Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Renewal


Wow. It's been a long time since I've blogged. I could commit to blogging on a regular basis; chances are I woudn't. But this is a good outlet for me on occasion, so I'll just share what I want, when I want. Hopefully it will mean a little something to someone on occasion. What I'm sharing today is a testimony that I shared at our church's Thanksgiving Feast in 2013.

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John 6 says that MANY disciples walked away from Christ. So Jesus asks Peter, "Are you going to leave me too?" Peter's reply is, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God."

Sometimes a person goes through a season of doubt. Doubt so deep that it shakes you to your very core. I went through a period of desert for about 6-7 years. There were many reasons for it that I could list, but I think it boiled down to a God not being who I thought He was, and a deep disappointment in my life and that it wasn't what I thought it would be. Wondering if my life actually mattered to God. Did my life have any significance? There were times during it that I truly contemplated turning away from God, and from the church. But my heart, like Peter, was saying "Where would I go? There is no other Truth for me, and if there was Truth to be found, it was in Christ!" So, I made a decision that if there was a way doubt INTO Christ, I would try.

This year has marked a very significant time in my life. A time of renewal. I can't explain it, but somehow God has made Himself known to me, and my heart was able to receive it. So the thing that I'm thankful for this year is that my heart fully belongs to the Lord.

I just want to say, if you are going through doubt or struggles in your life, please know that it's okay. We live in this lie that no one else struggles like you struggle, or feels pain like your pain, or has secrets as deep and dark as yours. It is a lie. We all have our secrets.

God's heart is big enough to hold your confusion about Him. His grace is big enough to encompass your sin. There is room at Christ's table for you, and that means there is room in the Church for you. Please don't hide your struggle to the detriment of your soul. I have to say that I hid my doubts from almost everyone for years, and it was only when I chose to share the depths of what I was going through in a very public way, everything changed. It was confession of my struggle, and also, in a very real sense it was a confession of my need for community. Community is good. Confession is good.

Lastly, God is faithful. If you are dealing with doubt or apathy like I did, you wonder if it will ever end. Maybe it won't. But God is there, and our God is one who weeps with us as we struggle. There is a book I recommend called Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. It was significant for me coming out on the other side of this desert place. And one of the most significant mental realities that I came to was that, what ever it is we are so disappointed with God about, whether it be that our life has not turned out the way we expected, or that He sees the evil in the world and allows it to continue, He sees the things that break our hearts, and His heart breaks too. He is disappointed WITH us. Along with us.

He is our safe place to whom we can take the cares of the world and He will take the burden from us. We don't need to take the burdens of the world on our shoulders. Doubt TO God, not away from Him. It's okay. Confession is good. Community is good.

I know that there are many here who do life with someone in the midst of serious struggle. Please be a safe person. A safe person is one who can share in sufferings. Someone who will not give pat answers. Someone who will listen and not try to fix it. Someone who believes that your struggles are no better than your friends. Someone who trusts that God will work His grace into your friends' life in His time. Someone who will hold your friends' hand and walk with them before they can say they are on the other side.

The Lord is good. He is gracious. He is faithful. He alone has the words of Eternal Life. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I Have No Friends*

I didn't intend for such a long silence when I wrote this post, but the emotional turmoil from which it came, and the subsequent response, was overwhelming. This week, I have needed to take a rest. And let me tell you, my rest has been easy. Somehow, this turbulence that I've been dealing with has lessened. Because so many people responded. And because amazingly, God met me.

Writing does something for me. It helps me to see more clearly. Last week I wrote and edited for hours, and I began to see the foolishness of my thinking. That post was the culmination of many things over a period of days. There was a book. And someone's story that I heard. A sermon or two. And your encouragement and nods of agreement. Friday truly felt like a new beginning for me.

I want to thank you. For responding. As I read your emails, and comments, and texts, most of them made me cry. Some because of their content, but mostly because they were there. Because so many of you cared enough to respond. They have truly ministered to my soul. At first, when I would read a response and cry, Malachi would say, "Mommy set [upset]?" Then after a couple of times, he started to say, "Mommy set again?" And then he pretty much ignored it. Weeping. Just life as usual around here.

In retrospect, maybe I should have turned off the computer and Smartphone so that I could get all the crying done at once, and no disrupt my day and alarm my child quite so frequently(!)

