one day, whether any of us actually writes them down, or we simply store them in our hearts and minds, we will write our own book. A book that will serve these boys far beyond the time they leave this home. A book that will not be a generic, store-bought version of nice quotes and generic photos but a book born of personal experiences and treasured stories.

Categories: A Day in the Life of Us, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Urban Living, Vacation | 2 Comments

Faith Like a Child

One morning at the ranch, my 13-year-old, Eli, led devotions on the porch of our cabin. He had us read I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and then, based on a question from his teen devotional Bible, he asked us to list ways God had been good to us. I gave each boy a piece of paper and told them to write 10 things that showed  how God had been good to them.

My youngest deep in thought

I participated, too. My list was made up of bullet points with things like •the gift of my children •the beauty of the mountains •my job, etc. I am truly grateful for every thing I listed, and I believe they are all ways that God has shown me He is good. But I didn’t spend a great deal of time thinking through my list.

My youngest son, on the other hand, thought long and hard as he created his list. There were no bullet points. No sentence fragments. He called me over to him a few times to ask for help, long after I had put my Bible and notebook back in the cabin. One particular sentence caught my breath. He had written, “That we get to see our mom and dad even when they are divorced.”

“Is that okay?” he asked.

“Sure,” I responded. “That is definitely one way God has shown you He is good. Some kids don’t get to see one of their parents when there is a divorce. But you know that both Dad and I love you so much and want to spend time with you. Even though divorce is not what God intended for us, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what any of us truly wanted, God is still showing His goodness through it by the way he cares and provides for you.”

Although I felt liked I stumbled through my explanation, he seemed to agree and went back to writing. Pretty soon he called to me, “Mom, do we have to pay for me to play soccer and baseball?”

I tell him yes and then I hear him say as he writes his next sentence. “That we have enough money for me to play soccer and baseball.”

When I walked over to him a few minutes later, I see how specific he has been in his list. He has mentioned his baseball games in detail, the two families from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that we met in Colorado three years ago and continue to vacation with each year at the ranch, his school and his friends…and then he says to me, “I saved the best one for last.”

“What’s that?” I asked, as I waited for him to write it on his paper.

“That I can be a Christian,” he said with a smile.

He gets it, this child of mine. He understands God’s goodness in every part of his life, even in the pain he has experienced (our divorce). But even more, he gets that being a Christian is not just some label we slap on ourselves. It’s not something he was born with or became just because that’s what his parents are. It’s something he got to choose. And he has chosen it. The evidence of Christ in his life is apparent in the way he loves other and the way he reflects the kindness and grace of Christ. This boy of mine is a constant encouragement to me.

After he finished, we walked back into the cabin together. He tucked his paper inside his Bible, puts it on the table and ran back outside to join his brothers. I grabbed my notebook and opened it up to my list. I added number 11: “I know that God is good to me because I get to witness how He is working in Jaden’s life.”

Categories: Divorce, Faith, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Vacation | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Vision Versus Reality

As promised, here is a post about our time in Colorado. 

After cleaning up dinner one night at the ranch, I walked out onto the covered porch and saw my four boys on canoes, paddling across the small lake in front of our cabin. I grabbed my camera and followed them along the edge of the lake. The moment seemed so precious to me, probably because my oldest starts tenth grade this fall while my youngest starts fourth grade, and there are fewer activities in which they all enjoy and participate together.

The “perfect” moment

I savored the image of them peacefully canoeing and I continued to shoot pictures. It was a moment I wanted to freeze. My four boys working and playing together. How sweet, I thought.

Until I got close enough to hear them.

“You suck,” one brother said about another’s paddling skills. The other replied with a “you suck,” as they continued their journey toward a low, wooden bridge they cross under by lying down in the canoe and pulling themselves through to the other side.

