Sunday, September 13, 2009

what's love got to do with it

I've been thinking lots about relationships a lot lately, or a lot for someone who isn't in a romantic one anyway. Its funny, isn't it, that those seem to be the only relationship we ever give much thought to, the only one whose health we monitor closely, even worry about lacking? I've been married, I've been single, I've been married & felt single...through all that its been the relationships we don't consider that have sustained me; the friendships, sisters, parents, even my children, and most especially my relationship with my creator, my saviour, my God. The rougher the seas my romantic relationship sailed into the harder I clung to Him, my rock, my strong tower. But I digress (of course I do, that's what I do).
I have a friend who after extricating herself from a most unpleasant marriage had little or no desire to enter into another matrimonial relationship-and who could blame her? I, more years past the divorce decree, assured her her feelings on the subject would change, probably overnight, when Mr. Wonderful walked into her life. The relationship I was in was on a rough course, but I believed we would weather the storm-I still remembered the wonder of falling in love when I was sure that chapter of my life was over. And I was right. (Today she's repeating my assurances to me, the tables have turned completely!)
The thing is, she met this amazing man, they fit together in a way that makes you believe there is a perfect somone for everyone. They have had their ups and downs, mostly born of fear and doubt, and of men and women not speaking the same language. And then she realized it wasn't him pulling away at every roadblock, shying away from the commitment of marriage but her. She had discovered in her own heart the fear that she didn't know how to be a good wife, how to be married, even doubting that she deserved this. All absurdities in the light of day, and yet, there they were. And trust me, I know the lies well. I've heard them whispered at me in the dark, and shouted in the heat of battle.
As she was discoverining this about herself I was finishing reading the chapter "Bridegroom" in Ann Spangler's book "Praying the Names of Jesus". As I read the questions offered for thought and further study at the end of the chapter bells began to ring in my head. My friend and I have often talked about how easy it is for us to understand God as a loving, compassionate and generous father, because we had dads like that on earth; and how no wonder so many peopl couldn't quite grasp this concept because their own dads were cruel, or absent, or disinterested.
It occured to me the same is true for us understanding God as a lover who desires us, pursues us, would sacrifice everything for us. We had husbands we poured our all into, believing them to be men like our fathers, if only we loved them enough. But they could not, or would not put our needs ahead of their own. They were selfish, abusive, unkind, unfair. No wonder then that we question our ability to love and be loved so completely! It was a breakthrough moment for me.
I'm still alone, still shook my fist at a solitary Saturday night last night, but I know that I deserve to be loved absolutley, and that somewhere out there is a man who is up to the task, and who will come and find me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Can't hardly believe its been a month almost since I last wrote....don't know where the time goes! Although, to be honest, this has been a uniquely challenging month. The weather, as always here in Southern Alberta, has been irregualr, shifting from rainy to unbearably hot-not to complain, summer is always too short, and it has cooled off most nights to temperatures better suited to comfortable sleeping than a sauna. The worst of this is the ever increasing sciatic pain I have been suffering. Not to give myself an overly brave front, or to sound cavalier, but I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I don't give sway to migraines, to flus, headcolds and the like, but this has been unlike any pain I've ever imagined. Its left me wondering at folks who cope with chronic pain-this has had me waking at 3 or 4 a.m. wailing in agony, begging for relief. I could not curl up comfortably to watch tv, to snuggle my daughter, couldn't sit overly long in any chair, couldn't lie down to sleep. It hurt to walk, let alone do anything else. Good thing I'm single I grimaced more than once-the acrobatics of the most conservative sex would have had me screaming in agony not ecstasy. But I digress.
After untold weeks of this, and more prayer & sympathy than I've ever before requested, I'm still hurting. Prescription pain killers only take the edge off.
Today after church a friend approached me, put her hand on my shoulder, looked in my eyes and told me she had been told by Holy Spirit that I needed to forgive myself. At first I was taken aback, an instictive response-I have been more often accused of laying blame with everyone else, but she continued. She said I have forgiven everyone else but myself. Yes, I got myself into these circumstances, but God had long ago forgiven me, and He would surely walk me through them. That was why I hurt she said, unforgiveness.
I know unforgiveness of others is a heavy yoke to carry, it hinders us, holds us back from the things we want, but have given little thought to forgiving myself. And yet, I too am a child of my Father, beloved, purchased, adopted, forgiven, same as everyone else. Who am I to set a standard higher than His for myself? I have spent so much time defending myself, to myself, to my ex, to the liar in my head that I equated that defense with forgiveness.
I did what I thought, at the time, was good and right. I poured my heart into another's life, I chose to love, and when it came time I chose to move forward, to reject the abuse, the burden of being another man's salvation. I've done my best to be a good mother, but sometimes fear, anger, frustration, lonliness have gotten the better of me.
I've lost my temper. When healing, that I believe in wholeheartedly, was not forthcoming I succumbed to doubt, even to superstition, being unwilling to even speak aloud that I was feeling better. I questioned my judgment as to how I was dealing with my ex's threats & petulant behaviour (there's another whole post!). I beat myself up for being me. For trusting, for loving, for being generous of spirit. And for all of that, and more, I forgive myself. I am a good person. I am a good mother, and marvelous friend. I am available when my friends need me. I have a powerful gift of faith. I am blessed with remarkable writing skills. I understand people, I am a good judge of character. I give my all for my children, but I make no apologies for taking care of myself too. I am not responsible for Richard's difficulties or for his relationship or lack thereof with Emily. God is good. My life in Him is good, even when its hard.
If I have one piece of advice for you today it is this: Whatever else is going on, whoever else you need to forgive, FORGIVE YOURSELF TOO!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Letting Go