It hasn't been all cupcakes and rainbows. I am normally a private person. I don't post Facebook statuses full of drama. I don't share my business with the world. So to put it all out there like this has been very humbling and scary for me. I am still feeling nervous about it. When I run into people, the sinking feeling I have sometimes, realizing they might have read such private thoughts, is horrifying. I feel exposed. If I'm honest, sometimes I reallyreallyreally just want to pretend it didn't happen. But that would be to look a gift horse in the mouth because this feeling, and this exposure, really is a blessing. It has been a relief to be open about it, to have conversations about it. To know that its not hidden anymore. That I'm moving forward.

I am believing again. I am having understanding that I didn't have a week ago. It doesn't feel very personal yet. I feel sort of like I'm just getting reacquainted with this God who I've been been distant from for years. But I'm taking tentative steps in the right direction. And He is meeting me there. I don't know how much I'll write about this. I really do want close friends who I can live life with. But I don't know how much I can take of feeling like I'm writing my most intimate heart and sharing it with literally anyone who wants to read it. Not everyone in this world is "safe", and it is a hard thing to share private thoughts through a blog when you wouldn't feel like you trusted them face to face. But I also know that it can be helpful, for me and for others, to read and relate to my experiences. So we'll see what ends up here.

One question I've been thinking about as I've started sharing this with people more personally, is "How did I get here? Spiritually and relationally?" Why have I been going through such a difficult struggle almost completely alone?

Spiritually, it was a progression that probably started with a book I read. There were some doubts that surfaced and no one to hash it out with. There was a church situation that totally bummed me out. There was a change from full-time ministry to a regular vocation. I wasn't sure why it all happened, and I wasn't thrilled with the way life was turning out, or how hard it was to live the ideals I thought I believed in. There were more questions and no still no one to hash it out with. And then more life. And more questions. It just seems like the questions never got answered, and resulted in more questions, until I have felt really, totally confused.

Relationally, there is a lot I could say. About how I've tried and how I haven't. I haven't shared this fully with anyone except my husband and its not always because I think other people have it all together. Sometimes it is, and I know that's a lie. It's often because I don't have relationships established to share something so personal. The place I have been in emotionally is so raw that, for me, being real is more than most people are up for at some social event. It's not that I haven't wanted to talk to someone. It's just that you all don't understand the mess that would cause. I'm a Cryer. Not a normal cryer. An ugly, puffy, red-faced cryer that is really...conspicuous. I can't just ask someone to coffee, say, and dump on them my entire history without the ugly crying. And I have a kid. So I can't just "get into it" anywhere. So, being that it doesn't ever seem like the appropriate place or time for all that, and nobody wants to be the needy new friend when the other friend hasn't shared equally, it never happens. For me to be real without it always resulting in a display of my emotional wreckage means that I have to work through the wreckage. Deal with it. Heal from it.

There are times when I have reached out and alluded to this issue in my life. Sadly, the responses I've gotten have been spiritual platitudes at worst, and at best, completely inapplicable to my situation. I've received shallow advice that is supposed to fix it in twenty-two minutes like a sitcom, and "I've been there" statements when they are comparing mountains to molehills. It's so hard to share this and not be taken seriously, that it just makes me resolve to not talk to anyone else about it.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. But where are the friends who will just listen, and not try to fix it? I can't tell you how many advice sessions I have nodded my way through when I just wanted someone to listen. Don't say much. Build my trust. And share your struggles too. No, not those ones. The real ones.

Sometimes I see people, and wish I were like them. I'm sure you do it too. Not the people who have it all together. The people who seem real. The ones who really care. The ones who are warm and open. I am not that person. But I want to be. I want to be the one who can reach out when someone clearly needs a friend, but I'm not in a place where I'm very good at it. I can make a meal, I can invite you over for dinner, but I have a really hard time getting past the surface level interaction that I really wish was out of the way. And so do they. Even when I haltingly make the first move, it is often not reciprocated with equal vulnerability.

I'm hoping this whole thing will be the start of something new in my life. A rekindled faith. And also, real friends. The kind that tell me what's really going on in their lives. The not-so-shareable stuff. And vice-versa.  The kind of friends that depend on each other, and whose kids grow up together. Don't you want the same thing?