Ducking to make the pass under the bridge

I would not be deterred from taking photos, however. In fact, I would not be deterred by reality. They would not ruin my delusion of them getting along – beautifully gliding across the water in syncopation. My ignorance of reality worked for a while. Until they came closer and I could hear them talking about who was stronger.

“You are NOT stronger than I am,” one of them said. “You don’t even work out.”

“Obviously I’m stronger because I barely hit you and you cry,” responded the other.

La-la-la-la-la. I plugged my ears. I would hear nothing of it. In fact, in my escape from reality, I heard the conversation completely different. I’m pretty sure I heard one say: “You are right. You are the stronger one.”

To which the other responded, “Oh no, dear brother, you are stronger. Look at your muscles as we row this boat.”

Another piped in, “Brothers! Do not argue. We are all strong, capable young men.”

Oh, who am I kidding? They are boys. And they are brothers. Which means there will always be competition and some trash talk. Regardless of their attitudes toward each other at the time, the fact remains, they were working and playing together. And just because my vision – of how I thought the scene should play out – was different than reality doesn’t matter. I still walked away with some beautiful pictures of my four crazy, competitve kids.

Navigating the waters

Categories: Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Vacation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

They Love Me, They Really Love Me

If you received a post from me last week by the same title, I apologize. I thought I was scheduling the post for a later date.

Here’s what I started to say.

I have a self-worth issue. Sometimes. Most of the time. There are times when I realize that I am worthy of love. And times I feel confident and assured in my significance. But often I go around wondering why someone would want to invest in me. Invest their time. Their energy. Their friendship.

It’s not that I think I’m a bad person. Nor am I seeking attention in saying this. You don’t need to write me and tell me I am worthy to be loved. On some level I know that. But deep down, somewhere in my core beliefs, I struggle with knowing my worth – especially when people love me well.

About Me But Not About Me

For example, I am involved in a women’s prayer group that meets periodically. It’s unlike any other I’ve been in. I don’t hang out with these women socially, although I would welcome that. And we don’t have a set time that we meet. It just happens. One of the women texts with the time and place, and 7 or 8 of us meet in one of the woman’s home.

We pray for whatever is on our minds and hearts. The only problem is that I am what is on their minds and hearts lately. The last two times I’ve gone, one of the women said she feels like God wants more for me, like I’m in a cave and God is calling me out of it. Like He wants me to break out of that place because He has so much more for me. I was uncomfortable being the center of attention, but when my friends prayed I realized it wasn’t really about me; it was about what God wants to do in me and through them. And it was beautiful and heartwrenching and cleansing.

On the way to the next gathering, I told God I didn’t want this one to be about me. “I’m good, God. Really. I’ve had some peace about the divorce and I am healing.” He was silent so I kept talking. “I think it’s time we focus on Sally (not her real name). I know she’s been struggling.” I’m pretty sure God said okay because I walked into my friend’s house knowing I wasn’t going to be in the hot seat this time.

Except that I was. Not at first. At first the prayers were kind of neutral. Like “Thank you God for our time together.” And “God, help me be more patient with my children.” It was all good. Until my friend spoke up. Yeah, the same friend. The one who thought I was in a cave.  Before she could finish saying that she thought I needed prayer, I told her – told all the lovely women – that I was fine. Really.

They didn’t believe me. So they prayed for me again. And this time I actually sobbed to the point of heaving. It wasn’t pretty, I tell you. But when they finished, there was a peace in my body, in the way I breathed the air, and in the silence of that room, that I have never experienced before. And I felt worth it. I knew I was worth it. Once I stopped fighting with God about making this about Sally and not me, I relaxed into the process and into His arms and I received all the love that He had been trying to give me for so long. I received the love that He was pouring out through my friends and onto me.

A Loving Confrontation
A few days ago another friend loved me so much that she was willing to confront me on a difficult issue. In her message she explained, “I’m willing to be truly broken and honest – maybe for the first time – because I value you so very much.” My eyes welled with tears at that statement. And at this one, “I am terrified of being rejected and losing any part of our friendship. I worry that this honesty may cause you to be hurt or cause you to drift away. But perhaps I’m more terrified to sabotage our friendship by the lack of honesty.”