Its been an interesting few weeks. For those of you who may not know, I have three children, two of whom are teenage boys. I adore all my kids, but as a mom, those boys have a special place in my heart. Not only is one of them my first-born, but they don't live with me, so our relationship has developed differently than most mother-son relationships. Losing custody of them is far and away the most painful thing I have ever experienced, but it also shaped all of our lives in unforeseeable ways. I grew to understand loss on a new level, and to cherish my children differently. Had they been living with me I may not have met the man who later fathered my precious daughter. As badly as that turned out, I have this amazing little girl, a secret desire of my heart, for a second chance to be a mom, to have a daughter. As for my sons, I believe wholeheartedly that they will find themselves in a unique place of ministry. More than half of all marriages right now end in divorce-that means that there are countless children whose lives are being ripped in two by the very people they love & trust most. My ex and I did find a way back to some sort of peaceable relationship. I have forgiven him (oh, what I learned about the power of forgiveness!) and my sons have lived this. Who better to touch all those broken hearts than someone who really knows what its like, who has been there?

But I digress from where I was initially heading with this post. My best friend (of more than 40 years, so best friend here is more than a jr high appelation) also has a teenaged son. Truth be told he is, age-wise right between my sons. She too has found herself a single mom, and like me with my daughter, has no parental back-up.
Teenagers rebel, one way or another, they rebel. The pierce things, get tattoos, become vegetarians, environmentalists, rock & rollers, listen to music their parents dislike. They leave churches, they join churches, shave their heads or grow their hair long-they rebel. They have to. It is a part of growing up, figuring out who they are, pretty much like toddlers do when they push mommy away insisting they can do it. As parents we know better, we know more, we're bigger & stronger, but we let our toddlers try and fail and eventually succeed. Its not such an easy task when they are mostly grown, because now the failure is not an unopened toy, skinned knee or badly buttoned coat, but a broken heart, a lost job, exposure to drugs, alcohol-you can see where I'm going.
It is at this stage we as parents face the fact that our babies aren't babies anymore (but you always will be in our hearts). It has been said that we aren't raising children, but adults, and that our job as parents is to give them roots and wings. As our mostly grown children go out into the world we need to trust that we have done our job well. They are taking their first steps on a road we can not walk with them or smooth out before them. The road is edged with ditches and thorn bushes and they must find their own way.
My friend and I dedicated all of our children to the Lord when they were small. It was easy then to put them in God's hands, since we had control over what they wore, what they ate, where they went, who they saw. Today we find ourselves daily placing their keeping back into the hands of the Almighty, trusting His divine plan for their lives. Oh how we weep when we see them approach those ditches, but now we must stand back and be a beacon, not a guard rail. They will fall, and we will be there to help them out of the pit, dress the wounds, put the map back in their hands and send them on their way again.
Parenting is the toughest job out there-it is not for the faint of heart. When my friend asked why she had to deal with the things her child brought into her life when other parents didn't I told her the truth: "because you are strong enough to handle it" And so I leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Seuss (who knew those bedtime stories would prepare us for this!) "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. / I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The saddest thing I have ever encountered was an infant car seat I unearthed from the rubble in an abandoned apartment and brought home with a mind to clean up and pass on to someone who needed it. The tragedy is multi-layered. First was that this car seat was partly buried under dirty laundry in a unit that would put the homes on "How Clean is Your House" to shame, especially given the brief amount of time this particular home was occupied by these particular people. The seat was filthy, but it wasn't until I got it home & took my garden hose to it did I realize how filthy. The pad behind the cover is covered in mildew and may be unsalvagable.