Since I wrote that life-changing post a week ago, I have had all these people reach out to me. Ask me to coffee and playdates and who knows what else. And I plan on taking pretty much everyone up on it. But I'm realizing how rehashing the same story over and over will get a little old. And I'm thinking that it would be so much better if I have a new story. Something that goes like this: I was down and out. Then I asked for help. And there you were. Now I'm not down and out anymore. Here's what God is doing in my life. What about you?


*  For the purposes of this post, I am using the word "friend" to mean, "intimate friend". I have friends. Don't be offended if you consider yourself my friend. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure. :o)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Absentia

I am working on a new post, but I am just emotionally exhausted from the intensity of the last week. I can't seem to get the gumption to organize the jumble of thoughts in my head. I kind of just want to take a nap.

Here's what I learned this weekend: If you want people to read your blog, title your post something provocative. And if you want to feel loved, write a post sharing deep dark secrets and that you feel completely alone. You will soon realize that you are not.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In Which I Overshare. No, Really.

Sometimes things come to head in life and you have to do something about it. Today is that day for me. Perhaps its a cop-out to do it through a blog. But, I actually feel quite the opposite. I am terrified to post this, and also relieved. I have always cared what people think about me way too much. I don't want to disappoint people. But I'm going to set that aside because confession is good for the soul, and because the consequences of disappointing people are dwarfed by the consequences of remaining alone in this. And I have never been regretted being honest. So here goes...

I am hurting. I've been hurting for a really long time. There are several reasons why, and they are all doozies, including anxiety, depression and codependence. But the main reason for my hurt is a deep-rooted, overwhelming, persistent disappointment with God.

For years now, I have questioned God and his love for me. Not for anything I have done. It's not shame or a self-esteem issue. I know that the basis of God's supposed love, if it is real, isn't based on my actions. My problem is His actions. How can I trust that God loves me when he lets so many bad things happen to so many people? How can God care and simultaneously allow so much suffering in the world? How can He allow so much suffering in my own life? Why doesn't He just fix it all? So its not just His love for me that I question. It's His loving nature. His sovereignty. His desire for good in my life and the lives of others. His ability to change people. All of these things I doubt.

Doubt isn't really the right word. Question isn't either. It would be more accurate to say I don't believe that God is love, even though I guess I know it's true. How's that for a completely weak belief in God? Believe me when I say this isn't some small, niggling, passing doubt. This doubt has been my thorn for years, and it has eaten away at the core of everything I believe in.

I still hold Biblical values as the foundation of my life, however much I doubt. But my doubts are so serious that I cannot practice more than token Christianity because, deep in my soul, I think that if it were true, things would be so, so different. In the world, and in my life. And yet, I call it doubt, because I know that it is my belief that is wrong, not my belief system, if that makes sense. In other words, I believe that if I get past this, I will not find myself an agnostic or an atheist or a Hindu. I will find renewed faith in the real Jesus, not the one that I am disillusioned with, but who He really is.

There have been moments of Light here and there that have kept me from completely losing faith. I truly believe these moments are from God and He is giving me crags in a rock to hold on to. I know He can handle my doubts. I'm just tired of doubting. I want so much more for my life. I want more for my family and more for my children than the picture of God I am showing them. I am a shadow of the person I was. I am tired of being stuck at this point for so long. Tired of being disappointed and the resulting apathy.


One thing this has taught me is that people are never what you see. Everyone has a past. Everyone has hidden struggles, and we often feel quite alone in them. I heard something yesterday that rang so true for me, that "we compare our inside to other people's outside". We think that no one can relate to us. It's not true. I know that most people have deep struggles that, like me, they feel alone in. The problem is bridging the gulf between our islands. Personally, I think my struggle would be less of a burden if I just had close friends who were going through it with me. But how do you get there with people you've just met? And how do you just dive in with friends you've been estranged from for years? I can't seem to figure that out. There is a Part II to this post, and that is the topic. I was hoping to post it tomorrow, but an impromptu camping trip might throw a wrench in the timing.