Can you believe that? Can you imagine the courage it took my sweet friend to write such a thing? When we met a few days later, she told me she has other friends, but she said, “They are not you.” I feel the exact same way about her. And I explained that because she was fighting for our friendship, against all the thoughts I have that I am not really worth all that much, I KNEW that God’s love was real. Very real. And powerful. And did I say real?

I don’t know why God has given me such amazing people who have prayed for me and cried with me and fought for me over the years, but the more he showers me with the love of these friends, the more I realize I must be worth something a lot!

Categories: Faith, Friends and Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

What Do We Really Know?

We live in a world of sound bites. Our news, whether it comes across our T.V.s, computers, phones, tablets or our car radios, is delivered in small increments. I’ll admit, if a friend’s Facebook status is over a couple of sentences long, I don’t read it unless the first few words grab my attention.

It’s no wonder we make quick judgments based on very little information. We’ve been trained to glean data from brief statements, excerpts or headlines. In the past two weeks, I’ve realized how often I size someone up based on a short description that someone else has provided. I’ve also realized that I have painted a picture of others that is something akin to that of the sound bite.

It’s natural, I suppose, to share only the dramatic details or what we deem most important. The problem arises when others start to use those statements alone to judge another person. For instance, I invited my friend Jack to an event where he would be meeting some of my other friends. He had heard of my friend Shaun but had never met him. I could tell he had some animosity toward Shaun without even meeting him. When I questioned Jack about this attitude, he admitted he wasn’t interested in meeting Shaun.

“I think he’s manipulative and I don’t trust a guy like that,” Jack said.

“A guy like what?” I asked.

“A guy who would act like he is interested in helping you get things done around the house but given the chance to be alone with you, pulls you into hug him.”

It was then that I realized Jack was judging Shaun on one story I had shared with him. Shaun was a dear friend and when I needed some help around the house, he fixed things. I had told Jack that I appreciated Shaun’s friendship but there was one time when it was a little awkward because he hugged me a little longer and closer than usual. Jack figured he was, in his words: a pig, like most men.

I tried to explain, as we drove to the event, that I had confronted Shaun and while it had been uncomfortable for a while we were okay now. Jack wasn’t buying it. But how could I blame him? That one scenario was all he had to go on.

When we got to the event, Jack met Shaun and they talked for a while. I left them to chat while I mingled with some other friends. When it was time to leave, Jack and Shaun exchanged business cards and it looked as if a new friendship was forming.

“See? He’s not bad, right?” I asked as we drove to my house.

“No, in fact he’s not at all what I thought.”

Jack apologized for giving me a hard time about my friendship with Shaun. I told him  I understood how he could have jumped to the conclusion. In retrospect, I think I’m the one who should apologize. It was the story I chose to tell that caused Jack to think less of Shaun in the beginning.

I wonder how many times I am guilty of telling only the sensational sound bites? Or how, like Jack, I draw conclusions based on such sparse knowledge of a person. I understand how it happens but I want to be the sort of person who gathers more than the excerpt before I form my opinions. And even then, I hope to always remain open to a change of viewpoint.

Categories: Friends and Family, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

I Can Fly! I Can Fly!

My college friends used to let my boyfriends in on a secret. “Lynn’s a cheap date. Take her to an airport to watch planes taking off and landing, and she’ll be yours.” I’m pretty sure that some of those guys thought “being yours” meant something entirely different than my friends had intended. Sure, the excitement can arouse; but what my friends knew, that some men didn’t understand, is that the mystery of flight stirred my soul, it was something in which we could marvel together.