OK, let's backtrack a little. I work at an apartment complex. A month or so a go a young couple came in, hoping to find a clean, safe place to rent. The story was that they were going to lose their children because of the antics of the upstairs neighbours. Everything looked ok, and we got them moved in. Before their first weekend had passed they were receiving noise complaints & visits from the police, and before the month was over they had been evicted-for noise, non-payment of rent and property damage. As it turns out the young man in in this story had a court date for something & wound up in jail, and his girlfriend left, and their new home became a flop house. Excuses & poor decisions aside, and believe me, there were plenty, this whole thing was a disaster.
I guess my point is, these people had very young children somewhere, children they claimed to want custody of, and yet they lacked the basic life skills to take care of themselves much less an utterly dependant child. It has been said that you need a license to get married, drive a car or own a dog, but any idiot can have a baby. Its sad & scary & too true. All I could do was pray these anonymous children found their way to good foster homes where they might get a fighting chance. Every child deserves to be loved & cared for. They don't get to chose the homes they are born into. This mess was pure selfishness on the part of the purported adults in this story, and its heartbreaking.
I have to wonder where this couple's parents were, and if this was somehow generational. This lack of knowledge arose from somewhere. I look at my own blessedly sheltered childhood-I had verything I needed, most of what I thought I wanted, I was loved, cherished-I knew, I still know, there is a safe haven from the storms of life. I knew my parents would fight for me no matter what. I have tried to provide the same for my own children. They are my most precious blessings, and they know it. They know, I hope, that whatever happens I will be in their corners. Don't mess with the mama bear! And then I look at my ex's childhood. A life of anger, fear, abuse, abandonment. No wonder he was unprepared to be a parent himself. He tried, I know he did, but he just couldn't put the past far enough behind him-or maybe, in the end, he just gave up, refused to seek help, advice, to try to make a better life than the one he had known.
Jesus said "Let the little chidren come unto me, & do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Mt 19:14) I'm not sure now what I'm getting at. I was just so utterly dismayed by the sad story in that dirty and mildewed baby carrier. Every night on TV we are bombarded with images of suffering childen in third world nations. Maybe we need to remember there are children suffering right next door. Those of us who are compelled to serve in the mission feild need to remember the mission feild we are already standing in. And the rest of us need to remember to at least be thankful we had parents who loved us & did their best to provide for our need.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Choose Joy

Finally remembered where I was trying to head in my earlier post. Each of us has countless choices to make everyday-from the mundane: do I have toast or cereal for breakfast? Do I need a jacket today?, to the lasting: Do I take this job? Do I fight for this relationship or walk away? And yet there are those choices we often don't see as choices. Choosing to be happy, to see the good in life, in people, to speak well. Not long ago I read a quote to the effect that life is too short to be anything but happy. How true. Life is short-why would anyone choose sorrow, anger, fear? Some might argue that they didn't choose these things, that circumstance created their attitude, but then you have to ask-who is in charge of you? Of how you feel? Oh, yes, God, ultimately, but YOU choose how to respond to circumstance.
Life is frustrating. Friends hurt us. Lovers leave. Lines are long. Children are willful and challenging. And in those moments we weep, we rage, we shake our fists in frustration, wonder when it will finally be our turn. Then we take a breath. Now the choice: Do I allow circumstance to make me grouchy, bitter, maudlin, or do I use that breath to laugh at life, to choose joy, refuse to be knocked down?
Maybe it depends on the source of your joy. Does it come from external things or does it come from that secret place in your heart where heaven dwells? External joy is affected by long lines, flat tires, rude people. Internal joy sees these frustrations as bumps in the road, as opportunity to grow, to be shared.