I actually see a light at the end of this tunnel. He does love me. And I think I'm getting to the point of really believing that again. Joshua and I have been attending Celebrate Recovery, which has been good. It keeps these struggles in my face, so I can no longer push them back for months at a time. I have such a heavy weight on me, and I want so badly for it to be gone. I'm not sure how to get there, but something is changing in me. I feel paralyzed by the fear of moving forward. Of what I will find about myself that is ugly and seems better left hidden. But in spite of that, I also feel terrified by staying where I am. It is so bad for me. It is so bad for my family. So in spite of my fear, I am writing this post to reach out.

I have this feeling that in order to move forward, I can't stay in the solitary place where I've been. So, in lieu of feeling free to share this with a friend over coffee (or better yet, having a friend that has been walking with me through this for the last seven years), I am putting it out there in this not so anonymous, but slightly less vulnerable way. To let whoever cares to know that I need your support. Your prayers. Your friendship. Feel free to reach out. I am hoping for it actually.

P.S. I know that not everyone who reads this is someone that I would choose to confide in in "real life". And that is a risk I take. But please think twice before you hit SEND. Don't preach at me, feed me platitudes, shame me, or minimize my hurts. Limit your response to that which is truly loving and helpful. Please.

AND if you feel so inclined, I would love a comment letting me know you read. Writing a post like this feels scary, and it helps to know that people are actually reading it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Post About Pee and Poop

We made our first attempt at potty training this week. I say "first attempt", because it was unsuccessful. Until actually going through it myself, I was a little skeptical of parents who said their kid just "wasn't ready" after giving it a try. Maybe they just didn't want to give it the effort necessary. What's the big deal? If you're kid shows signs of readiness, how could it be so hard? Boy, was I wrong.

First, let me tell you all the ways that my sweet Malachi was READY. He is ready. He totally understands that pee and poop go in the potty. In fact, when naked, he will pee and poop in the potty 100% of the time. Literally. He has been doing this since he was around 20 months old.

I felt he was a little young to formally teach potty skills to at that time, but I gave it half-hearted shot, more to see what would happen than anything else. I realized that the underwear confused him. It felt too much like a diaper and he didn't realize he wasn't wearing one until it was too late. I figured since his communication skills were still very undeveloped at that point, we ought to wait a bit to teach him that skill. In the meantime, he continued to go naked at home fairly often so he has kept up using the potty when naked. In fact, for some reason, his body just won't let him poop with a diaper on, try as he might. So he has been pooping in the potty almost 100% of the time since he was around 18 months.

Enter pregnancy. And summer traveling. And a little boy who recently decided he doesn't like to be naked anymore. And there we were, almost six months later, finally ready to take the plunge.

It lasted all of a day-and-a-half.

He got to decorate his potty with new stickers. He got a chart with stickers on it. He got candy. And yet...he decided that he didn't want to pee in the potty anymore. Instead, he made a point to pee everywhere BUT the potty. To leave the room, pee in the corner, and return to tell me he peed. Lovely.

My smart little boy knows that pee and poop doesn't just go in the potty. He has experienced in his short life that pee and poop can go in diapers. And on the floor. Or in laundry baskets or plastic mixing bowls. Or in the yard. Virtually anywhere he wants it to go. He also knows it can be wiped up. He experiences very little negative consequence for not making it to the potty. 

I don't know what his reasons are. I know that his mind is not fully wrapped around the process. I know that he understands enough that he could do it if he wanted to. And ultimately, he just doesn't want to. Our wills are colliding, and you simply can't make someone eliminate. I'm not one who thinks its a good idea to ever manipulate a child, but when it comes to potty learning, its an especially bad idea. 

We could have kept going. I was ready to wipe up many accidents and change many outfits. But I didn't want him to just decide that peeing in his clothes and getting changed is the new normal. I also didn't want to create an adversarial relationship between the two of us. It is very frustrating when your child who can pee on the potty deliberately chooses not to. I don't want that to come between us. I don't want to constantly be waiting for the next pee. And for him to be frustrated every time he eliminates because he has to change his clothes and can't get candy yet again.

It took everything in me not to shame him when he decided to walk away from the potty so that he could pee behind the couch. Really. I am thankful that I know it's not constructive for potty learning, because if I didn't, I totally would have done it. Regardless of the fact it is hurtful and manipulative. Yes, I just said that I cared more that shaming will negatively effecting the potty learning process than I do about the fact that it will damage my son's sense of self. Oops.