I was the little girl, who seeing an airplane in the sky, would stop everything and stare at the wonder of these machines, large and small, gliding through the air. Perhaps I longed for something to pull me up into blueness and fluffy, white clouds where nothing hurt you and all perspective changed. I often dreamed of where I would go if I were in the jet airliner or how it felt to be seated in an old crop-duster. Even after my parents took me on my first commercial flight and a thousand flights later, I am still enamored. I still look to the sky when the military jets race over our lake house, causing the windows to shake and deck to shudder.

I’m not sure when it happened, but long ago as I looked up at these various planes,  I promised myself I would eventually learn about aviation and get my pilot’s license. That dream lingers in the back of my mind but  after the birth of four children it has faded with the responsibility of caring for these boys. When they are older I hold onto hope that someday being a curious dreamer will be turned into the fullness of reality.

A taste of that dream filled me yesterday, however.  I had the immense pleasure of “strapping on an airplane,” to use insider language. My friend, Dennis, is a former combat pilot for United States Air Force. I am very ignorant of ranks and such regarding the military, so I apologize for not knowing the exact “title” for Dennis, but let’s just say he is a seasoned and skilled pilot. He invited me to fly in a WWII PT-26 from an airport just north of Indianapolis to an airport just south of Indy.

When we walked into the hanger, I could barely take my eyes off of the blue and yellow beauty. As Dennis walked around every part of the plane, he explained exactly what he was doing and gave me a short lesson on the physics of flying this particular plane. He was meticulous about checking each feature of the plane before he even pushed her out of the hanger. I tried to absorb all of the information, but found myself overwhelmed that in a few, short minutes, I would be in the sky in this beautiful antique.

To my surprise, I was not the least bit nervous. A little back story here. I have known of Dennis for years, but we had only officially met the night before. We have about 100 mutual friends and when he sent me a friend request on Facebook, we started sending one another messages about how incredible it was that we had never met when so much of our lives had overlapped. All this to say, I instantly felt comfortable with Dennis and his capabilities inside that plane.

When we climbed in the plane, he gave me a tutorial on the stick and the rudders and the different control panels. He told me I could keep my window open (again, I’m sure it’s not really called a window or a sunroof, but I can’t remember the exact name), which I did. He showed me the safety features and what I would need to do if there was an emergency. Even then, I had no fear. Not even a butterfly. The only feeling that pulsed through me was one of sheer euphoria. So much so, that I was speechless.

As we taxied to the runway and then started to gain speed, Dennis spoke into the headset to explain exactly what he was doing. Every move he made, he shared the whys and hows. I listened as he radioed to the Indianapolis airport to see if we could use their airspace. He wanted to take me straight over Indianapolis instead of outside the loop.  We gained permission and complete peace washed over me. I was transcended to a place I had never known before. A place where words barely exist and the ones I tried to utter stuck in my throat, causing me to simply murmur sounds of awe.

In a few short minutes we flew over the city toward the airport where we were to land. Cloud cover caused us to alter our plans and instead of heading into the southern airport for breakfast, we turned the plane toward the north, where Dennis landed the plane beautifully on a strip of grass between two neighborhoods.

I still couldn’t speak. This was somewhat troubling to me as I wanted to let Dennis know how much I was enjoying this slice of heaven, particularly from a woman who loves words and is never quite short of them. But nothing except an occasional, “Wow.” or “Incredible.”

We took off toward the original airport and Dennis let me have a hand at the controls. “I’m flying, I’m flying,” I screamed. Only not out loud. In my mind, I was squealing in total exuberance. But outwardly – nothing. Maybe that was God’s idea of awakening all of my other senses to the experience. Maybe he had to shut me up so I would stay in the reality that this was really happening. That while I may not have a pilot’s license and really only moved the stick less than a half an inch in either direction, I was there, closer to heaven, doing something that truly is a mystery. Something that although it works, is difficult to explain and understand in all its glory.

Even without words, it will be a day I feel in my soul forever. A day I’ll never forget.

Categories: Dreams, Friends and Family | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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