I know it sounds great. I also know its hard to do. It is a choice, born out of the knowledge of who I am, who I belong to, who I want to be. If you're saying to yourself; "wait, you just don't know what kind of hand I've been dealt. X, Y & Z happened to me. I don't want to live like this.." Let me say this: It doesn't matter. Like the apostle Paul I could make a long list of tragedies in my life. I could make a longer list of the blessings in my life-and I do, when that nasty little voice in my head starts to whisper and point out every failing. It doesn't take long and that voice fades into the background. Some days I have to grit my teeth and declare positive things-choose joy. A paraphrase of Proverbs 23:7 might read "As you think in your heart, so you are." Try it for a day, for a week. Look for the good when hard things are in your path, even if all you've got in that moment is "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger". Its a start, it will get easier.

Look how far I've come

Psalm 66:10,12 "For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. ...We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment"

In the past my entries here have largely been commentaries, complaints about a certain ex-partner (if he ever really was my partner). While he may still occasionally turn up here I am going to try to shift gears & make this a commentary on MY life, the things I am learning and growing toward.

I was sharing with a friend on Facebook the other day my first real encounter with my creator, how even when I tried to explain the experience away I somehow knew it was God speaking in the storm, and how amazing it is the times and ways that particular moment is brought to remembrance. This time it was a request to open the book nearest at hand, turn to page 56 and post the fifth line in the status bar. On top of my computer tower is an old KJV Bible, one I've had since I was a little girl, and not the one I use daily. Line 5 on page 56 is Exodus 3:14 ("And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said , Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.") I did not chose that particular book, as I said, it is not my usual study Bible, nor is it the book I am currently reading, and yet, there it was, testament to my inability to find a home for all of my books, with a reminder of the first time I heard God speak to me audibly. I was 13 and I was staying with a friend in Waterton. We were sleeping in a tent beside her parents' RV when a storm blew in (not so odd, if you are familiar with the changeable weather in the park). We dragged out sleeping bags into the motorhome & went back to sleep. I don't recall the dream, but I will never forget hearing THAT voice, echoing in thte night, "I AM I AM I AM" over & over, the depthof it resonating deep in my chest, the way thunder does.

Anyway....sharing that with her brought to mind just how far God has brought me on this journey we call life, and she suggested, not for the first time, that I should be writing. I realized that I need to shift my focus again, and look to what I've learned, let where I've walked serve as inspiration, caution, encouragement, even amusement for others. I truly believe that what we experience, whether by design, error in judgement or simple accident can be used to a purpose. God is good and faithful. Wherever I have found myself He has been there to bring me through to the other side.

Its been an interesting week -Tuesday at work we learned we were changing management companies, fire & rehired in a single breath. Except for a change of mindset & computer system, nothing's really changing, but still, it was enough to have some people reeling. Wednesday I had a delightful lunch reconnecting with old friends, but returned to an email from Skippy in which he said he was ending his life. I don't want to sound careless or cavalier, but he's done this before. I still haven't heard from him, don't know if he meant it or if it was a play for sympathy. Was I supposed to get on my white horse & ride to his rescue again? I had only just laid down new boundaries-a new phone number, insisting he only contact me via email, refusing to let him come to my house (to which I added the assurance I would deliver his remaining papers to him). We had an agreement about visitation. So. I emailed his room mate to see if he knew anything-he didn't. I called. Whoever it was who answered the phone didn't sound like she even knew who I asked for. A friend suggested I call the hospital to see if he was a paitient. I've decided to let it alone, weird as it is. The rest of the week has been quiet, just managing the aftermath of those 2 days. And here we are.

This has been rather disjointed, but its a start of a new thing, and like most new beginnings it will be rough, but it will get better, take the shape its supposed to have. Hang in there. I will.

Monday, April 20, 2009