But, we made it through our first round! I was reluctant to "give up". Who knows? Maybe he just needed another day for it to click. No one wants to cut their losses. But it was starting to feel like a power struggle, and it takes two to play that game. I made the decision that needed to be made so that potty learning can continue to be an enjoyable process. Not that there won't some hard times as he makes the transition, but it shouldn't be a fight.

I don't think it was a complete failure. For one, we did lots of practicing. He sat on the potty, pulled his pants up and down a lot. He learned the concepts of wet and dry. He got some candy, which I'm was a win for him. Two, I think the fact that we navigated through this without shed blood and emotional scarring is kind of a big deal. And I definitely learned some things about myself and about Malachi. For example, next time we do a potty learning day, I need to have a girls' night out scheduled for after bedtime. Chocolate and Margaritas not optional. And for Malachi? I can only hope his independence and strong personality will lend themselves to as equally to leadership and resistance to peer pressure.

There is a social aspect to potty learning. Really, what's the point of peeing on the toilet other than social construct? In many countries they pee in holes in the ground. What man wouldn't love to pee behind a tree when its convenient? (Oh wait, they do. Nevermind.) It's primarily about cleaniness and socially acceptable behavior, neither of which are in a toddler's skill set. And how many kids do you know that were "trained" in a day because they decided they wanted Spiderman underwear like his buddy? 

There is a social aspect about it for me as well. How awesome is it to say you have a newly 2-year-old who is no longer in diapers? And not so awesome when your almost 4-year-old still is? All I know is that I will no longer judge the mom whose preschooler who doesn't use the potty. It's really not up to her. It's up to the kid.

Golly, parenting is hard.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Update on Breastfeeding

Malachi is 26 months old now, and we are still going strong with breastfeeding. I'm so excited we've made it this far. I can't say that I had a goal in mind as far as nursing was concerned, other than I hoped to at least make it to two years. I also have thought about child-led weaning, but I have felt more comfortable with the idea that we will continue as long as both of us want to.

We used donor milk for almost a year, to supplement the breast milk I wasn't able to provide. But since about 15 months or so, we were able to stop that altogether. We night-weaned around 21 months, but he wasn't nursing most nights anyway at that point.

When I got pregnant, I knew that it could really effect our nursing relationship. I tried to be mentally prepared for whatever might happen, including me deciding I was done at some point. It got uncomfortable right away, and has continued to be. Malachi has never given an indication that my milk changed taste, but it did dry up completely at some point in the last few weeks. Still, he nurses. Morning, naptime, and bedtime, and sometimes in between. At this point, I don't see him quitting because of pregnancy-related changes. If he weans, it will be because he is ready, and would have been ready anyway. And that makes me happy.

He has recently decided he loves cow's milk, which he previously shunned wholeheartedly. To distinguish between his two "milks", he calls one his "binka milk" (drink of milk) and the other "mama milk". Melt my heart. 

So, we have a new baby coming in 4-5 months, and I am curious and excited about the possibility of tandem nursing. I'm nervous about how he'll feel about sharing. I'm looking forward to having some help with engorgement, and giving him his fill of milk again. I'm also hoping that it will give him an extra boost of immunity through the winter with a newborn in the house. 

I'm so thankful we are still nursing. He wiggles. He flails. He bites (not on purpose). He drives his truck all over me. He caresses my face. He rests his hand on my breast. He giggles. He offers milk to his toys. I love it when he stops playing and asks to nurse. He's my big boy, but he still loves his mama's milk.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I did it!

I got my computer up and running! This was no small feat with a toddler, which is why I've been putting it off for, oh, five months now. The only reason I accomplished it today was a perfectly sick kid: sick enough to do nothing but sit around, but not sick enough that he needed me to hold him and nurse him constantly.

So, now that I'm back, I'd like to really make an effort to keep up with this blog more. Who knows if it will happen. I started this blog around the same point in my pregnancy with Malachi as I am now with Baby G. That's the boring name I'm calling this baby now, for lack of something more creative since we (for now) have decided not to find out the sex.

So I have yet to document a pregnancy from the beginning. Sorry babies! You'll just have to use your imaginations for that part! I also have not taken a single belly picture this time around. I was not great with it last time, but I'm sure I have two or three. Baby G is already getting the shaft.